Perhaps the most outspoken Nigerian politician in the Senate, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, at 60, is a conspicuous figure that is currently shaping the form of national thought, writes Solomon Elusoji

Senator Ben Murray-Bruce clocked 60 in February, and it was a turn-up of the crème de la crème of the Nigerian society at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos. Those who attended were top politicians and personalities, including serving and current senators, ex-governors, and many more

There was also a lot of music with the presence of a plethora of heavyweight Nigerian music stars, including 2face Idibia, Timaya, D’banj, Timi Dakolo, Vector, YCEE, Sound Sultan, MI, Jesse Jagz, Wizkid, Korede Bello, Reekado Banks and Dr. Sid of Mavin and veteran Fuji musician, Adewale Ayuba, who entertained the guests to some of their popular songs, while Bovi almost sent them rolling on the floor with his jokes.

Murray-Bruce born in Lagos to an Ijaw parents Mullighan and Margaret Murray-Bruce who hail from Akassa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. He attended Our Lady of Apostles, Yaba, Lagos, where he completed his primary education and St Gregory College, Obalende, where he obtained the West African School Certificate before he proceeded to the University of South Carolina in the United States, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Marketing in 1979.

Murray-Bruce has served in various public positions. He served as Director General of Nigerian Television Authority from 1999 to 2003. Prior to starting Silverbird Group, he promoted the Miss Universe Nigeria Pageant in 1983, Miss Intercontinental Pageant, from 1986-1994 and to date, he promotes the annual Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria Pageant, which he began in 1986. He is currently a Member of the Board of National Arts Theatre, Nigerian Film Corporation, Federal Films Censors Board, National Film Distribution Company and Nigerian Anti- Piracy Action Committee.

For Murray-Bruce, growing up was not a tea-party, although his father was a public servant who worked with the UAC. With an initial dream to become a professor of history, Murray-Bruce found out that his real passion lay in entertainment and show business. When he decided to follow his dreams, his parents were not initially supportive. But they would soon come around, as the entrepreneurial Murray-Bruce proved his mettle.

“I was at home one day in Los Angeles, USA, and somebody knocked on my door and I said ‘who do you want?’ He said he was looking for somebody and I said ‘you are in the wrong house’,” Ben has said, recounting how he kick-started his entertainment dream. “We got talking and I said ‘what is your name?’ He told me. And I said ‘what do you do’, he said, ‘I’m a teacher’. He was very friendly and so I asked him in. As we talked, I said, ‘if you are a teacher, who do you teach?’ He said Janet Jackson, and I said ‘who else?’ He said ‘Todd Bridges, Garry Coleman’. And I said ‘you mean you are really a teacher?’ He said ‘yes’. Then he asked ‘what do you do?’ I said, ‘I’m a student of the University of Southern Carolina’.

The man then told him he was working on a set at the time and invited him over. That was where he met Redd Fox of the Sandford and Sons’ fame, the Jeffersons and others. He ended up meeting a lot of actors and actresses. One day, his friend proposed ‘hey, let’s do a show in Nigeria’. They did, and the rest is history.

Silverbird Productions, Murray-Bruce’s then start-up, started in 1980 with a borrowed capital of N20, 000, a desk in a small corner of the Domino administrative office, six staff and only two business activities, pageant and programme syndication. Today, with hundreds of staff, the company has turned into a conglomerate with radio and television stations in several states across Nigeria, the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria franchise; several Silverbird Cinemas across the country, and several Silverbird Malls, too.

Murray-Bruce’s entry into the pageantry business came at a time when the Miss Nigeria franchise was beginning to lose its glamour, the interest of Nigerians and its sponsor. His brainchild, Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant eventually took over the market leadership from the Miss Nigeria, owned and operated by the Daily Times of Nigeria. MBGN produced the likes of Omasan Buwa, Bianca Onoh and Agbani Darego, who would go on to become the first black woman to win the Miss World Pageantry.

In 2011, Murray-Bruce ran for the governorship of Bayelsa State, but was unsuccessful. On 27 October 2014, he declared his intention to represent Bayelsa East Senatorial District at the National Assembly under the umbrella of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He went on to win 2015.

Today, Senator Murray-Bruce has become one of the fiercest voices in the nation. His Common Sense campaign consistently delves into current and burning national issues, carefully dissecting them and proffering simple, well thought out solutions. His oratorical skills, which are phenomenal, have also endeared him to the general public. Perhaps the most outspoken Nigerian politician in the Senate, it is true that Ben Murray-Bruce, at 60, is a conspicuous figure that is currently shaping the form of national thought and discussion.