‘Family Means Everything to Me’

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Her father, Frank Olize, the veteran broadcaster, used his popular TV magazine Sunday night show, Newsline, as an avenue to make a difference. Jennifer Olize, the Managing Director of Le Reve Pieces and Creative Director, Music Meets Runway, tells Adedayo Adejobi how she would love to use this springboard to contribute to Nigeria’s future, why family means everything to her and the kind of men she is attracted to

What does it feel like being Frank Olize’s daughter? How has the name Frank Olize inspired you as a person?

I think it feels very much the same. I consider my father to be a great man and one of the icons in Nigeria today. He truly made a difference and I am very proud to have him as a father. He contributed a lot to the media world in Nigeria. His TV show, Newsline, was very unique and was able to draw attention to a lot of shortcomings in Nigeria. He focused on the issues in Nigeria back then and he found himself setting agenda for the authorities and people in charge to address the issues. He was live every Sunday at 9p.m. to over 100 million Nigerians who tuned in every week to watch him and hear the news. He also gave a platform for people to share their very unique stories and he helped a lot of people in need. For this, he received many awards. I am extremely inspired by him and I love him very much.

Tell us, ideally who will Jennifer Olize be without the influence of your Dad, Frank Olize?

I can’t really say, I don’t know. But I’m happy and thankful to God to have a Dad like mine. He believes a lot in moral values and above all he saw quality education as the best legacy for any child that he gave my sister and I, and we are very grateful. He has influenced me in every positive way possible and supported me all through.

How did you arrive at showbiz and entertainment?

I’ve always had a passion for events. I simply love fashion events, music concerts and lifestyle events. When I was in the UK studying Business Economics at the University of Reading, I realised I had a huge passion for lifestyle events. I started having mini events here and there, and I began earning money from my passion. After my studies in the UK, I decided to further my skills, so I moved to New York and did a post graduate in Events Management at New York University (NYU).

Today, I run an events company called Le Reve Events, which specialises in lifestyle events. Music Meets Runway (MMR) was the first major one in Nigeria we were able to achieve. We’ve done a couple more but not as big as MMR. Hopefully there will be many more.

You are the pioneer of the famous Music Meets Runway. It didn’t hold last year. Is that deliberate?

Well, it’s definitely not deliberate. Music Meets Runway (MMR) has been going on for five years. It wasn’t able to hold last year simply because of the state of the economy and the recession we are currently facing. Music Meets Runway requires a huge budget for it to take place; the production costs are enormous! We were not able to raise the money for the event. A show like Music Meets Runway, which is of international standard production, is an event that promotes fashion designers, music artistes, models, stylists, makeup artists and so on to exhibit their talent. Every single person that appears on the show becomes a huge deal after the event. It is not just for entertainment, it enables new careers and promotes existing careers in the creative industry.

The event pulls in about 5,000 guests, which consist the youth, fashion and music lovers, celebrities and the movers and shakers of Nigeria. We also have numerous guests from different African countries, plus international guests from the UK and U.S. So it is safe to say that the event promotes tourism in Nigeria. Events like this, need to be supported by the government and the corporate world to sustain it. Sponsorship is critical! We have contributed and supported the creative industry in everyway. It is about time we get that support to enable us continue giving back and help in nation building.

Besides Music Meets Runway, what else do you do for a living?

I own and run another business called Le Reve Pieces, which simply means ‘The Dream Pieces’ in French. It is a fashion store located in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos. It stocks the best selection of jewellery and accessories you can find.  In March 2016, I launched my Sunglasses Line called LRP Shades, which I adore completely with a passion. They are affordable trendy fashion glasses, everyone should have. I have also launched a bridal line this year called Le Reve Bride (The Dream Bride), here we cater to all brides needs, from their neckpieces, to veils, to earrings, to lingerie to hair accessories and many others. We are dedicated to creating the dream bride.

Was there any time, the name frank Olize opened or slammed a door against you?

My father’s name definitely opens doors for me. I noticed he has a lot of people that admire him for the role he played in the country or in their lives. It is always nice to meet people like that, they are always willing to hear me out and help if possible.

In terms of slamming the door, this also happens! There are also some people who feel I shouldn’t be where I’m today. But I would say this, a million times; I thank God for my background, yes! But without using your brain, talent and passion, there’s a limit to what your family name can do for you. I’m a hard worker in everyway possible, very determined, focused and extremely passionate in everything I do. I never look for the easy way out; I face the same challenges just like everyone else. So people should shut out that mentality.

What virtues do you think you would pass to your generation from Frank Olize?

My father used his voice through media as an avenue to make a difference. I’ll love to use this virtue into rebuilding Nigeria. I believe strongly in the potential of this country. There are so many resources here (great talents and opportunities) all we just need do is to harness and make great things happen.

What motivates you?

I am a very passionate person. I put all my strength and passion in everything I do. I love setting goals for myself and working hard to achieve them. So I guess doing a good job and achieving the desired end result is my primary motivation.

Tell us about a time when you failed?

As an entrepreneur, you are likely to undergo a lot of challenges and disappointments; a lot of things may not work as you plan. Some businesses may succeed, while others simply will not. But for every time something goes wrong, I consider it to be a learning experience. The key thing is to get back up, keep working hard, keep pushing and never give up.

What does success mean to you?

To me, success means having a goal, planning the steps to achieve the goal, implementing the plan, and finally attaining the goal. This simply means if you don’t set goals for yourself, you may not be in the position to establish whether or not one is succeeding in life.

If you were to meet a global figure, which would it be and why?

Michelle Obama! She is the epitome of grace and an example of a strong black woman. I aspire to be like her. She makes us women believe that anything is possible. And it truly is!

What do you do in your leisure time?

I’m an outgoing person, so I love to have fun and to be in good company. I love the process of getting dressed and looking fabulous to go out. I love traveling when I get the opportunity to get the time off and exploring new places.

You seem to have a strong eye for fashion. What does fashion mean to you?

I’ve always loved fashion, ever since I was little, even more now, as I get older. Fashion is about expressing yourself and a glimpse into someone’s personality, it is self-expression.

What fashion brands do you love?

Wow! There are so many. I mostly love Nigerian brands and I’m a firm believer in supporting your own and buying Nigerian. There are several fashion designers out there I adore, you can just pull out the list of all the designers that have showcased on Music Meets Runway, they are all my favorites.

What fashion accessories would I find on you always?

I love all accessories. They are truly everything. Accessories are the icing on the cake that make the outfit more beautiful. If I had to choose, I’ll choose Sunglasses. They are fabulous!

What kind of man would you like to marry?

Million dollar question! Whoever God has designed for me will be just perfect. But I desire a man who genuinely believes in the institution of marriage. My parents have been together for 34 years now, so I’ll definitely want a marriage that is sustainable. I am attracted to strong, hardworking go-getters with a drowning love for a great family and the fear of God to maintain that family.

Are we expecting marriage from you anytime soon?

Yes! By God’s special grace. I hope to be married soon to a wonderful man. I’ll love to have a beautiful family. Family means everything to me.

Ajumogobia: Negotiation and Dialogue Will End Niger Delta Crisis

Former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Henry Odein Ajumogobia, in this interview with select journalists in Lagos, spoke on the FG’s intervention in environmental remediation in parts of Niger Delta, government’s decision to transform illegal refineries in the Niger Delta into modular refineries, President Muhammadu Buhari’s foreign policy, among others. Mabel Benson and Blessing Alaku bring excerpts  

FG’s intervention in environmental remediation in parts of Niger Delta

The intervention, so far, has been more rhetorical than concrete. However, I would say that compared to what the order of the day was in the past, one can see that the federal government clearly acknowledges the obligation and appears committed to bringing about a paradigm shift in the attitude to environmental remediation. This is clearly still work in progress, but without implementation of remediation efforts, one cannot really speak of satisfaction. Levels of pollution have not been reduced in any noticeable way and there has been zero remediation so far.

How ordinary people can benefit from the nation’s oil wealth  

There is a Niger Delta Master Plan. The ordinary people would have derived some benefit from oil resources if that plan had been half implemented. The institutions such as OMPADEC (1996), NDDC (2000) and the Niger Delta Ministry (2008) set up as intervention vehicles have failed to make any real impact on the lives of ordinary people in the region due to a combination of corruption and lack of coordination. Therefore, I wish to posit that one way the ordinary people can benefit from the nation’s oil wealth is to strengthen good governance and transparency particularly around financial and natural resource management. This is well-documented in the 12 precepts (particularly precepts 1, 2, 5, 7 and 11) of the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter.

Role of civil society organisations in helping government exploit its natural resources

There is widespread acknowledgement that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have a critical role to play in improving the governance of natural resources (as contributions towards poverty alleviation) by identifying, designing and implementing solutions to the root causes of these crisis and mismanagement.

 In Nigeria and indeed, across the continent, there are talented, visionary and committed civil society leaders and organisatons playing key roles in the natural resource field – from the development of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Nigeria, through the scaling-up of community conservation in Namibia and Kenya, to the design of sustainable community forestry models in Tanzania, and a wide range of land and forest policy reform initiatives and movements in countries from Liberia to Mozambique.

However, many CSOs have, and continue to struggle to get the support they need to play an effective role predominately as a result of the lack of an enabling environment for them to operate. If we, as a country, are to develop and scale up the solutions required to deal with the intensifying changes and new pressures surrounding the exploration and utilisation of our natural resources for the benefit of all Nigerians, creating a stronger enabling environment for leading civil society organisations to thrive and deliver impact must become a greater priority on the natural resources agenda.

Negotiation with the Niger Delta militants as panacea to the issues fuelling tension in the region

Negotiation and dialogue has been a recurring decimal in our national history since independence. Negotiation and dialogue is a viable and time-tested approach to resolve crisis and is a sure way to end the region’s crisis and it is appropriate for a democratic government to adopt this approach. Nigeria and Nigerians have come a long way together since 1914 and we must have the patience to talk and listen to one another.

However, the focus in this instance, must be on sincerity and commitment on the part of the government and the leadership in the Niger Delta to holistically address the issues that are well documented.

FG’s decision to transform illegal refineries in the Niger Delta into modular refineries

I am not a technical person, so I cannot venture an opinion on the viability of that. What I can say is that the crude distillation process that constitutes the illegal refineries across the Niger Delta have no similarity to a modular refinery, properly so-called, including a simple diesel production unit i.e a pre-fabricated processing plant that has been constructed on skid-mounted surfaces that contains a portion of the entire refining process that is connected to other portions by pipes that allow it to be easily transported.

Tackling alarming rate of unemployment in Nigeria

In tackling unemployment, we essentially must convert to a producing economy. Today, we are a consuming nation that produces little. Government’s policies and initiatives that encourage growth of all economic sectors inclusive of agriculture, IT, mining of natural minerals are required. The apprehensions and concerns of investors (domestic and foreign) who wish to invest to boost the economy as well as create more job opportunities must be holistically addressed. Jobs derive from production and services. This has to be enhanced to reduce unemployment to acceptable levels.

Nigeria’s foreign policy direction under Buhari’s administration

It is not clear to me what the focus or thrust of our foreign policy under this current administration is beyond symbolism.

Nonetheless, “Trade still follows the flag”! Our Embassies should, play a leading role in helping to secure much-needed investment, export promotion, broadening access to foreign markets for goods and services, and an overriding function in managing relations between states, and coordinating relationships between states and other foreign actors in addition to the “welfare, support and protection of one’s citizens travelling through or living in the foreign country.”

Happily our new foreign affairs minister, His Excellency Geoffrey Onyeama has articulated this very vision in announcing that his focus is to turn our Embassies “into hubs for our economic development programme.”

But without the appointment and deployment of envoys in our 105 diplomatic missions across the globe, it is difficult to fathom how any adopted policy thrust can be implemented. With the recent appointments, our policy focus may become clearer.