Sunday, September 19, 2010

YES WE CAN: The Femi Olagbaiye Story

“You either run the local Derby or you run the Olympics. If you decide to go for the Olympics, you have to aim to beat the World record”

This is the story of a man who has chosen to walk the higher path. A man in whose mind there are no limitations, boundaries or impossibilities.

Femi Olagbaiye is the C.E.O of One Entertainment, a 360degrees Entertainment company with interests in Radio & TV Broadcasting, Film, Talent Development and Music Production.

Their flagship channel is One Music, a content-driven music channel which targets an International audience in the U.K USA, Canada, United Arab Emirates and across Africa, providing them with compelling music-based content.

Until a year ago when he set out to explore new opportunities in Nigerian Entertainment, he was the Operations Manager for MTV Networks Africa, managing their entire West Africa operations.

Early Life, Dream VS Passion

Femi Olagbaiye was born into a tight knit family of seven in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. As a child, Femi dreamed of one day becoming a Pilot. He wanted to build planes and fly them. Somewhere in between his fantasies, little Femi would also find time to perform musicals like Sound of Music for his family’s entertainment.

His aeronautic fantasies drove him to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Lagos. However in school, he found himself constantly being active with the promotion of one show or the other.

His path with his mentor, HiTV’s Toyin Subair, first crossed during the promotion of a show the latter had organized in Unilag.

Torn between his dream and his passion, Femi got on his knees and asked God to direct Him in the right path. He clearly heard from God that his path was in pursuing his passion in Entertainment, but Femi was reluctant to give up on his dream, which was becoming closer to fulfillment as he was getting prepared to enroll in Flight School.

He eventually obeyed the prompting of his heart and there was no going back after that.

A Life-Transforming Experience

One specific event in his life was particularly responsible for setting Femi Olagbaiye on the path of Global Excellence upon which he now treads.

As a young Music Producer and Promoter, he was working with a promising young Artiste, who he passionately believed was ‘the next big thing’. He finally got an opportunity to showcase the Artiste’s album to Gbenga Shokefun, a Record Producer and Show Promoter based in the States, who was also a role model and father figure to him.

Mr. Shokefun quietly listened to the album Femi had presented to him, then took out the cd from the music player and right before Femi’s bewildered eyes, broke the cd into two.

He called the album ‘CRAP’ and asked Femi to honestly compare its quality to that of the music being churned out by International artistes. Femi tried to give excuses for his mediocrity by saying that they only had access to limited equipment and were recording from a tiny 2 x 4 studio.

Mr. Shokefun tossed all the excuses aside as being unacceptable and told Femi that no-one actually cared about what he had or did not have, but only about the quality of the final product delivered.

That experience with Gbenga Shokefun changed Femi’s life forever. It woke him up to the realization that he could compete globally in whatever area of Entertainment he was involved in. No longer did he limit himself by trying to make good ‘African’ music that would be all the rave within the continent but nowhere else.

The experience made him from then on, always rate everything he was involved in with the best available, in determining the quality which is satisfactory. He measures all his creative work against Hollywood standards and knows that even when he has met those standards, the challenge will be to go beyond that.

Mr. Shokefun also gave him a book called ‘The Business of Music’ which taught Femi a great deal about being successful in his first love – MUSIC.

Career Journey

His career journey began with Silverbird Communications, when Vice-President, Roy Bruce gave him a job as a Radio Consultant. Even though he had no prior experience in Radio Broadcasting, he was given the crucial task of training and developing the scores of young talent who showed much promise to the future of Broadcasting in Nigeria.

Femi developed training formats out of his head and invested himself in developing the skill of a number of On-Air Personalities who have all risen to become the very best at what they do.

He attributes his ability to successfully train people, to his drive for excellence and a keen ability to analyze and discover what is missing. He also applies this ‘building’ philosophy to his relationships with people, as he is able to see the direction in which each person is headed, and will do everything to make sure they get there.

Femi himself has enjoyed effective mentorship from great Nigerians such as Fela Durotoye, Toyin Subair, Roy Murray-Bruce, Jimi Awosika and Alex Okosi.

From Silverbird, he moved on to MTV Africa, where his first task was as a Talent/Artiste Representative with the primary assignment of finding music videos to air on the Network. The major problem though, was that at the time, there was barely any quality material worth airing on the MTV platform.

At that point Femi had no choice but to begin to understand the basics of Video Production, and work with local Directors in coming up with material which could be played alongside the foreign videos which were being aired on MTV.

Femi later forayed into the Marketing and Sales operations while in MTV, and dedicated himself in this area, such that the MTV operations in Nigeria became the most profitable in all of Africa while he was at the helm of affairs.

Before he left MTV in 2009 he was overseeing all of the corporation’s interests in West Africa, as the Operations Manager, a role yet to be filled since his exit.

His Thoughts on Piracy

Regarding the scourge of Piracy which has eaten deep into the Nigerian Music Industry, Femi Olagbaiye believes that Piracy only flourishes because there is a gap in the market, and piracy fills that gap.

In Femi’s opinion, Piracy can be curbed through Marketing and Volume of a GOOD product, as well as ensuring that the product is also well distributed.

He uses the album of gospel group KUSH as a Case Study, explaining that the Marketing Plan, which he was actively involved in the creation and implementation of, was foolproof and did great in sales, without Piracy.

Mediocrity VS Excellence

Femi expresses the frustration he sometimes experiences working in Nigeria where mediocrity has been embraced by the majority as a culture. Once in a while, he meets people who also aspire to the level of excellence and good quality he aspires to.

Then, he is comforted by the knowledge that he’s not alone in his journey.

He admits that there is immense talent in all the Creative fields in Nigeria, but hardly any skill. Which is why he is passionate about Training and through One Entertainment is starting an Academy which will help people in all aspects of Entertainment to develop a high level of technical and creative skill.

Femi is also a Voice Coach.

Personal Fulfillment

More than anything, what Femi Olagbaiye wants is to be the best at something.

He wants to know that he gave his best at everything and to be a heavily impacting force wherever he finds himself. Satisfaction can only come with the knowledge that he made a difference in lives, projects and every single thing he was ever involved with.

For him, the biggest reward for any investment he makes is for people to be able to say ‘that’s a great job’ and he agrees with them.

God and Spirituality

Femi Olagbaiye humbly declares that God is and has always been the driving force of his life. He believes it is the God in him who does not allow him settle for anything short of Excellent.

He has been in a fulfilling relationship with God since childhood and has come to realize now that no matter how far away from God he strays, he will always return to that godly foundation which is the bedrock of all that he can ever be.

He doesn’t hesitate to extend forgiveness to people who offend him; because he is aware of how much he himself has been forgiven.

Family & Marriage

Family is of the greatest essence to Femi Olagbaiye and he is a strong believer in sacrificial love.

Family to him consists of having people with whom one can be vulnerable, sincere and open. Femi is very particular about Integrity and Trust and can only be comfortable around people who have nothing to hide.

He looks forward to having a family of his own, with a wife who is an extension of who he is. Femi believes that his wife is to be the building everyone sees, while he is the foundation. His ideal woman is someone who will be to him a Supporter, a Fan and a wise Counselor whose opinion can be trusted in the sense that it comes un-condescendingly and without bias.

She is someone who will always be there even when he has badly screwed up and would help him back up when he is down.

She also has to be a Dreamer, as it is only one who dreams themselves that can support another Dreamer.


Femi Olagbaiye is a reflection of the New Nigeria. He embodies the spirit of the new generation of young Nigerians who have refused to be limited by the physical, cultural and psychological boundaries which have held us hostage in the idea that we cannot.

His story is an inspiration to anyone, young and not so young, Nigerian and non-Nigerian, who believes they have something to give, not just to their immediate environment, but to the world at large.

The Boundaries are there to be broken; YES WE CAN.

Femi Olagbaiye


  1. Very inspiring... if I wasn't in a relationship I would have... :)

  2. This truly is a write-up to share...I'm moved by his journey to following his passion and d awakenin of d drive to compete globally...God bless d work of his hands.

  3. Very inspirational story. I am definitely encouraged. Thanks for sharing his story Tari.

  4. Femi,
    Are we related,I want to find out.What is your email address.Get back soonest.

    Mayowa Olagbaiye.