By Eric Elezuo
He is an epitome of administration and goal getting. He is Mr. Fidelis Anosike, the Group Chairman of Folio Media Group and Publisher of the respected Daily Times range of publications. In this interview, the administrator par excellence revealed the intricate nature of himself, the intrigues towards the acquisition of Nigeria’s oldest newspaper, his political future as well as other sundry issues in today’s Nigeria. Here are excerpts:
Kindly introduce yourself
My name is Fidelis Anosike. I am the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer of Folio Media Group. The group comprises Folio Communications Plc, which is responsible for the acquisition of Daily Times of Nigeria Limited. There is also Folio Media Group, which has access to the technology space and also doing a consolidated media offering with clients. The third leg of the group is the FMG, which is an investment company versed in media and creativity. We also have as part of that Folio Media and Creative Academy, which is also working in tandem with relevant authorities or bodies or companies to train journalists. The aim of that company is to train 50, 000 journalists in the next five years.
Does the Creative African Xchange perform the same function
No, that is Folio Media and creative Academy. The Creative African Xchange is part of the Folio Media Group. It is part of the initiative we are trying to use to consolidate the continental space of the creative industry.
Can you shed more light on October 1st Limited and Miss Nigeria as offshoots of Folio Media Group
October 1st Limited is a publishing company that we set ip in 2007 to publish the birth of Nigeria. So it has evolved overtime because we have done over 10 different publications on Nigeria and state government, and it also went ahead in 2014 to give birth to a global public perception movement for Nigeria called Nigeria, Our Heritage. This was launched at the Kennedy Centre, and it was the first ever African event at the Kennedy Centre, Washington DC on the sideline of Obama African heads of Government meeting. What we are trying to do with October 1st and Nigeria, Our Heritage is to see how we can transition the love of Nigerian to love of Nigeria. We saw a gap there in terms of countries, so we want to create a platform that will enable us to use, especially Nigerians in the Diaspora to drive the love for country because at the end of the day, other countries spend tons and tons of millions of dollars in country branding. Even the United States spends up to $240 million annually to brand their country. You see, once you are in Europe, you take a 30 per cent cut. If Aliko Dangote steps into a loop in New York, and says he is a Nigerian, he takes a 30 per cent minus. That is huge! That’s one of the reasons our national development is funded because our brand, the brand Nigeria has so much deteriorated. Why? There are so many reasons: political instability, military government of thirty something years, advanced fee fraud, imperialistic gang up and many more. So you can see the reason it has happened over the years. There is always a reason for everything. So we as Nigerians, what are we doing to change this for the future because people only do business with people who they trust. Without that trust, we cannot have foreign direct investment coming to Nigeria. You can have $10 billion like in Lagos State, and you are happy, but you could have $100 billion. You can begin to see how that affects national security, issue of banditry and so on. The problem is image. Nobody wants to do business with anybody that is dirty. If you wear a dirty cloth, you become non attractive. There are options; people can sit down in new York and put their money in Scottish windows or savings account and make returns. But if you want people to come from China or America, you must present yourself in a way that even give them the opportunity to fly down in the first place before they can find out there are challenges.
There are challenges everywhere. Afghanistan, which is probably receiving more investment than Nigeria even as they are a war torn country. So it is a matter of how you package yourself as a country. Nigerians must help to improve the whole because when the whole collapses, the part, which may be fantastic, will automatically collapse. That is what October 1st is doing. It is a big project. We just recently partnered with Nigeria Diaspora Commission, and in October, we will start an immersion programme, which is going to bring 100 very young Nigerians from all the Ivy League schools in the Diaspora and bring them to Nigeria. We will train them on issues of national development and deployed them to about 100 companies, and see what Nigerians are doing right. We know that a lot of things are going wrong, but let’s amplify the right ones and let’s also inculcate into the young people. So, it is going to be a deliberate effort to raise 1000 people young people that can become advocates for the country Nigeria. The only thing we are going to do is positive and we can see the reverse impact. This is what October 1st is all about. This is a positive national development platform
Can you please trace your background a little. How did all start
My father was an Inspector of Police. I got into the university by drawing portraits so I am a graphic and creative artist. I graduated from the University of Benin. I tell people that creative industry is not just my passion; it is my job. From there, I went on to do a lot of high profile courses at the Harvard Business school among which is a three years management course. I am a Harvard alumnus, and being there also opened my eyes to how things are run properly.
At 24 years, I established Folio Communications, which went on to acquire Daily Times of Nigeria, the oldest surviving newspaper in Nigeria. I regard myself as a creative and communication player. And since then, I have been trying to see the much I can do with the resources available to me both access to capital and knowledge. I also have investments in other areas such as water, renewable energy, and I am also financing some global companies on major research on mobility and renewable energy space.
You founded Folio Communications at 24, how did it happen
All we need to do as human beings is pray for God to give us consciousness. If you can get consciousness at 10; you can get consciousness at 30; you can get consciousness at 70. If you pray for the grace of God, you can get consciousness early. I think I was lucky to get consciousness early. How did I found Folio at 24? I had an uncle of mine that worked with the Central Bank, and he introduced me to the Head of Communication, Mr Bolarinwa of blessed memory, and Mr. Amobi, and they allowed me to bid. At that time, when they want to make a christmas card or something like that, they make it open, and whoever wins, that is if they pick your design, you wil be asked to go and do packaging. I won on three occasions, and the price for each was N14,500. With that, I was able to get my office, and went to create ecosystem of my friends that studied graphics with me. Whenever I secure a company that needs our services, we all apply, and as fate would have it, we always win. Together we won on many occasions for companies like FirstBank, NNPC, CBN. That was how I was able to build up capital to go into communication business. I created a standard for myself and friends and became a relationship manager for them because they were all in a paid job. We collaborated each time there was a bid. Whoever’s design was chosen shares with others. It was a case of all for one, one for all. I designed, structured and produced all the diaries NNPC is using today. This one has Nigerian idioms. I gave it local content. All because of the love we have for the country. I am fully Nigerian; and I am proud of my ethnicity as an Igbo man. If there is no Nigeria, there will be no Igbo. None of us chose to be here, but we are here. No one chose his father or mother, and so cannot restructure his parents. We must not use all the energy we have to think of how to dethrone what we had no hand in creating. In the past 60 years, we have been talking about restructuring; if we had used that same energy for better things. Both Obasanjo and Jonathan had the opportunity to restructure, but they didn’t. Now, Buhari is here and you are asking him to do this and do that when you couldn’t do anything when you were there.
If all the presidents we have had, had taken up one thing and build on it, it would have been better. Obasanjo should have picked one place and convert it to Eldorado, and same with Jonathan. If they accuse you of ethnicity, it doesn’t matter. Babangida did it with Abuja on the pretense that Lagos was not safe. That was purely an ethnic agenda. And today, everyone is enjoying Abuja, and no one remembers it was an Hausa man that built it. So it doesn’t matter. It will bring about economic development. With economic development, there will be no banditry. The question is why are we even talking about these things? The answer is for years, we have all been sitting down. The governors of the states were busy manipulating local governments, collecting security votes and doing nothing with them, and nobody made a sound. There are consequences for inaction. What is happening today is a consequence of long time inaction; of doing the wrong thing, and not having ideas for doing the right thing. Most of the governors were busy building airports they don’t need, but neglected the primary schools that are supposed to train people that would shape the future. They neglected education, and dwelt on less important things. So when you lose empathy, you start approaching things from the middle. That explains why conspiracy theory comes in. Then someone will start accusing Fulani herdsmen. Those cows they rear are owned by politicians; the herdsmen are just transporters. The cows are expensive, so in the same way a bullion van carrying N5 million goes about with armed escort, well…
When exactly was Folio Communications established
That should be in 1991. In 2004, Daily Times was put up for sale. Before then, they have tried to sell the shares through public offer through the stock exchange, but it failed. So they resorted to Core Investor Sales, which refers to a situation where whoever buys it, manages it. Then we were already a thriving communication company, and so felt that we needed a media voice and had to create a media company. Even then, I was already involved in some creative works for ThisDay, and that was how I met Chief Dele Momodu. I had a lot of background knowledge. I reasoned that if I had to make my dream known, I needed a media voice. So I entered the bid as the only company involved, others were through consultants. We were pre-qualified, and made a deposit of $10,000 and put in our technical bid. We were number one. We actually scored 81 per cent. This terrain was known to me. I learnt under the Dele Momodu and Nduka Obaigbena; these are men who are far ahead of their time. I’m sure that until Dele celebrated 60, people may have been thinking he was 90, and so was Nduka. They are my pillars including Akanbi Aduba, when it comes to how I was able to understand Nigeria and how it works. I connected with their energy which was infectious.
At that point I already had $1 million for the bid bond. This is a security for your integrity, and so no bank will lend you money for bid. You can only finance it with equity. It is money you lose if at the end of the day, you did not pay. Daily Times Bid Bond then was N100 million. You know they have earlier tried selling it via shares, hoping people will buy and someone will acquire the majority, but nobody came in. This was because the media industry in Nigeria is not bankable; it has not been restructured so it doesn’t have capital flowing into it. We bided N1.25 billion. In the first place, we bided N327 million, secondly, we bided eight hundred and something million. In all they were about N500 million above us. But we knew the bid was in two rounds. In the second round, we bided N1.25 billion, and we won.
When we bought Daily Times, its liability was N1.9 billion; the assets was N2.3 billion; the enterprise value was N700 and something million. We bought Daily Times at almost twice the price the government was hoping to get. It is on record, and I was 35 years old then. This underscores what you can do when you believe in Nigeria. I can bet money that things can work in Nigeria. Normally, nobody will give an Igbo man to buy Daily Times.
Daily Times have had seven managing directors and top executives from southwest. The company was created by Adeyemo Alakija and the group. It went on to have Alhaji Babatunde Jose, Aremu Segun Osoba, Tunde Oseni, Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi and the rest of them from the southwest. As far as people were concerned, Daily Times was the biggest mouthpiece for the country. At one time, Babatunde Jose was asked if he would run for president, and he said he was already chairman of Daily Times. That was how big Daily Times was. It was the fourth estate of the realm.
Because I did appreciate the enormity of what I took upon my shoulder when I took it over, the commercial problems arising from property though I’m a property person as an aside. The only I own in Abuja was bought with my money. No government or minister to claim to have given me anything. There were about 400 staff in the company then, and money from government was not going to be coming anymore. So we had to restructure. We had to downsize, and fought with the union for two years. during the fight with the union, the business was closed down. Then Hallmark Bank, which loaned us the money took over the company. We didn’t recover the company through legal means until September, 2007. So, I acquired the company in 2004, it was hijacked by Hallmark Bank. Everyone was interested in the assets and no one will thinking about the liabilities. We had to go to court. There was this man who joined us at Folio Communications; his mission was to revive it, and put it on the same pedestal as New York Times. He employed people from all walks of life; both Nigerians and Africans to make it a model. We knew that without a dominant and strong media organisations in Nigeria, the issues of national development will fail. That is why in America, we have Fox, CCN etc on their ideological beliefs, and tied to politics. Without a strong media, there will be fragmentation, and that explains why the masses don’t have a voice – an ideological voice then becomes commercialised and a merchandise. We wanted to make Daily Times what it used to be. Thereafter, all sorts of people started taking us to court. All these people came from third parties because I acquired Daily Times alone with nobody’s assistance. Like the typical Nigeria, everything is contentious not to talk of when you acquire a national asset. We adapted to many things in the cause of all these. So the first Times Heroes Awards we did was massively supported. We interacted with many governors in the process. You see what Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is doing today. We are proud of him. We were the only one that saw the character the man brought with him from day one, and gave him award. We gave award to people like Bello of Kogi State. You know sometimes you have to encourage people with potential or you lose them. What makes you tough is working and performing in tough circumstance like Wike. And that why people respect Aliko Dangote, because walking out on Aliko is walking out on Nigeria. When his refinery starts operation, 90,000 people will be employed. It is about job, job, job – that is what will bring international development. We use Dangote cement, GB tomato and Kebbi rice without remembering that they are owned by Fulanis – they are not just herders. There is good in every part of the country, and in everybody.
Why did you retain the name Daily Times after acquiring it? Is it because of the its influence
No, it is not because of the influence. Daily Times owns the largest archives. it is 95 years now, and will be 100 years in five years. How many media companies in Nigeria is 100 years. Daily Times is beyond a newspaper company. It was here before Nigeria. It created the Nigeria Stock Exchange. it has produced two or three state governors. It is a national development company. In the run off to our 100 years, we have created an event to celebrate icons of Daily Times – our heroes. Times Heroes. The first one that we have designed is for Ambassador Dele Cole. We are hoping to do these in their states of origin like in Port Harcourt. In Port Harcourt, it will be a two-day event. On day 1, we are to going to train about 500 journalists of that area so that he can inspire local journalists of that area; tell them how young he was when he went to in the media and more. On day 2, there will be proper lecture where the likes of Akinwunmi Adesina and co to speak. There is nothing like making impact in your homn state. We have there lined up about 15 of them. The first one will be in Rivers State because that is where Dele Cole comes from. We don’t want to keep celebrating people when they are dead; we want to celebrate them while they are alive, and learn something from them. We will talk about national development and the role media plays. In Nigeria, we let out heroes die without transferring knowledge. We need to have History of Nigeria because if you don’t know where you are coming from, you won’t know where you are going to. And that is what we are doing at Folio Communications. iI is important therefore we get this first one right – 1st Ambassador Dele Cole Lecture towards Daily Times at 100. Secondly, we are developing a book, which Onyema Ugochukwu is handling to be launched soon. It is called History of Daily Times of Nigeria
The event has been proposed to Cole, and he has signed off on it. Dele Cole has proved himself to be an epitome of politics without bitterness. He created the legacy of The Guardian and revived the legacy of Daily Times and when the government was becoming overbearing, he created a new legacy entirely. The second one in November will be Onyema Ugochukwu. Then, early 2022, we will celebrate Dr. Ernest Ikoli, the first ever indigenous editor of Daily Times. Next year also, we are looking at celebrating Babatubde Jose, and then Segun Osoba, Yemi Ogunbiyi, Chief Sam Amuka Pemu, Chief Innocent Oparadike, Prince Tony Momoh and others. We have received concurrence from the family. Our goal between now and the next five years, we would have instituted minimum 10 lectures. Each of them will be in his home state, and all of them and their governors have accepted. And they are all excited about it. And we will send a letter to Wike believing he will be gracious enough to accept.
On the continent, Folio Media Group is exclusive news affiliate to CNN. We are the only one who can beat their chest and say we are affiliates and entitled. We are not advertising partners; we are content partners, we are creating products with CNN. Before the end of this year, we will announce the African content we are working with CNN now. We are currently working on a continental media project with CNN which should be finalised and announced soon towards capacity building in the continent aimed at increasing the African voice in the world, and also curb fake news.
In Daily Times, our focus has remained capacity building in media and creativity industries. This is because those are where the focus is – the number blogger is a Nigerian and so is the number one musician and actors, in Africa. So why don’t we build a competitive advantage. Why are we spending billions building monuments. We have 30 airports; some of them are not working – they are not conforming to aviation rules because the governors just want to build monuments. Why don’t we channel those funds for monuments to other stuffs – things that will create jobs.
Lets talk Nigeria Politics. At the moment there are several agitations: for secession, one Nigeria and restructuring. What is your take
My take is very simple. Of a fact, people’s views are a function of their knowledge. First of all, I will blame the government for not being proactive in the area of communication, but people should understand we are talking of banditry in Nigeria, and we still have coronavirus active. Last year was the first year that the whole country was shut down. What it means it that there will be consequences afterwards. Politicians will lose their livelihood, drivers will lose their livelihood, and when people don’t have livelihood, they look for a way out. When EndSARS was on – yes, Nigeria needed to end SARS because it cannot in the guise of solving a problem become a problem. We have to understand that Nigeria is being exploited by all manner of people, and crime is also all about exploitation. If those people crying about secession are given a position today, they won’t talk about it again. At the end of the day, most those cries and hues are not genuine. They are based on vested interest; that is my problem with it. There is no problem that cannot be solved so dialogue is key. If we shout about restructure, we should ask ourselves we haven’t the country been restructured till today. Obasanjo was in power for eight years, why didn’t he restructure. What was his constraint? So was Jonathan after conveying national conference. There may be reason they did not restructure, so the cries and hues are okay. People must express themselves, but they should all work on the path leading to a true Nigeria. If we must secede, you must explain the meaning and modalities to us; not after seceding, we begin to have issues among ourselves. So all those calls must be interrogated. Now, we have non state actors; people that did not even go to school leading calls. How? Governance is intellectual. You see who do not have temperament, who do not understand good and bad leading calls because they have a voice. The cries and hues are okay though because they can form topical issues for 2023 elections. However, today, APC and PDP are the same; there is no ideology. The issues raise could become ideological, and any party willing to give what the people want would be chosen. That was the situation in Niger Republic recently. The cries and issues are good and bad, but we need to ask ourselves what the real causes are. Nigeria, from far back is seen as red flag state. If your relation is announced as minister today, people will start congratulating you. Why? We need few good men in Nigeria to understand that where you are is better than where you are trying to be, and then work violently to convince the rest to calm down because in the next one and half years, there will be election. Buhari has just two years to pack and go. So let not those clamour be an opportunity for people to further rape Nigeria and take advantage of the weak system, let it be a clamour to formulate the issues that would form the agenda for 2023. When Buhari was coming, he ran his campaign on security, corruption and economy, and so it is easy to score. Others can come with restructuring and more, and Nigerians can see how to vote in the right people. Let the past be bygone.
Given the opportunity sir, can you score the president in six years
Yes, I think the president has done very well. I believe in foundation, and these are the foundations the president has established. What is the reason the president was able to borrow money? I challenge anyone to try and borrow N50 million, and you will understand. It is typical discipline. When World Bank gives you money, they don’t just leave you because the money is specified for project. This is number one We talk about social programmes. we have an out-growers scheme today. It was designed when Akinwunmi Adesina was there. Go and check what is going on in Kebbi. By next month, you will see the amount of tons of rice Nigeria will have. The Dangote refinery has taken years; when it is completed, you will see the impact. It is a social programme because every day, we talk about subsidy, and subsidy cannot work without supply, and then money is channeled every other thing.
On infrastructure, we talk about the rail lines. The rail lines of today were started by Ahmed Joda and Obasanjo. It was an $800 million loan to build various rail. This about N6 trillion, but they were not done, but today the projects were renegotiated and delivered as we can see. That was the president was going to China back and forth. Today, you can enter a train from Lagos to Ibadan, and nobody is talking about that.
In my own region, for 15 years, we had senate president, economic adviser, and others. There are three major roads in the south: East West Road, Enugu-Onitsha Road and Enugu-Port Harcourt Road. It is only in the past six years that we have had consolidated build out. From Enugu to Port Harcourt today will take 45 minutes. This a journey that previously takes three to four hours. There is the Second Niger Bridge. I can go on and on. In technology, the issue of NIN for which Mr Afolabi went to jail has been delivered. Yes, people may have a problem on how it is being delivered but no one can give what he does not have.
In aviation, the former governments took loans to build four airports, and the government added five because the then Minister was from the southeast, she added the Enugu Airport. Abuja International Airport is delivered Port Harcourt and Lagos international airports are delivered as well as Kano all in six years. Thank for the Aviation minister, nobody would have been moving around with this banditry. He has made it possible for airlines to be coming on board. Their styles may be different, but there is a method to this madness.
These are foundations that can connect. One good thing is that Buhari has actually changed to a democratic person. In his first coming, he wasn’t democratic at all. It is a big achievement that he was able to get that transformation. I think the government has done more than average in all ramification, and I can challenge anybody to that.
The problem is have is that of cost of expectation. We can only get a government we deserve. We cannot get an Obama in Nigeria. We are all complicit. So let’s forget about Buhari and talk about 2023. Let us take the good Buhari has done and build on it; let us take the bad things he had done and correct them That is the kind of positivity I want from few good men. Let us not tear the house down. Different versions from different people. Will a Femi Adesina tell you that Buhari is not doing well? No. But the main concern is how is the common man faring.
On a final note, one of the biggest reasons I say Buhari has done well is the 40 year old man he appointed as Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). I don’t care if he appoints only Katsina people; he goes round and round. When Jonathan comes, let him appoint all Bayelsa people.
The Igbo are already leading in commerce. They love competitiveness, building new roads. As of today, Igbo control 50 per cent of lands in Nigeria; we have bought land every where so if you add to the five southeast states we have, we almost control half of Nigeria. To aspire for power, you must be sure you have the capacity to carry it, otherwise it will feel like an elephant on your head.
Do you nurse any political ambition
Life is dynamic. For me to have political ambition, I must have finished what I am doing now. I have not revived Daily Times, why nurse political ambition. One can create impact from wherever he is. Politics is not a vocation. It is supposed to be corporate social responsibility. But people who have failed in their fields have found it as a sure means to buy cars and houses. These are depraved individuals; people that have complex. To have political ambition, you must have thorough knowledge of the terrain and situation in Nigeria. You must also be sure you are going to impart on people. Until I complete the transformation of Daily times, nothing else. Even God will ask me what I have done with the one he gave me. I am constantly building relationships, and learning how I can return Daily Times to become what it used to be
How wonderful a family man are you; married, with children…
No, I’m not married. I have not been married for 10 years, hopefully, I should be. I have been married to my job for 10 years. I won’t say I’ve been a fantastic family man. I’ve been married before. I have a daughter, who will be 14 next month, and a son, who is 11. Hopefully, I should be married soon as I am in a serious relationship/courtship
ABOUT MR FIDELIS ANOSIKE
Mr Fidelis Anosike is the President of Folio Holdings Limited, Folio Media Group, 1st October Publications Limited, Folio Communications Plc – publishers of The Daily Times Nigeria, The Sunday Times (TST) and The Business Times, with business interests in publishing, multimedia content creation and distribution, Renewable Energy, Smart Mobility and Investments among others.
Mr. Anosike is the protagonist for the Creative Africa Exchange (CAX), a creative industry consolidation catalyst (www.caxafrica.com), He also champions the Nigeria our Heritage project, a positive perception movement for Nigeria (www.noh.ng).
Folio Communications under Anosike’s leadership, acquired from the Federal Government of Nigeria, The Daily Times Nigeria (founded 1926) which is the country’s oldest and most noteworthy news organization. Over the past 16 years, Anosike has tirelessly worked to restore this National Heritage to its past glory and further take it digital/multimedia in line with current trends.
FMG incubated and launched Folio.ng in 2018, an afro pop culture and digital content platform (www.folio.ng), which is part of Folio Africa and launched with CNN as an exclusive affiliate.
Mr. Anosike is at the forefront of launching MVMO Africa, a digital distribution and monetization platform for movies, video, music and opportunities powered by V-NOVA cutting edge compression technology (LECVE). MVMO which is live in the 2nd quarter of 2021 will deliver content across Africa on low bandwidth of 2G and 3G.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative & Applied Arts from the University of Benin, a graduate of Harvard Business School Owner President Management Program and Alumni of the Harvard business School; he also holds an honorary doctorate in Philosophy from Trinity International University Georgia USA.