What makes me tick - Audu Maikori
Though Audu was born with a silver spoon, he is not the one to be lazy and laid back. Born to Adamu Maikori, a renowned lawyer and politician, he climbed the ladder of success almost by himself. A lawyer by education, Audu is more known for his involvements in entertainment and the Nigerian youth. Today he is part of the committee in charge of subsidy reinvestment. He is also on the board of the Copyright Society of Nigeria. These are just a few of his affiliations. He welcomed Senior correspondent, Hazeez Balogun to his Victoria Island office recently for a chat
You studied law in school, would you have thought you would also be involved in entertainment?
It is not really a surprise. From my background there are a lot of indications that law will not be my only calling. My father is a lawyer as well but he was into a lot of other things. He was in the Airforce, he was in banking, politics, and all sort of things. It is part of my up bringing not to just put all my eggs in one basket.
You started off with the Guild of Artiste and Poets in Abuja, what prompted that?
The idea behind Guild of Artiste and Poets is that at that time Abuja was boring and there were not much fun. Some people organised something similar, but I thought it was not well done. I knew I could do it better. So I organised one. I got Plantasiun Boiz and Trybz men involved. Before you know it, it was a big deal. And people enjoyed it. It kicked off from there.
From there I got to meet some artistes who had some legal issues. I was interested in their case. They could not afford me but I took them on for free. There was an artiste I treated his case. He was signed on to a label, and his contract does not have an expiry date. Unknown to him that means he was with the label for life. I help such people for free. I saw it as a learning process for me.
You are a member of the London Chattered institute of Abitrators. With all your credentials, do you ever think of working and living abroad?
I don’t think I can live abroad. The longest I have ever done is about four weeks and to me that was hell. I am one of those people that believe in Nigeria. Yeah, everybody will say they love Nigeria, but I will tell you that I am passionate about my country. I don’t think that there are greater opportunities out there. With my qualifications and affiliations, I can practice there and also practice in Nigeria. It only opens the door for me to understand the art of dispute resolution on a global scale.
You were with Afe Babalola’s chamber, what was your experience there like?
He is a fantastic man. It is so rare to see someone that is so accomplished, so happy and so hardworking. You know when you complain that you are working too much and then you see your boss working late into the night. You will be inspired. At that time he was Obasanjo’s lawyer, so we used to hold meetings with a lot of high profile people. We were in court every day. It was hectic work. Sometimes we would leave the office 2:30am and by 7:30am we were back in court. But how can you complain when your boss is actually doing more work than you were doing. That time was a very important time in my life. I learnt hard work from his chambers and that has stuck with me.
Why did you not stay on in his chambers?
There were a lot of reasons for me to move one. Firstly, litigation was just not my thing. It is not something I wanted to settle down with. There was a case that was there before I joined the chamber, and it had not yet gone to hearing by the time I left the chamber. So it was boring to me. To me, there are many unexplored areas in law. If you look at my legal career I have taken a lot of cases that are not related in anyway.
You were at a time part of the unbundling process of NEPA. Why is it taking so long?
There are a lot of issues. The directives to unbundle NEPA came towards the end of Obasanjo’s regime. Like many things in this country. You can do anything you want to do and when a new person comes in, he changes the whole thing. When Yar’Adua came in, the process closed down. I know that the president now is putting things back on course. It is the same company that was handling it before that is still handling it now. If what I hear is right there will be some progress.
You were part of the Enough is enough struggle what was it all about?
The difference with Enough is enough is that it was not about going out there to make noise, but we had meaningful Nigerians that joined. We had musician, we had people like Dele Momodu and all that. We had to speak about the state of the nation and urge the government to do something.
But things are worse today, poverty has increased, there is bombings in the North, will you keep quiet this time?
About the bombings, we actually had plans to go around, go to the governors to talk with them and also donate some items to victims. But there are security risks to that. We thought of sending One Christian and one Muslim spokesman. It was difficult gathering people. They are shooting people and killing people in these states, I could not guarantee the safety of anybody. In the process of killing a problem, you shouldn’t get killed. There are just some issues that are above you. This Boko Haram issue, nobody can come out and tell you what the real problem is. It does not make sense to me that every week they are bombing churches. The issue should be taken seriously by the government. The people should agree to stay together as one, and there should be balance in resources, where everyone can do well financially.
I know that the easiest way to solve these problems is job creation. It is boredom and lack of jobs that is the cause of all these problems. If people are working, they will not have time to engage in all these things. The idle mind can be very devilish.
It also has to do with the people. Look at Lagos for example, there is an even mix of Muslims and Christians yet you will not hear anything like that. The culture of people here is live and let’s live. It’s a very modern culture, exposed and industrious. In the Northern part of Nigeria they don’t care. There leaders there have for a long time supressed them and kept the wealth to themselves. So when someone tells them go, they will go. I am from there so I know. I don’t know if it is the orientation of the culture that needs change.
You must now be eating part of the National cake now as you were appointed as a member of the subsidy re-investment committee.
Let me give you a background of the appointment. Last year October, I was working on the Kano State Mass Transit System. I had worked on Lagos State and Abuja prior. At that time there was some talks about fuel subsidy for these mass transit buses. Then someone from the committee came up and said that we need to know where the subsidy is going to.
What I am saying in essence is that the average people on the street are not enjoying deregulation. When they were selling at N65, in the North it was over N100 per litre. So who is enjoying the deregulation? So around November somebody called me and said “Audu, there is a committee coming that is coming I will put your name on it.” I asked what it is about and they told me that it has to do with delivering relief to Nigerians. I say ok, put my name on it. I did not hear anything again for two months. So in January, I woke up like every other Nigerian to learn that they have increased fuel prices. I was upset like every other Nigeria. Then later, someone called me and told me that the committee I was on was the one on fuel subsidy reinvestment. I was very angry. I was asking them why they had to put me on such committee.
I was told that before I made any decision, they want to send me some documents. I looked at all the documents; I saw that it was a good policy. I did not come out to speak about it because the people who I saw speaking against it were hypocrites. Is it Fani Kayode and the others?
But there were many others who really were speaking the people’s mind
Yes. My point is that people were using the opportunity to promote their own agenda. I am not there for publicity. When I got to the committee, I said that people will never buy the idea because it was sudden and there were no palliatives put in place. And then they said that was exactly why I was there. To help put in place those palliatives. I still did not join the committee. I had to call my father and he said listen, go to the committee, if it is something you are not comfortable with, leave. But if it is something your expertise is needed, then by all means do your bit.
Then I also looked at the composition of the people on the committee. You have the Labour Congress there, you had the Nigerian Union of Journalist there and many other groups were there. I had the singular honour of representing the Nigerian youth. Why not? I do not regret the decision of joining them.
But nobody is feeling the palliatives
You are not feeling them, but you will feel them. I have been moving from length to breadth of Nigeria in the past few months. We launched the private scheme community services for women and youth development. What we are delivering is 370,000 jobs. These jobs are communal jobs. They clear gutters, the man security posts, they take care of the vegetation. All these things are all in towns and villages and not cities. We are reaching the poorest of the poor. We make sure that their salaries reach them, and not some person seating down in his office and spending people’s money.
We partnered with banks and telecoms companies. We make sure that everybody in the scheme has a mobile phone. Every month end, they get an alert on their phone that their money is paid. This way, the money goes straight to them. We are also working with community leaders. We ask them what they want in they want in their community. We don’t force things on them. Like in Anambra State, they were more concerned about the security. So we got more security people for them.
I know that people are always sceptical about the government and their policies, but the government are people like you and me.
So we can say now that Audu Maikori is in support of Fuel subsidy removal
You are also a part of COSON, some artistes are saying they are not benefitting from it.
I am on the board of COSON. We are working to make COSON work. I am not in the business of complaining. Instead I look for solutions. I can tell you that just recently over N50m was distributed amongst artistes and publishers. That is the first time in 15 years that something meaningful was paid. If we do our job right, artistes and publishers will get what is due to them. I tell you N500m is something that we can achieve. It is sad that some people can pay up to N2m for an advert and cannot pay the meagre fee for the music on the advert.
You were not in Idols this year, what was your reaction when you were dropped?
I was not dropped. The problem was I did not have the time. They actually sent me a schedule for Idols. Last year was very stressful. It took Six months of my life. I was flying in every week for Abuja. I could not do that anymore. But I was there this year. I’m sure you saw me at the finals.
Charly Boy was used to replace you, how would you rate his performance?
There was actually a list of other people and I was rooting for Charly Boy because I know he is a ‘were’. He also had the area father status. I knew that he was a good choice. From what I saw, he did not disappoint. I was even expecting that he was going to be the tough judge, but he was not. He was soft on the talents. That showed another side of him. In terms of entertainment value, Charly Boy brought it.
Tell us about your wife.
I don’t talk much on that. I like to keep my family out of the whole entertainment limelight. I got married to her in 2008.
So she is not part of the business?
She is, but she is not up for discussion
Why did you start Chocolate city?
I don’t know how the name came up. We were discussing the name to give the label one day and I said Chocolate city, and everyone seem to like the name. The first person I signed was Jeremiah Gyang. I heard his music on the radio and I bought his album. I was blown away. That is why I decided to work with him. We also managed Asa for a while.
It was Jeremiah that spoke to me about MI. He was telling me how good he was. But I was not swayed because all these young people try to rap like Americans but usually mess up. But when I got to listen to his songs I was impressed. Though he was very raw, I could hear the talent. Later we also signed Jesse who was MI’s brother. We were careful at first because they were brothers. But Jesse could also produce as well. Later came Ice Prince. They were all from the same group.
MI recently said he has kicked off his own label. Has he left Chocolate city?
MI recently renewed his contract with Chocolate City. In fact he has an office in this building. When he wanted to start his own label, he called me and told me and I said no problem. His label Loopy will be a sister company to Chocolate city. I am in fact on the board of his label. There is no problem between us.
What is the rationale behind making Akeem Osagie Bello the Chairman of Chocolate City?
We have tried. We have done our best for Chocolate City. But we have to move on to the next level. Akeem Osagie Bello is very passionate about arts. He was in Kings college school band. He came in as a huge influence to our company. We now do various brand activations for international companies. Your Chairman is important. Merely being there as the Chairman means a lot to the company.