By Yemisi Suleiman
Nkiru Asika is the CEO of Outsource Media and also the Director of Storm 360, Nigeria,Â the entertainment companyÂ owned by her big brother Obi Asika.Â A seasoned journalistÂ based in England, Nkiru who returned to Nigeria recently to work on some projects,Â in this chat with Esther Onyegbula,Â talks about her beginning, her childhood experiences, life challenges, herÂ style, amongstÂ otherÂ issues….
Tell us a bit about your educational background
I attended Wycombe Abbey School England for my secondary education, Oxford University Oxford for my first degree, where I studied History, and after that I worked with a PR firm called Puzzle PR; that was before I came back to Nigeria.
When I came back I worked for my mother at a time because she had a construction company and they were doing construction works for NNPC in Abuja, I worked there while I was trying to do my youth service; by the time I started my youth service, I was working for a construction company called Genesiscorp LTD, I worked there for about three years. And then I decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in law so I applied to the college of law in England, within theÂ three months I had to start the program in Law school, IÂ decided I didnâ€™tÂ want to do law anymore, I then turned down the offer.
Why did you change your mind from studying law?
A combination of things made me change my mind, one:Â people who I had gone to School with who read law I noticed that a number of them wereÂ not practicing, because they later found out that they donâ€™t haveÂ passion for it, and I realized that I didnâ€™t have a passion for it as well.
I am a creative person I needed a field were I would be able to use my creative ability, I enjoyed writing and I love to write, so while I thought about what to do my father had stroke and he was flown out and was in the hospital for about six months that was when I decided to go into journalism, so I went for a post graduate diploma course in publishing and printing and after that I started working for a Nigerian owned magazine in England.
I was supposed to work in the publishing side, but because they know that I had a flair for writing, I started writing and then I decided to apply to the school of journalism New York where I read magazine journalism. Upon graduation I worked for a media outfit where I covered the financial journalism, I did that for about five years, and I was giving an award by the America press council in 2003, for outstanding reporter.
In 2003, I moved with
my family to Canada. We were there for about eight months and I was still into journalism. And after about eight months we just felt whyÂ donâ€™t move to Nigeria and my kids are still very young and their school wonâ€™t be disturbed. So we moved to Abuja, and then you know how Abuja is everything revolves around the government, so that was when I actually went to work with the NCC Nigeria communication commission as the PA to Ndukwe, I worked there for a few months, and NCC operates more like a private sector organisation, and then my husband got a job in Lagos and we moved to Lagos.
And so when I came, I didnâ€™t want to be in the NCC zonal office in Lagos. And so I felt I was going to do some journalism work, so I met Anikolapo a friend in the Guardian and I did a column on finance with them for three months, because the pay wasnâ€™t worth it I had to stop.
At that time when I was thinking of doing a TV programme, personality profile on people who are making waves in the country and then Obi my brother who was in the entertainment world mentioned some people that he knew that would come on board and we met and I discovered we had very similar ideas, and we decided to do a collaboration to shoot a plot of some of the people we would feature in the series. When we were doing that Remi a partner of Obi had also met with some people from South Africa and within a couple of month Obi and Remi had decided to end the partnership.
That was when I came into the picture fully and then I started producing for storm 360, when I initially started I didnâ€™t know that it would require a combination of all the things that I knew how to do. We produced a lot of shows, Big Brother Nigeria, the Intern Africa, Amstel Malta Box Office amongst others.
How would you describe your style and dress sense?
I am not sure I consider myself a stylish person, and I donâ€™t think anybody who knows me will consider me stylish. My style is natural and simple. I love being natural and quite simple. I donâ€™t think I can be anybodyâ€™s style icon, because I am not really a loud person fashion wise. You are never going to see me on things that will make me uncomfortable.
What fashion item are you crazy about?
I am not a fashion collector, and I am really not crazy about any fashion item, shoes, bags, accessories, etc, I use them but maybe because of the industry that I find myself; even if I am going to a bank or having a meeting with some corporate individuals, I can dress the way I want even if they are all suit up. I canâ€™t remember the last time I wore a suit. I am always putting on casuals on a day to day basis.
How do you take care of your skin, any skincare or beauty routine?
I donâ€™t have a beauty routine or go to the beauty spa. I love creams more than I love make up I like creams made from natural stuff like aloe Vera. I have never had a facial in my life.
Are you are perfume person?
I do like perfume but I am not sure I am a perfume person but I like perfume.
I canâ€™t think about any item that I am particularly crazy about; I am not crazy about bags, jewelries, shoes, perfumes, name it. That is just the way I am, and it doesnâ€™t mean that some other people put them on I donâ€™t appreciate them.
Do you exercise?
Right now no! It is not that I am fat, it is just that in the last couple of years I have added weight, so if I donâ€™t start exercising in five years time I might not be able to sit onÂ this seat.
How has the experience
being practicing journalism here and outside Nigeria?
I am not sure that I am qualified to answer that because I havenâ€™t really practiced journalism here, yes I have wrote a column for a few months, it wasnâ€™t like I was employed by the paper, working in the news room.
But I feel I have a bit of a burden of elevating the practice of journalism here, and I have a big interest in all the creative fields, how can we harness the industry and improve the skills, I believe there is much more we can do than we are doing. We have a lot of talent but there is a great need for ongoing training, great need for public sector support, there are a lot of things that are not available here in terms of infrastructures which can help strengthen the practice of journalism. Practicing journalism here people are having a tough time because of the perception of people on journalist.
What challenges do you face in your field?
Starting from my first job in journalism it was a challenge even though I had done a course in journalism but I didnâ€™t have a practical experience, and I certainly didnâ€™t have a background that would make anybody think that I would write about finance, but one thing they thought us in journalism if you are a trained journalist you can write on anything.
You are supposed to have acquired the skill necessary to be able to give a good report on any subject. Writing about finance required a lot of data, evaluation, and sound judgment, so that was a challenge. I guess socially and culturally it was a very tough and competitive job. I was the only black person there .
But here when we had to change our name to storm 360, it was like starting the company all over again and that itself was challenge, because it was like finding your cultural identity but thank God we have been able to do it and we have being doing it successfully. On the Tv side we have produced the Calabar carnival, we have also produced the program titled Naija.
We also produced Etisalat one hundred million dollar game show;Â that was challenging because it was not shot in the studio but in an open space where we had to put the large crowd into consideration and that was shot in different parts of Nigeria. And wherever we went to we had to go with about thirty crew members and also out-source for additional personnel.
We need to find the hall, make provision for alternative power supply and it was rewarding and we are very grateful to Etisalat for giving us that opportunity.
The other challenge is one that is common to every working mother, for instance when I was the line producer, there were times when I worked for like fourteen hours, and people would be calling me like about 2am. When it comes to TV production in Nigeria, it is always challenging, because no matter what you have put in place, there is going to be one mighty obstruction . You would always have to make a plan B, C, D, and E if possible, if not you will find lope holes that will undermine your works. It can be crazy but it is fun.
Apart from been a Director in storm 360 what else are you into?
Apart from been the director of storm 360 I also have my own company which is called Outsource media, it was born out of the desire to fulfill my other passion which I could not do within storm 360. It is a sort of communication consulting company. It helps me explore the other things which I love to do.
Why did you relocate back home?
Nigeria as frustrating as it can be for anybody is still home.
How have you been able to cope with being a director in Storm 360, the CEO of Outsource Media and single mother of two?
It has been tough, and I donâ€™t have a formula to make it work, literally I just pray that I am balancing the two. Thank God I have kids who are very understanding, even when there are times when I feel like my kids just hate me right now, that is when I havenâ€™t been there or I have a very busy schedule; when come back and I apologies they understand. And when I am around I make sure they have enough of me by making up for it.
In five years time where do you see Storm 360?
In four, five years time, I expect Storm 360 to have really been established outside Nigeria and would have made entry into all Africa countries, and then Storm would have become a brand that will beÂ recognized in south Africa, East Africa and the rest of Africa. And then we will continue to break new grounds. In terms of Outsource Media, I think I would have become more structured and tailored to the needs of specialized clients. It will be focused on creating value added service.
How would you describe yourself?
I have good ethics, I work hard, I am intelligent, I am a God fearing, I am fun loving person. I love to dance.
What has storm record done to your career?
Obviously it is a blessing to be related to someone who has goodwill, if I am somewhere and I do notÂ know the people and it turns out that they know Obi, it can never be a negative thing. Sometimes it is funny that it is incredible that Obi is actually a celebrity.
My mum went to a conference in South Africa and someone asked her if she was related to Obi Asika, and she was like I am his mother. He has done really well in the industry, and anyone who knows Obi will tell you that it is not about using the press. He has a very big heart; he is very much like the man of the people.
For how long were you married and why did you go your separate ways?
We were married for seven and half years and we went our separate ways because marriages do end.