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Timothy Ogbiti: One Of Nigeria’s Grass Growth Comedians And Entertainer

By Timothy Ogbiti
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One of Nigeria’s grass growth Comedians and Entertainer. Is now living large in Lagos. Timothy Ogbiti Popularly know as TIMIMOUTH is a full-blooded Edo Guy born in Orila area of Lagos and brought up in the Christian faith by a strict Religious officer father. His childhood was filled with fun, and he never lacked the basic necessities of life.

Today, the Statistic and Computer Science graduate directs Event Planers Entertainment Niger Productions (E.P.E.Niger) a non governmental organization, which he confesses he started as a joke but has grown

into one of the biggest names in the Nigerian entertainment industry.

Despite the fact that personalities acknowledge that you helped them

become successful, you have remained, as it were, faceless. How did

you achieve this?
First, I think it is in line with our vision in E.P.E.Niger

Productions to be the brand that supports the realization of dreams,

the brand that wants to be available and relevant not for today but

tomorrow as well.
In order to do so, we must help people who are nobody so that when

they become somebody you call on, a lot of things work in your favour.

Personally, I also think it is just me, and as my mum says I live like

tomorrow doesn't exist. I don't have a good saving habit because if we

don't have, somebody out there will support us because we have been

supportive. As for being faceless, I think it is the best way to work.

Why is being 'faceless' the best way to work?

Till today, when I sit in the middle of the audience during our shows,

a lot of people don't know me. That way I get to have a lot of

firsthand experience of what people want and this helps a lot.

Sometime ago, our presenter walked up to me for an interview during an

event. I needed to do the interview but remain faceless and when it

was aired, I was at a place where people wanted to know who I was but

when they couldn't get any word from me, someone made a comment that

by the time they finished dissecting me, I denied myself. Fortunately,

and because they didn't know who I was, the concept wasn't a good idea

but when Denrele created attention with his greetings, their psyche

changed immediately. The truth is that if they had known me, they

would have fooled me and told me what I wanted to hear.

So who is TIMIMOUTH?
He is an entertainment producer, deliberately focused on comedy

because it started by JOKE. I really don't have 100|% when it comes to

music and you can't give what you don't have - except when it comes to

comedy. I am yet to be a father. And for the records too, I a good

husband to be as well. I am the Eight in a family of Nine and a

full-blooded Edo Man. I think that summarizes me except there are

specifics you want to know.
You said you stumbled into comedy. How did that happen?

I would say that it didn't happen by design because when the company,

E.P.E.Niger Productions started in 2000, I set out doing plays; we

were more or less a theatre company but no matter how serious the

issue we were dealing with was, we always injected some form of humour

into it - whether the issue was about women, child abuse, HIV, armed

robbery or unemployment.
People who watched our production in Uniben Auditorium would always

laugh. So I felt we were making sense and communicating with people

even though we were not serious about it, and because of the nature of

the work, we were attracting comedians of some sort to feature our

programmes. For instance, we started working with Casino, Pikolo who

were still in school and some others Like Maliki and Efex too as well,

and we were building strong relationships with them and didn't want to

deviate from this. So it made perfect sense every way you chose to

look at it – business sense, relationship management, everything just

fitted properly and here we are now doing comedy and more comedy,

which essentially was built on what previously existed.

Why do people think that you are female - when your name is mentioned,

and how do you handle female advances?
I think it is the name; Timi is like Timilagin and so on, Timilola,

and a few other names that are peculiar with ladies, and I didn't help

matters by hiding my face. It is so bad when I am chatting on Facebook

and a guy starts 'toasting' me. Then I say, hey I am a guy like you',

but for some the 'chase' actually ends there but some still go further

and say, 'I know but we can still be…'

So you see it is a borderline thing because for some people you don't

know if the person genuinely mistook me to be a female or the person

was actually gay and trying to play smart. As in other professions,

handling female advances is not peculiar to people in the

entertainment industry. So I try as much as possible to correct the

impression but I handle it by being focused. But honestly speaking, if

you see my wife to be, you will know I have no reason to look outside;

her name is I will KEEP it away from you for now until we get married

she like it that way too.
You read Statistic and Computer Science, why did you choose to branch

off into what you are doing now?
That is because I enjoy what I do; for me it is about passion. If you

don't enjoy what you are doing, it is going to be a temporal thing and

you will find yourself moving from one place to another; you will

never be stable. Statistic and Computer Science is just a course and I

ended up like the educational system in Nigeria, to prove that you are

intelligent. Going back to pre-university days, I need to clearly

state that I could have fitted into almost everything.

In secondary school I was a science student with a combination that

could get me into any science-based course. I kept changing my

ambition until eventually I Statistic and Computer Science. But I am

still using what I have to achieve other things. By that I mean that I

have a wide knowledge of things and there is hardly anything that I

won't contribute to; the producer's work is to bring everything

together to make sure it balances, especially financially.

Why is it that people study one thing in school and end up practicing

another field altogether?
It is because of the educational system; that's why only a few people

actually do what they want to do; if they are not knocked out by quota

system, they are knocked out by one thing or the other; I know

somebody who left engineering to study theatre arts - ordinarily that

sounds crazy - only people like her could have done that - again

probably because it was the reverse. Otherwise, it would have been

more difficult - I mean leaving theatre arts to study engineering

would have been more difficult. Again people have the wrong impression

that theatre arts is not a competitive course and difficult course

like engineering or medicine - this is very wrong misconception and it

is unfortunate.
Most people studying theatre arts today, if you ask them you will find

that they didn't fill it in their JAMB form but they ended up becoming

theatre arts graduates. Like me if we had a full internationally

recognized school for theatre arts probably that is something I would

have done, but we don't have it. Back then, if you told your parents

that you wanted to study theatre arts, the way they would look at you

would make you drop the idea immediately. Probably things are changing

now because of Nollywood. I think it is just a reflection of the

educational system and the by extension the society. We believe so

much in paper qualification; if you don't have a Ph.D your opinion is

not as heavy. The irony is that people are buying this degree right,

left and centre.
What's the concept behind E.P.E.Niger?
To truly appreciate E.P.E.Niger one needs to go back to how it

started. We were doing plays but over time we started shows for

comedians. For every show, publicity was key but we didn't have any

platform to push comedy 100 percent, so we always had to attach to

other platforms like music, dance and even soap operas. Personally, it

was annoying because we were seen as second fiddle or extras, rather

than comedy blazing the trail with music or other platforms as

attachments to it. So I wanted something that was 100 percent comedy,

which was an extension of a personal desire.
Another reason was that it was in line with our vision to be the brand

that supports the realization of people's dreams; so we wanted to

create an avenue where somebody who wasn't a nobody would within two

years have a platform to prove himself just like accountants have ICAN

and lawyers NBA. For instance, if an unknown comedian tells people he

has performed at E.P.E.Niger , I am sure he will be looked at a second

time. E.P.E.Niger is some form of qualification because it is not

every person that gets on its stage; we make sure that they are able

to deliver and that is why we don't promo names because we have made

it an everybody's thing in comedy and not a 'TIMIMOUTH'S property nor

an E.P.E.Niger property but we are all building it together.

What else would you be caught doing if you weren't doing what you are

doing now and why didn't you go for paid employment?

I have never thought of it, probably I would be in a company handling

events or doing something around that. I would probably be working in

the corporate affairs department of a big company or I'd still be

doing it by extension somehow; but getting into full time regular

structure is another thing entirely. If they don't sack me, I will

sack myself. I didn't go for paid employment because its essence is to

earn a living and to be happy; I am happy doing what I am doing.

So what is your relationship with these comedians and what is your

impression of the industry?
One word for my relationship with the comedians is fantastic and for

my impression of these comedians, I need to separate because there are

some probably because of orientation, who don't see the big picture.

What is the big picture you want them to see?
The big picture really is going international because the entire world

is shrinking everyday and we can't remain local champions. If as a

comedian controlling Lagos nobody knows you in Ibadan, then you are

really not in control but just a mere local champion. But in a

scenario you call a Nigerian comedian and people in Canada are

screaming, that is what am talking about and that is where we want to

be. We are already bringing international acts to perform in Nigeria

and Nigerian comedians are go abroad to perform but several years ago,

the thought of having a Nigerian perform on an international stage was

a mirage.
That means we are getting there but unfortunately not everybody sees

that picture because of orientation. A few see the picture of being

satisfied where they are and so there is no need to work harder. If we

have the potential of making 100 but we are making 10 that means we

are losing 90. So we shouldn't stop because we are wasting talents as

a matter of fact. But a lot more see the bigger picture that is why

the industry is growing fast – mainly the comedy sector of the

industry.
My view of the entertainment industry is that it is taking over

because it is helping a lot of things. Imagine what it would be like

if the industry wasn't thriving? The ripple effect is enormous. If the

industry wasn't there and where would all the beneficiaries go? They

will be scouting for non-existent jobs that will require 10 years

experience, with M.Sc and Ph.D giving you added advantage and above

all you must not be more than 24 years. How? But the entertainment

industry is taking care of a lot of such people. Comedy is growing in

geometric proportion everyday. And it will continue; that's why we

have a lot of comedians.
So how did you meet your wife to be and what convinced you she was the

one for you?
I met her one night while going for production rehearsals when I saw

her with a friend who had invited her over. I remember wearing dark

navy jeans, a round neck T-shirt and my jalamial because of the cold.

In the middle of the rehearsals it became very cold, so was She

because I noticed it. Foolish me doing lover boy, I offered her my

jalamial which gave her relief and in return I started shivering but

then I had gotten her attention because I had my own agenda – it

wasn't for nothing.
That was Plan 'A' and that was the first move to start the discussion;

so we started discussing from one thing to another and here we are –

it was worth the cold. My conviction is that I am always happy around

her; when you are in the company of somebody and you are at ease and

your mind at rest, you can't quantify that or when you are upset and

you call up somebody after that discussion even if you are not happy,

you are not as bad as you felt before the call, it is a sign. When you

need to do things and you think of a couple of people and she is

always among the people you think of, then I think the question is

answered.
How long have you been together?
We got married on December 26, 2002.
How was it like growing up in the barracks?
No, I never lived and didn't grow up in the barracks because we were

staying outside the barracks.
What turns you off?
That's pregnant in meaning. What attracts me is that I like simple

lifestyle; I love real people, the way you are is the way I want you

to be and don't give me that talk that there are two sides of you.

And what is your hobby?
Hobby? Is sleeping a hobby? Because really, like I said I enjoy what I

am doing as I don't see what I am doing as work; it's like making

money from your hobby. If I am not out and doing something, I am at

home with my family watching television; a few times we go out, other

times I am just tired and I sleep. Also I enjoy having guests around

because I was brought up that way - communal way of life; during

holidays we were either in one cousin's, aunt's or grandma's place,

always having people around. Before I got my Girl, my house was like a

boarding house with guests and friends coming in and going out and

sometimes when you want to lock the door at night you can't find the

key because the friend you left at home went with the key. With that

way, life is relaxed already, what more do you want. See my office, it

is not locked, my door is always open, in fact the keys to the office

if at all they need to lock the office, it is not with me, it is with

the Admin guy who hardly locks it anyway. So, life is easy so let's

make it easier.
What challenges have you faced since you started this business?

In running the business, it is the challenge of everyday Nigeria -

water, light, transportation, security and so on. Industry wise, there

are not enough halls to do shows of international standard. A lot of

times, our relationship manager gets requests for having the show on

the mainland like Festac, Ikeja but we always take our time to explain

to them. MUSON (Musical Society of Nigeria) was built for sound, which

is key but E.P.E.Niger is recorded and shown all over the country on

television and radio; if the audio is not good you wouldn't enjoy it

on television much more watching it live.
How many of such halls can attend to that? What you have available in

Lagos and the entire country are venues for wedding and other social

events with more windows than walls and for sound you can't afford to

have too many windows. And if you take the show outside such venue,

the quality drops technically for sound, so it is difficult. There are

a few other venues that would work but the cost implication is

ridiculous. Also because we do play heavily, there is need for venue

to do a proper dress and technical rehearsal and ridiculous demands

that places on us affects the quality of the production. When we see

these things abroad, we are amazed but they didn't happen less than 24

hours.
Experience, as a benchmark is a very big event in Nigeria, the setup

is not one or two days; now imagine the cost of that and how many

people can actually afford it? Those are the kind of issues we are

facing in the industry. Can we have a place that we/ you don't need to

know what is going on there? We don't need to know what production we

are going to see there but one thing is sure that any production we

are going to have is a fantastic production; can we have such a venue?

Yes we can. So these are the kind of things that we should look at

that will help the industry. If you have a place that is 100 percent

for shows, it will drive down publicity cost and when publicity cost

is not heavy then you can in turn transfer that benefit to the

consumers, they pay less for ticket but we don't have such facilities

available now. The external issue is security; you want to do a show

that starts at 10 pm and ends 2 am; what happens after then and where

will the people go?
What part of your childhood prepared you for what you are doing right now?

During holidays, we went round each family and extended family

member's house. I have a cousin by name Peter Ogbiti , who does

children entertainment now. Then, Peter and I would gather all our

cousins during the holidays to rehearse song production and towards

the end of the holiday we would stage a concert. Before then, we would

gather money here and there from all people and we would put up a

concert. I would say that my cousins were my first set of guinea pigs

and back then in school, Ijegun Comprehensive High School, Ijegun

during house week, I coordinated a few house-week events for my house

then. So, I have been doing it gradually and it wasn't big deal when I

entered full time and some of my friends back then are impressed. So,

it is not that I have been doing it from my mother's womb.

What is your strategy for balancing family and work life?

Let your partner understand the business, which is the easiest

strategy to employ so that you don't have to be explaining everything.

If I say I'm going out to shoot, she will ask me what time is the

shoot. I say 11 and she will say TIMI and you are still here at 8

o'clock, please go because she knows the requirement; let your partner

understand whatever industry that you are in. And when I am gone for

several days, she understands and when I am at home with them, she is

also aware because of the nature of the industry.
What does your wife do and how does she handle what you do?

She is a businesswoman and runs her own company. She trades in

clothing and she is actually following in her mum's footstep. There is

no big deal to what I do - she handles it very well. Once you

understand the requirements and workings, I am not saying there

wouldn't be issues but the friction will be a lot less because really

how do you explain phone calls at night from other female that is not

to say that something is going on. But if you have a woman who is

always wondering what you guys are talking about by 10 p.m, that's

trouble. My Woman understands that so we don't have issues.

What do you think can be done to raise the heights of the

entertainment industry?
We need to set up lasting structures to tackle piracy, build bigger

venues. We also need to have some regulatory bodies that will monitor

things so that if you go out and say I am a comedian there will be

some standards to measure. But without proper structures, you can't

control those things we need to do to get international because the

Nigerian market is not enough, we have to go out because we have a lot

more to offer.
Are there high moments in your career?
I don't think I have started my career so I can't recall. Honestly, I

think I am always happy when I see people that have achieved what they

set out to do. Someone walks into the office and says, I have a show

and the budget is N1 million though we don't have N1 million to give

but by the time the person leaves what he needs that money for, will

probably have done half of it in terms of networking for him; that is

fulfillment and those are key moments for me. It might not be the

highest moments of my life but they are high points for me. We have

had somebody who comes to show a brand new car as a result of

networking. I couldn't have given the guy money to buy a car; those

are key moments for me.
How can you describe your years in the industry and what is your

unique selling point?
God has been extra good to me. I didn't suffer, I am an exceptional

case. I have had fantastic times; fair share of bumpy rides but they

are not bumpy rides that made me sit to say 'I think I am in the wrong

industry, never' I have not had those kinds of extremely tough times.

My unique selling point - I have said it: be simple, be yourself, no

'forming' because it is an expensive way to live, be open to people.

So I don't have issues.
How lucrative is what you are doing?
Lucrative for us means to keep doing it; for us not to say let's do

something else; lets leave this entertainment thing and go into

engineering or to start selling food. Lucrative for us means to bring

in more people, to think of 20 years from now, we will still be in

business - that is how lucrative it is.
What are the major constraints upcoming comedians would experience?

The constraints they will experience is that they are only limited by

their thoughts; if you think I have a problem then they have a problem

and otherwise so be it, those are the only constraints. It is the

approach to life. Because that thing you see as a problem, you are not

the only one facing it so why is it a problem to you? Why should it

hold you? At worst it will only slow you down but shouldn't stop you.

You are limited only by how far you think.
Who had influence in your life and career?
People had different sorts of influence; my family; professionally, I

was one of the pioneer set at St Patricks’ Catholic Church Ugbowo

Benin City, Edo State Foundation and was asked who I would like to

understudy but it took them a long time to get me one because I was

particular about who I wanted. Amaka Igwe was that person because

somehow she just fitted into the picture of what I wanted and I had

been dreaming to own a post production studio and the first time I saw

Aunty A, she was just staring at me for 30 seconds, she didn't say

anything and I was like afraid. When we got talking, she asked me what

I wanted to do and I told her and the discussion we had that day

changed my line of thought.
She said the resources at my disposal are too enormous for my dream; I

have so much to my advantage why do I want to do something so small.

And that affected my style of thinking. Yeah, think big but you still

start small and from there, I always did. I try as much as possible to

start in a way that I can self-finance. We hardly look for sponsors.

Standup Nigeria is not sponsored and yet it is three years as the

longest running monthly comedy show in Nigeria and we don't have

sponsors because the strategy from Day One was never to target

sponsors and is growing bigger every time.
Did you ever think of withdrawing?
From E.P.E.Niger? God has been nice to me, let's summarize it like

that. When you hear people's story, you will wonder if it is the same

one you know of but I don't think all these things happened by

accident but by design if you do the basic things.
So how do you make your money?
The program runs on television and radio - that is money; we are not

greedy. We do other things aside E.P.E.Niger, we are also into even

filming; if you have an event depending on how much your budget is, we

will come with cameras and film it professionally – that won't come

for free. We do documentaries – those are things we do.

What is the best advice you ever got?
I think that Aunty A's advice is good, it is still working for me then

the advice I picked up at at St Patricks’ Catholic Church Ugbowo Benin

City, Foundation. I remember Peter Ogbiti saying 'do as much as

possible with your brain'. An instance is that what he summarized it

with is that 'the less manual the job, the more money you can make. I

try as much as possible to build the business by convincing clients

and letting them see that what they are really paying for is the skill

because our argument is this even if you check our website, there is a

part that says anyone that has money can buy the equipment but if you

give that same set of equipment to us the result will be different.

Another thing I picked from the late Tayo Aderinokun when he taught us

negotiation was 'don't bother to go for the kill (jugular), make a

reasonable margin and move on but most of us the job is 10, 000 but we

are billing the client 80,000, why? If you make enough to cover your

cost and there is still something left, do the job and move on. Those

things are key to us here too amongst other things.

So why do you like Fela?
His songs/message make sense, don't you think so? So why shouldn't I

like Fela? He represents a number of things that I like - Africa,

justice, fairness, fun, you can find all those things in Fela.

Was your Dad a strict person?
I wouldn't say strict but my dad was firm. He wasn't the kind of dad

that you all run away from when you hear 'daddy is coming'.

Thank You Timimouth For your time well spent on Stage Today.

Thank you two and May God bless you.
You are far too kind Sir Timimouth

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Timothy Ogbiti and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."