by Ebuka Obi-Uchendu
In 2006, I had only been out of the Big Brother Nigeria house for a few days, when a couple of amazing women called to say that they wanted to host some of their favorite housemates to a dinner. They didn’t want it to just be an avenue for people to come eat and take pictures. They wanted to help us in the process. So the whole idea was for the housemates to pick some mentors whom they’d love to sit with on their individual tables and use that as an avenue to connect, interact and probably set the done for future collaborations. Before they were done, I already knew the two people I wanted on my table; Eyimofe Atake and Mo Abudu.
I had never met Mo Abudu before then and her now almost decade old talk show Moments with Mo had not even premiered at the time. I was just fascinated at what she had done with her company Vic Lawrence & Associates at a time when firms like that were not trendy. I was also struck by the fact that every time I’d seen an interview of her, she sounded extremely focused and had a clear idea of what she wanted out of life.
She arrived the dinner that day with her young son and teased me about things she had heard and seen me do in the house. Then she wanted to know why I had picked her to be on my table since I was a lawyer; a profession she had nothing to do with. I told her; “I don’t know. I just hope we can work together someday.” She smiled and said; “Well you never know. Here’s my card. Keep in touch.”
Fast forward to 2013. There was a lot of buzz about this new channel ‘EbonyLife TV’ launching and the owner Mo Abudu was looking to make it young, fresh and different. Right around the same time, my friend Lamide told me about this new show the channel was working on called ‘The Spot’ and wondered if I was interested. One meeting led to a few phone calls and I was selected as a co-host on the show. And so 7 years later, my hopes of working with Mo had come to pass.
I have known Mo (or MA as we call her at EbonyLife TV) on several levels. First as a mentor, then as a friend, before knowing her as a boss. Interestingly, every time people meet me, they always ask the same question; “What is it like working with her?” and I almost always have the same answer; “I have very little to complain about on that front.” They usually seem disappointed. Somehow they expect to hear crazy stories.
The truth is, I have worked on several shows in Nigeria on different TV channels, both public and privately owned, so I have an idea how hard it must be to run a channel in these parts. It is also twice as hard to try and run a channel on the level that EbonyLife TV currently does and aspires to. More so, it is probably even thrice as hard to do all that as a woman. So whenever I see how well the channel has done and how far reaching it already is on the continent and beyond, my respect for her simply continues to grow.
When the channel launched, there were a lot of whispers about how it would crash and burn because it was impossible to sustain a television station on that level in Nigeria. A lot of those arguments could not be completely thrown out, as precedents were there to back them up. But the fact remains that one of my biggest reasons for joining the EbonyLife TV family is the fact that MA is first a businesswoman before anything else. And the woman I knew, would not let her dream or business venture die just because others had failed at it. If she was going to do it, then she was going to do it right. Of course mistakes are inevitable, but correcting them in the process and learning along the way, is something she’s imbibed strongly.
As a friend, it was surreal to be at her 50th birthday celebration and hear remarks from friends who had know her since she was a child. They called her hardworking, focused, stubborn (yes) and a go-getter. Terms, which I would easily use to describe her too; and I’ve only known her a few years. What that brought home for me, was the fact that with MA, what you see is what you get. If she means it, she’ll probably say it. If she wants it, she’ll most likely get it. And if she believes it, she’ll definitely live it.
As a mentor, she continues to be the brightest example in the television industry today of how important it is to pave the way for the younger generation. Her channel is almost completely run by people half her age. Her talk-show Moments with Mo, is now being handled by two ladies who could easily be her daughters. Something many people with an ego wouldn’t easily do. She may not have created a million jobs but the doors she has opened for young Nigerians today by putting them first while building what would most likely be an African empire in a few years, tells it all.
MA will definitely be around for a while to come. She’s also one to watch because with her, you never know what’s next. Her portfolio as diverse as it is could get even more interesting soon. Politics maybe? Who knows? Maybe she just hasn’t thought about it yet. Because if there’s anyone who has a mantra and lives it to the fullest, it’s Mo Abudu. Trust me, she means every single word whenever she says “If you can think it, you can do it.”