Opinion: Leadership lessons I learnt from King 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 for diversification of Nigerian economy as a panacea to 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 have, prior to my setting up my consultancy outfit, worked for both national and international organisations working on the 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 Master of Ceremony at several of my friends’ wedding receptions and other parties.

I have been rendering this service, pro bono, free of charge as lawyers are wont to say.  However, recently at the launch of   Westminster Foundation for Democracy‘s Youth Empowerment Programme held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Abuja, I was engaged as the Master of Ceremony. Earning my first pay as an MC opened my eye 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 postgraduate level 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. Pius boosted my image as an MC last Friday, September 8, 2017, when he asked me to anchor at the guest 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 in September was the Ondo State governor, His Excellency Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, his deputy HE Agboola Ajayi as well as commissioners. Others include the All Progressives Congress party executive in Ondo State, Senators, House of Representatives members, honourable members of the Ondo State House of Assembly, business moguls, academic juggernauts and several other dignitaries. On the band stand was the King of juju music, the inimitable and indefatigable King Sunny Ade, a multiple Grammy Award nominee and winners of many national and international music awards. KSA was also a former president of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria better known as PMAN.

Being his ardent fan, it was a humbling experience sharing the same stage with a living legend and music icon like KSA. Though I have met him informally once at a hotel in Ibadan many years ago, last Friday was my first contact with him at 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 performance on stage. I have never danced like I did to the timeless music of the legendary entertainer last week. For those who knew me closely, much as I liked music, particularly old school, evergreen music, I am not a good dancer. 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 did 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 is flowing, there is 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, the King 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 as a compere a bit challenging. One thing I also admire about him is his organisational skill. Apart from band-boys which include his instrumentalists, vocal back-ups and sound engineer; KSA has three people collecting names of dignitaries that he will need to adulate. They are like his marketers who go round to compile names of very important personalities whom he needs to praise-sing. Aside these men, there are 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. Happy birthday to you sir as you clock 71 on the 22nd of this month.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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