Organizer, Saheed Ojubanire Reveals Says: “Voting Results Would Be Brought To Awards’ Venue”
The organizer of Islamic Music and Associated Nominees (IMAN) Awards, Saheed Ojubanire, a consummate journalist, has opened up on issues around the award project. The one half of the duo who started the awards in 2016 took his time to break everything down about IMAN Awards from the conception of the idea up to what would make the 2017 edition holding on Sunday, 20th August, 2017, at White House Hotel Multipurpose Hall, Toyin Street, Ikeja, Lagos, different from all the awards that have ever been held in Nigeria. He boasted that IMAN Awards this year would be the most transparent awards ever held in the country. Excerpts:
Q: Who is Saheed Ojubanire?
R: Hmmm…where do I start from? Well, let me answer that question concisely by saying that Saheed Ojubanire is a journalist, a blogger, a publicist, an author and organizer of IMAN Awards. So summarily, he is a media professional.
Q: You seem to be so many things rolled into one. Can you expatiate a little on all the things you say you do?
R: Yes, I can. I am a journalist because I am one by training and indeed, by practice. I studied Mass Communication at the prestigious Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State. I think the institution is now known as Moshood Abiola University of Technology or so. And after my graduation and NYSC, I worked with a leading celebrity magazine in Nigeria, City People, for several years before I decided to start practicing freelance journalism. And by that, I mean while I still write for City People on more of a contract basis because I’m no longer a full staffer, but the management would only engage me when they have a job they want me to do and would pay me for that particular job done instead of being on monthly salary; the status which also accords me the liberty to write for as many other magazines or newspapers that I want at the same time. I’m a blogger because I run a blog known as Saheed Ojubanire Online where I publish general interest news and opinion articles. I’m a publicist because I handle publicity for people who engage my services from time to time. I’m an author because I have written a book. It is a biography so to speak, on a celebrity photo journalist, which was launched when he celebrated his 40th birthday few years back. And I’m going to start working on another book of interest to Islamic music soon. And finally, like you know, I organize IMAN Awards which sums everything up.
Q: IMAN Awards as a project of yours is becoming very popular in the entertainment industry, how did you come about the concept in the first place?
R: Thank you for that question. And I’m going to do justice to it to the best of my ability. IMAN Awards as a project had been my brainchild since 2013. And there is a story behind its conception. Sometime in 2012 while I was still on full employment of City People magazine my boss of life, Dr. Seye Kehinde, after observing my zeal and passion for the coverage and promotion of the activities of Islamic artistes for a long while, called me into his office and Said Saheed, what can we organize for Islamic artistes on the platform of City People Entertainment? And I said, Oga, let me go and think about it, I should be able to come up with something by tomorrow. So, throughout the night that day, I kept thinking about the idea I could propose to him the next day. And suddenly I had a brainwave and the line: “Celebration of Islamic Tunes” popped up in my mind. So, when I got to work the next day, I proposed that to my boss and he loved it immediately. Consequently, he gave me the go ahead to start planning the event designed as a concert for Islamic artiste in Nigeria. The first thing I did was to get in touch with the then president of Islamic Musicians’ Association of Nigeria (ISMAN), Alhaji Wasiu As-Sideeq and apparently, he relayed the intention of City People Entertainment which I represented to his association members and so we held the first edition of what was meant to be a yearly concert in 2012. By the time we would hold the second edition in 2013, unlike the first edition, a lady colleague who newly joined City People then and equally a Muslim, Biola Orisile, came on board to work with me in organizing what was called Season II of Celebration of Islamic Tunes. And it was the outcome of that Season II that planted the seed of IMAN Awards in my mind. And I will tell you how. To make the second edition a little different from the first which was all about singing, as top Islamic artistes exchanged microphone and performed back to back on the stage, I said we should penciled in some of them for Recognition Awards for their contributions to the growth of Islamic music in Nigeria. And the list we drew included: Alhaji Waheed Ariyo of blessed memory, Alhaji Wasiu As-Sideeq, Ayeloyun, Ibraheem Labaika, Ahmad Alawiye, Ere Asalatu, Saoti Arewa, Wabilahi Taofeeq, Mariam Akiki, Aminat Omotayebi, Mistura Temi Ni Success, Aminat Obi Rere, Iya-N-Ghana, Iya-N-Kaola and Queen Sayidah Rashidah. All the foregoing artistes were presented with Recognition Awards after their performances at the Season II of Celebration of Islamic Tunes except for the six who did not come. And the absentees included Ibrahim Labaika, Ayeloyun, late Alhaji Waheed Ariyo, Wabilahi Taofeeq, Iya-N-Ghana and Queen Sayidah Rashidah. Meanwhile, they were all pre-informed that they would be picking up Recognition Awards at the concert. While some were unavoidably absent, others obviously stayed away for personal reasons as events later showed. For instance, Ayeloyun later called me and apologised for his unavoidable absence same with Wabilahi Taofeeq and Alhaji Waheed Ariyo and they picked up their awards from me on later dates. But the rest, even after I called them several times, still did not come for their plaques as promised. So, four years after, that is 2013 till now, I still have Ibraheem Labaika, Iya-N-Ghana and Queen Sayidah Rashidah’s Recognition Awards with me. Now, let me tell you the irony of it that made me start thinking of doing IMAN Awards. When the event was held then, some of the equally well known artistes who came but were not listed for Recognition Awards sent me text messages at night saying: “Awa o deserve award abi?” (Didn’t we deserve Recognition Awards too?). Meanwhile, on the contrary, some of those who were listed did not come and never made any attempt to pick up their awards long after. And that got me thinking that some things in life are desired by some people more than others. So, why force some good things on people who don’t desire it. Thereafter, I decided I was going to start an award project for the Islamic music industry where only people that desire it would be the ones to get it. How? They must have participated in the process by canvassing for people to vote for them. And the logic is that whoever does not desire the award would naturally not participate in the process so you would never end up making awards for those who don’t want it. And that is the genesis of IMAN Awards which I designed in 2013 but could not hold it for three years due to fear of not being able to raise the fund required to organize it. But late in 2015, I broached the idea of organizing the award with a friend and colleague in the industry so we could raise funds together to start organizing it yearly with 50/50 stake in it. And that is what gave birth to IMAN Awards 2016. However, while we were already in the process of organizing the 2017 edition, the partner sent me a text message that he was pulling out of IMAN Awards for personal reasons. After shaking off the temporary setback that caused, I decided to carry on with the project so that it would not fail to hold in 2017. After all, I am the only one who knows the vision I have for it from inception. That is the summary of the story.
Q: What a story! I salute your courage for trudging on. But why did you come up with the acronym IMAN?
R: That is a very good question. To be candid with you, it took me one month of thinking to come up with that acronym. Because I like to be creative, I wanted an acronym I could create that would have Islamic undertone to show that the awards have to do with the Islamic music sub sector of the entertainment industry. And since the philosophy of the awards is to reward Islamic artistes as well as all other operatives who make the industry tick, so I sat down and came up with the name: Islamic Music and Associated Nominees which is the basic component of the acronym IMAN. The idea is that any nominee can be in our award categories so long they associate with Islamic music with what they do or some of the things they do. And you may want to ask what IMAN as a word stands for in Islam. The concept IMAN which means Faith in English is what the Islamic religion stands upon. There are six articles of Faith (IMAN) you must believe in to be considered a true Muslim. So, there is no true Muslim without IMAN. Let me stop at that, because it suffices for the point I’m trying to make.
Q: Hmmm…that is deep. So what is going to make IMAN Awards 2017 different from 2016?
R: Thank you. IMAN Awards 2017 is many steps forward from the 2016 edition. And the first is that IMAN Awards 2017 promises to be the most transparent award event in Nigeria. And that is because in 2016 when we asked people to vote, they had to send the names of their favourite nominees to two regular telephone lines. So, we had to collate the votes manually on a result board we prepared. And when winners emerged at the award event, there was controversy as to the fidelity of those who won as genuine winners. A lot of the people who did not win then began to spread stories that Saheed Ojubanire gave their awards to some other people because they were convinced that they were the real winners! And I was like, how did they know that? They did not see the results for God sake. So, when the preparations for this year’s edition was about to start, I first of all ensured that we created a short code which would be central for everyone to send their votes into. And I asked the agency in charge of the short code, Infotech, if we could print out copies of the voting results as collated by their computer at the end of the voting, they said yes, and I said yes, that is exactly what I want. So, while some people are not participating in the voting process out of the misconception that their awards would be given to someone else, so many others started participating by canvassing for votes from their fans and friends immediately the nominations were released. So, at the award event Insha Allah, printed copies of the results would be handed out to every attendee to see. And those who may even want the soft copy of the results would be asked to send their request to a certain email address after which they would be sent the raw data of the results to go and analyze by themselves. So, at IMAN Awards 2017, there is no room for hanky panky.
Q: Why the theme: “Opening The Hall Of Fame” for 2017 edition?
R: Thank you. That is a new dimension we have just brought into IMAN Awards. We feel that in the voting categories, we can only nominate people; we don’t have any say on who wins or does not win. So, we came up with IMAN Awards Hall Of Fame idea. And that is because we have realised that there are people who have contributed immensely and are still doing so to the growth of Islamic music in Nigeria, and while we might have nominated a number of them into relevant categories they deserve to be, we still want to celebrate them. And celebrating them has nothing to do with whether they win in the voting categories they might be in or not. So, for 2017, we have Dr. Seye Kehinde, who despite being a Christian, has contributed to the growth of Islamic music through the print media and City People Entertainment platform, Dr. Ambrose Somide, who is also a Christian but superintend over a radio station, Faaji 106.5 F.M, one of the very few broadcast stations not owned by government but refused to relegate playing of Islamic music on air to only Fridays’ affair, Mr. Sunday Esan, a top marketer who brought a lot of innovations into marketing of Islamic music and he is also promoting new talents despite being a Christian, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya, who is a major and relentless financial backbone to almost all Islamic artistes in Nigeria, Alhaji Latifu Oloto, one of the first generation of Islamic artistes in Nigeria who set the pace for others to follow, Alhaji Wasiu As-Sideeq, the link bridge between the old and new generation of Islamic artistes in Nigeria, Alhaji Bolaji Bello, a veteran music producer who made his name producing Islamic music predominantly and Mr. Dare Zaka, an ace music video director with magic touch whose name is synonymous with quality Islamic music videos. So, the eight of them selected from different facets of the industry are going to be inducted into IMAN Awards 2017 Hall Of Fame. And we would be having inductees into future editions of the awards as well. In other words, inducting new people would be on yearly basis by the grace of God.
Q: Finally, what has been the major challenge to organizing IMAN Awards?
R: Obviously, the major challenge if not the only challenge has been funding. It goes without saying that the ideas to explore are there abundantly. So, we are working and hoping on getting corporate sponsorship for the project soon. Because, as at now, we are only raising fund through individuals who believe in us and what we are doing. That is why we introduced Personality Endowment for different categories of the awards such that whoever is willing can attach his or her name to any desired category so long the category has not been taken by someone else before them. For instance, you can have a category like: SAHEED OJUBANIRE AWARD FOR BEST MALE ISLAMIC ARTISTE OF THE YEAR or SAHEED OJUBANIRE AWARD FOR BEST ISLAMIC ARTISTE IN STAGE PERFORMANCE and so on and so forth. And interestingly, a number of people have been keying into that idea at a cost. But we still have many categories to go. So, whoever is still interested can reach us on; 07034570500.
Q: What are your parting words for artistes and fans of Islamic music?
R: Let me use medium to tell them that the award is an entertainment industry project narrowed down to Islamic music because it is not only Muslims who can win IMAN Awards. Anyone can win IMAN Awards so long they do something that associates with Islamic music. And let everyone watch out for IMAN Awards 2017 as it is set to change the dynamics of award events in Nigeria.