A public apology to Ken Calebs Olumese – Tony Okoroji

Posted on December 17 2016 , at 01:17 pm
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  • I believe that every human being is measured by his fidelity to the words that come out of his mouth. On this one, I failed.

The Niteshift Coliseum hosting Lagos State governor Akinwunmi Ambode
The Niteshift Coliseum hosting Lagos State governor Akinwunmi Ambode

Today in Saturday Breakfast, I tender a full and unequivocal apology to Ken Calebs Olumese, someone I am convinced is an exceptional Nigerian.

About a year and half ago, I put a call to a number of people whom I believe have the ‘can do’ spirit and the deep appreciation of the unsurpassed work that the Edo born, Ken Calebs Olumese had done in creating friendship across Nigeria and energizing the socio-cultural development of the Nigerian nation under the banner of Niteshift Coliseum, created by him.

I had done a review of the unique concept of Niteshift in a three-part series published on Saturday Breakfast that I called ‘Bring Back the Niteshift’. The series received significant reaction from many people touched by the imagination and creative energy of the guy we all love to call the Guvnor.

So, the guys I called on the phone responded and for two evenings after work, we huddled at the Boardroom of COSON in Opebi, Ikeja not far from Niteshift Coliseum. We ate some chicken suya and talked. There was Mayor Akinpelu, publisher of Global Excellence; Azu Arinze, publisher of Yes International magazine and Steve Ayorinde, who had edited the Punch and Mirror newspapers.

There was also Kunle Bakare, Arinze’s former boss who publishes Encomium Weekly; Patrick Doyle, my broadcaster and film-maker friend and Victor Eiremokhae, lawyer and former police officer who had remained close to Olumese after many years.

At the meeting, there was complete agreement that Niteshift was a historic Nigerian concept which should not be allowed to die. We concluded that we owed it to our children and to those who visit Lagos to preserve the edifice that, for many years, was the preferred watering hole of Nigeria’s glitterati.

Yes, we decided to engineer the setting up of a ‘Niteshift Trust’ with a board made up of eminent Nigerians that would turn the place into a major tourist centre with an electronic library and venue for important seminars, workshops and great entertainment. We thought that Olumese should act as a consultant to the trust for as long as he wished. Different assignments were given to different members of the group.

READ MORE: End of an era: Niteshift Coliseum shuts down

Patrick Doyle and I were mandated to visit Ken Calebs Olumese, brief him on our ideas and get his buy-in. We did as instructed. As I left the meeting with the Guvnor, I got the feeling that he was elated. A few days after, I had to travel out of the country but I kept calling everyone connected with our plans from wherever I was.

Not too long after, my guy Steve Ayorinde was appointed Commissioner for Information in Lagos. Everyone can see that he has been very busy. My brother, Patrick Doyle has also been busy shooting his epic movie, Madam President.

Kunle Bakare, Mayor Akinpelu and Azuh Arinze have a fight in their hands keeping their magazines afloat and paying staff salaries in a nation in deep recession. Keeping in touch with Victor Eiremokhae with whom I was entrusted with developing the legal documents for the ‘Niteshift Trust’ has been near impossible. Victor, who is ordinarily someone you can bet on any time of the day, is clearly involved with his own challenges.

This week Thursday, I spent a full day at Niteshift Coliseum where the COSON Extra-Ordinary General Meeting was held to huge success due to the raw determination of a self-effacing Niteshift lover and foot soldier called Kenneth Ehi-Choya.

Everything at the Coliseum still works to perfection yet the COSON EGM was one of the very few events to take place at the edifice this year. It was difficult for me not to feel shame at not following up on the promise we made to Ken Calebs Olumese without any prompting from him.

As I scanned the photographs on the outer wall of the coliseum, I was reminded that practically anybody who has been anybody in Nigeria has enjoyed the hospitality and warmth of Niteshift.

At Niteshift, there has been a Grand House Reception for the present governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode and his predecessor, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Fashola’s predecessor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

I am not sure that President Muhammadu Buhari has been to Niteshift but I know that Niteshift has hosted his predecessor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and has held Grand House Receptions for MKO Abiola, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and Muhammed Ali, the ‘greatest’. Put simply, Nigeria has had no other place like Niteshift Coliseum.

If we let the Coliseum go to waste, I will not be surprised. It will be in line with what has become our national character. What have we done with the huge National Secretariat complex in Ikoyi? What did we do with the original African Shrine where Nigeria’s greatest musician of all times entertained the world? Seriously, what did we do with the billions this nation has earned in oil revenue? It is a pity but we just love waste.

Niteshift Coliseum founder Ken Calebs Olumese
Niteshift Coliseum, founded by Ken Calebs Olumese

I have met Ken Olumese several times since I went to him with Patrick Doyle to talk about the Niteshift Trust. Not once has he asked me what happened. That is the man.

I believe that every human being is measured by his fidelity to the words that come out of his mouth. On this one, I failed. That is why I owe it to myself to publicly apologise to Ken Calebs Olumese, a truly great Nigerian and beg our nation to give this gentleman a national honour which he richly deserves. On the Niteshift Trust, I have not quite given up.

See you next week.

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