INTERVIEW: MO ABUDU ON A HOT SEAT, ON SPECIAL WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL DAY AT GOOGLE NIGERIA - PART 3


Continued from part 2...

I had to find my own way of dealing with those kinds of issues, you would leave a show and you’re like, oh my God! And I used to do like 4 shows a day, because in the world of production that’s where you can only make financial sense. You can’t be doing one a day. Use your crew till they’re tired. Even when they are tired, they will still be recording (laughing).

So at times you would go from doing a very happy episode, to doing a very sad episode, to doing a different sort of episode. And, at times your head is kind of like in different places. I’m coming from an edge where I haven’t done this before. So, having to deal with all of that was kind of having its challenges. 

JULIET: And it sounds like there’s a lot hard work.

MO: It was….

JULIET: Before, when you see an Entrepreneur’s success story, it’s very easy to celebrate it and to think it’s all …. But there’s a lot of hard work, genuine hard work that goes into making anything successful.

MO: Very much so. A lot, lot of hard work. You’ve got to be well researched on whoever  the guest is. And for me, when I was interviewing Professor Wole Soyinka, you know that he’s like…..you can’t sit on a set with him and not know what you’re talking about.

So, I was petrified of  that particular one. I read, and read and read more than I would need for the interview but would just have to be prepared. But for every single interview that I did, I had to be well researched. I had to leave my questions with me.

And sometimes, the response you get has no link to the next question. So, you have to be very quick on your feet on how you’re now going to sort of go back to them and get the necessary answers you wanted. And at times you gonna have technical problems on set. Something isn’t working- your generators have broken down.

You know, you’re dealing in an environment whereby your counterparts in another country don’t have to think about those issues. Nobody cares; I mean who cares about power, who cares about some of those things there? But here, you are dealing with those realities. Those are my realities every day that I had to deal with.

Finding the space that I could convert into a studio, finding staff that could understand the vision that could get me the results i want. Because at the time, as easy as it is, now that we have to do a thousand hours of programming.

A talk show is the easiest format in the world. But no one has still been able to replicate the Moments with Mo format in 10 years. I’ve not seen another talk show that has replicated the local form of talk. And for us talk it’s the simplest trend for us in Ebony life TV today.

We’ve taken talk to a completely different level, from Things at Moments, now we have the moment Z with much younger crop of young girls we are having a conversation in line with the things that are important to them.

Love language which is about love, sex and relationships. We’ve got men’s corner which talks about things that men are fascinated about, women also want to know about them. We have the Boot which is .......,but it’s all talk.

So, we’ve taken the talk, and we’ve kind of given it its own twist. It needs a lot of work, it needs a lot of work - even convincing sponsors to come on board. After you’ve convinced them, "oya pay me." You’re gonna be chasing them around to get payment. Meanwhile you have salaries to pay, you have crew and everybody else to pay.

You’re not gonna wait for clients to pay you. You’re talking to the banks, facilitating overdrafts here and there. You’re doing all kinds of things just to keep the business going. 



JULIET: Now, talking about Ebony Life TV, that’s one of your more recent bold moves in a little rush. I remembered the tag line, “Everything you think all about Africa is about to change forever.” Can you share the vision on that?

MO: Yes! The thing behind that was that… I remember a few years before then, I didn’t …..31:35. And one of the key questions that I said to her was how do we change the stereotypes about how we are perceived across the world?

And she said to me, we would have to have people like you speaking on behalf of Africa and putting your different image out there about the continent.

Because, even with Google, if you google Africa, what are the first set of images that come up? It’s gonna be poverty, it’s gonna be dispel, it’s gonna be destruction. It’s gonna be all these images that the world view has of our continent. How do we change that world view?

It’s by creating the reality, the other reality that the world needs to see. And that other reality is showing that there are people like you and I in Nigeria, showing that there’s this audience set, showing that we are capable. And that was how we came up with the tag line, “everything you think you know about Africa, that is going to change.”

Because we put a platform, we didn’t create these people. These people already existed. Just only have a platform through which you could engage with them.

So, we gave that platform for mess like comedy, mess mec reality, mesmec talk, mesmec future programming. Let’s do life style, let’s do everything that we can to show the world that this …… We have a tag, we have this stamp we put on everything saying, “Ebony Life TV made in Nigeria for the world.”

So, good things can come out of our continent and out of our country and can be exported. And that really what it was all about. And we go out to international exhibitions and they ask us- i don’t know if it’s a comment or an insult – "was this really made in Nigeria?" Yes, it was made in Nigeria. How about that?

JULIET: Yes we can’t make things like that.

MO: Yes, we can’t make things like that. Because they are so used to all kinds of …. (cuts).  And we have to be careful about what we put out there. 

JULIET: And actually, interestingly, that’s one of our priorities, google in Nigeria (cuts)… looking at encouraging local content online.

MO: Yes, yes, yes…

JULIET: Looking at amazing business, educational local content online, and all that. So, that’s one of our priorities.

MO: I mean look at this conversation we’re having today, I mean….

JULIET: What were the challenges you encountered in trying to set up? Because, that’s a really big faith by setting up your own TV channel. Everything you’ve mentioned prior to that, I know they were very challenging. In this, I think the order of magnitude changed.

So, what were the challenges you went through in setting up and running Ebony life TV and what support systems and opportunities assisted you?

MO: Now, I woke up one day, and I decided I want to launch a TV channel. And I had no idea how I was going to do it. But I just knew that deep down in my spirit, deep down in my soul, God said, “Mo, go and do this.”

JULIET: Did it scare you?

MO: ahhh, very scaring, and I think sometimes the scarier the dream, the more you need to pursue it. And I think there’s a message in there somewhere. Because if it’s not scary then what’s the challenge? And for me I was like, “try it.” All I have to do was try it, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. 

So, the idea came, and one of the first people I called was my Mum. My mum is always….. she’s my prayer partner and she said she’s my number one fan (laughs). So, I said Mummy, I’m doing this thing o! she would say, ma worri, a duraranlor, meaning she’s praying about it.

The next person I told was a friend of mine in South Africa –Sandra Amadio. Sandra was then one of our producers then on Moments, because all of these while we used to have a Pan-African spint or whatever shows, and she would go around African sort of shooting similar  sorts of stories for the show at the time.

So, I said to Sandra, I want to own a TV channel. Sandra said, “oow.., that sounds really cool.” “And what do we do now? I thought, how do we start a channel?” I couldn’t get a license.

There was no opportunity to get a license for free to air. They’ve all been taken and all gone. But I so felt it was important to create a platform that could travel and one could use technology to drive and would be Pan-African at the same time.

So, I had a show on DSTV, I said, “let me have a conversation with DSTV.” So, Joe Wunda …… that had approved the initial Moments for me, so I said, “Joe I want to start  a TV channel.” And he was like, “no dear, we don’t just do channels like that, I’m not sure we need another channel. But we can try.”

So, I said, “who do I contact?” He now said, “use the contact Aleta Albert.” I now said, “can I have her email address?” So, he gave me her email address. And this was how we started; I didn’t know her from Adam. Sent her an email and eventually she responded.

Emm, she sent me a form that’s longer than anything else. Several pages of: what is the name of the channel? What’s its content? I mean, questions that I did not even know, because it made me think about “waoo, you want to start a TV channel, but did you know you’ve got to have to know this much, So you can actually start the channel?”

Your schedule, what types of programs, the budget, I mean there were so many questions.

Eventually, I did the best I could to answer the questions and I sent the form back to her. And then I kept chasing and chasing her, and she wasn’t answering me, because of the loads of request of at least 10 to 20 a day from people that want to set up TV channels from Nigeria.

So, eventually I said, “I was going to be in South Africa, because I was shooting an episode of Moments with Mo, and could I please come in and see you?” So, that was my hook of getting in the boat.

So, I went in, I had a meeting. So, before having the meeting I then hired someone that was already in the world of media to do my beautiful presentation around, this is the sort of content we gonna have in the channel, went in and did the presentation.

Left the meeting, realized this isn’t quite it. So, I was devastated, because I’d actually paid someone quite a lot sum of money to do that presentation.


 It wasn’t working, so they were like, “if you want this channel, you have to go back and do XYZ”, and we had Workshop, after workshop after workshop, deciding on who was going to be our quad then.

Who do you really want to speak to across the continent? What is your conversation? What are the …..drawn words? What are the aerials? What are you gonna use to produce these aerials? Who is gonna do these aerials? Who is gonna do your post production? How are you gonna clear things through legal?

 I mean, there was a battle and a half of things you need to clear to create one hour of content. So, eventually, after several months of now having gone back. I mean, since we left them we’ve gone back to do a presentation with all of these, I had to engage a consultant . I couldn’t find anyone in Nigeria to do it, because those skill sets don’t exist.

I found someone in South Africa, again had to invest a huge amount of money that could have gone into maybe an ice berg on a holiday. Let’s just get this presentation done, no, let’s do the strategy session after which we then did the presentation and went back to Multichoice to present. Then, they bought the idea.

But now, they gave us conditions- “this is a beautiful presentation, but you need to raise XYZ amounts of money, you need to have a studio, before you could do all of these. Which is why I say, sometimes you need to pray hard and work hard. At the same time, a good friend of mine……..(cuts)

JULIET: You had to raise the money….

MO: I had to raise the money. The story about how that was raised I would like to share. At the same time while all these were happening, a good friend of mine ……said to me, “you need to go to Cross River and interview the Governor, and I was like, “I’m trying to raise money for my Channel, I’m trying to do all these things.

Eventually he persuaded me and I also had wanted to do that intro for the longest time. Got on a plane on New Year’s day, about 5 years ago, went to Calabar to go and do this interview with His Excellency then at the time – Liyel Imoke and his wife, Obioma.

But at the same time, I had a sponsor for my show, Moments with Mo, and the sponsor had threatened to pull out unless I start having a presence on social media.  I wasn’t twitting, I didn’t know anything about ….. I was just doing my thing. So, I got a digital person who register me on twitter, do my facebook and did all of that.

So, when I got to Calabar that evening, I sent a message saying, “Happy New Year, Lots of Love from Calabar.” And someone said to me, “what’s happening in Tinapa?” I’d never gone to Tinapa in my entire life. So, I was with a friend in the car, he said, “let me take you there, let’s drive around.”

We went there, beautiful place. Beautiful but empty. As in, nothing was in Tinapa. So, the next day, when I was going to interview the Governor, humm, then  Isan Obey his assistant said, “ come in and have a conversation with his Excellency before you start your interview.

I didn’t know him. I never met him. I didn’t know what to say to him. The first thing I said was, “your excellency, we went to Tinapa yesterday, but it’s very empty, what’s going on?

That was how that conversation started. That was how we got the support we needed for the channel. Now, I didn’t know….. on one hand you’re looking to set up a channel. On the other hand a friend is saying, “Come and interview the Governor. The other sponsor saying, “You need to start twitting.”

You put all of that together. You send the tweet message out.  Somehow a couple of years later, about 18 months later, Cross Rivers State came on board as our partner. We promised to use that Tinapa studio as our destination point for Media and that was the catalyst for getting Ebony life TV started. 

And they also supported us on the fund raising of Ebony life TV. So, at times when you’re putting all those together, when people say to me, “what is your Recipe.” I can’t say to you, “don’t tweet or go to Cross River and interview the Governor.

You are gonna have to just work hard enough for the universe to conspire to say, "ok, I am going to give you your break."

I believe that, there are dream makers for all of us out there. We all have to meet our dream makers. On the other hand, there are those Dream killers, those that are just….. they cannot wait to kill the Dream.

So, you have to balance the dream killers and the Dream makers and see how you get out of that circle. yah, yah.

JULIET: There is something I am hearing as well in BCC news. It’s also having a media horn.

MO: Sometimes you think it’s going nowhere. Sometimes for all of us, just go along with whatever it takes. Because you never know where it’s gonna meet you.

You never know. It could be one night you’re out having a drink, it could be in a supermarket. It could be absolutely anywhere when the opportunity comes to you.


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