From humble beginnings, boss of O’Jez Entertainment, Joseph Odobeatu has risen to the top of his game and grass to grace aptly describes his story. In this chat with TSWeekend, Odobeatu opens up on the journey so far and how he plans to establish Nigeria’s first all-challenged-persons band among other interesting issues.
On December 1 you are releasing the debut album of Nigeria’s Paralympian bronze medalist, Crazy Legs, why are you empowering a physically challenged musician?
At O’Jez we believe so much in the youths and we do all we can to encourage the less privileged and challenged Nigerians in music and sports because it is very important for us to give everybody an opportunity to express their talents. Nigeria is overflowing with talents and they need support.
O’Jez Music was a very strong label that gave us the likes of Baba Fryo and Sony Neji. Are you reviving the label with Crazy Legs?
We have been quiet for some time and so it is very important we come up again. O’Jez Music between now and July 2018 is releasing three artistes on the O’Jez Music imprint. However, we have had issues with artistes in the past and it is something most labels are going through now. After spending everything to make an artistes and he begins to sell, that is when he remembers he has a manager and advisers and then he starts creating problems; most label owners have experienced this problem. But just the same, we are coming back to support the less privileged.
Tell us about Crazy legs’ album. When is the lunch?
I think Crazy Legs is one of the most talented people you are ever going to come across. He has been able to prove that indeed there is ability in disability and he is also very humble and a very good musician. I discovered him and I believe in his talent. He has recorded seven tracks and we are woking towards having the first band made up of only challenged persons in Nigeria. We have almost gotten everybody and it is going to be a super band.
Today live music is dead but O’Jez has kept the live band culture going over the years. How were you able to sustain this?
It has not been a tea party but we have a lot of talented artistes in Nigeria and we have to encourage them and so for me, this is my own way of giving back and the journey has been so inspiring. I believe passion more than anything else has been the sole driving force over the years coupled with a firm desire to give people good music. Over 70 per cent of Nigerian are thirsting for live music and there is an abundance of talent out there. So aside creating entertainment, it is also another way of empowering the youths. Aside the live band we also have side attractions. the objective is to make them relevant by virtue of there talents so that they can excel; an evening here is mind blowing.
How did you discover Crazy Legs?
Crazy Legs was one of those talented artiste on the streets until I met him. I discovered he had a talent for music and I said we had no choice but to give this young guy opportunity; the boy is loaded, and that was how he started performing at O’Jez. We gave him a platform and he just blew; he is a constant feature here every Friday. I believe such people should be empowered. Like Annie Frank, we need to give them a chance to excel. Talking about Crazy Legs, this is a guy who has a passion to excel and I have been supporting him.
How did you feel when he won bronze for Lawn Tennis at the Paralympics?
I felt happy. I was very glad that I was able to support him when he was going to America, He was at the All African Games as well so he had been given a lot of exposure and we are sure that in the next two years, Crazy Legs will be one of the biggest artistes in Nigeria.
You have consistently run this place for over a decade and half while your competitors have crashed. What is the secret to your success?
Consistency and belief in what you are doing. The most important thing is to create joy and happiness in people. If you look at the concept we have here, it is unique and that is why people keep coming back every weekend, and that is why people have copied our ideas and we are happy that they are succeeding and I thank God that we pioneered this and we are still here today. Despite the competition we are the prime destination for those who love live music.
You had to struggle from scratch and today you have made a name for yourself both in entertainment and in business. tell us about growing up?
You can’t continue talking about your story all the time but you can’t stop thanking God also. We have moved from grass to grace but we thank God we have been consistent. The story of how we started is what has kept us where we are today. I remember the days when I was a shoe maker and a blacksmith and that has continued to strengthen and inspire me to work harder. Those years moulded me into who I am today and impacted me greatly.
You were a shoemaker. Did you ever believe that someday you would be here empowering people?
When I was a shoemaker at the age of 12, I had over 18 apprentices working under me. I believed I was a leader and I could drive people and manage them. I believed I had the charisma to manage people and that is very important. As a blacksmith and shoemaker, everything I touched with my hands was successful and people keep coming in to copy the model and they are making their mark. We have ideas, we create and people copy.
Recently the swimming pool at the national stadium was handed over to O’Jez for management, can you tell us about it?
Let me start by thanking the Federal Ministry of Youths & Sports for this opportunity to manage the swimming pool at the National Stadium. I run an engineering outfit with over 30 years experience in engineering. We were told to repair the swimming pool that has been lying fallow since 1999 so we renovated it and government was so impressed. We have consulted for big names like Chevron and others so they felt that we could manage it too. The place is undergoing serious transformation. In a year’s time, you won’t believe what we would have achieved within that space.
Tell us about your activities as a sports philanthropist?
I am currently training boxers. I am talking about seven and eight year-olds. We have O’Jez Table Tennis, O’Jez Swimming and O’Jez Boxing. All this is just to empower people. It is our own way of giving back. That is what O’Jez is all about, building future champions. Don’t be surprised when NIgeria starts winning medals in these sports in the future. And I also want to use this opportunity to tell government to leave certain aspects of the economy to the private sector.