Meet Tonye Ekine, who is quietly building a Media Empire
The media and entertainment industry in Nigeria is a billion dollar industry. Even though it is in its infancy stage, the likes of Linda Ikeji, Uche Pedro, among others have shown us the potential of the industry. Tonye Ekine is among the new tribe that wants to take the industry to the next level, creating new ways of doing things. In my years of working in the media space, I have come across a handful of young people like Tonye who truly understand the media business.
I had an opportunity to chat with him recently, he shares his passion, his journey and thoughts about the media landscape.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Tonye Ekine, I am an artist. I currently consult for Cool FM , Wazobia and Nigeria info. And I have my own companies which I co-founded with two partners called, City Info Africa and AGI Media. I guess that is me in a nutshell.
How was your childhood?
My childhood was very different because I have a tightly knitted family. I grew up in a family of three children, my father is a clergy and my mum owns a school. I didn’t lack anything, but nothing too fancy. My family spends a lot of time talking when we gather around in the evening. During those times, I would create stories that won’t end. My mum says that when I was small that I kept telling stories, it was my thing. They used to call me Alawada “comedian”. I was the very good kid growing up, I hardly got into trouble.
What were your aspirations growing up?
I wanted to do so many things, I remember when I was 6 that I wanted to be the President of this country. I actually had a dream that my name was announced as the President of the country and everyone was happy. So for a long time, my nickname was Presido. I also wanted to travel a lot, I had a friend who her father was an ambassador. And I used to go to their house and she would show me pictures of different countries they visited.
I was like this should be me, I want to visit so many places in my lifetime. So I asked what it took to be an ambassador but I was very young then. I also wanted to be an artist, draw my own cartoons and maker my own stories because I could draw. Before I added weight, I also wanted to be a dancer as well because I loved music and dancing.
How did you become a great artist?
I used to draw alot growing up and I became very good. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do, I was like these are the talents God gave me and drawing was on top of the list at the time. In JSS 2, my father called two of my uncles, — one happened to be an architect and the other in the media business– he summoned them down to Ibadan. They gave me a task to draw, after seeing what I could do they advised my dad that I should study fine art.
So from JSS 2, I knew I was going to be an artist. I had two friends in secondary school — Chukuma Obi and Ugofure — who we used to draw together, we used to challenge ourselves. At some point, they both took a different path and I was the only one still drawing. So nobody did fine art in JAMB in the whole school, It was my primary school teachers and Mr Innoson Osose that helped out with past questions.
When I wanted to pick a school, my father was particular about me studying African arts from Nigeria. Which is why I went to OAU (Obafemi Awolowo University). I tried to push to study arts abroad though but I didn’t get my wish.
So how did you venture into the media sector?
I did not plan to work in media, I stumbled into it. Working on City Info Africa and my internship was at Cool Fm Abuja got me into the media business. So I have been working on several media-related entities. So the way I saw media, was the application of art. If you are in advertising, for example, you must be creating storyboards to create your content for your campaigns. The process is almost the same as being an artist, media is about stories. I read and research on how things are done in the west and this has given me the needed boost to cope in the sector.
What is your take on the media landscape in Nigeria?
I think media agencies is kind of saturated in just one place which is Lagos. This is so because of every single industry is in Lagos, but to me, that is a problem. For example, the art community in Abuja is very versed, but that is like 0.5% of the media landscape in Nigeria. The media agencies should scale to other states for coverage.
In Nigeria, we still have a lot to do in terms of media because Nigeria is the biggest black nation in the world. But the media landscape is growing but slow paced and our best hands are leaving the country to work elsewhere. What the media is in the western world is totally different from what we have here. Also, we need to be true to ourselves, Nigeria is different from the west, we can learn the rudiments from them but we need to form our own media culture.
So what should we be expecting from you in the future?
I am particular right now about fulfilling the void in the companies I am working for. Consulting for media companies, solving their problems without giving up too much. So it feels fulfilling when you are involved in changing the narratives and the standard of doing things in the media sector. Personally, as an artist, I am still in my learning phase. I really want to create like a Juilliard, we don’t have enough art schools that are in detail with an updated curriculum in Nigeria.
Your thoughts about young Nigerians?
Be careful what you see and do on social media, some people are not a true version of themselves over there, stay true to yourself. It very important that everybody should understand that you don’t need to expose your incubation process, stay grinding and silently.
I respect those people who are just working on their craft and not making “fuss” around it until they are fully ready to be out there. A lot of young Nigerians are impatient, you don’t expose yourself when you are not fully baked.
I also want to say that, if you feel you can’t wait for this country to develop and you have the means to leave, please, by all means, do just that.
But some of us have to stay back and fix the problems because no one is going to solve our problems. There is a reason why we are Nigerians, for each individual I think you should see yourself in the bigger picture. For those of us staying back, try to solve the problems you find around you.