Ndidi Obioha, an event consultant has hosted countless A-list events which includes corporate, top celebrity weddings and birthdays. She is not just a planner, she conceptualises, organises, defines, plans, manages and co-ordinates events. A seasoned professional, she runs a top-of-the pack event company. In this interview with ORUKPE NELSON, she shares her thoughts about marriage, children and other issues.
As a voice in the showbiz industry, what are your views on the lack of assistance for female artistes by females who are in position to help?
I want more women to help and guide young stars instead of discouraging them with body language. I have stepped out through event management, fashion and bridal outfits that have pulled off several successful colourful events in Nigeria.
Would mentorship help out in the challenges militating against female artistes?
I am very passionate about women in the entertainment industry. It is one of the things I am going to dedicate my time to next year, because I do not think women in the industry are getting deserved leverage at the moment. I think it is a male dominated industry, with them trying to suppress the women on the side, especially in the music industry.
At the Enthyst Place, there are lots that I have on my kit that I am going to give birth to next year because the ratio of women to men that have been given opportunities by even the record labels is not encouraging. How many women are on their labels? It is unfortunate.
That is why I am going into a different kind of mentorship, and I have a lot of girls that I am talking with.
What are your plans for them?
Recently, I did the Vlisco Women Awards at Eko Hotel. It was a female award and the concept was celebrating women. So we did everything without any man as part of it. We didn’t need a male MC; we didn’t need a male band. And I was able to get an all-female band that I am ready to invest in, because they are good. There are plans for an all-female talent hunt next year, also. Omawumi will tell you that when she came out from Idols West Africa, I was one of the few women that gave her the opportunity to move on.
I carry them on my back, and they know how passionate I am to get women to where the menfolk are presently. And I will get there by God’s grace. I have seen lots of good young girls trying to do it alone, but they have not been given the opportunities. It comes natural that a record label owned by a man will first consider a male before thinking of a female! That is one of the things we are working on.
Further on mentorship, honestly I have not had the time, because I am setting up pockets of my businesses. The fashion clinic is able to stand on its own now. Next year, I will take on another arm of my business. I try to take things one at a time. To be a mentor to somebody, you need to have all the time and it is something I like to do.
But record label owners are businessmen. Don’t you think it is all about merit and quick returns?
I don’t think it is about merit. Trust me, I have studied the situation. Some of these female artistes come for help, and as an event person, I provide them needed opportunities, especially the up and coming artistes. Helen Paul was barely known. But she got her biggest break, by God’s grace, through me; I try to use my platform to help the female artistes.
There was the story of a Spain-based female artiste, who had made a success of her career in Europe, but when she came to Nigeria, it was difficult for her to be accepted. I saw her looks, very pretty and her dress sense very revealing, which was not good in our society.
Women in Nigeria have very stronghold on their husbands. If I like a song and my husband is in love with me, I have the power to get him to like that music. But if I am in a party with him and I saw a girl that will make him sexually uncomfortable, it is my duty to protect him from buying into that artiste. We feel threatened by ourselves. When a female artiste is coming all revealing, we try to stop them. It should not be so. You should first appreciate that talent in her. Unfortunately, you are addressed the way you are dressed.
If people feel disgusted about your looks, then you are done. Take a look at Omawumi. She is a home girl to every woman. The moment you become a threat to any woman, they will kill it for you. We are still a bit laid back. And my question is who your target market is? For instance, you are coming out with a song that will appeal to weddings. You want people to invite you to perform at weddings and you think a bride’s mother will watch you looking very indecent on television and invite you to come and perform for her child’s wedding? Hell no! They will tell you, ‘Her music might be amazing but ask her to dress well’.
A woman in event management, what took you there?
What got me there is the passion for wanting to feed people, to organise and put things together as they should be. That is what got me to run an event consulting company. We conceptualise, we define, we plan, we manage, we coordinate and we execute the plan of a client. I am not a decorator, but what we do is to come up with concepts for every different aspect that makes up an event.
Which was the biggest and challenging concert you ever managed?
We have done a lot of events that I cannot readily remember. Rhythm Unplugged is one of them. It was a huge concert with about 6,000 people in attendance. We managed everything including the artistes, because we got some of them on board as well. For me, when an event becomes very taxing is when the fans are crazy. We did Miss Delta Pageant for Orange Drugs Plc. The ‘thank you’ I get from my clients is my staying power. We did the African Magic Igbo Channel, Ebe Ona Akpotu in Enugu in April.
How many of your concerts have gone awry?
There is none that I can remember. It has honestly never happened. The day it happens that is when I will stop being an event planner, because I cannot take the disappointment. There may be one or two slight areas, because of my professional knowledge. Otherwise, for the clients and guests that attended, it was okay. But for me, I know what we could have done better.
How often have you been updating yourself?
Yes, I go to Vegas (US) every year. I am part of the International Caterers and Events Solutions. I do invest in myself. But the truth is that it is inborn. Nobody can teach you creativity. It is God given. When I go to a prospective client, I end up adding value, that is what creativity is all about.
What influenced you into event management?
I used to be with the banking industry. I have always been a marketer. That is one gift that I have. Once I believe in any product, I can market to the right people. Having been a marketer and a client service person (that I was in the advertising and telecom industry where I worked in the past, when I wanted to start), I needed to do something that was passion driven. I have always believed that when you do something that is passion driven, you will think, eat and dream that thing. At that point, you don’t see it as a chore, rather, it is fun. I have that passion in wanting to organise, the joy in seeing people happy. Even in my fashion business, I love to see people looking good. It gives me joy seeing people looking good in my outfits.
What are the challenges in events management?
In everything, in every business, especially in Nigeria, the main challenge is manpower. You may be passionate about your vision, but you cannot do everything alone because you are not an island. You need people to work with. But it becomes a problem when people you got to work with do not have that passion and drive. The biggest challenge is for those working with you not sharing the same vision that you do. If you enter into any business without passion, but for the money, you won’t make a success of it.
Which of these jobs stand out as most challenging?
It was the National Convention of APC that President Muhammadu Buhari emerged as the party’s flag bearer. It was at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere. It was pretty challenging, but for me, I never look at anything as insurmountable.
It was huge, no doubt. When we were called upon to coordinate and plan that event for them, we brought in an element as planners, which is that, whatever job I choose to do, there has to be that chemistry between the client and I. But for a job that is politically related, there is that fact that I have been a citizen in this country. There has been a lot of rigging, and that has always disturbed me. So what went straight to my mind is that this election has to be straight forward, and has to be as transparent as possible. I have always thought of it, but it never crossed my mind that it is doable, to have a free and fair elections in this country. And that opportunity came knocking from the APC. We worked with former Ekiti State governor, Fayemi.
For me, that is one man I hold with so much regard. I saw a man that wanted true transparency; I saw a team that was ready. That was when it dawned on me that this country truly wanted a change. I saw a group that was determined to say no to imposition, because even at the convention, a lot would have been done to rig the elections, even at the primary level. That was a determining factor because if that had happened, I don’t think APC would have had any chance. Because Nigerians would have said these people are not ready.
That was not the case, because Buhari, I must say in all honesty, won free and fair, as there was no opportunity for anybody to rig. Everything you saw there were the processes we put in place. I got my video guys to document the three days as we were allowed to do what was stated. Fayemi ensured that everything was implemented to the letter. For me, it was a defining moment, to think that we were brought on board just two weeks to the event.