Kayode Ajala’s 50th Exclusive (Part 2) | Untold story of the man who initiated me into Romance Writing—Kayode Ajala + “How I escaped Godwin Anabor’s gun men”

The King of Romance Journalism,Kayode Ajala explaining some points to the GDA
Today, we continue our memoir-like
exclusive with Godfather of Romance Journalism in Nigeria, Kayode Ajala in the part 2 of our 50th birthday
encounter with the Romance king on Monday February 23rd 2015 in
Lagos. First on your soar away Africa’s number 1 Celebrity encounters blog, Asabeafrika. Find a cool moment with
your favorite drink and snack as you savor the life-teaching encounter on your
I-pad, blackberry and other smart devices. Enjoy!
The man who anointed me for the job….
Let’s go to the issue of building
Nigeria’s first and biggest romance journalism industry. You and Dr. Ibe
Kachikwu, your former boss created that industry from the scratch until it
became so big. Tell us how the entire journey began?
You see the
perception that Ibe Kachikwu and I
started the dream of romance journalism is a very wrong perception. Dr. Ibe Kachikwu was the one who had
the dream; Dr. Ibe Kachikwu was the
one who had the vision. Dr. Ibe Kachikwu
now began to look for people to help him actualize the dream. I never taught I
would write romance in my life. Yes, I had written for a few newspapers. I have
contributed articles to the National
Concord,
I have contributed articles to one or two newspapers in those days
but Romance Journalism, no, no, no. it never occurred to me but Dr. Kachikwu had his dream and he was
looking for young people to help actualize it. He also had skills; he knew what
he wanted to do. 
“So, the Kayode
Ajala
that later became a house-hold name, the Kayode Ajala that later became
King of Romance Journalism
was actually molded, was actually discovered.
Was actually fine tuned and trained by Dr.
Ibe Kachikwu”.
Kayode Ajala to Asabeafrika…’At the time I left Hints Magazine, I was not seeing the bigger picture ahead of me’
You mean even as a lawyer?
 One of the best if not the best romance writer
that I have ever encountered is Dr.
Kachikwu.
If he put his pen to paper to write a romance story or an article
for you, nobody can beat him. So, how did I latch on to that dream? Sometimes
in the year 1988, I picked up a copy of Daily Times and I saw a vacancy; a
new publication wants writers and all that, a small advertorial in one obscure
corner of the Daily Times
publication of those days. So, I copied the address and I wrote an application
and I got called for the interview. It was at the interview that I met Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and I remembered we were about 50 applicants and we
started the interview in the morning but it didn’t get to my turn. It was about
evening that it got to my turn. So, I got into the room where the interview was
being conducted and lo and behold, Dr.
Kachikwu
was the head of the panel of the interviewers. I didn’t know his
name. I didn’t even know that he was the promoter of the business. So, we began
with an oral interview. We did a written interview but I noticed that they kept
calling me back because even at that time, there were people who were carrying
master degrees for that interview but I had just a Bachelor of Arts degree in
English from Ogun state University, Ago Iwoye. They kept calling me back
and calling me back.  I think I must have
done about three or four interviews. Even at those times I was not interacting
with him; I will just come for the interview, do my thing and leave. So, it was
at the point where I got a letter of appointment for the job and I resumed that
I now discovered that ‘oh, so this man who had been heading the panel of
interviewers was actually the one who owned the business and we got to meet. 

Kayode Ajala….’My life remains a mystery to many people’

And then, he began to train me because one thing he had seen in all those
interviews, he later told me, that he could see that I had raw talent. And that
he saw that with the kind of raw talent that I had, if he could refine it and
tune it to what he wanted to do that I will become a key asset. So, he saw that
in me from day one and when I got on board, he would give me assignments and
stories to write. He would read through and he would correct. And sometimes he
would tell me, go and re-write this. This is the way you should write it. So,
the Kayode Ajala that later became a
house-hold name, the Kayode Ajala
that later became King of Romance
Journalism
was actually molded, was actually discovered. Was actually fine
tuned and trained by Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
But by the time I became the Editor of Hints,
I have also became some kind of a master of the game and the perception in the
public eye was that, in fact, in some places, they felt that I was the owner of
the magazine and I now had a larger than life image. And nobody would believe
if I told them this was the man who trained me. And this is the man who
actually pays my salaries and this is the man who actually made it possible for
me to be what I eventually became. So, the perception is wrong that we did it
together, no. It was his dream, it was his vision. He trained some of us and I
was just one of such people; we had people like Chidinma Agwu, there was John
Onwa
and so many of us like that who ran through him. In later years, we
had the Toni Kans and people like
that. Dr. Kachikwu at every point in time when we have our editorial meetings
and we were given assignments, you have to do two stories, you have to do one
story, Kachikwu himself will write
stories. Kachikwu himself had a
column in HINTS “Fatherhood with Ibe”. That is for you to know how professional
he was. As editor, I would call him to harass him that he was not meeting my
deadline. Even though he was my employer, I would tell him ‘Hey, you have two
stories to give me this week and you have not done it’ and he will rush to do
it, he will rush to do it otherwise I will make a lot of noise that he is the
one slowing down my production. So, that was the kind of system that we ran in
HINTS but he discovered me, he made me, he gave me the opportunity and i think
this is a good opportunity for me to correct that perception that we did it
together. 

“There is no substitute for
experience. The inexperience practically killed me. Because I was too much in a
hurry, the eagerness to do a new thing; to be independent blinded me to a lot
of things that I should have opened my eyes to. Details that I should have
looked at before putting my signature on documents, I did not look at them. I
did not look at them. HEARTS was 100% my brain child”
The King of Romance Journalism with Gbenga Dan Asabe of Asabeafrika
Why I fell out with Ibe Kachikwu
At what time did you fall out with
Dr. Ibe Kachikwu because your eventual exit from HINTS Magazine brought a whole
lot of noise and you went to establish HEARTS Magazine with the Billionaire
business man, Chief Godwin Anabor?
Yes, the
noise was expected. I had been editor for a long time, I mean I was restless. I
was restless. You see, when you are young and gifted, you will become restless
after a while. For me, at the time I left HINTS, the routine of the job was
killing me. I was young and restless. Perhaps if I had been as matured and
experienced as I am now, maybe I would have seen things differently but then I
was like ‘hey’. I was getting bored. I needed a breath of fresh air, I needed a
new environment. I mean, this might not have been enough reason for any
sensible person to have left a good job. I just became very bored and restless
and I think it has to do with my age, I have been doing the same thing for
long; at 23, 24 I had become editor and sometimes I will seat and look at the
situation and ask myself ‘where am I going after this in this organization?’
‘Am I going to become the Publisher?’ I will sit and be thinking of what to do.
(Laughs) you know this was the thinking of a small boy. As editor, I looked
ahead of me and I said ‘after this editor, is there Senior Editor? Are they
going to promote me or they will just keep increasing my salary? I did not see
anything beyond what I have already become in the organization and I was
getting restless and bored and that was really what prompted my exit from
HINTS.
Kayode
Ajala to Asabeafrika…’I have not seen a great and genuinely nice
person like Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. He is an exceptional person’
“They came in a bus that afternoon
and when I look back I still wonder what would have become of me if I have been
found in the house that afternoon. Maybe I would have been shot, maybe I would
have been killed, I don’t know. But it was a terrible thing; they forced their
way into the house and they went through my apartment, searching and looking
for me and harassing everybody in sight”.

I learnt it was the Afro Juju Music
Star, Sir Shina Peters that brought you in contact with Chief Godwin Anabor and
you people went ahead to establish a new magazine but along the line another
crisis erupted?
Shina and I were very close at that time
and we used to hang out together a lot. If I was not at his place, he will be
at my place or we would be at his shows. We were always hanging out together
and I think it was during one of such outings and being together that I
mentioned that I was getting restless with my job and I was getting bored and
that I was just getting tired and I wanted to move on. And he latched on to it
that ‘well, if that was what I wanted if there is anyway he could help, he
will. And I said ‘I didn’t have the money to start up the business but if I
could get an investor it would be nice. So, that was how he introduced me to Anabor’. And again, mistakes were made.
Kayode Ajala to Asabeafrika….’Godwin Anabor told me he regretted ever misbehaving with me’

My New Deal & Why I fell out with
Godwin Anabor….

Yes, I am interested in those
mistakes because HEARTS became an instant success and competed fairly with
HINTS magazine all at the instance of Kayode Ajala. So, what went wrong at the
board room level?
Well, that
was what I was going to just tell you now, again mistakes were made. You see,
sometimes there is no substitute for age and experience. There is no substitute
for experience. The inexperience practically killed me. Because I was in too
much in a hurry, the eagerness to do a new thing; to be independent blinded me
to a lot of things that I should have opened my eyes to. Details that I should
have looked at before putting my signature on documents, I did not look at
them. I did not look at them. HEARTS was 100% my brain child. The only thing Anabor contributed was the funds and I
should have been very careful to have entered into an agreement that do not
give me the controlling shares and the controlling authority over that
investment.  Because with his money, he couldn’t
have done it and if I had given terms and he did not agree, I would move on and
look for another investor and I would eventually find someone who will agree to
the terms because I had a name that could sell me anytime. I had a big name and
I would have eventually gotten a good investor but I was in too much of a
hurry. I was too exuberant, I was too inexperienced, the investor came and laid
it on the table ‘this is how we are going to do it’ and I put my pen on paper.
I just wanted to do it; and ‘do it’ I did because immediately we started,
HEARTS was an instance success. I put my entire all in it and we took over the
market within three, four editions (Laughter) Yes, it was a big wonder, we
practically took over the market and the magic continued. But of course about
two years down the line the man felt he didn’t have enough influence over the
investment. And for me again, I was very hot headed, don’t forget. I was very,
very hot headed. As a young man, I had stuffs flowing in my brain and I
couldn’t suffer fools gladly. Anabor came
and began to do certain things that I just could not stand. He started treating
me as if I was a staff; he started treating me as if I came to apply for a job
at HEARTS magazine. (Laughter) and I just could not understand why it should be
so. I mean, this is a paper that I started, a publication that I created,
page-for-page from the beginning to the end. And then he begin to treat me as
if I came to apply for a job there; so, in my hot headedness and impatience,
again, maybe I should have exploited ways of dialogue and make him to
understand that things are not done that way but I flared up. I told him to go
to hell and I walked out of the deal. I was very, very hot headed and very
impatient. You know when I look back at all these things now, sometimes I just sit
down and laugh and laugh and laugh and at times I  will say ‘Kayode, you must be crazy man’.
‘You must be really crazy’. I just walked out. I didn’t even bother to inform
anybody that I was leaving, I cleared my office and left.
“I knew when I left HEARTS that they
will not be able to continue with that magazine. I knew even if Anabor had billions, they will not be
able to continue with that magazine. Why? It was purely my brain child. So,
even if you pump billions and get all the experts you cannot run that paper the
way I will run it”
Kayode
Ajala to Asabeafrika….’When I was going through my hard moments after
the Hearts Magazine Saga one man who searched for me was Dr. Ibe
Kachikwu’
There was this rumor then that
Anabor’s wife slapped you?
No, she
couldn’t have done that, you know I was very hot headed and it will take
someone with the heart of a lion to come and slap me o. Anthonia couldn’t have done that to me unlike what she did to a lot
of people; maybe she did that to people after I left. Because after I left I
heard stories of how people were maltreated and the kind of inhuman treatment
that was meted out on people who worked there. But in my own case, that never
happened.  Let me be fair.
How I survived assassination attempt
on my life….
After you left HEARTS, there were
scandals that followed your exit in terms of public disclaimers and at a time
there were allegations of assassination attempt on your life, how did you
survived that period of your life?
Yes, there
were litigations, lots of litigations. They said I was passing off my
publication as HEARTS magazine…

Kayode Ajala to Asabeafrika….’When I publish my memoir, it will be an impressive document…’

(Cuts in) Yeah, yeah, I remember you
went and started publishing SWEET HEARTS after you left HEARTS

So, we had a
lot of litigations at the Federal High
Court
in Ikoyi and while this was going on, they got an interim injunction
from the court which stopped me from publishing. I was asked by the court to
stop publishing; so, my means of income was cut off. I was losing money on a
daily basis. And it was just a matter of time before I ran into a crisis, a
very serious crisis; so bad that I didn’t have money to pay my lawyers anymore
and all that and all that. And then, there was the threat of assassination.
There was an afternoon when they came to my house, we taught they were police
men, they came and they started shooting guns into the air and some people in
the house had to help me to escape. That was at Dideolu Court in Ogba; it
was a very scary experience. They came in a bus that afternoon and when I look
back I still wonder what would have become of me if I have been found in the
house that afternoon. Maybe I would have been shot, maybe I would have been
killed, I don’t know. But it was a terrible thing; they forced their way into
the house and they went through my apartment, searching and looking for me and
harassing everybody in sight. But thankfully, some people who were with me at
that time, haven seen and heard the gun shots and had smuggled me out through a
back door. That was how I managed to escape and I had to leave town and lie low
for a while. It was a terrible experience, very terrible experience.
Kayode
Ajala to Asabeafrika….’At 24 I was celebrated as the youngest editor,
drove the best cars, lived in the best appartments and had the best
women around…’

Why Hearts Magazine failed….

So, what do you think saved you that you
were not killed that afternoon?
Well, I
think it was my innocence really because I was not doing anything out of malice
or any diabolical motive. I was just innocently doing my thing even though it
was grossly misunderstood in certain quarters. I look back now and I think we
all made our mistakes. I knew and let me say this and I have said it before and
I will say it here it here again; I knew when I left HEARTS that they will not
be able to continue with that magazine. I knew even if Anabor had billions, they will not be able to continue with that
magazine. Why? It was purely my brain child. So, even if you pump billions and
get all the experts you cannot run that paper the way I will run it. I could
run that magazine with two or three people. I had very skeletal staff when
HINTS made all that success because I was driving myself to the marrow and we
were working extra time and we were all making sacrifices because we believe in
what we were doing. So, I knew it would take more than just paying some people
to get them to do that magazine. And truly, when I left they put together all
kinds of team and all that; it didn’t last for more than two years or
thereabout before the magazine became history. 
So, we all made our mistakes, I made mine, Anabor made his.
Kayode Ajala explaining a point to Asabeafrika

What Anabor told me after the crisis

Did you met Anabor after that sordid
episode and how did he treated the post HEARTS experience?
Oh yes, oh,
yes, oh yes, I have met with Anabor
several times and we exchanged notes and we exchanged experiences and one thing
he said to me was that he accepted that he made some mistakes to me; he said to
me on one occasion, he said ‘look, Kayode, people came between you and I’. I
think we were in his house at Ikeja and we were chatting over a drink and he
said to me that ‘Ah, whenever he looks back now, he wishes that he had not
allowed people to come in between us because we had a good thing going for us
but that there were too many people talking, bringing information that was not
right and all that; bringing information for their own selfish motives and he
of course was lapping it off and it was affecting his relationship with me and
because I was also not patient, I was hot headed; I was just a professional,
and I just couldn’t see why this guy can just push me around, I also gave it
back to him. So, we both talked and we laughed it off and he said ‘well, if he
has the chance to do it all over again he will not do it that way. And I said
‘well, if you have the chance, you might not have the chance again’ (Laughter)
Kayode
Ajala to Asabeafrika…’I think my innocence more than anything else
saved me from death during those trying hours of my professional career’

My Return to HINTS….

At a point in time you went back to
Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, why did you decided to go back to Hints?
The man Ibe Kachikwu is one man…I find it
difficult to define that man; he is an exceptional human being.  You see, when I had that crisis with Anabor and I lost all my fortunes and I
lost all my money, I lost everything, Ibe
Kachikwu
looked for me. You would expect that Ibe Kachikwu whom I have left to join Anabor to run Hearts magazine
which competed with Ibe’s own Hints
magazine, you will think that he will be bitter. But when he learnt that I had
a crisis and that I have left town, he sent people to look for me. And he was
like ‘no, this cannot happen to Kayode, I have to be there for him’ and the
people he sent could not find me. But one day I sat in my own room too and I
remembered Ibe Kachikwu and I said
‘look, if there is one man who can help me out of this mess, it is only one
person who can and that is Ibe Kachikwu’
Kayode
Ajala (Middle, back row) in the 90s with Sir Shina Peters, FAJ, Lord
Mayor Akinpelu, Basorun Dele Momodu & Billy Adedamola

So you were now talking like a
prodigal son?

Yes, and I
went back to him. I remember when I stormed his office; he said ‘Ah, I have
been looking for you, where have you been?’ I said ‘I have been around’ and he
replied ‘No, you have not been around I heard you left town’ and I said ‘yes, I
left town’. So, we sat down, he didn’t even bother to ask me, he said ‘oh, I
read a few things about you in the papers and I was very worried and all that;
so, what are we going to do now?’ I said ‘Well, I need my job back’. He said
‘Well, if you need your job back, you have your job back’. And that was how I
went back to Hints.
(Watch Out for the Concluding Part of the Kayode Ajala exclusive titled “Why I married Ex-Chiquita Eatery
boss”
+ “How I suffered two Heart Attacks to Honor God’s call” on this blog
tomorrow
)

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