3 August 2014

Nigeria: Comperes Contribute to National Development - Obidiegwu

Mr. Chido Obidiegwu, a gifted orator and master of ceremonies, is the Special Assistant on Events to Governor Willie of Anambra State. Born in the university community of Nsukka. After a successful career as a broadcaster Chido, as he is fondly called, bagged the position in Obiano's administration. In this interview that coincides with his 50th birthday, Chido traces the story of his life but not forgetting to state that all that he owes Obiano so much "because this is the first political appointment I have ever held". In this interview with our Correspondent Chukwujekwu Ilozue, Chido spoke at length about his career, his boss Chief Obiano, and Chief Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, and the future of emcees. Excerpts:

Can I meet you?

My name is Chido Obidiegwu. I was born 31st July 1964 almost50 years ago in the university community of Nsukka and I hail from Okija in Ihiala local government area of Anambra state. I had my secondary education at the famous St Theresa s College Nsukka. My first degree was in History at the great university of Benin while my masters degree was in Mass communication at the prestigious university of Nigeria,Nsukka.

After my masters degree, I had a stint in print journalism at African innovations magazine from where I moved to Sunrise Marketing Communication and later to Minaj Broadcast International (MBI). This period afforded me the privilege to earn an exciting career experience garnering print media tutelage, vast and varied pedigree in integrated marketing communications and rich electronic media exposure both in content development and airtime marketing.

Talking about executive management, I have run a company called Integrad Marketing Support Services limited-a bespoke integrated marketing communications, event and mobile marketing company. Integrad also offers Talk Services Provisioning for live Events, Radio and Television programmes, including "Inspiring health with Vivien" on Inspiration FM and Giving Back TV show breaking on national television soon.I have also been chairman of Board of Directors of Wellnet Limited, a burgeoning network marketing company.

For over two decades I have been opportune to be involved and immersed in packaging and managing several brand building campaigns, epochal national and net worth events, radio and television shows.

I am a Pan African University CSR Master class certified and have attended various relevant capacity building marketing, brand management and event marketing professional courses both at home and abroad. I am happily married to Vivien -a dental technologist and multilevel network marketer and we are blessed with four children - Chizaram, Chimamanda, Daberechi and Makuachi.

How did you get into 'Emceeing'..?

It is a clear case of a hobby or talent that turned to treasure. At St Theresa's College Nsukka, I was the president of junior and senior debating societies respectively which exposed me to early public speaking. I was always leading my school team to debating competitions some of which were telecast on the local television and it was always a pleasure to do so.

The pleasure and knack for public speaking continued during:

my undergraduate and graduate days. This time around my interest expanded to anchoring birthdays, weddings and other social events. At Sunrise communications product

launches, seminars were part of my purview. In some of these cases when we had challenges with the emcees, I naturally stepped in as the emergency emcee for some additional stipend. When friends had birthdays, weddings and other celebrations I always took the emcee role and would be exempted from making the financial contributions others make toward the event.

Working at MBI provided a veritable platform for my emcee beat to begin to crystallize. The broadcast window exposed me to greater visibility and contact that later propelled me when it was needed. In the course of running Integrad, we have been blessed with a good clientele base. In our stable include MTN Nigeria, Etisalat, Nestoil Plc, Ordrec investments, Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority, Zinox Computers, Dozzy Group, ATCON, ISPON, NCS, Fidelity Bank Plc etc. Working on a brief during this period I had a providential and divine chance meeting with a man who discovered and 'disvirgined' me in professional emceeing. He remains my mentor and professional father- Chief Ikenna Ndaguba(Onwa) of blessed memory. We were packaging the

launch of Ichie Daniel Obiesie Orjiako biography and I had the honor of being listed as Onwa's assistant emcee. Working under him was for me an elevation and I must confess I was not only careful but cautious of every thing I did at the event under his superintendence. At the close of the event, he drew me close with unusual fondness and asked me what I was doing for a living and I responded that I was an Advertising and Public Relations consultant and that emceeing was more like a pastime. Onwa thought through my response and quickly retorted" my son in all my years in broadcasting I have heard a few voices with the kind of depth and decibel like yours. I am impressed with your diction and your handling of the event wasn't bad at all. I advise you to take event anchoring very serious.

You have a great future here. "His last sentence kept reverberating in me for several days and nights. I was initially confused but after some days I got convinced telling myself that this words coming from Nigeria's doyen of broadcasting and grand father of public speaking cannot be controverted even by my self doubt. I immediately said a short prayer asking God the father to confirm the prophecy of my earthly godfather over my life. I said Ame

Onwa did not stop there. He began the process of chipping off my rough edges. From time to time he would invite me to handle some events he would not do as a result of his very busy schedule. That is the story of the making of Chido grand master compere today.

How important are emcees to events?

At the risk of being too patronizing to my trade, I make bold to say that the success and failure of any event depends largely on the emcee. Suffice it to say that assuming all other things were in place and you make the wrong choice of an emcee, your event is a disaster waiting to happen. The emcee is the real host of the event. He should have a good understanding and appreciation of protocol. He should speak the right language that communicates effectively to the audience. He should be armed with right sense of humor. When I say humor I am not talking about comedy. I mean such humour that is in tandem with the essence of the event and not the type that will insult the sensibilities of the guests. The emcee is the soul of the event who drives the mood and flow of the event. He introduces key players at the event in their deserved courteous manner and directs the event flow guiding all players to be timely in their delivery. To achieve these, the emcee needs to research and read voraciously about the event with emphasis on the who's, the why's, for whom, for what, at where, when and how, by which means.

Before now emcees were regarded as quacks without any professional taproot. What are requisite qualifications and attribute a contemporary emcee should be armed to deliver on the job?

There is this misconception and wrong perception that emcees are basically praise singers making it all comers affair. This stemmed from the days of the yore when emcees were merely court jesters .We are in a dynamic world where the only thing constant is change and this change which affected other vocations that suffered similar fate has equally accentuated the emcees status.

Today governments, corporate organizations and high net worth individuals engage thoroughbred emcees who are armored with sound academic background, relevant professional experience, warm disposition, ad lib skills or oratorical skills and ability to think on the spot, embellish as the event demands and dictates.

The emcee of today should be versatile. For instance when anchoring an event on banking he must not necessarily become a banker but must have the reasonable knowledge base to speak the language bankers understand. Same goes for when he is anchoring an event on telecommunications or oil and gas.

I once anchored an event sponsored by a brand of hypertension drug. To be up and doing I had to roll my sleeves and excavated copious information on cardiovascular ailments. After my entry behavior, the event chairman, a professor of cardiology in his opening remarks made an allusion to the effect that the emcee must have attended a good medical school. Little did he know that I do not even have a science background, that I belong to those referred to as "Igbo,igbo, BK ".

When I receive a brief to emcee any event I treat it as if I am going for a competitive business pitch. For me ,no event is small and none should be underrated. I strive to read everything I can find on the event and on the subject matter for the event. I must say that this attitude or approach to the emcee trade is largely influenced by my academic background in history and mass communication coupled with hands on rigor and vigour in the blast furnace of Advertising and Public Relations and Broadcasting. Therefore, the emcee of today should be fairly educated academically and should be able to boast of a reasonable relevant cognate experience and ability to search and research for information relating to his event. He ought to be imbued with rare confidence and charm garnished with a good voice for effective delivery. These attributes are surely not for intellectual pedestrians.

What do you cherish more and also what are your regrets about being an emcee? I cherish the opportunity being an emcee affords me to network and being often in the midst of the who is who in society. The challenge some of the events pose and present for fresh intellectual intercourse is equally alluring. It also provides me with a window to subtly embark on some advocacy on societal issues of concern. I must not forget to add that the pay is beginning to get better.

My regret is mainly not having adequate time to spend with my family as duty calls and one is hopping in and out of the aircraft. But I try to make it up to them during the down times of the business. It is also regrettable that some friends and even professionals hardly understand why an emcee should be paid handsomely for according to them "just talking for two or three hours". They forget that talk is no longer cheap.

What in your opinion is the future of emceeing in Nigeria? The future is bright. More and more people are beginning to appreciate the essence and importance of emcees at occasions. Emcees are being accorded respect in our society today. Remuneration of emcees is also looking up. I am confident that as my mentor put it "there isa great future here".

Share with us your biggest embarrassment as an emcee?

I had to anchor an event for Ordrec Investments Limited andI came late as a result of a terrible traffic jam. Someone else had to stand in for me. As soon as I got into the hall, with the rush I took the microphone and mistakenly introduced the Managing Director of Ordrec Dr. ABC Orjiako as Dr ABC Nwosu. The audience echoed in unison to correct me "no ABC Orjiako. It was a very bad one because I have too close a relationship with the man such that I shouldn't forget his name. Since that day, I make it a point of duty to get to the event venue early enough to eschew shoddy and hasty job.

Which event would you say is your best outing so far as an emcee?

I cannot really say for sure. But judging from what my clients and personages I meet at events say after most events, I would say that judging by what people say ,God has been kind to me here. If it is true that the voice of the people is the voice of God, then quite a good number of my outings have been great. Some former Presidents and Heads of state have offered me generous marks after events they chaired or attended. A good number of state governors have said charitable things after anchoring their state events. My appointment as the Special Assistant on Events to His Excellency Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State is partly as a result of my emcee dexterity at the risk of being immodest. My former state governor His Excellency, Chief Peter Obi for good reasons retained me unofficially as the state emcee for years. Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, former Imo state governor Ikedi Ohakim, Abia state governor Theodore Orji, old Anambra state governors Jim Nwobodo and Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezife, all have said kind words over several jobs I did for them. I won't forget motivating words from heads of government parastatal and corporate Nigeria that I have worked for, including MTN Nigeria, Etisalat, Fidelity Bank, Standards Organization of Nigeria, Seplat, Nestoil Plc, Dozzy Group, Zinox Group, Ekulo Group, Chisco Group and a host of advertising and public relations agencies who in several occasions have said kudos to Chido. These applauses actually humble me and make me not to rest in my oars. To these divine helpers I mentioned I heartily express my profound gratitude and say that if I am professionally tall today, it is because they offered me their shoulders to stand on and I remain eternally grateful.

How does being events emcee fit into your new assignment as Special Assistant on Events to Governor Obiano?

I dare say that most governments today utilize events as platform to build their brand status, create awareness and market acceptance for their policies and programs as well as attract investors and Anambra state under Governor Willie Obiano is right at the front burner on this. My responsibilities as the Special Assistant on Events to Governor Obiano include among other things to create, design and develop ingenious concepts to be hosted by the state, interface with internal and external event providers for viable collaborations, synergise with relevant stakeholders to develop state event diary and also compere all state major official events.

As arduous as these tasks might be, they are familiar terrain and I am humbled by the confidence my Governor reposes in me to deliver on the beat. By the special grace of God, My tool box and other arsenal I employ to duty all emanated from the pedigree pointed to ab initio.That is talking about early exposure to public speaking on stage and on radio and television, organizing debates, bachelors and masters degree in history and mass communications respectively garnished with robust hands on professional exposure in advertising, public relations, event management and broadcasting.

Anambra state recently celebrated 100 days of Governor Obiano in Office. What is your assessment of him in office so far?

You are making me a judge over a matter I have utmost interest in. Permit me to say first of all that His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano, Akpokuedike, the executive Governor of Anambra State is running an all inclusive government where a wider spectrum of the state stakeholders are allowed a space in the scheme of things. He abhors winner takes it all syndrome and on being sworn in and also at a stakeholder dinner he offered an olive branch to his opponents in the election to join hands with him in taking the state to the next level.

Back to your question, in all sincerity, come to Anambra State today my Governor's strides stare glaringly and speak eloquently to all and sundry, friends and foes alike. During the campaign, he promised to continue, complete and commission all the laudable projects of his predecessor and also commence his own new projects. He termed this an acronym- 4Cs.To the chagrin of his traducers, he is keeping to his words. Anambra today is like a city state construction site. There are neither abandoned projects nor white elephant projects but work in progress. During the election, the slogan was Willie will work. Today Anambra people are now saying Willie is Working which is a clear expression of momentous leap in just 100days and he is not resting but still marching on. He has also made giant strides in execution of the four transformational pillars of his government which are Agriculture, Trade and Commerce, Oil and Gas and industrialization .Anambra state as we speak is experiencing unprecedented Agricultural revolution with free supply of tractors, fertilizers, seedlings to farmers and employment of labour for the youth in the farm settlements and clusters in the state.

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