If you’ve ever had the opportunity to work in the Nigerian media space, one thing is likely, you’ve heard it all – the good and not-so-good – about Nduka Obaigbena. And while I cannot vouch for the veracity or otherwise of these tales, I can tell you this; the man is an icon, and this is a fact.
When Chrissy Teigen put out a tweet last week revealing that her superstar husband was in Nigeria, it came as a surprise to nearly everyone on Nigerian Twitter. Speculations were rife. Who was powerful and rich enough to sneak one of the biggest acts in the world and not make a big fuss about it or even try to monetize it? Well, Nduka Obaigbena is who. His publication, ‘THISDAY’ was turning 25 and the media mogul invited Legend to come perform at the party marking the milestone.
What a lot of people don’t know is that it wouldn’t be Legend’s first visit to the country. It was actually his second. The first time was in 2007 and Nduka had been responsible for that visit too. It was for the 2nd edition of the now-defunct Thisday Music Festival.
Obaigbena has been singularly responsible for over 80% of the global superstar appearances in Nigeria in the past decade. From Beyonce and Jay-Z to Diddy, Rihanna, Shakira, Snoop Dogg, Kelly Rowland and Ne-Yo, the Thisday publisher has played host to some of the biggest names in the world of entertainment.
Thisday Music Festival might no longer be in existence, but it made its mark while it lasted. No concert in Nigeria has been able to top the number of international stars the festival had on its roaster in a single year. How Nduka managed to pull it off remains an unsolved mystery.
With no formal journalism training whatsoever, Nduka has managed to build and sustain one of the most successful media empires out of Africa. He started THISDAY in 1995 without owning a printing press, something that was hitherto unthinkable. He has managed to keep the publication alive and thriving even in the face of imminent death of print newspapers. Its weekly style insert is still the most respected fashion publication in Nigeria.
ARISE Fashion Week
In the two years since it made a comeback, Nduka Obaigbena’s ARISE Fashion Week has played a huge role in drawing the attention of the gatekeepers and the world at large to the Nigerian fashion industry. In the first year of its return, supermodel Naomi Campbell and Imaan Hammam graced its runway alongside homegrown supermodels Oluchi Orlandi and Ojy Okpe. This past year, the event did a full-on partnership with Naomi and hosted talks with Editor In Chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful, Andre Leon Talley and designer Keby Jean Raymond of Pyer Moss who also showcased. These invites and partnerships are strategic for a number of reasons but perhaps the most important one is the curiosity and FOMO it elicits from the rest of the world who see all the pictures and videos of these big shots in Nigeria and wonder what the heck is going on over there.
Established in 2013, Nduka’s television news channel, ARISE News has positioned itself as a premium international Television and one to watch out for. With offices in four major cities in the world – Lagos, New York, London and Johannesburg – ARISE News is at the heart of major news stories from across the world.
At 60, Nduka is still as resilient and innovative as he was when he started out all those many years ago. The launch of his new music streaming platform, ARISE Play at the 25th anniversary of THISDAY goes to show that the Duke isn’t slowing down one bit. There’s no telling whether ARISE Play will be or success or go the way of a few other ventures that he has attempted in the past, but Nduka didn’t climb to the heights he has by shying away from risks.