Day I broke Kola Abiola’s heart – Celebrity Journalist, Babs Adegbenjo

Babs
Adegbenjo to Asabeafrika…’Although Kola Abiola begged me not to use
the story but the editors insited we must use the story’
This is the concluding part of our
exclusive encounter with famous Nigerian born; London based Celebrity
Journalist and Publisher of Crystal Magazine, Babs Adegbenjo aka “The Babbi”. The first part of the interview
which broke on this blog yesterday 
evening has generated many views across Nigeria and London social circle
as the very interesting journalist has kept a low profile  in his UK abode in the last 5 years, taking
one degree after the other from several European universities including the
prestigious London School of Economy and Political Science.

The breaking of his
golden silence after 5 years to Asabeafrika
is considered a rare feat by our fans. Today, we present you the concluding
part of the encounter which X-rayed Babs
Adegbenjo’s
life as a roving society journalist at City People Magazine and FAME
weekly
where he cut his tooth in mainstream celebrity reporting. Enjoy the
excerpt only on your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika
. 

Babs Adegbenjo to Asabeafrika…’Working as Society Editor of FAME Weekly was my best experience in Journalism’

Can you share any
memorable experience you had as a society writer in Nigeria back in the days?
Thank you. One experience was during the burial of Alhaji Razak Okoya’s mother. I had
joined City People Magazine in its 3rd or 4th month.
I met great journalists like Simon Kolawole
and Temitope Bamidele there but they left shortly when I got on board. I had
done a nice interview with Mrs. Moji
Tejousho,
I think on the 10 years anniversary of her marriage then and she
gave me some exclusive pictures from the London event, though at a RCCG Parish.
The publisher Mr.  Seye Kehinde was very impressed by it and
one day, he invited me to his office and shared the idea of us doing a special
edition for the Okoya’s mum’s burial. He charged me to get as many members of
the family to talk about their Grandmother and also to get them to place paid
obituaries in the 16 page Package which was to be sold at the burial on the
day. Without wasting time, I went to work and sold the idea to my friend, Mr Taofick Okoya, a very amiable and
ever supporting individual. He bought the idea and immediately started talking
on my behalf to his brothers and sisters to talk to me and also place adverts.
My very good brother, Shola Gbadebo
also played a prominent role in the whole transaction.
Babs Adegbenjo with some of his classmates at LSE, London
He is a very close
friend of some of the members of the larger Okoya family and he helped me to convince some of them to buy into
the project and that made it fly. Subsequently, I ended up going round and
eventually speaking to most members of the household, from Mrs. Moji Tejuosho, Ms Biola Okoya, Tunde, Taofick, Bolaji, Lanre, Tokunbo and two of Alhaji Okoya’s wives; then, Mrs. Yetunde and Alhaja  K.O Okoya, while I
also interviewed  Alhaji Okoya’s only brother Taju.
It was only the interview with Mrs.
Wosilat
Okoya Seriki that I went
together with the Editor then, Susan Eyo
Honesty who told me she was particularly
interested in asking Mrs. Wosilat Seriki
some questions bothering on her style etc.

The Babbi as a World Class Graduate

So, on the day the event was taking place, we arrived at the Ikoyi Crescent home of the Okoyas, myself and the Publisher and we
were surprised when we saw people taking away copies of the publication, both
young and old, both lettered and unlettered, most of the elderly women who came
for the funeral had one-one copy with them. So, we asked the agent who supposed
to sell the copies at a given price and he told us that ‘Chairman’ (Alhaji
Okoya) saw the publication and was very impressed and he asked that it should
be given out freely to everyone on his bill. So, on this fateful morning, I can
remember, K1 De Ultimate was with Chief Okoya; I and the publisher were
ushered into his ambience and the chief thanked us for doing him such an honor
of publishing a mini-biography for his mother. He later gave us a cheque
covering the entire bill of publication which I went to pick from Taofick days after the burial. So it won’t
be wrong if I say I introduced City People to the Okoya household, because it took a lot
of persuasion as it was relatively new and less than a year old in the market.

“At the time, FAME Weekly just
collapsed and Mayor Akinpelu was
asked to come and revive FAME. The old management under Mr. Kunle Bakare and Mr.
Femi Akintunde Johnson
ran FAME with a united work force, the staff loved
them. So, when they moved to start Encomium,
many people found it hard to stay behind at FAME and that created a vacuum”

Kola Abiola & Bob Dee

So, why did you leave
City People?
At the time, FAME Weekly just collapsed and Mayor Akinpelu was asked to come and
revive FAME. The old management under Mr.
Kunle Bakare
and Mr. Femi Akintunde
Johnson
ran FAME with a united work force, the staff loved them. So, when
they moved to start Encomium, many
people found it hard to stay behind at FAME and that created a vacuum. Many people,
who read Michael Effiong’s page, Famous
People,
followed the page to Encomium where he then handled High Society. So, Lord
Mayor
needed a strong person who could handle the society page which
was a major selling point for the magazine and that was how he invited me over
and I became the Society Editor of FAME
Weekly
. 

Babbi @ University of East London

Knowing myself and my
ability and capability for challenges, I took the offer.  When I came on board, I went back to town,
met my sources and made renewed efforts to re-connect sources back to the FAME
brand and there was no wedding ceremony Encomium covered that we did not
cover and we started breaking news again. We even got some they did not get. I
was on top of my game and was on the streets day and night. It was my finest
period in journalism and till date I hold Lord
Mayor
in very high esteem for believing in me. He is my role model and
mentor. The same  with Mr. Muyiwa Adetiba, he is the father of
Soft sell genre of journalism in Nigeria and I can never ever forget Mr. Kayode Ajala, who had earlier also
given me a job at Hints Magazine in 1993.He also pulled me
over from Vinatge People to anchor Hints Entertainment pages. 

“But few years after the story, RMD and Jumobi got married and it was only then that I was exonerated and
when I saw Lord Mayor later and we
discussed it, he apologized and also shared his several experiences too,
including the romance story between Abba
Adesanya
(Now Abba Folawiyo) and Iyanda Folawoyo which he broke but was not only denied but also saw
the Baba Adinni dragging FAME to
court”.

RMD and wife Jumobi

But you broke several
stories in your days as an editor, which one almost landed you in trouble?
Many stories are many, I broke several stories, but the one I
will share with you here because of time didn’t bring trouble. It only brought
doubts that even Lord Mayor himself
told me it wasn’t true. Yet I stood by the story. It was the RMD and Jumobi love story and when I
wrote that story I faced serious problems at FAME publication because they
denied the report. Lord Mayor Akinpelu had gone to promote our Fame Music Award on Jumobi’s popular Lunch Break programme on  AIT where  Jumobi had complained
bitterly to him and he came down to the office very angry that AIT staff were
threatening to pull out of supporting FMA because of the story and that it was falsehood. Lord Mayor didn’t even give me the opportunity to defend myself then. He
was convinced we had goofed but I convinced the Editor; Mr. Niyi Akinsiju (Rapidity) and Mr. Billy Adedamola, and due to my record of getting exclusives and
the fact that I told them how I got the story, they believed and they suggested
that someone else should do a profile of all AIT/Ray Power presenters to pacify
them. I think the Art Editor then, Afolabi
Odeyemi
took up that task.

The Babbi as an post graduate of London School of Economics and Political Science

But few years after the story, RMD and Jumobi got
married and it was only then that I was exonerated and when I saw Lord Mayor later and we discussed it,
he apologized and also shared his several experiences too, including the
romance story between Abba Adesanya (Now
Abba Folawiyo) and Iyanda Folawoyo which
he broke but was not only denied but also saw the Baba Adinni dragging FAME to court. Interestingly, the case was
still in court when they married.

Kola Abiola

Another experience was when Kola Abiola’s wife, Arafat
had her 3rd child for him. Before then, he already had a daughter
from Yinka Onileere (both mother and
child are now late) My source told me that Kola
had  promised Aisha Babangida whom he was dating at the time that he won’t have
any other child from Arafat. So,
when this baby came, he wanted it a low key ceremony, away from the prying eyes
of the press. We got the story and we sneaked into the party. At the party I
and my photo editor (Ade Adeniyi) didn’t introduce ourselves as journalists. We
ate, we drank and did everything with the family, but on leaving, I insisted we
must talk to Kola, my photo editor
didn’t like the idea but I insisted.

The Babbi to Asabeafrika…’I decided to do a 360 transformation of my personality after several years of doing the same thing’

I told him we had gotten all the details
and the worse Kola could do then was
to send us away. On getting to meet him, he stoutly refused to speak with us.
He was initially upset and shocked about how we got into his compound. It was
at his Anthony Village Home.
However, because he was in a happy mood, he asked what we wanted to eat or
drink and we told him we had been around for more than 5 hours. He then begged
that we shouldn’t use the story. He brought out his card; wrote out his cell
phone numbers and told me to call him the following week. He said he doesn’t
trust journalists and that the only journalist he trusted then was Bob Dee (Chief Dele Momodu). 

“He then begged that we shouldn’t use
the story. He brought out his card; wrote out his cell phone numbers and told
me to call him the following week. He said he doesn’t trust journalists and
that the only journalist he trusted then was Bob Dee (Chief Dele Momodu)”.

The Babbi with a friend Mr. Ayopo Apesin formerly of Tribune on Graduation Day @ University of East London

We eventually left and
on getting to the office, the cover was delayed for us to come and fill in with
the story, it was on Thursday night and that was the last production day. All
our pleas to drop the story fell on deaf ears of my editors who were eagerly
expecting the story. At some point, it started to appear that we had collected
money from Kola to bury the story.
‘No, way! This story must be published’. The editors had declared. So,
rationality was brought to bear against emotion and we were commandeered to
write the story.

Babs Adegbenjo with Leadership Lecturer @ University of East London, Dr. Sue

I wrote the story and I remember on the cover of that
particular edition, we used the pictures of Aisha Babangida and Kola
Abiola
on the cover with screaming headline “Aisha Babangida heartbroken as
Arafat delivers Kola Abiola’s 4th child”
and the magazine
sold like hot cake. Of course, I couldn’t keep the relationship with Kola Abiola. Few years later when I saw
him at his father’s burial at their Ikeja
home, thinking that he wouldn’t recognize me, I approached him inside one of
the living rooms upstairs and he told me clearly that he was very disappointed
in me. He and Deji his brother
started abusing us in Hausa, Those are some of the things
you experience in the job, but it was fun. However, those were several years
back and still doing the same thing after twenty three years is like being
stagnant to me. I believe one must leave when the ovation is loudest to face
greater tasks.

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