He operates in a world of his own, threading, soaring and flying where angels and eagles dare not. He is a dreamer and dream maker at once. A media magnate, entrepreneur and lately show business impresario. His deft touch has transformed many of his projects into gold, but not without a prize.He is a man driven by the desire to succeed. He craves success the way mortals crave food and seems not to be fazed one bit by the criticisms of his detractors, who have labelled him severally a megalomaniac, showboy, the duke, glamour boy and ultimate political godson.
He is in touch, very much so with the waters that he swims in daily. Waters infested with sharks, talking about Nigeria’s media landscape. Swim along or go under. Nduka is now almost a veteran, at only forty something years of age. That is obviously a big accomplishment in a profession where only the bold, the boisterous and the brave survive, His ThisDay media group is now a solid and credible media enterprise in Nigeria. Nduka has indeed capitalised on the complacence of the Guardian’s Rutam house administrators and has positioned ThisDay as the number one newspaper of choice amongst A, B, C demographic readers. His simultaneous publishing of two editions (Abuja and Lagos) has ensured that the logistics difficulties being experienced by the other titles are now a thing of the past within the newspaper group. Presently ThisDay is doing in Nigeria what the Guardian did in the 80s. The newspaper has now spun off other social and money-making projects, all evidence of the man Nduka, his dreams and midas touch.
Of course his glamour, showmanship, unnerving drive and sartorial taste has attracted controversies. That is to be expected if one lives by the winner –takes- all creed. He got embroiled in the Miss World religious riots controversy in 2002 when his newspaper published the now infamous article about Prophet Mohammed and speculations on what his bootylicious tastes would have been had he still been alive, but of course in Nduka’s world, no publicity is bad publicity, his ThisDay group survived the scandal and has since moved on.
The newspaper landed into another controversy when it accepted and published a controversial wrap-around advertisement from an underground organisation which had endorsed President Obasanjo’s third term agenda, contrary to the general mood of Nigerians at the time.
Before this, Nduka got his fingers burned when backed with a war chest the size of a bank vault, he forayed into the exclusive but lucrative South African media market, thus becoming the first Nigerian media enterprise to truly go global, the success of which would have spurned other projects across the globe. This was at a time when such corporate and financial relocations seemed to be more in favour of South African firms moving into Nigeria. The hype alone couldn’t save the project which collapsed eventually after a year. Nduka licked his wounds and accepted defeat like all mortals; he retreated as a true battle ship commander and has now bounced back with other projects that would catapult him and his Leaders and Company Ltd holding company into the international media scene.
Not a man to give in easily, having now gotten used to such down-low experiences dating back to the 80s when as a twenty – something year old, he became one of Nigeria’s youngest publishers. This Week magazine at the time blazed the trail in magazine publishing and was a cloned copy of the international Newsweek magazine. Among this elite troupe of magazine publishers at the time were the likes of Chris Okolie of Newbreed magazine and Dele Giwa et al of Newswatch magazine. This Week despite all the promises it held died eventually.
Now a survivor of the publishing game, Nduka’s other social projects such as the annual ThisDay awards, and the ThisDay fashion and style weekend have since become prominent features in Nigeria’s social calendars attracting A-list celebrities and power brokers both within and outside Nigeria. Earlier this year, ThisDay group pioneered the ThisDay Nigerian universities rankings, a social project aimed at recognising the teaching and research efforts of Nigerian universities. Modelled after the popular Times UK universities rankings, the ThisDay rankings is expected to promote and celebrate best practice in Nigerian universities, while at the same challenging the universities at the bottom of the rankings table to clean up their acts. This is indeed a laudable project.
As if the universe is no longer enough to accommodate the size of his vociferous ambitions, Nduka Obaigbena, the master and commander of the ThisDay media war ship has recently chartered and navigated into new waters.
At a time when the current mood and discussions in the public and private sectors is on the issue of nation branding and the attendant economic benefits, a time when government’s efforts at re-branding Nigeria has remained plainly political gimmickry – all talk and no action. Nduka scored a master stroke with the maiden edition of the ThisDay music festival, an act that has even impressed Ben Murray Bruce, Nigeria’s king of show business. According to Mr Bruce, ‘the show is one of the greatest things to happen to Nigeria’s image at this time’.
It is not surprising to see why the show which was held in Lagos over two days during the weekend of 7th and 8th October 2006 has continued to attract accolades from far and wide. The show will really do a lot for brand Nigeria, and also the ThisDay brand which currently has an annual turnover of $35 million.
Despite all the recent travel warnings being issued by the American, United Kingdom and other western governments concerning Nigeria’s security and stability, and particularly the American government’s 2005 prediction that Nigeria is a failed state that would break apart within 10 years, it is indeed a public relations masterstroke for Nigeria to have the likes of Beyonce and loverboy Jay-Z strut their stuff on stage in Lagos, ably supported by other acts such as Ciara, En Vogue,Snoop Doggy Dog, Missy Elliot, and Busta Rhymes. The stage was also set for Nigerian acts such as King Sunny Ade, Weird MC, TuFace, Majek Fashek, Seun Anikulapo-Kuti, Asha, Dare Art-Alade, and D. Banj to showcase their talents.
Speaking at the show, Nduka Obaigbena said that the ThisDay music festival was “to demonstrate that good things can still work in Nigeria. We are here to show that if we work together we can score great goals and surpass unreachable targets”.
The ThisDay music festival was organised to coincide with Nigeria’s 46th Independence Day celebration and attracted government bigwigs such as the Senate president, Chief Ken Nnamani, Lagos and Delta State Governors, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief James Ibori.
Senator Udo Udoma, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Bayo Ojo and the Presidential Adviser on
National Assembly, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa were amongst many other government officials that were sighted at the event.
Hats off to the duke, Mr Nduka Obaigbena, the master and commander for this ambitious project. Now, it is for Mr Frank Nweke, the honourable minister of information and national orientation to find a way to
capitalise on the video of Beyonce singing Nigeria’s national anthem. Considering her current ratings and following on the international music scene, that is priceless.