Why I stopped publishing Entertainment Express – Mike Awoyinfa | Says “Nigerian entertainers are hustlers”

Mike Awoyinfa, the tabloid man who loves to exercise his muscles

Today, we present you the concluding
part of the exclusive interview with tabloid icon, Mike Awoyinfa on life
without best friend, Dimgba Igwe,
his new book projects and why he closed down Entertainment Express Newspaper which he jointly published with the
late Dimgba Igwe after their exit
from The Sun Publishing Ltd in 2010.

On this note, the tabloid veteran came hard on practitioners in Nollywood, describing them as hustlers
and people who cannot pull weight in any venture, citing their unimpressive
pedigree as major reason for closing down Entertainment
Express Newspaper which was largely
an entertainment journal.

Read everything only on your Africa’s
number 1 celebrity encounter blog Asabeafrika.

Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika….’Putting all your eggs in the basket of entertainment can make break the entire crate of egg’

Your newspaper project, Entertainment
Express stopped immediately after Uncle Dimgba Igwe’s death and a lot of people
felt you had to close down the newspaper because you couldn’t just face the
reality of not having your friend around as Co-pilot?
That one is
a long story. You see newspaper business, when you want to go into it you need
something, something financially big. Big, big, big money. And the kind of
money that is required for us to sustain that kind of project, we don’t have
it, don’t let us fool ourselves. It is a project that requires nothing less
than five hundred million or one billion Naira because it is not
just about pushing the product into the market that matters. You need a mix of
other supports like branding, jingles, television and making a whole lot of
noise. You need an advert support; I mean for a paper of that small budget, we
tried in the market. We got adverts but it wasn’t enough to carry it and we
started on a very, very pocket friendly level. We were selling for N50 per copy
and for me, N50 naira is not a business, it is too ridiculous. There was a time
we went for N100 per copy, and because people were used to N50, they were
saying ‘how can I suddenly be paying N100? So, it affected us in a way and that
in itself was a reason to look into the whole idea and make a change.
“I tell you, entertainers don’t pull
weight.  They don’t, they only collect
your money. I don’t hate them but I am telling you that you can’t put all your
eggs in the entertainment basket; you can’t put all your eggs there. Your eggs
would break.  And they are too full of
themselves….ah, ah!”

Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika….’Publishing a newspaper is capital intensive’

So, how profitable was the business?
To me,
entertainment is not a business that I will encourage anybody to go into.
Nigerian entertainers are hustlers
Why sir, because a lot of people say
there is money in entertainment business?
Let me tell
you the truth, entertainment is not a profitable venture. I don’t think our
market here is ready for that kind of specialized genre of journalism. I don’t
regret going into it, it is a lesson but if I have to start all over again, I won’t
go into specializing in entertainment journalism. It can’t work. Let us face
reality, it can’t work. It requires so much of an effort. Entertainers….you
know…. (Laughs) they don’t pull the weight in terms of newspaper patronage.
People who want to advertise want a paper that is strong on politics. You will
not expect a bank to want to put its money on such a project. A lot of people
were saying even for me and Dimgba
to be going into entertainment, we were cheapening our brand. They said ‘no,
no, no, no; you people are bigger than this or is this the paper before the big
one that is coming?’ people expected that having done The Sun, having done The
Concord, they were expecting us to do mighty things not to go
into small boys market. A minute market, for entertainers, well, they are there
but I tell you they don’t pull weight. If they pull weight, I tell you, Jonathan would have won this election.
(Laughter)Look at Mercy Johnson, everybody campaigning for Jonathan and you taught he was going to
win the election. I tell you, entertainers don’t pull weight.  They don’t, they only collect your money. I
don’t hate them but I am telling you that you can’t put all your eggs in the
entertainment basket; you can’t put all your eggs there. Your eggs would
break.  And they are too full of
themselves….ah, ah! You go and you will be begging them for interview, you want
to do this and they are asking you, how much would you pay me? They want money.
You want to write a book about them and they are telling you ‘what is inside it
for me, what is coming in for me?’ They want to promote you and you are saying
‘what is inside it for me?’ They are too much hustling, they are hustlers. I
don’t think I will ever go into entertainment journalism again and I mean it,
nothing will make me go into it. If I do a newspaper again, it will be a
tabloid not for one entertainment stuff. I am too big for that now; I am too
big for that. Let my children be doing that at their own level. But I don’t
regret ever going into it. I don’t regret it, the paper is now online.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika…’I had to wind up Entertainment Express because the business was not giving value for investment’

But are you still promoting the
Yes, we are
still pushing it; if you go to
www.expressng.com. It is a well designed online medium
and we have good hands running it but you know this online business I don’t
understand it because I am an old school.
“So, there is a spiritual dimension,
there is this physical dimension and there is an intellectual dimension to
jogging. I recommend it to everyone. And ever since I started jogging, sickness
banished; I have no form of sickness and I don’t fall sick…..I am the one that
know what I am gaining and people who don’t jog, I pity them. They are not
physically born again; I think that is the analogy”.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika….’I think i am done with Entertainment Journalism. It is for the small boys’
But do you share the fear that the
future of conventional journalism is at stake with the birth of e-journalism. I
mean when people like Linda Ikeji started nobody gave her a chance but today
she is making more money in terms of advert generation than some newspaper
It is good
for people who don’t have the capital to do newspaper business; I mean it is a
forum for them and easy way for them to reach a broader market. I like what Linda Ikeji is doing, I am very, very
happy for her. Yes, it is highly competitive and if we say it hasn’t eaten into
the market, we are deceiving ourselves because a lot of people now go online to
read their stories. So, it is giving us a stiff competition. It is really,
really, really eating into the market but there is nothing we can do. It is the
trend all over the world; people don’t want to buy newspaper again when they
can just go online and read everything, why should you be looking for vendor
again? It is the same thing in music too, not just in journalism.  Why should I have to go and buy CD when I
could just go to Youtube, Pan-pan-pan and listen to the entire music or even
download; I download o, I download I cant lie now! Why would I go and start
looking for CD? I sit down downloading music, downloading everything. Why will
i go out and be looking for CD in the market place? It is the same mentality in
newspapering business. Why would I be going into the street looking for vendor
and be clustering my house with newspapers while I can just go online and read
whatever I want to read, so, that is the challenge of modern day journalism.
Mike and late Dimgba inside one of their libraries in Lagos

Digital media can’t kill hard copy
Most publications in the USA like
Newsweek and others stopped their hard copy sales and promoted their online
platform; do you see such a thing happening in Nigeria in the nearest time?
No, I don’t
think the hard copy would die. For our kind of culture, for our kind of
politics, no. people still want to hold a newspaper and feel it with their
hands. There is joy in somebody putting his advert in a newspaper and holding a
newspaper like this (Held some newspaper brought by his vendor) we want to feel
the newspaper in our hands and read either the story or the advert. Two of them
will live side by side. They will compliment each other. I don’t think
E-journalism will kill conventional journalism; they will live side by side.  I don’t pray it kills the conventional
newspaper business because newspaper is our world. It is our baby and we don’t
pray it dies. It is newspaper that made us; we made our name with newspaper
business. We cannot just allow it go like that.
“He is one man I cannot hurt; he is
one man I cannot disappoint. He is one man I love; he is one man I fear. I
thank God for making me to know that kind of man in my lifetime. There can
never be any friend like that again, never, never, never, never”.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika…’I think most Nigerian entertainers are too full of themselves’
After the death of your friend,
Dimgba Igwe, there was a promise by government to repair Dele Orisabiyi street
and re-name the street after Dimgba Igwe but on arriving here today, the road
has gotten worse than before. What happened to that government promise?
Well, I did
everything I can do to campaign for that road to be re-named Dimgba Igwe Street, for it to be tarred
so that wherever he is, he will be happy. So that people even living on the
street will even be remembering him and say ‘thank God we had a man like this’.
Something to immortalize him, I told (Governor) Fashola and he gave his own explanation on why this place cannot
be singled out. He gave all kinds of explanations and what do I do now? He is
the governor and I don’t blame him. If his hands are tight there is nothing I
can do than to pray that at the right time, the street will be tarred. I don’t
know what else I can do again, I have written about it, I have lobbied for it
but it is not over, maybe (Governor) Ambode
will do it, maybe when I get to know him, I will still carry the battle to him and
to see weather Dimgba Igwe street
dream can become a reality. I pray it will be and it is not just this street
alone, all the streets in Okota. I
am praying that development will touch every part of Okota because to say that I only want my street, that will be an
act of selfishness.
Mike Awoyinfa to Asabeafrika….’I think i am done with Entertainment Journalism. It is for the small boys’
(Cuts in) But that will not be too
much to honor the memory of a great media icon like Uncle Dimgba Igwe?
Well, I am
not government and I cannot force government to break their rules. I can only
do what is within my own limitation. We would continue to pressurize them to do
Why I can never stop jogging
Recently I read in Sunday punch
Newspaper where one of your twins son, Taiwo Awoyinfa claimed you have stopped
jogging since you lost your brother-friend, Dimgba Igwe to early morning hit
and run driver while jogging? Why did you stop jogging?
Ah, no; stop
jogging ke!
The GDA meets the tabloid king inside his private gym during a session. He also loves jogging with a passion second to none
Yes, that Uncle Dimgba’s death
created a phobia…
(Cuts in)
No, I don’t want to jog in our neighborhood. The routes I used to take I
stopped using them because I don’t want anybody to be pointing fingers at me
and be telling me ‘Pele, Pele’ and be pitying me or anything and be invoking
all kinds of sympathy. I don’t want all that to happen to me but I do my
jogging within my yard now. If you go round now, you will see that I have a
compound that is big enough to do my running around. I have to re-strategize.
The King of Tabloid Journalism, Mike Awoyinfa introduce a copy of the unpublished Journalism Bible to the GDA
How comfortable is it for you to be
jogging inside your compound?
I do my
jogging every one hour and I have music fastened to my ears which plays for one
hour. With the aide of the music I am able to overlook all the inconveniences.
It is the same thing I do when I go out and I attach my ear-phone to my head
and the music plays on. So, I apply the same strategy in my compound and before
you know it, it is already one hour. I don’t even feel the difference. Yes, my
exercise regime is even more strenuous and because I am inside my yard I can do
things I don’t do outside. As I am jogging I carry weight; I have this 5-litre
engine oil empty can and I will fill it with water, I fill the second one with
water and I will lock it; so, I will be carrying it and I will be jogging and
at the same time listening to my music. I mean, building my muscles as if I
have a boxing fight to go fight with Mayweather. 
The King of Tabloid, Mike Awoyinfa invited the GDA into his private Gym
So, what does that do to you, is it a
must to jog?
You see, I
have to train. The biggest wealth God can give you is good health. Good health,
you need to be very, very strong to break stress and live happily. It is not
just running o, it is not just about running around. As I am running I am
praying too. I meditate and pray to God and say ‘God of Dimgba Igwe, wherever you are o, I greet you this morning
and I bless you. I say my prayers when I am jogging. Of course I would have
said my prayers at home with my wife o, you know my wife will never let me go
out without praying every morning but that is family prayer. It is different
from my own individual prayer; that one is between me and my God, I pray to my
God; it is also while jogging that I think of the things I am writing, if there
is a chapter I want to write I  think it
out as I jog. The best way to think is to think on your feet while running; I
mean you are focused without thinking of anything and you say ‘ah, this chapter
I wrote or the next chapter I am going to write, how am I approaching it? What
are the ingredients? What do I bring in? How do I present it? Even my column, I
think of my column while jogging. What do I write, what is the headline?
Bla-bla-bla, you know it is a kind of self editorial or editorial meeting with
yourself. In doing that, some of the best ideas come, that is the way I think
but people think ah, it is just a lunatic jogging. I mean, it is good for
people to exercise because you are also exercising the brain. A sound mind and
a sound body go together. You now add that to the spiritual exercise, you
become a perfect man. So, there is a spiritual dimension, there is this
physical dimension and there is an intellectual dimension to jogging. I
recommend it to everyone. And ever since I started jogging, sickness banished;
I have no form of sickness and I don’t fall sick. The only problem with
carrying weight is that at times, you may have dislocation of your waist or you
break your waist but it is the same jogging (exercise) that will regulate it.
So, if you are not jogging, you are not born again. No, it is true. It is like
you are not physically born again. I mean, I am the one that know what I am
gaining and people who don’t jog, I pity them. They are not physically born
again; I think that is the analogy. It is we the people that are jogging, when
we see people that don’t jog, we will say ‘oh, this is unbelievable. You see
them as physical unbelievers. Jogging is therapeutic, it is medicinal it is
everything. You sweat out the entire bad toxin in your body; so, I recommend it
to everyone that is reading this interview.
The Late Dimgba Igwe & Mike Awoyinfa; Friend in literary matters
Things I lost with Dimgba’s death
Let me ask you this question, what
are those things that Uncle Dimgba Igwe used to do for you before his demise
that you can’t find anybody to do for you again?
Without Dimgba, I don’t have an editor. I am my
own editor, nobody edits me. I write and it goes like that. nobody to say
‘Well-done’, ‘Excellent’, ‘Fantastic’ or somebody to just say ‘This is rubbish,
this is nonsense’. What is it, abeg! At times I might write something that is
excellent o but he will start abusing me ‘What is this rubbish you have
written?’ ‘Nonsense’, ‘Stupid’ and he will turn around and say “No, I am just
joking! You have just written a master piece; go ahead with it”. Dimgba is that kind of person; and
without him I have a kind of freedom that I don’t like. I mean nobody to
discipline me. To live a life without a restriction is a dangerous life, you
know. I will be going out and my phone would ring and the receiver will say
‘Mike, where are you going? Turn back! Turn back! He is that kind of person. And again, freedom is a problem. I need
somebody that will discipline me. That will check my excesses and he was the
one. I still discipline myself, right? Now, I have a feeling that he (Dimgba)
is somewhere watching me and I don’t want to disappoint him. So, I internally
discipline myself. He is not a man that can leave me alone or that I can live
without. He always inspires me in the hard work ethics and in the quest for
King of Tabloid Jouurnalism, Mike Awoyinfa gives the GDA one of their best selling books
The other day, you attended City
People publisher’s 50th birthday with Mrs. Chioma Igwe, how is your
relationship with Dimgba’s wife?
Yes, it is
my wife that dragged her out and I like the way she is bonding with my wife and
I can say she is my “second wife” (Laughter); so, my wife is always trying to
be with her. You know she is a very quite, reserved woman who doesn’t want
trouble and who always want to be in her cocoon. Her happiest moment was the
last time when we went to South Africa
together, we visited Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and other
lovely places. That was the first time the whole family will travel together
because the women actually revolted and said ‘no, no, no, you people always
travel together. Today, we are going with you and you know my wife is the ring
leader; she is the trouble maker and she insisted we must take them along and I
said ‘ok, let the women join us now’ and for me it was a good decision that we
all went and we were able to bond together as two families and to know each other
more. When we were returning from Robben Island, there was this very,
very big storm. It was just like Jesus in the boat. The storm was
huge and everybody was afraid, and I said ‘how I wish Jesus was around to say ‘storm, be still’. My friend was afraid, my
wife was so scared. All of us were afraid and it was there he (Dimgba) said
‘Mike, never, never, never, I am not coming here again, ah! This kind of
journey, no, no, no, no, i am not coming again. That is the kind of intuition
and prophecy. He was a great man of God and a saint in my book.
of Tabloid Journalism, Mike Awoyinfa with his twins, Taiye &
Kehinde Awoyinfa shared a picture with late friend, Dimgba Igwe
When you clocked 60 in 2012, he threw
a big party for you and people said you were likely to do same for him when he
clocks 60? How do you feel now with his demise?
I was
planning to “revenge”. I can never forget that event because he pulled
everything and he said profound things that day that ‘Mike is the only person I
can do business with and I can go to sleep with my eyes fully closed, knowing
that when I am not there, he will be there for me’. (Kept silent for some
seconds) He is one man I cannot hurt; he is one man I cannot disappoint. He is
one man I love; he is one man I fear. I thank God for making me to know that
kind of man in my lifetime. There can never be any friend like that again,
never, never, never, never. I don’t think I can ever get close to anybody to
the point where I can even surrender my life or my trust or my privacy. This
house, Dimgba built it, this house I
am living in, he built it. I didn’t move a block or anything, even after he has
finished building this house, he was begging me and said ‘Mike, I built house
for you, move in you don’t want to move in’; three months after moving into his
own house I was still in Akowonjo. You know me I hate change,
once I get used to a particular location; it is very difficult for me to move.
When I get used to a room, you can’t even move me to say I should change my
room and move. I am that kind of a conventional person but eventually we moved
in here and I started getting used to the place and thanking him, praying for
him but here we are.
The Tabloid Legend sharing a joke with the GDA

How do you think Dimgba Igwe can be

Dimgba Igwe is already immortalized. I mean Dimgba Igwe is as great as Dele Giwa now if not greater. His name
can never perish in Nigerian journalism. The books we have written together,
those are the things that will immortalize him. Particularly this last book we
are going to launch, 50 World Editors; Conversation with
Journalism Masters on trends and Best Practices
: What else is
immortalization? Come Tuesday September 8th, we will launch the book
at the National Institute of International Affairs,
Victoria Island-Lagos. 
The New book that will shake and change Nigerian Journalism sector


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