Leadership Lessons I Learnt From Sunny Ade By Jide Ojo

Over time, as a media personality featuring on various radio and television programmes and writing for newspapers, I have often advocated the diversification of the Nigerian economy as a panacea for our pulling out of economic doldrums. However, I failed to appropriate and adapt the same message for myself, until recently. I pride myself as a psephologist, an expert on election matters. I had, prior to my new pursuits, worked for both national and international organisations working on delivery of credible and peaceful elections. Meanwhile, in the ancient town of Ibadan, among my friends and colleagues, I have on many occasions demonstrated my dexterity as a compere at social events. I have served as an MC at several of my friends’ wedding receptions and other events.

I have been rendering this service, pro bono, free of charge as lawyers are wont to saying. However, recently at the launch of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy‘s Youth Empowerment Programme held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Abuja, I was engaged as the compere. Earning my first pay as an MC opened my eyes to the opportunity to diversify my revenue base. I therefore informed friends, colleagues and acquaintances about my skill as a good compere. One of those I told was Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi, a friend and former schoolmate at the postgraduate school at University of Ibadan who was a former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan and is currently the Director-General of Technical Aid Corps in Abuja. It was Pius who boosted my image as an MC last Friday, September 8, 2017, when he asked me to anchor at the guests’ reception after the burial ceremony of his father in-law, Pa. Oluyemi Akinfolademi Adesuyi, at Ile-Oluji, Ondo State.

In attendance at the august event were the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu; his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, as well as the state commissioners among other top dignitaries. On the band stand was the Juju music maestro, King Sunny Ade, a multiple Grammy Award nominee and winner of many national and international music awards.

Being his ardent fan, it was a humbling experience sharing the same stage with a living legend and music icon like KSA. Though I had met him informally once at a hotel in Ibadan many years ago, last Friday was my first contact with him at a business level. I watched, rather, studied him closely as he plied his trade on stage. I noticed how he applied his voice, eyes, legs and body to deliver quintessential performances on stage. I had never danced like I did to the timeless music of the legendary entertainer. For those who knew me closely, much as I liked music, particularly old school, evergreen music, I am not a good dancer. I am just too self-conscious. However, I threw caution to the wind last Friday as I danced to the enthralling melodious music of KSA. My wife, who was at the party with me, was very surprised to see me dance.

You may want to ask whether I was engaged to dance or to anchor the dance session. Well, my job was at interludes. To recognise dignitaries and organise the dance sessions of the deceased children and family members as well as other dignitaries with the musician. Thus, while not holding the microphone to perform my appointed duty, I decided to also relax with the king’s music.

What did I learn from the king of juju music? A lot! I learnt his attention to details. KSA knows immediately when his band member errs. He knows when his drummer, pianist or guitarist is not giving him the right musical key or off tune. He uses his eyes to reprimand the band member who is out of line. I also saw him walk to the sound engineer several times to get him to adjust some things be it to increase the volume of a particular microphone or reduce the volume. While he disciplines his band members on stage, he equally rewards good performances on the spot. When any of his band members does well, he doles out money from his pocket to give the exemplary staff, even while on stage. In my presence, he gave money to his drummers, his Hawaiian guitarist and his sound engineer. That is carrot and stick principle.

KSA is an astute businessman. Part of my job as the event anchor was also to time each dance session with him. The instruction handed to me was to give each of the family members 10 minutes each. With King Sunny Ade, once the money was flowing, there was no relinquishing the microphone. On several occasions, I gave the sign for him to stop to enable me call the next group to come on stage, but he held on with his musical performance until there was no more doling out of currency notes to him in appreciation of his musical dexterity. That somewhat made my job a bit challenging.

One thing I also admire about him is his organisational skill. Apart from band boys who included his instrumentalists, vocal back-ups and sound engineer, KSA had three people collecting names of dignitaries that he would need to adulate. They are like his marketers who go round to compile names of Very Important Personalities whom he needed to praise in his songs. Aside from these men, there were two bouncers stationed in front of the stage to keep unwanted guests and miscreants in check.

KSA as a master of his musical trade knows his onions well. He knows when to slow down the pace of the song and when to fasten it; when to change the tune; when to dance; when to sit; when to dramatise; when to relax and when to be serious. He demonstrated all these skills as I watched on in amazement. The only thing I didn’t see Sunny do last Friday was to play his trademark guitar. For those familiar with the legend, he’s regarded as a guitar wizard. Could it be age that made the king not to play his guitar at Ile-Oluji? I doubt it.

Even at over 70 years of age, the music icon is still nimble on his feet as he danced skillfully with his vocalists. My chance encounter with him last week has left an indelible memory on my mind. Thanks KSA for making my day. Kudos for the soul-lifting performance and leadership qualities.

Follow me on Twitter @jideojong

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