Ezekiel Adamu: The Events Professional Championing L.I.F.E Heritage Festival

Born to the family of Dr. and Mrs Amos Adamu, serial entrepreneur and investor, Dr. Ezekiel Adamu is the brain behind The Balmoral Group, which he started 15 years ago with a branch at Oregun, Lagos. The Computer Science and Financial Decision Analysis graduate from the University of Luton, now Bedfordshire, and University of Portsmouth, respectively, also has a  

Doctorate of Science in Business Administration and Corporate Governance. After kicking off his career with Schlumberger Nigeria, a global 

energy services and equipment company, his intentional, result-oriented, ambitious and excellence in

service delivery has led to

incremental success over the years for The Balmoral Group with numerous of 

businesses like the Balmoral Events and Halls, the Balmoral Homes, 

Bioshield Protection Limited, Yahshud and the Villa Valhalla, amongst others. 

Currently working on new initiatives such as the Balmoral School of 

Event, the training subsidiary of the Balmoral group to help the hospitality 

business explore some proven processes, patterns and principles, Dr. Ezekiel is currently fine tunning plans to hold a heritage festival known as Lagos Independence Festival of Excellence. With the acronym L.I.F.E, it is a first of its kind festival to appreciate Nigeria’s rich history while showcasing Lagos as a Centre of Excellence and the Entertainment Capital of Africa. Curated by Balmoral Group and The Temple Company, LIFE will be an annual celebration of diversity, unity, culture and our Independence from September 30 to to October 2, 2022. Amongst other things, he brings Chiemelie Ezeobi up to speed on the heritage festival and the inherent numerous potential for the hospitality sector

How did L.I.F.E come about? 

L.I.F.E came about when Ogidi Studio just opened and I went to visit. I’m an idealist so when I got to Ogidi studio, I felt like this studio is actually one of the best studios in West Africa. This studio should actually be churning out a lot of talents. How do we get the talents to know about this place apart from marketing? I always feel like the best form of marketing is experiential marketing. People need to come out and experience what you have and then see what they can do. 

Since I own an events company, the largest network of venues here in Lagos, if not in Nigeria, I said, why don’t we come together and pull up an event where we can be actually turning our talents from this studio? We have the venues. With the venues you can do live events while the studio is to nurture the talent. We got talking with Idris the CEO of Temple. We asked how come we don’t even have heritage events anymore because before now we used to have the Lagos Carnival which was a very heritage event. We used to have Eyo Festival as well. Those were festivals that were heritage festivals. Nowadays, you find out that when people want to do shows, it’s only mainly music or comedy. 

In another two months after that comedy show, you’ve forgotten anything even happened because it was not impactful; it’s nothing much based on the fact that we do a lot of events as well. I realise that people like South Africans, come out to do Nickelodeon festivals. The kids come out. We don’t have any family entertainment pretty much here.  So we came together and said, you know what on Independence Day nothing really happens apart from the speech at 7am. After that one, everybody is looking for what to do.

July 4th in America is being celebrated all over the world. So how come in Nigeria, we don’t have that and a thought came to me. So we just thought, let’s make October memorable again and where else can we do it if not in Lagos the Centre of Excellence. So we started turning on our idea then we brushed it down. That’s where the LIFE birthed. And we felt like for us to do something of this magnitude and with the excellence that Lagos is known for, we need at least a year to organise and plan it. 

So we started off by doing a press conference last year on October 1st to start planning for this event. It’s  been in the works for over a year now.

Why the acronym L.I.F.E?

L.I.F.E means Lagos Independent Festival of Excellence. We came about different names. So we just thought L.I.F.E is catchy. Everybody knows what life is about- Enjoy and Explore Life and the acronym L.I.F.E just makes sense. It’s a Lagos-themed name. We wanted to  show the excellence of Lagos since it’s known for excellence. So Lagos Independent Festival is actually beyond an event.

We intend to put this event on the map or calendar of events around the world and have the kind of effects all around the world so that when there will be talk about Independence all over the world, you know that something happened in Nigeria. It’s also going to be a hybrid event. So in case you live all around the world and you can’t be there, you can get to watch it online. 

Any plans to rotate the event to other cities?

As the years go by, we intend to move it to New York. We intend to move it around the world. However, we are starting with Lagos.

Who does this cover?

It’s for your children, teenagers, younger children to the adults; everyone is fully covered in this. Like we said, it is a full family entertainment. I remember when we were growing up as children,  we had things like Tales by Moonlight and different things. If you ask most kids now to mention the 36 states of the country, its a problem for them. The Africa spirit has to start with us changing the narrative from here. So for us, this is a Lagos excellence and it will be fully African. The stories will be African. Everything we are doing is really celebrating Nigeria and what Nigeria brings to the table. 

It’s commendable how you are trying to curb capital flight through tourism because when it starts people can come in from all over the world, how will the Hospitality Sector gain from this? 

We want a case where come October 1st, the whole hotels are fully booked. Yes. That’s how it’s done all over the world. Trust me, the journey of a thousand miles begins with just a step in the right direction. Little things can springboard something major in the future. 

It’s an entertainment event where we are not looking at just Lagosians coming to enjoy this event. That’s why we strategically picked the Federal Palace Hotel. This hotel was where we got our  Independence Ball. So it’s actually a strategic location for us. It’s also very central. There’s a hotel there, too. It means that if your family lives in Port-Harcourt and you want to enjoy this, you can actually come and stay at the hotel. 

We have daytime entertainment. We also have night time entertainment. There’s music. There’s comedy. There are different talents that will be discovered at the event. Remember I told you from the get-go, it was because we wanted to raise talents. So what we are looking at is the case where when we discover some talents at this L.I.F.E, we nurture these talents for a whole year. So by next year, we’ll bring this person and you remember this person? He’s now a star. 

So it’s a platform for us where we can use to, in our own way, give back to the society as well. We want a case where people will ask for the best place to look for bigger talents and they will say let’s wait for October 1st because that’s where you have the best of the best. It’s also synonymous with our Independence as well too.  It was a no-brainer for us.

Events is a booming and growing industry. When you think about it, I feel like what we are lacking is the exhibition and international money and involvement. Otherwise, the wedding industry is huge. The party industry is huge. Those are internal. What brings money into the economy is the meetings you have with global people coming here. 

No country develops fully without foreign direct investments. That’s the reason we have thought about this particular event. In order to be educative and impactful, we need the foreign direct investments. 

Dubai is big for what it is because a  lot of all the major meetings in the world happen in Dubai. Like I said, people will not fly from all over the world to watch an artiste perform because most times, these artistes move around all over the world. But if it’s an artiste performing in something that is impactful, educational, and a festival, they will be here. So we decided let’s start looking at heritage events like L.I.F.E.

What are the security checks in place to ensure your visitor’s safety?

We could have  moved this to a beach or anywhere else that is bigger but we chose the Federal Palace Hotel because it’s secured. We’ve put together a lot of facilities in place, where even when your kids come in there’s a code we will give everybody. It’s international standard- you can’t get any kids or anyone missing. Even in the evenings, we have maids and nannies you can get. So it’s been well thought of. In the evenings, we have tales by moonlight and the kids can come together while the parents can be having their own entertainment. Nobody walks in and out of the hotel without going through the security. The hotel has only one way in and one way out. So we have thought about it.

Nonetheless, we’re still actually going to invite a lot more security. We believe that Lagos State will be part of it. We believe that the police, army and everybody will be part of it. It is not about Balmoral Temple event; it is a Lagos-Nigeria event.

Since the event will hold for three days, are there specific events for everyone?

The event will be done in a way where you can decide what time you want to come. We have entertainment. We have like artistes that resonate to children. We want those ones to come and perform for them during the daytime because there’s no vulgar language. We have entertainment for the evening even to a level where we have for our parents as well. We have times we’ll bring people like KSA and all of that. 

 There is swimming and water sport in some areas with entertainment. There would be artistes around. There’s food area, which is completely made in Nigeria. There is exhibition. We are looking at even inviting international investors to come in. How you invest in made-in-Nigeria is through exhibition. We will look look at how to partner the government to know how to come in. I feel like that’s the way it’s done round the world. That’s the area we’ll need government to support local businesses. 

Why partnership with Temple?

I’ve know the CEO of Temple for a while now. He is somebody that we share the same values. He’s disciplined and we share those values together. Apart from that, they also own one of the biggest studios in the whole of West Africa — Ogidi Studios. This studio as well needs to find a way to churn out the talents they brought out. If I was to choose — even if I didn’t know Temple and if I was to do an event with somebody else based on the fact that we share the same values, I’d choose Temple. 

In a nutshell, what should attendees expect? 

LIFE is curated to immerse Nigerians in a universe of amusement, education, entertainment and appreciation of our rich heritage. It would be hosted at the Federal Palace Hotel, a historical/ symbolic edifice that was the setting for the signing of Nigeria’s Declaration of Independence in 1960.

Unity and oneness will be promoted alongside patriotism, art & craft, while encouraging an appreciation for home-grown content and talent. The festival will be divided into a Daytime and Nighttime Series, catering to the unique needs of both children and adults.

The Daytime series will feature a rich variety of events that has something for every member of the family. Some of the day events include Kids Wonderland, Food and Drinks Fiesta, Made In

Nigeria Exhibition, Gen Z/ Kids Music Concerts, Family Play Area, Art Showcase, Games Arcade, Water Splash/ Games, Mini-Football Game and Discuss Nigeria panel session.

Among the offerings for the Night-time Series are Music Concerts, All White Party, Night of Legends, Beer Village, Pool Party, Casino Night, Comedy Night and Live Band Show.

Let’s take it down to what you do as CEO of Balmoral Group. 

Balmoral is 360 event solutions company. We are in all sectors of event. We run the largest network of venues in Lagos, if not in Africa, because we have about five venues apart. Apart from our venues, we move around with mobile venues. We go around even outside the country. Balmoral has handled the African Union summit before in Ghana. So there are some little things we celebrated. We’ve been part of the South African World Cup. We also do live events. We also have this international drinks festival. We do World Cup events as well. Last year, we did the biggest venue in Eko Atlantic. We do exhibitions. 

We are a solutions company that has to do with anything events. 

Given the challenges of COVID-19 which we are trying to come out from, how have you been able to cope?

COVID-19 is not a peculiar problem to a particular sector. There are some things that are more important than business. When COVID-19 came, it was taking lives away. One of the things we did then as as innovative company, we looked at how to be creative. We looked at what China is doing to fight the COVID-19 and to help the hospitals. We set up mobile isolation centres in Lagos and Kano. 

I believe we’ve gone beyond the survival stage. At that point, we already had some muscles to keep us in business for the period of time. We also used the period to think and diversify. If COVID-19  didn’t happen, we were all very busy. So sometimes you need to slow down and think about other things.

What are the challenges you face and how you cope?

For me, I live by one decree- I’m a reader. I learn a lot from the world best. Success, like they say, is not final. Failure is not fatal. I tell this to my guys and my staff, even as the CEO of this organisation. That is why Balmoral is not about Ezekiel Adamu. It’s about the brand. 

What is the Balmoral Business School of Events all about? 

We found out that if your event is such a major contributor to our economy, you’ll be shocked how many people are employed. On a Saturday, for example, you have a lot of people that do ushering. You don’t have to go to school for ushering. There are waiters and bar tenders. There is so much events contribute to our economy and to even our security because if these people do not have what to eat, and you don’t provide anything, they will be on the streets. Events add so much value to our economy and to our people.

But one of our major problems even in the country is anybody can do something. There’s no standard to what we’re doing. So we felt like having the Balmoral Business School of Events and we have the HR side. It means that if you want to start an event company, you don’t need to go around looking for workers. We have an HR side of it. We have the training side of people.

 We want to partner banks and we will get the bank to give you facility to buy some equipment where we will be your customer. That means that business is sustainable. So that’s one of the things we are doing to give back today.

What are the CSR projects you carry out?

We don’t have a particular CSR. We partner a lot of events that come to us. On our calendar, we have budget for the year. We have a lot of people coming to say, this is an NGO event. So, it’s through events we are giving back.

Any advice to budding entrepreneurs?

You need to work hard. We are in a world where everything is instant. It takes a while to build what you want so don’t get carried away by what happens on social media. Don’t put yourself under undue pressure. It takes time for you to be successful. Even if you are successful, then expect some turbulence along the way. It’s never a final destination. Enjoy your journey, however, understand that it’s hard work. 

How do you unwind?

For me, unwinding is going on trips or spending time with my family. It’s an ongoing process for me. I’m into entertainment,  it means that I need to mingle with people around. In the evenings as well, weekends, I find time to go out. You have to balance life. You can’t work and work. 

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