Seyi Banigbe: Changing Nigeria in Her Own Little Way

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Seyi Banigbe

Season 2 of Binging with GameChangers, a popular Talk Show, kicked off on March 14 on DSTV and other stations across the country with promises to be bigger and better. The show explores the thoughts and perspectives of the people behind some of Nigeria’s most successful brands, as well as individuals thriving in their chosen careers despite evident barriers. In this interview with Mary Nnah, its initiator and anchor, Seyi Banigbe, a trained lawyer and entrepreneur, said the talk show inspires individuals to, against all odds, pursue their passion in all spheres of life and become successful eventually. Excerpts:

What did you study at school?

I studied law, so I am a trained lawyer with an MBA from the Imperial College London. I obtained my Law degree (LLB) from the University of Lagos (Unilag) and was thereafter called to the Nigerian Bar. I am a certified member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) UK and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) UK.

You are a trained lawyer-cum-serial entrepreneur turned Talk Show host. Do you still practice law?

I still practice law but I actually started my entrepreneurial journey right from the university where I sold clothes, shoes and accessories to my hall mates. I honestly can’t remember a time since I graduated from the university when I have not been busy exploring a business idea or growing a business. I’ll ascribe my knack for entrepreneurship first to my mum, seeing her juggle her job and businesses while growing definitely stirred up something in me. It told me that if at any time, I wasn’t comfortable with my earning power; I have all it takes to turn things around. I’ll also say that my desire to cause change in my society and in people’s lives, has also made me venture into a whole lot of things that I may have never ventured into.

What is the focus of the talk show, Binging with GameChangers?

Binging with GameChangers is passionate about telling Nigerians that you don’t have to run away, you can be big and you can make it right here. You can be who you want to be in Nigeria. We think the brain drain should stop. We think people need to realise that there is money on the streets of Nigeria because this is a developing economy, so almost every idea you bring to Nigeria will thrive.

Binging with GameChangers is a business and career inspirational talk show. It was borne out of passion to see Nigerians prosper and flourish in all their endeavours. We are very conscious of the fact that not everyone can and should be an entrepreneur. This is selecting high flyers and in exceptional areas in the economy, people in the corporate space and business place. We highlight their challenges, successes and how they have been able to rise basically irrespective of the limitations that Nigeria and life itself offers. It is a 30 minutes’ talk show and it is online and TV stations.

What excites us is that we are able to talk to Nigerians across the nation through terrestrial and Cable TV. The emphasis also is that you don’t have to travel out of this country to make it. You can stay right here just like the people who we are showcasing and becoming a billionaire. It is a mind-set; a mind change.

Season 1 of the show aired last year and Season 2 promises to be even bigger and better, as it is now airing online and on six TV stations concurrently – Africa Magic Family, NTA Network, STV Network, LTV, MYtv & NTA 2 and features an eclectic range of guests including Banke Meshida (Makeup-artiste Icon), Dr. Ola Orekunrin (Flying Doctors), Yemi Alade (artist), Funke Bucknor (event planner), and much more.

How did you start?

I run Bland2Glam, a jewellery brand and you know when you are into fashion you tend to attend a lot of events, activations and all of that, so for one of them, we had an inspirational chat and also a party. I was made to conduct the interview aspect and I was told last minute. Typically I am a behind the scene person. I will pay any other person to do it but it shouldn’t be me. So I was called upon impromptu to handle the interview segment and I did it reluctantly but by the time I was done with it, virtually everyone in the hall walked up to me telling me I asked questions differently. And I was like; maybe we should put it on a CD and get more people to watch. I gave the recording to someone in the media to watch, I never knew him from Adam before then, after watching the video he said, “I need to have a meeting with you. You are passionate about what you are talking about and Nigerians need to hear from you.” And I was like no way! And he said, Seyi, you want to sell a CD to people to listen to your chat and then you don’t want to put it on cable and Terrestrial TV. And the moment you ask me a question and I can’t answer, when you leave me speechless, I know there is a problem. So from that point I decided to give it a trial. It has not been easy but I think that one thing that has actually helped me is listening to people tell me what they see in me. Sometimes we are not quick to recognise what we carry.  And today, Binging with GameChangers, is not just online, we are actually speaking to the whole of Nigeria.

We started off by airing on African Magic Family and from there we moved on to NTA Network, which covers the whole of Nigeria. What excites me most about that platform is that a little girl in Bauchi or Zamfara can put on her TV without paying any cable fee and can actually watch all the big shoots we bring and can actually say, I can actually be like these people.

When I wake up every day, I am happy just knowing that we are able to expose these stories to people across Nigeria. Season 2 is bigger and better, we are on more platforms. So, I will say we are changing Nigeria in our own little way.

You keep saying season 2 is bigger and better. Tell us why?

It got more exciting in season two because apart from wearing Nigerian designers, Vlisco also came on board and they got me to wear loads of amazing African prints. So, there are a whole lot of exciting African stuffs that people will be enjoying while watching the show.

We are looking forward to a juicier, more inspiring content. We are also excited about the fashion segment and from the beginning we have been particular about wearing made in Nigeria outfits.

One other thing that excites me about season two is our mentorship platforms. If you need a mentor, you can go to our platform. It is an E-mentorship platform where we give people the opportunity to be mentored. Once you register on our website, we connect you with successful mentors across the nations that are willing to spend some time for a period of 6 to 8 weeks. Here they answer questions and basically guide the person on their success path. So, we are excited about that as well and it gives people across the country access to guidance, especially from people who seek to achieve what they have achieved.

Did you have people who mentored you?

I think one of the reasons I am passionate about what we are doing with the E-mentorship platform is because in my younger years, I would meet people that I wished to be like but, sometimes, you just don’t know how to approach the person or don’t have access. All you can do is just sit down and admire from afar. Some you would even approach, they would say yes but they are not even interested; they don’t have your time. So, I would say that I have tasted what it is like not to experience what mentorship can provide, hence my passion to make such a beautiful thing available to people. However, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t learnt from people. Most of the mentorship I have gotten has been by reading through books about people. Of course, I have had one or two people mentor me directly. I know that it is just different having someone give you attention.

A Walk for Equity

MMS Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame Initiative, an NGO with female gender bias, last week joined the world in celebrating the International Women’s Day  with a road walk tagged ‘Walk Woman, Think Equal’. The exercise was aimed at awakening women to stand up for their rights, think big and be better persons in the society.  Mary Nnah writes

In consonance with the global theme, ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovative for Change”, a group of women drawn from various sectors of the economy participated in a walk tagged, “Walk Woman, Think Equal’ to mark the International Women’s Day.

Held in Festac, Lagos, the walk organised by the MMS Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame (MMS WoFHoF) Initiative, an NGO with female gender bias, the exercise was to sensitise the public on the role of a women in nation building.

It is worth mentioning that MMS WoFHoF Initiative promotes equality and fairness in career, and work place, political and corporate leadership, capacity building and role modelling through mentoring women and younger generation in their chosen professions while inculcating enviable home and entrepreneurial cultures into them.

“In Africa, Nigeria to be precise, the cultural political background confines women to their homes, especially the kitchen and the other room. This does not allow them to come out to the limelight. As part of the efforts to correct this, MMS WoFHoF Initiative titled today’s walk, ‘Walk Woman, Think Equal’. This is to encourage a woman to believe in herself and believe in her abilities to go beyond the confines of her home. A woman should aim high to make significant achievements by impacting the society positively”, the Executive Secretary, MMS WoFHoF Initiative, Chioma Nwagbo said during the walk.

Speaking on the essence of the walk Nwagbo said: “We are trying to create a picture, which is to encourage women to come out of the confines of their homes and have the sense of belonging that they are not just furniture in their homes, nor confined to the kitchen nor are they domestic staff.  We aimed to encourage them to be professionals and that they should aim higher and so they should walk out of those confinements and come to the limelight.”

“The most important aspect is for them to look at themselves at par with their male counterpart and to be sure that you can achieve what a man can achieve and to build that confidence that wherever a man can be, you can as well as a woman. You can be a professional, you can be a highbred businesswoman, and you can be an industrialist and other things having in mind that sex is irrelevant in life achievement”, she noted further.

Social Empowerment Scheme

The organisation believes that it is just not enough to merely tell women to come out and be all what they desire to be. Therefore, to help women achieve their dreams of becoming pacesetters in their various endeavours as well as to help grow businesses and galvanise capacity to reach a greater number of women, artisans and micro business owners in mentorship, MMS WoFHoF Initiative has introduced a social empowerment scheme, called, Vision 5W-250,000, which aims to give access to micro credit facilities and grants to 250, 000 micro business owners, especially women in five years, from, 2019-2024.

Nwagbo stressed that MMS WoFHoF Initiative through this scheme is bent on empowering and training the next generation of women leaders in the maritime, oil and gas, finance, aviation as well as political leadership sectors.

“Vision 5W-250,000 is a project that would be used to empower women. It is not just enough to tell a woman to stand up for her right or stand up for what she believes in but she also needs to be empowered. And this what Vision 5W-250,000 aims to do”, she noted.

The MMS WoFHoF scheme which is segmented into various portfolios includes: MMS WoFHoF Micro Credit Scheme, a daily contribution where a person contributes a certain amount of money for savings, which is subjected to collection by the contributor after a given period. A service charge is deducted at the end of the programme.

Access to Daily Thrift (Esusu) is another scheme where a person do a daily contribution of N500 minimum, which would be saved and at the end of the month one day’s contribution is taken as service charge.

Access to Quick cash is another empowerment plan whereby petty traders are empowered to have access to petty cash of N50,000 for the period of three months. There is also Access to Equipment lease (Hire purchase) and finally is the WoFHoF Cooperative Cluster which entails different categories of contributions.

Testimonials

The initiative, Nwagbo revealed, has started empowering women with quick cash to start-up or boost their businesses and the programme intends to touch the lives of 50,000 women annually to reach 250,000 in five years.

Some of the women who have benefited from the scheme testified on how it has helped improve their businesses.

For Uju Faith Oke, a trader, she has benefited a lot from the scheme, which has helped her business grow in a short period of time. “I collected loan of N50,000 from the organisation, which I invested in my business and today my shop has a new improved look and now when I enter my shop, I become very happy”, she said excitedly.

Another beneficiary, Anthonia William, a second hand cloth dealer, said the loan she collected from MMS WoFHoF is far better than other loans she has ever gotten, adding, “in this case, MMS WoFHoF has made it so easy for us to pay back the loan and also save a token for ourselves so that at the end of the three months, you don’t need to apply for another loan but you get your savings to put back into your business and then move on to the next level of the scheme”.

Charge to Women

Meanwhile, one of the MMS Hall of Fame and President of Women in the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Hajia Bola Muse, who also took part in the walk, commended Nigerian women for their amazing ability to multi-task and put in the best on all sides.

“A woman is at work, yet she is thinking of her kids in the school, thinking of making dinner back home. She cares for the homes and manages the home. She also takes charge at the office or her business. Women are amazing. Women are privileged to partner God in bringing forth several generations. We house the baby and bring forth the baby in due time” she said.

President of African Women in Maritime (WIMAFRICA), Nigerian chapter, Bola Muse who was represented by Mrs. Ruth Chukwukezirim, advised women not to believe in the fallacy that certain trade was for men.

“When people say freight forwarding is men’s trade, I say: really? Can you show me where it is written that it is men’s trade? Nobody has been able to show me. This means we can do anything as women and we have top women in the maritime sector. This means women can not only play a role in the shipping sector but also rise to the pinnacle” she added.

Head of Department, Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation at Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area, Mrs. Temitayo Dabiri-Raji commended the women who took part in the Walk. Referring to women as the salt of life, she said; “I strongly believe that if you train a woman, you train a nation. I want to specially commend the federal, state and local governments in Nigeria for their efforts towards ensuring gender equality in governance. At the moment, women are encouraged to partake in decision making in all the three tiers of government. Several state governments and local governments have been keen to train women and empower them”

Condemning the rate of domestic violent issues in the country, Dabiri-Raji urged women undergoing such turmoil to speak out.

“Those who have suffered domestic violence should go to the available portals to lodge their complaints and be assured that the complaints would be attended to. Women should also be very diligent in terms of child upbringing and not just trust family members to do the task” she said.

Charge to Federal Government

As part of the efforts to grow the feminine brand in Nigeria, the Founder of the MMS WoFHoF Initiative, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke urged the Federal Government to reserve certain positions in government agencies for women.

Drawing an analogy with the federal character system in Nigeria, he said; “We have federal character in Nigeria, so we should be able to have gender character that should define inclusiveness of women in all sectors and capture the gender sensitivity of the nation. To help us bridge that gender gap, we should be able to reserve 40 per cent of government recruitments across board. If we do this over a period of time, we would have more women participating in various sectors”.

In sync with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), World Maritime Day’s theme; ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’, Anaroke hinted that MMS WoFHoF Initiative would organise a ceremony to mark its ‘Hall of Fame’s Day’ on Tuesday March 19, at Golden Gate, Ikoyi, Lagos by 4pm. The event is scheduled to recognise and celebrate some ‘Indomitable Maritime Amazons’ who have made modest contributions in the maritime industry.

He therefore called on maritime professionals and noble organisations to deepen their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) impact by partnering the NGO to enable it execute Vision 5W-250,000.