THE PROBLEM WITH NIGERIAN FOOTBALL – Kandaval Sports Boss, Tony Obot
Mr. Tony Obot eats, drinks and sleeps thinking and talking sports. The MD/CEO of Kandaval Sports, at his home in Omole Phase II, Lagos, on Thursday, February 5, 2015, he told YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE, the problem with our football and also the way out. The father of three who hails from Etinan in Akwa Ibom State and learnt the ropes working for Brila FM and Hot FM again recounted how he met and fell in love with his darling wife, Ola and more. Enjoy…
Yes, my name is Tony Obot. Obot means creator in my language. I’m the MD/CEO, Kandaval Communications Limited. We are media practitioners; anything media. We do independent programmes. We are currently on 17 radio stations across the country, doing programmes Monday to Friday…
What kind of programmes exactly do you do?
We do sports as in Kandaval Sports that runs on Rhythm FM, Lagos; we do drama – As We Are, it is called. We do programmes for children, it is sponsored by Etisalat: Cliq Lite Fun Teens. It runs on Inspiration FM in Lagos and quite a lot of others on Cool FM, Port-Harcourt, Hot FM, Abuja and so on.
Let’s go back again to the introduction, can you make it more detailed?
Okay, all my life, I have lived in Lagos, born in Lagos, schooled in Lagos, married a Yoruba girl, employed Lagosians, pay my taxes in Lagos, but I am still not an indigene of Lagos State. I’m from Akwa Ibom State, Etinan local government. I schooled at Maryland Convent Private School, I was in the University of Uyo, I studied Communication Arts, I did my Master’s at Lagos State University, I worked with Brila FM, Brila Sports, I worked with Hot FM, Abuja, where I joined as a Marketing Manager and by the 13th month, I left as the acting Chief Executive. There and then, I knew that yes, I was ripe enough to do something on my own. So, we started Kandaval Sports, Kandaval Communications and that was in 2006 and since then it has been massive.
Again, let us re-wind. Why did you leave Brila FM?
My boss then, Larry Izamoje, a great motivator, preached to us from the onset that we will always branch out. I mean, from his window, you will see a tree, one massive tree like this. He will say, you see that tree, it came as one stem and then branched out. Then, the leaves will start falling. If you refuse to branch out, death will branch you out. So, you must branch out. So, that was always ringing – branch out, branch out and then we branched out and today we are very, very happy that we branched out. I really wish that we had branched out earlier than we did (Laughing).
Because Brila FM was a school, where we went to study, we learnt and Hot FM was where we experimented what we studied because I ran the station. I stopped my boss from coming to the station – Chris Anyanwu. I told her if you have asked me to run this station, don’t come to the station, give me my target and she gave me and we did very, very well. So, from number new comer then in Abuja; I think we were not rated. But within 11 months, we were the No. 1 radio station in Abuja and that was under my watch, with deliberate, calculative steps that this is what we want to be and we did that and after doing that, I said what next? I remember one day, I told my boss that I was going to resign ahead of time, she increased my salary by N100,000 and I was excited. But eventually, I still had to go.
So, how would you describe the journey so far?
Massive, beautiful. Of course, there will be ups or downs and I tell some people sometimes that business is like a wrestling match. Sometime him go nack you for ground, sometimes you go nack am for ground, but as we dey talk now, I don nack am for ground (General laughter). I don even break him waist.
What separates Kandaval Sports from the other sports programmes we have on radio?
We fulfil dreams. You can never hear what you’ve heard anywhere else in Kandaval. You will never! We look for our stories; our stories are replicated by the foreign media. I don’t believe in going to London, to BBC to go get Nigerian stories and put it out again. I mean, what is that? So, we create our stories, we spend so much on research. Before we put a story on air, we would have spent some time, like weeks. So, our stories are our stories. Like this interview you doing now, it is your story. Exclusive. You can keep it for 100 years, it will never go stale until you slam it. That is our hallmark. When we get our story, it will never go stale.
We have a common denominator – because we do it ourselves. You are never stranded. Everybody in your office can resign today. If dem say we go fly, we go fly. Same thing here. When you know how to do it that way, it is difficult for you to get somebody who will come do it the way you do it. And it is even your dream. So, it is difficult for you to get somebody who will come and put life into that your dream. That is the biggest challenge; you will stay up in the night, crack this, do that and you will find out that you will still be the one executing it. So, where are the intelligent ones, where are the brilliant ones, where are the first class minds, where are they? Yet they say there are no jobs outside.
What’s your dream for Kandaval Sports?
My dream for Kandaval Sports is to become the hub. Reuters will ask us, BBC will call us,Aljazerra will call us and ask us what is happening in Nigeria. So, it will be like where they get information. That has always been the dream. But something happened. You will be surprised that we are doing children’s programme also. When Nigeria crashed out (of the Nations Cups); we didn’t qualify for the Nations Cup, and now that the Naira is N220 to one Dollar, 305 Naira to one Pound, one had to think fast. I said okay, rather than wait another 2 years without what can I do, I now delved into youths programme; away from sports. So that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You need to diversify. We do programmes targeted at children. If you tune to Inspiration FM in Lagos, 7.15 to 7.30am, Monday to Friday. Ditto for Hot FM, Abuja and quite a number of stations across the country. We tried to look at something away from sports so that we will not be caught napping. Yet we are still that sports company, we still have our heart in sports. But to make money complete, to see money buy garri, we now do other things.
My dream for Kandaval Sports is to be the hub, we want to be the reference point, we want to be able to break stories. If you put all your eggs in one basket, you may lose all. So, because of the way sports is managed, padi-padi, it’s not because you know it. It’s who you know and most times those who know who are not those that have the passion. If you don’t have the passion, you will not be able to deliver sports.
What even got you interested in sports?
What got me interested in sports? I never really wanted to do sports. But because I was so good while I was a corp member, my State Director forced me to join a sports platform. I served in Lagos any way. I was forced to join a sports platform and I grudgingly did. But decided to make the best out of the worst situation and then from being a corp member on that platform, I became the GM and most of the people I met there, I fired them. Those who didn’t use to allow me sit in meetings; they will say corper, sit outside. I became their boss and I fired quite a lot of them.
What do you like most about what you do?
It will surprise you – the suffer – suffer! (General laughter). It gives me so much joy.
So, what don’t you like about what you are doing?
What don’t I like? The fact that we are being owed by so many clients.
It has given me a wife! Because I met my wife on the beat and she’s the best woman God ever created.
What has it not done for you?
It has not fulfilled my dreams.
And what are those dreams that it has not yet fulfilled?
Putting enough food on my table, because of the way it’s managed by those who do – managers of sports.
Let’s go back to your wife. How did you meet her exactly?
We were both reporters o! She used to work for Eko FM. Ola is her name, while I used to work for an independent production outfit then that used to do programmes on OGBC II. Somebody was trying to cheat us and then this lady just got up and said (Voice rising) how can you come and be cheating these people? We were trying to buy cloth. This material is sold for this amount and I just kept quiet. I said hey! And I moved back because I’m very reckless with money, I must tell you. I spend anyhow and I give. I said whaaooh! If I have this woman who is a bit more prudent than I am in my life, I’m complete and that was it. And I told her, can we be friends? And she said I wasn’t serious. Eventually, we dated for 3 years, got married 2001, and now we have two beautiful children…
Can you tell us their names?
One is Akem, which means liberty, freedom, it is enough; like saying please be still. That’s Akem, and the other one is Dikan. Dikan means come and conquer. Then, there is Valentine. He’s a boy, he’s in the university. So, these are my children and presently they are not in Nigeria. My family is not in Nigeria. I’m a patriot, but my brother, my family is in the UK where they have a better life.
Away from work, what do you do for relaxation?
I play golf and I walk.
In the course of your life, which singular individual has affected your life the most and why?
Because she tells me to give to people that will not be able to say thanks to me. And then I know that if I have to give, I must work hard. She’s compassionate and she pushed me, not with the rod, but with love to achieve what I have achieved.
Heartbreak! What was responsible was padi-padi! Racket. If you are in my team, if you are in my racket; bootlicking. If you lick my boot, you are in my team. No matter what you have in there; whether you have it or you don’t have it. That’s why up till now Nigeria does not have a coach, just like we don’t have a corporate sponsor. Now we are going to buy jerseys! Other countries are paid to war logos, wear names like the Nike, the Adidas while we pay. And all this is because we have very, very incompetent people there. I’m going to mention names. We have an Idris Adaba, who is the Head of Marketing of NFA (Nigerian Football Association). How much has he brought, and he’s been there now for about 6,7 years? He has brought none and you are still there answering the Head of Marketing department…
So, what is the way out for our football?
Clean sweep, clean sweep…Government should stop funding football, keep your money, use your money to build schools. Football can fund itself. Take your money, build roads, build schools. There are a thousand and one people waiting to invest in football, but government is still using football as a PR tool. They don’t care what happens. That’s our major problem with football…
NB: First published March 2015
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