Even after he bagged a law degree, and was called to the Bar, Chude Jideonwo still was never going to attach the title-‘Barrister’ to his name. He never liked law. His passion has always been media enterprise. He studied to become a lawyer just to toughen his mindset, and convince himself he could succeed in whatever feat he sets his mind upon. After getting the conviction he needed, Chude switched to the pursuit of his innate desire, which is to run a media franchise.
Presently, Chude’s Red Media Africa has become a leading full service media-content, communication and development company in Nigeria, and has grown into a media giant that sets agenda in the country especially among youths. The media entrepreneur-cum-lawyer spoke with Inspire recently in Lagos.
I understand you have a degree in Law.
I studied law but I don’t practice. I studied law because I wanted to prove to myself that I can study something I was never interested in. I always wanted to work in the media. And I was lucky that you don’t need a university qualification to work in the media. Also I told myself that I could always go and get a second degree in media. Other reasons why I studied law were because my grandfather and uncles are all lawyers, and I wanted to try it. But I knew it was going to be boring.
Were you called to the Bar?
I went to Law School, was called to the bar and I registered as a lawyer. But I just didn’t want to practice. After Law School, I completed my Court and Chamber attachment just to see if I would enjoy it. But after my chamber attachment, I became convinced that I was not going practise law. I didn’t like the study or the practice of law.
With your Law background, how easy was it transitioning into media practice?
There was no transition. If any, it should be from media into law. I entered the University of Lagos in 2000; in that same year, I started my career in the media, working for the Sunday Show with Levy Ajuonuma. There was no transition, they were both side by side. And I just took the advantage in front of me.
How did you start Red Media Africa?
Red Media as a group of companies is an expression of its founders- that is, my partner Adebola and I. My career in the media over the last 15 years, I have worked and gathered experience in various media platforms. I believe in the media, but not in any particular platform. I am more concerned about the audience, and how I can reach them with the messages that we have. The company is passionate to inspire people using the media. We aim to inspire young people; to think and act to grow. That is our mission.
We are a network of three companies, with a holding brand called Red. There is Red Media which is a communication company. There is Y! which is the content company that has the TV show – Rubbin’ Minds, radio show, magazine, the online platform- YNaija.com, and the event company- Y! Tech100. Then there is the Future Project, which is a development enterprise that has the Future Awards. Basically, what we are trying to do is to extend the media to its very width to reach the largest number of African youths at anytime. That is what we are doing. Red Media is a growing company. We are looking up to the inspirations that we have. People like Biodun Shobanjo of the Troyka Group and Ben Bruce of the Silverbird Group are big inspiration to us.
How long have you been doing this?
Red as a brand is 10. We’ll be celebrating 10 years in October. And we would mark it by staging West Africa’s biggest Omni-media summit. And we are doing it in conjunction with Troyka and School of Media and Communication.
How has the journey been?
It has been mentally, emotionally and morally rewarding.
Does it pay?
That is a dangerous question. Because if I had put the money I invested in media into importing rice, I would have made more money. One of the advantages of running a media business is that it is a low cost barrier for entry. You don’t need to have huge millions to start up, and that benefited us. But on the down side, the market can be limiting. Which is why many media houses owe salaries – which is quite embarrassing. It is not as financially rewarding as it can, or should be; considering the amount of money, effort and emotion put into it. But we are a healthy company. We do not owe salaries, we live a good life, we don’t have loans or debts issues and we are making healthy profit. So we are running a viable profitable business.
As far back as you can recall do you ever see yourself achieving this height?
(Laughs) I did not see myself adding so much weight. I think it is ingenious to behave as if one has not achieved some level of success. I hold myself and my team to aim for higher standards. I was reading yesterday the history of Troyka Holdings, which is one of my inspirations. There are still so much more to conquer. Sometimes, I’m afraid of sharing the scale of my dreams with people, it could be arrogant, but what I want to achieve is so huge that people easily disbelieve me. So it makes me to always leave it out of discussions. I have not yet begun the journey that I want to embark on, what we are doing now is building the foundation of the company I really want. People establish media company to challenge the government, to entertain people and so on. But we are trying to build a media company to inspire, a business that is unafraid to venture into places that many don’t like to. For me, I did not know I was going to be here. I had big dream, and I didn’t know I was going to achieve them. But now I have a sense of confidence and belief that these big dreams are valid.
Did you face discouragement and doubts when you started up?
Constantly, people told me that I am going to fail. I was at an event in Ghana and a guy told me. I can’t mix politics with my business, that it was dangerous; which was completely true. But that is the kind of business I want to build. People tell me all the time that I’m taking big risks. People threaten me all the time with failure. I listen to all kinds of criticisms. I don’t believe in constructive, malicious or destructive criticism. I listen to all kinds of criticisms. I believe it will never destroy what I have in mind. I will take whatever criticism you are bringing, apply it and make myself better. There are few media companies in Nigeria that have both content and communication. For instance, you can’t be doing PR for people and still report against them. But we do it. Because to reach the kind of numbers we want to reach, we have to combine platforms. We hear people say it all the time that media has a limit in terms of income. They ask how many billions the media make. Income in the media is limitless. Yet people don’t take media seriously.
What would be your advice to youths towards excelling in business in a tough environment like Nigeria?
Nigeria is a very difficult country. Our society dares you to succeed. Honestly, Nigeria is a limiting country, and it is structured to make one fail. I have been cheated, betrayed, ridiculed, my spirit has been beaten, and I have been disappointed. But I refused to be defeated. Instead I vowed to remake Nigeria into the country that allows people to succeed. So what I did was to continue moving. And that is what I will tell any youth. Just keep on moving. And endeavour to listen to counsel. I wonder at people that say ‘I don’t want to listen to anybody’. Many have said things that could kill my dreams but I didn’t allow that to stop me from listening to what they were saying. Rather I extract some sense in their words. These are the two things that help you excel- keep moving and listen to people around you. Again there is nothing that can stop a determined person who applies wisdom.