Today, in Saturday Breakfast, I want to thank all those behind the trending social media post, “The Guv is 80!” announcing the 80th birthday celebration of the great Ken Calebs Olumese, scheduled for July 27, 2024. They have my 100% support. Olumese is not a politician, a money man or a big pastor. He is in no position to offer me an appointment, a contract or cast and bind on my behalf but more than any of the politicians, money men or pastors, Ken Calebs Olumese is my man.

Several years 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 social development of the Nigerian nation under the banner of “Niteshift” created by him.

I had done a review of the unique concept of Niteshift in a three-part series published in 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 several evenings after work, we huddled at the Boardroom of the former rented COSON office in Opebi Ikeja, not far from Niteshift Coliseum. We ate some chicken suya, downed a few drinks and talked. There was Mayor Akinpelu, publisher of Global Excellence Magazine; 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 and publisher of 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 concept that for many years brought Nigerians together without any thought of tribe, religion or political affiliation. Yes, we decided to engineer the setting up of a ‘Niteshift Trust’ with a Board made up of eminent Nigerians that would preserve what Olumese had built. We thought that Olumese should be a consultant to the trust for as long as he wished.

Different assignments were given to different members of the group. Patrick Doyle and I were mandated to visit Ken Calebs Olumese, brief him on our ideas and get his buy-in. We did as we were 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 State. He became extremely busy. My brother, Patrick Doyle also became extremely engaged shooting epic movies like “Madam President”. Kunle Bakare, Mayor Akinpelu and Azuh Arinze had a fight in their hands keeping their magazines afloat and paying salaries in a rapidly changing world of magazine publishing and a nation in deep recession. Keeping in touch with Victor Eiremokhae with whom I was entrusted with developing the legal framework for the ‘Niteshift Trust’ was near impossible. Victor who is ordinarily someone you can bet on, any time, any day, was clearly involved with his own challenges.

Bottom line is that our big ideas never got off the ground. 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. It was difficult for me not to feel shame at not following up on the promise we made to Ken Calebs Olumese who never prompted us to float the idea of the Niteshift Trust. I had to publish a Public Apology to the Guvnor on Saturday Breakfast.

Ken Calebs Olumese is a unique Nigerian. While many of his peers deployed their energies and relationships to grab political offices or to put themselves in positions where they would manipulate the weaknesses of Nigeria to rake in billions for themselves, Olumese deployed his incredible passion, creativity, style, hard work and exceptional inter-personal relationships to promote love and friendship among his countrymen. Niteshift was not a night club. It was a family. Few people went to Niteshift just to listen or dance to the music carefully mixed by Segun Roberts or Eddy Jay Omodiagbe. Many went to Niteshift to relate with others, make friends and learn. There was always a serious intellectual input at Niteshift delivered with style and precision.  

Some will tell you that Olumese was a businessman. I don’t think so. Making money never seemed to me to be his core objective. At Niteshift, Olumese was much more of a giver than a taker. There are many in Nigeria today, who found love, built friendships, molded their careers and got their wings to fly, at Niteshift.  

Almost everybody who has been anybody in Nigeria in recent times, in some way, enjoyed the hospitality and warmth of Ken Calebs Olumese. At Niteshift, there was a Grand House Reception for Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigeria’s current President.  I am not sure that President Muhammed Buhari was ever at Niteshift but I know that Niteshift hosted his predecessor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Niteshift also hosted former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. Olumese held a Grand House Receptions for MKO Abiola, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and Muhammed Ali, the ‘greatest’. There is a long roll call of would-be governors who passed through Niteshift, whether on Opebi Road or on Salvation Road, on their way to their different State Houses. A good part of what has become known as Nollywood was nurtured by the “Glamour Boys” of Niteshift. The Nigerian music industry also became a great beneficiary of the Niteshift spirit. Put simply, Nigeria, most probably, will never have another Niteshift.

I still believe strongly that our nation owes Ken Calebs Olumese a big national honour. This truly great Nigerian richly deserves it. Let us do the right thing.

Thank you, all my friends who in a big way, are celebrating my guy, the Guvnor no one can impeach, the unassailable Ken Calebs Olumese.  

See you next week.

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