I'M THE KING OF MY COUNTRY-AYO SHONAIYA
If you have watched the movie, King Of My Country, you would probably agree with me that the man Ayo Sonaiya is an entertainment impresario judging from his antecedents in the movie and music industry. Ayo, who was in Nigeria last December opened up on a wide range of issues that concern the showbiz business and of course his latest invents. Enjoy your reading…
Who is Ayo Sonaiya when you're not working?
I am always working. As I am in town now, I came to work.
All work and no play…
My work is my play and I don't play with my work
When you come to Nigeria, what basically do you come here to do?
Anything to do with my business, music, movies, in fact entertainment generally, anytime I am in Nigeria is either I am here to have one meeting or make a deal that's aligned with entertainment. I rarely go on holidays, whenever I am Nigeria, I come to work.
You have become a dominant force in entertainment scenes home and abroad but it seems your energy is more there than here; what informs that?
In Nigeria, none of this top artistes/artists that we have right now that doesn't have my signature or Midas touch on his or her career except a few, just a few ones like, P-Square, Timaya, Mi and a couple of the up and coming artistes. Every other person has had my touch in their career
You might have been working behind the scenes…
Exactly! I have been a behind the scenes person since I stop to be in front of the cameras 10 years ago and I am happy about that. This new development in entertainment industry in Nigeria today, even though we live in London, has been through some of us who are passionate about it; I come, at least, once every two months to do some work but I don't make unnecessary noise about it.
If that is the case, how come these top artistes and artists you have worked with never gave you credit?
The reason is because people in Naija don't credit who they should credit. Everybody sees the person on stage or the person screen, who got that person there or designed the whole image of that person doesn't get known or credited. In abroad, the reverse is the case, a lot of rich people in entertainment industry who have made mega bucks today got it through their behind the scenes artistic touches. Go to any artist, I keep saying this, except for a couple of the upcoming ones and P-Square which we are going to work with very soon, that I have not had a hand in their success. Mention a name and I will tell you where we have crossed part and has become successful. If they don't credit me, I am not bothered. My joy is that, God is using us to fulfill their dreams and aspirations.
What is the magic wand behind your success story?
I don't have a magic wand, I just have talent and I also have creativity. I am good thinker, I think and I do, I am someone that should be referred as M.I.A (Make It Happen), I sit down and design concepts. That is just my driving force no magic wand anywhere.
As Mr. Make It Happen, What measure are you taking to make a Nigerian win a Grammy in the next five years?
I'm not even talking about five years, by year 2010; you will be shocked what is going to happen in the industry. We have been looking for a Nigerian to win a Grammy for years but I think I have found one; his name is Michael, an R&B artist. We are already preparing him towards that task.
I am not even waiting five years, I am talking about now. Though, I am not doing all this because of the Grammies alone, I am moulding him to be the best in all ramifications, that's my focus now.
Where did you get that energy you used in the film, 'King of my Country' from?
From the same brain I have been using to do other things I do. If my hands, legs are cut, believe you me, I can still perform in as much as my brains still function. Once the data in my brains is wipe out then I become paralysed.
How many laurel or awards did you get for that?
None! You won't believe it that I have never won an award before. But, I am fulfilled in what I do because it brings smiles into the faces of some people.
You've gone round the globe, you've seen what entertainment in other parts of the world is; what's that thing that you feel has not put in place in the industry here?
It's a fast growing industry; this was how it started in other parts of the world. Everything is in place; we've got people who are passionate about making it better. We also have loads of talents deposited in our guys, what else do we need? God to come down and do it for us or the government to live the workloads of the country to straighten things for us? Nay! We have to do it ourselves because God will not do for a man what a man should do for himself.
In the area of piracy and other menace affecting the industry…
Look there is piracy everywhere. If you think Nigeria has piracy go to Honk Kong, it's the biggest pirates' market all over the world but it has never paralyzed the industry or the country. Nigeria is the only country whereby piracy will collapse the whole system. Piracy is everywhere and there is nothing, absolutely, we can do about it. I'm not going to sit down with you and discuss piracy as a big issue or maybe let's get government involved, let's get EFCC involved or union etc, no matter what you do, pirates would find a way to reap you off, it's as simple as that, you cannot eradicate piracy. But note that, I am not endorsing or promoting piracy but there is nothing we can do about it. If we think about it we will loose focus. It's like a born again Christian thinking about the devil, why are you bothered about the devil while not just face God and leave the devil alone. One Jesus and seven devils. We should talk about Oscars, Grammies; I am talking about selling 10 million copies of Nigeria songs abroad. No matter what you do, piracy is still going to eat but what should be concerned about is how they will only eat the fossil and not half of your cake or even your whole cake sometimes. I am focused on the positive and not negative or act of pirate.
You were working on a TV Channel in London; what about it?
The TV channel has eventually been sold out to BET, when I bought into the TV channel, I came to Nigeria to race investors but I couldn't raise the money in Nigeria and my partners went to the US and they got a better deal and it was sold to them-Black Entertainment Television. But I am still involved with Nigeria artists; I am still involved in entertainment industry generally. Like I said before about the R&B act called Michael there is also a US based female rapper called Naira, there are a lot of people we are going to work with and we are stating that from January this year.
With all the aforementioned you must be one of the richest Nigerians abroad, true or false?
My passion is not driven by money, though money is money and it's good to have it. I am not going to tell you that I am poor or rich, I don't put myself on a scale of how much money I have, it sounds stupid really, but I don't care about how much money I have. I like to make money and I always go for every dollar I make but to tell you how much I worth or have is baseless. Who cares if I have the whole money in the World Bank or I don't even have a dime! When am doing my work, I don't think about money, I think about quality delivery that will impact something in the minds of the present and next generation. As long as I can pay my children school fees, provide for their basic needs, then am cool.
You just talked about passion, what exactly is your passion?
Creativity is my passion. For me, it's life, love, films and music. This gives me joy and I consider them as passion.
What would you have become if you weren't an entertainment impresario?
I would have be a regular lawyer in town. I studied Films first before the Law but now, I just love the film, I love entertainment. You know I am just Ayo anymore; I am like the Blue Gorilla as well. I am starting this thing called KONG- King Of Nigeria Group. It's Kong everything, Kong TV, Kong Music, Kong Film, Kong event, Kong fashion mention it. I am saying I have bestowing the title on myself o but that's what I feel right now. I am Ayo when I am at home but when am at work, I am the Blue Gorilla. Our logo is Kong Nation so I am the King of Nigeria.
As a good looking guy who is doing well in his chosen career; how do you cope with women?
How do I cope with women; do I have to cope with women?
I mean when they tend to have your attention how do you cope with the pressure?
Why can't men crave for my attention, must it be women alone? There's no pressure, if that's what you want to know.
I'm not that guy that you see in the clubs throwing money on 'handbags' or whatever name you call it. I am not a spender at all. Fine, I understand what you are driving at about coping with women and stuff like that. Women can be around me while am working, because I am showbiz person but I don't have to bow to their seduction or anything. I don't invite women unnecessary, to sleep with them or what?
But behind every success in entertainment industry, there is always a woman
Are you talking about my wife? Fine, I am married and I have good-looking children but I am not that type that goes for women like that. Any woman you see me with either my niece or we're working together.
That is the excuse everybody give, my niece, cousin etc…
I am different from everybody and my name is not everybody. If I go to club sometimes, I see women but I am very contempt.
Can we have a brief insight into your family background?
Ok, my father is from Ijebu and my mum is from Abeokuta. I was born in London grew up in Mile 2, Lagos. I have lived half of my life outside Nigeria but I am a King of my country. I studied films in America and I studied Law in England. Since then, I have been working in the area of Films, Television and Music. It's still much of boring life really, I have four and I love them so dearly. Those are my CEOs, everything I do; I do it for the future of my children. I have a daughter that's in the university; I have a daughter in secondary school, a son in primary school and another daughter in Nursery, you can now see that my hands are full.