BY femi Akintunde-Johnson
As I was saying (from last week)…
Interestingly, early in 1991, Climax got on the honours list of the Nigerian Music Awards. I was nominated again for the entertainment writer awards for 1990 alongside the duo of Jude Arijaje and Tunde Kolawole at The Punch, and, I believe, the Vanguard team led by late Ogbonnaya Amadi (or was it Hakeem Ikandu?). Sadly, the Punch team won, but everyone in Climax was thrilled with the immediate recognition – for the first time, and perhaps the last, the magazine got a nomination as one of the three best entertainment journals in Nigeria!
In closing the chapter on my Climax sojourn, it is somehow strange to note that the ending was more inspirational than any other moment. Just a little over three months into my editorship, it became steadily clear that I would have to leave Climax to devote more time to revving the engine of FAME. In May, I believe, I had to hint SO (Sunny Obazu-Ojeagbase – the Obazu was a latter day add-on) about my increasing investment in the FAME project, and the need to fold up my camp bed in Climax shortly. He was hugely disappointed, but remained magnanimous nonetheless. For the following three weeks prior to my formal disengagement on June 1, 1991, the level of attention and details required to birth FAME had risen exponentially, taking some toll on my usual undivided effectiveness in pushing the Climax work. The sentiment was well captured by SO in the series of our terminating correspondence.
First, my second resignation letter in one year: “With regrets, I wish to discontinue my services under your employ, as from June, 1, 1991. However, I wish to put on record that my decision was carefully taken after serious thought, and in cognizance of the fact that I never suffered any ill-treatment, disrespect or misgivings, while our relationship lasted. I also wish to put on record that you have been a most wonderful, tolerating, inspiring, considerate person to work with. And I sincerely cherish our relationship. In fact, I wish I didn’t take the decision. And I apologise for any inconveniences that this might cause. Thanks for the opportunity, which I hope may reappear in future; on another flank. Even so, thanks a million.” It was dated May 15, 1991.
The Assistant General Manager, Olu Onasegun, responded curtly, on May 28: “The management has decided to accept your resignation effective June 1, 1991, and to waive the three months’ salaries in lieu of notice as required by this company’s rule for staff of your calibre. It is pertinent to note that your tenure as the editor brought remarkable improvement in the quality of the magazine in terms of content and staff. We wish you God’s guidance in your next station in life.”
The clincher was on the same May 28; apparently, SO wanted to have the last word…and what a word. Here’s a sizable portion of his letter: “Your letter of resignation dated May 15, 1991 (instead of May 20, 1991, the day you actually submitted it) refers. Having had a private discussion with you, a day before you brought in your letter, during which you told me of your plans, it was no longer a question whether or not your resignation would be accepted. It has been accepted, plus lots of good wishes for your success in your new endeavour.
“It is gratifying to note that your coming to CLIMAX magazine in June 1990 was, for the company, a good investment. You lived up your billing and gave a satisfactory effort even though the two weeks or so before you turned in your letter of resignation provided a little – anti-CLIMAX to your otherwise excellent performance both as the deputy editor and, later, the editor of the magazine.
“In order to show management’s appreciation for the pride and dedication you brought to your job in CCL, it has been decided that you would not be required to pay three months’ salaries in lieu of notice as is required by this company’s rule for officers of your status.
“It is my fervent hope, and honest wish, that the publishing outfit that you and your friends are going to set up will turn out to be a massive success – Amen.
“Nothing can be more difficult than to see a capable hand leave a company. But I am happy that you are leaving to run your own outfit… which is what I pray should be the next step for all ex-staff of CCL when they leave.
“May FAME bring to you and your friends as well as the investors not just FAME but FORTUNE.”
Such was the power of his conviction, the sweetness of his approach and the clarity of his admonition that I could have sworn that a few drops of tears must have escaped whilst I was reading the letter.
… A little over three months later, SO called the editorial staff of Climax to a meeting, on Thursday, September 12, 1991, feted them, cracked jokes with them, and then bid them farewell. All entitlements paid. He was fed up with what he was getting, and decided to cut his losses… with a promise to invite those amongst them who deserved to be part of a future ‘sequel’. I’m not now certain if he ever returned to that ‘plot’.
The clear message from that unfortunate closure was the need to train, retrain, learn new skills and tactics of your vocation. Wherever you find yourself, do not detain yourself by merely excelling in the narrow confines and comfort of producing excellent results where you are expected to…but by finding ‘new developments’, trends, better ways of doing the same work in different and unusual, beneficial ways – there lies longevity and prosperity. Seek to stretch beyond the limits of your current capacities…take up new challenges, devise newer skills, more pragmatic strategies, less cumbersome techniques…whatever you do, do not vegetate, however excellently luxuriant the moment seems.
(Second excerpts culled from chapter three of FAME: Untold Stories – Nov. 2021).