The Esan people, last December, held a musical show tagged 2 nights of music, comedy and charity" that brought the ancient town to a stand still. In this interview, the CEO, Uniglobe Group, Prince Cyrian Imobhio who organised the event speaks on the essence of the two-day event, and what the future holds for Uniglobe.
What brought about the idea of Uniglobe music and comedy extravaganza?
First and foremost, I give thanks to Almighty God who had given us the strength and protection to get to where we are today. To answer your question, music and comedy extravaganza is not a new phenomenon except that we decided at our own level of growth to emulate what the big boys in the business world have been doing in other parts of Nigeria like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt . The improvement or innovation we introduced to ours was to create a charity niche, which ensured that we supported the less-privileged among us.
How long did it take to put the whole event together?
For a show of such magnitude, it took us sometime to put the event together. We conceived the idea in June, last year, but we decided on the modality and venue of the show around late September. So, one can safely say, it took about two months to put the event together. But don't forget that we had the benefit of having seasoned hands led by a well-known international music and event promoter in LAFACE to help us facilitate the project.
What role did the Onojie play in the actualization of this project?
For a long time, it has been obvious to all Uromi sons and daughters that we are blessed with a unique royal father who is very progressive in the person of his Royal Highness, Anselm Odaloighe Edenojie11, the Ojuromi of Uromi. The development and advancement of both the community and people of Uromi is uppermost in his mind. So, I didn't have any doubt that he would support such a progressive idea and in fact, he participated personally to ensure it was a success. It is on record that he was with us during the events. This singular act, which of course, was unprecedented, left every one without a doubt that the whole community was behind the project. We all pray that our Onojie lives and reigns for a record number of years.
Why was the event free to members of the public?
To begin with, the event was organized as an end-of-year fiesta to say thank you to everyone that one way or the other has been part of our business life in 2012. Secondly, it was also to try and get our people to buy into the habit of charitable giving and the culture of being our brother's keeper. In principle, it would have been wrong to commercialize this event and make people pay to see the shows especially as it's the first of its kind in Esanland.
We wanted everybody to have the same opportunity to party with us - young, old, rich and poor. It was also done to create that special feel-good factor over the yuletide period. I believe we achieved our objectives with the caliber of artistes that graced the two-day event namely comedy greats like Gordons, Dan the Humourous, Sir Shina Peters, Sound Sultan, Experience Oligbese, and Ras Kimono amongst others.
We hear you have an entertainment background?
If you ask any Uromi person that grew up in the 1970s, they will probably tell you that as a young boy growing up, I was involved in music. My brother who is still today a musician, Red Joker International, was one of the few musicians in the whole of Esanland. Even in my early teens, I was known as one of the best conga players around. I also played drums and bass guitar occasionally. We used to go on tour of the then Bendel State; sometimes we would be away for weeks.
In later years, I was involved in the disco craze that swept through the state that time. There was a time the only way we survived was through winnings from dancing competitions. My partner at the time with whom I lived was Hon. John Okoniha. We used to scout through the notice boards around Ring Road in Benin usually on Wednesdays and Thursdays noting where there would be one show or another. Central Hotel, TOC and quite a few other venues were fertile grounds where one could win sometimes.
I was also involved in organizing mobile discos. Together with friends, we would tour the nooks and crannies of Bendel State and beyond. In the club scene, Trans World Discotheque was where I would say I cut my teeth as a DJ. We also used to help out in places like Lisa Mona behind New Nigeria Bank, Benin City before I joined forces with big timers like Barry Bee as supporting act. In all these, what I would really have loved was to own and run my own nightclub. Of course, that was a long time ago.
What does the future hold for Uniglobe Group?
Uniglobe is an evolving concern. If you read our company's profile and history you will see that over the few years of our existence, we have traversed all sectors of the Nigerian economy ranging from the oil sector to construction engineering, the hotel and hospitality industry, and commercial farming to mention a few. For us, we are in the process of consolidation. But if you mean what the future holds for us in the entertainment world, I will simply say watch this space.
How much in total was raised for charity at the event?
For everything that is new especially in our part of the world, I would say we did quite okay. We hope that by what we achieved others will learn to incorporate charity into social activities, be it private parties in their homes because you may never know what your donation of N1000 will do for the education of an orphan who has no one at all to assist. I felt really touched when an elderly man got up and donated N200 and a young lady donated N100, for me, this was the high point of the project, the willingness to give support no matter how small.
To answer your question, we set a huge target of N20 million but were able to raise N7, 800, 000 out of which N7, 600, 000 has been paid up. We have a pending sum of N200, 000, a pledge, which would be redeemed and paid very soon. The sharing of the money realized goes thus: 45% amounting to N3, 420, 000 went to Catholic Chess Orphanage at Uromi. 35% amounting to N2, 660, 000 went to St. Patrick's Catholic Church towards completion of its social and skill acquisition centre. 20% amounting to N1, 520, 000 went to Zuma Memorial Orphanage Home, Irua. It is worthy to note that they were all given their share of the money a few days after the event.
What is the general feedback from the people of Esanland on the project?
Sincerely, I hope the project opens up a new vista in the way entertainment is seen and organized in Esanland. For us, we see this project as a discharge of our social responsibility to develop our motherland. Whatever we put into it in terms of financial and human resources would have been worthwhile. The one thing that is still an issue for me is the idea that night activities and events are no longer attractive for one reason or the other.
My view is that for a dynamic commercial town or urban centre like Uromi for example, development will be enhanced if commercial life goes beyond 6am to 6pm. We need to improve on our night scene and social activities because at the end of the day the income generated will help towards developing the town into a city hub, we definitely cannot leave it all to the government. I believe the improved social life of the town could also deter night marauders and reduce crime.