The first time I met the dashing Fidelis Anosike was during the NUJ Media Summit recently held in Anambra State where he was one of our guest speakers. I was the Chairman of the committee that planned that event and it gave me the opportunity to meet lots of people who have touched my life in one way or the other, especially as it concerns my career. Last week, it was his turn to invite me to his event which was held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. It was an event that drew the crème de la crème from all the sectors in our dear country together and beyond. The event was the 91st anniversary of Daily Times of Nigeria cum Award ceremony for deserving Nigerians. After the event, I had an interesting session with the Daily Times boss in his intimidating office. Please read the excerpts of a most interesting time with a man who is larger than life itself…
Sir, for the intent of this interview, kindly introduce yourself and tell us what position you hold in Daily Times.
My name is Fidelis Anosike. I am the Chairman/Publisher of Daily Times of Nigeria.
For how long have you been in that position?
For thirteen years now. Since 2004. That was when we acquired Daily Times from the government through the privatization process.
In what state did you meet the organization when you took over?
It was in a comatose state, then. It was virtually non-existent because it died just like every government-run enterprise which was why the government brought the privatization policy which helps to reinvigorate or revive iconic institutions. Then, they had no printing press, they had no offices, they had only 700 members of staff and so on. It was a big challenge trying to revive an organization that had gotten that bad. So,it was in bad state. In fact, it was in no state at all.
So, how did you do it? How did you transform it to what it has become today?
It was a turn around and every turn around has a sequence if you know exactly what you want to do. You can turn around anything. Remember that people built it from the scratch, so, to turn it around cannot be more difficult than building it, because, at the end of the day, it has a solid brand name, it has recognition and people know it. So, it took decades for people to know Daily Times. If you say ‘news’ in Nigeria, it’s Daily Times. At the end of the day, you have to understand that any news organization spends lots of money to be able to build infrastructure. The consequence of that infrastructure is to create a brand that people know. It’s only when people know the brand that they can patronize the brand. So, Daily Times has done that over the years. Even when it was going into decline, what you saw was an erosion of that goodwill overtime. What we however did was to come in, stop that erosion of the goodwill and then, begin to build it back rapidly. In building it back, we can now start building back the infrastructure and the operations, but the first thing was to stop the decline of the brand equity. We’ve managed to do that. This took a lot of work, goodwill and support from collaborators and so on and so forth. So, it’s not been easy and we’re not there yet but I think we’re in a very clear path to returning Daily Times to the number one newspaper in Africa in the current media landscape. We’ve taken time to understand where we need to be and with the level of brand equity we have, we’ve also been careful to map the route that will get us to number one. You see us talking about history because the history that we amassed over the years for the continent or for Nigeria is something you can never replace. So, the barrier to entry on that level is very high, so it’s not something just anyone can compete. It’s either you have it or you don’t have it. How you use it to bring it back to number one is what we have crafted.
Before all these, who was Fidelis Anosike?
I am a Graphic Artist. I trained to be a Graphic Artist at the University of Benin. I also did Owner Presidents Management Course at Harvard Business School. I am an alumnus of Harvard Business School. We have done a couple of projects. I am a development consultant by action. I develop projects. I have a passion for taking something from nothing and building it to something. Sometimes, you can have a dream, but if you don’t know how to execute it, it becomes a challenge. The challenge we have sometimes is that people dream, but it’s very difficult for them to have the tenacity or discipline to shepherd it all the way to execution.
What inspires you?
What inspires me is impact. There’s a reason why you have an opportunity and the other person doesn’t have. The inspiration is that when you have, God is telling you something. So, He is giving to you to create impact in society, in people and then, build something that would make life continue because, the life is the work of God. It’s not our work. So, if you have benefited from the work of God, you have to also create a momentum for it to continue and not to abridge it. So, that impact is what I’m all about. I’m a social entrepreneur, so I’m not lost on that. I know how to create value and value is not money. Cash is just a measure of value and you can apply that, based on your individual yardstick. My inspiration is impact. How do I create impact in people’s lives? How do I create impact in businesses? How do I create impact that people can learn? If you have ten people creating different impacts, society gets better.
Talking about impact, the recent event you held here in Abuja that brought together, people from all corners of this country had some of the awards given out on that days based on life impact. My question is, what was the yardstick you used in measuring the eligibility of the awardees because as you know, our society doesn’t believe anymore in the awards given to individuals anymore because of the proliferation of most of these awards?
The point is very simple. We have N180m people in Nigeria. You talked about inspiration. Even sometimes, people that are inspiring people don’t have the consciousness to know that they are inspiring people because they didn’t set out to inspire people. You can help them change that for them to become conscious of their actions and they can do more. That’s the spirit around Times Heroes Awards. Okay? When you talk about criteria, we have a committee and the committee identified clearly, criteria that aligns to the interest of the setting of Times Heroes Awards and that is impact. Impact is simple. If you look at the page one of this book, it says, ‘heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary’. That’s what this award is all about. Again, ‘a hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself’. So, life is short but nobody is remembered for what they take. People are remembered for what they give. Sometimes, we Nigerians think that anyone who goes into government is going there to steal, but it’s not so. If the governor of Gombe State that has spent fifteen years of his life in public service in business, what do you think he’ll be? He’ll be bigger than Dangote. Simple! So, you have to understand that. If governor Willie Obiano for instance is in private practice. How much does money Anambra make in a month? How much does Anambra have in a month. He would make tonnes of billions of dollars because he knows how to do it. If Lynda Ikeji leaves what she is doing today and goes into public service, people will start saying that she went there for money but how much money is she making without being in Government? So the people you see, if you look at this award carefully, are people that created real impact and are doing it not because of money. They also have the potential to go beyond money. If you look at Tony Elumelu and Ibukun Awosika and co, these are people that have dedicated their lives to serving other people. But what happens is that people are not conscious of that because the society has debased. After all, how much money do you have in government? There’s no money in government. What you see in government is not money. How much do you think Dangote makes in a year? Which state government is as rich as Dangote? None. But if he goes from Dangote’s organization to government, they’ll say he’s trying to steal money. We have to stay true to our conviction. Once you’re convinced about what you want to do and you know that it’s the right thing, it doesn’t matter what people say. You saw what happened a few days to the event. Somebody put in the papers that I’m not the chairman of Daily Times. Why do you bother yourself? You don’t contest title with anybody. It’s either you have a title or you don’t have it. It’s something that is not contestable. So, it’s about that personal conviction that goes into corporate conviction and then, that goes to the community and that’s what we’re trying to do. To create our own impact in society by me, leading the organization to that path of conviction that this is what you want to do. It’s the right thing to do. You came to the event. This is the first one. The last time Daily times held an award was in 1996. That was 21years ago. So, when you talk about proliferation, there’ll always be shades of anything in life, but then, human beings know the capacity to know the right one. Even if you’re the right one and you start making it wrong, they will leave it. You’ll die. Some of the newspapers that used to give awards every year, where are the awards today? It’s not there anymore. So, if you want to be sustainable, you have to create that sustainability factor around it. It’s a simple structure. You have to stay true to the vision. You have to make sure that it’s unbiased at every point in time. That’s how you will make it resilient, sustainable and have longevity so that even in twenty years, it would still be there. So, you’ll see by the time we do the second and the third ones. We have another series coming up. The awards have not finished. We have Governor of the Year. We have Man of the Year. We have Young Digital Influencer of the Year. Okay? These three awards are by polling. As we speak right now, people are voting, but because we’re having the event, we didn’t want to take the shine out of any of them. So, people are going to vote. We created a series called The National Conversation which would happen in Lagos around October. We’ll be doing it with the Murtala Mohammed Foundation. The Times Heroes Awards and the Murtala Mohammed Foundation will have an event called the National Conversation. It’s a series we want to do so that we can talk about this thing called Nigeria, where is it headed? Where should it be heading to? We’ll do it seriously because we have the power to bring everyone to the table - the young, the aged, men, women, boys and girls, together, because we are Daily Times. So, when we bring everybody together to have that conversation about Nigeria, that’s where we’re going to hand out those three awards. We have a very strong partnership with the Murtala Muhammed Foundation and will have that event in three months from now. Once we give you an award, you’re in our ecosystem. Once we give you an award, we’ll track you. If you don’t live up to the standards of the award, we announce it that you don’t live up to it. Part of the criteria for the award was personal attendance. That’s why you saw that everybody that were sent letters sent a representative. If I give you an award, you have to accept it and by so doing, you accept the conditions. You saw Tony Elumelu, Ibukun Awosika, President buhari represented by Femi Adesina, Goodluck Jonathan, Obasanjo, the president of Ghana and all the state governors that were honoured. At the end of the day, they accepted all the terms that came with the awards. The one we’ve given is Good Governance Awards. When you go to the Governor of the year, it’s a different ball game because, popularity comes into it, so you do what we call weighted average in order to align who will clinch the position and when you announce it, it must be a popular choice. That’s why we’re doing that by survey and then, we have the methodology or the voting. It’s something that anybody can check. We’re not trying to please anybody. We’re staying true to our vision and we’re staying true to our conviction. To be cont’d next week… .