Taking one’s destiny into one’s hands is no doubt a major feature in what propelled Dr. Sam Loco Smith into what he’s today. In this interview with Saturday Sun, he shared his suffering, servitude and struggle for survival story while growing up; an experience that defined the personality and character he exudes today as a consummate media consultant, author, journalist and husband to his hearthrob of 28 years, Prof. Stella Smith.
Could you talk about the two books you recently presented to the public- Political Advertising in Nigeria and My Stella…One In A Million?
The book, Political advertising -creativity, intrigue and electoral outcome, was inspired by the very chronic scarcity of books on political adverts in Nigeria.
There are several books on advertising profession and journal articles on political advertising, but you will hardly find any book on political advertising in Nigeria. You can check all the best and the biggest bookshops in Nigeria, I can tell you that you may not see any book on what transpired in Nigeria`s political advertising space from 1958/59 through 2019.
So, basically the book on political advertising in Nigeria is an attempt at chronicling and documenting what transpired within the Nigeria`s political advertising space from 1958 to 2019.
I must confess here that because of the content, it is rich in information about the trajectory of political advertising in Nigeria from the First Republic era to the epochal 2015 presidential elections in which the ruling party lost power for the first time. It also offers a critical perspective from the industry experts and governmental regulating agencies in political broadcast advertising guideline and codes.
It is an attempt at bridging the gap or a diagnostic prescription to the scarcity of books on political advertising in Nigeria.
The second book, My Stella…One in a Million, is also an attempt to chronicle the life of a patriotic and sarcifical Nigerian, wife, mother, a friend in deed, someone you can count on particularly at the most critical moment for others, her research works as a scientific researcher. The book also x-rays her orientation, watertight relationship with the mother, waiting for the cry of a baby, trials, acts of victimization, maltreatment, backstabbing; her determination, persistence, firmness and total trust in God.
The whole idea of writing the book -My Stella…One in a million, is also to document what Stella has done over the years and is a blessing to humanity.
Last September makes us 28 years in marriage. In October last year, Stella brought honour to the Institute where she works as a Convener of the first ever Humboldt Kolleg in the Research Institute which saw the gathering of prominent scholars for three days with over 130 participants in attendance out of which 25 were Humboldtians.
In addition, in the bid to impact knowledge, Stella has consistently held Molecular Biology hands-on- training workshop from 2009 to 2019. A visit to her lab is an evidence of an extremely hard working lady. In addition, from her grants/ contacts, she has sent a reasonable number of her PhD students to Germany, Ivory Coast and Senegal. From her grants, she has also carried out extensive renovation of her lab over the years. Stella is a star and she is completely different. You cannot come in contact with her and remain the same.
How would you describe the impact of political advertising on the average Nigerian vote?
The essence of any political advertising campaign is the fact that it gives the voter or the electorate the right to choose a politician or political party to vote for or against.
Another factor that will influence the voting judgment or where the pendulum will swing is the mass media tools deployed in creating the exposure and visibility of the political party ideologies and political manifesto.
In Nigeria, political advertising campaign has become not only part of the constitutional electoral act but cultural phenomena in which Nigeria and particularly politicians, political parties and their support groups also look forward to, since the use of the popular “Daisy Girl” a sixty second political advert ahead of the 1964, United States of America presidential election which gave President Lyndon Johnson landslide victory over Berry Goldwater.
The use of political advertising campaign has witnessed various transformations from analogue political advertising approach to what could be regarded as a digital/social media political advertising campaign strategy.
In the 1959 parliamentary elections in Nigeria, Chief ObafemiAwolowo applied a more advanced and probably scientific political advertising campaign strategies. Although he did not win that election, he certainly made a very loud and strong statement in the place of strategic and innovative political campaign strategies with the sky- writing concept even at that time. That was the Action Group’s (AG) political advertising campaign fulcrum which revolved around immediate termination of British rule in every phase of the political life of the people, education of all children of school age and general enlightment of all; provision of health and general welfare for all the people and total abolition of want in the society through economic policies.
Also, ahead of the 1979 general election, Chief ObafemiAwolowo’s political advertising campaign philosophy under the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), revolved around the popular four cardinal programmes, which included: free education at all levels; integrated rural development; provision of freehealth service and full employment for all Nigerians.
Another political advertising campaign slogan that had a direct link with the people’s desire was that of Chief MKO Abiola ‘Hope 93’ and ‘Farewell to Poverty’ particularly the radio and TV jingles.
The radio and TV jingles had melodious lyrics like ‘nawa for this life o, na so so palava, I tire for this problem, I tire for life oh.” Another was, MKO, MKO, MKO, Action, Abiola, Abiola, Abiola, Progress! There was also the 8pm-9 pm MKO vs Tofa live presidential debate on NTA Channel 10, in which Nigerians were glued to their TV station from the beginning of the debate to the very end.
We also had the President Goodluck Jonathan’s political advertising campaign slogan, “We need a breath of fresh air”and “I had no shoes to wear?”
In 2015 PresidentMuhammadu Buhari came with, “Change” and “Change” became a greeting language as against “Good morning”. And in 2019 it was “Next Level”. For the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the 2019 political advertising campaign slogan was anchored on, “Let’s Get Nigeria Working Again” this slogan was suppoted with a strong political advertising theme song, “Articulated”.
Looking at the development of political advertising from pre-independence till now, has it impacted the country’s democratic growth?
One of the major pre-electoral activities before any major elections is the lifting of ban on political advertising campaign. That automatically validates the potency of political advertising in our electoral system and globally.
Political advertising is very important and has contributed phenomenally and astronomically to the country’s democratic growth, that is one of the first things that must be done before the election itself.
Political advertising is about communication, information, education, visibility, exposure, understanding, acceptance, rejection, making a choice between several choices. If you don’t embark on political advertising campaign using the right mass media tools and strategies, it is simply a walkover for the other party and politician.
Ahead of 2015 general election, Nigeria saw a keenly contested type of political advertising campaign like no other in the annals of the nation’s history. 2019 was fair and not comparable to that of 2015. However, 2015 and 2019 saw the development of multiple intense political advertising campaign tools -outdoors, posters, branded bridges, street lamp poles, A- frames, hat boxes, branded cars, buses and vehicles, branded bus shelters, t-shirts, face and hand bandies etc.
All these and other pre-election activities contribute immensely to Nigeria`s democratic growth because without political advertising, election will not be colorful, it will be boring and very dry. It is the icing on the cake of every election.
How was your growing up days?
I was born in Port-Harcourt, Rivers state but I am from NnungUsoEkon, UsungInyangEket, Akwa Ibom state. I am a mummy’s boy. This was sequel to a disturbing and frightening scenario when my mum’s twins (boy and girl) were mysteriously died on the same day.
After that horrifying incident, she was without a child for many years but she made a request to God and God granted that request. God Almighty gave me to her. And she and my father named me Samuel (Ebenghe) Abasi. Shortly after, we moved to Lagos and some years after the civil war, my dad decided that all his children will relocate to Eket, but my mother strongly objected to that decision. Her argument was that she did not want any harm to befall me considering what happened to her years back.
So, it was Chief Bryson Etukudoh, my uncle, who convinced my mother under the condition that no harm will befall me in Eket. Few years after we settled in Eket, I started appreciating why my mother never wanted me to come down to Eket. After about two years in Eket, most of those staying with us at 3 Hospital Road, left the house.
After the sudden departure of my dad’s relations and cook, I became a houseboy in my father’s house. I was responsible for doing what five to seven people used to do daily. It was an experience I will never forget. I must confess that I learnt a lot about domestic work. What I was exposed to at a very tender age helped me till date.
It was in Eket I confirmed that God speaks to certain people but not everybody. It was in Eket I knew what it meant to be miles away from your mother. I will never forget the years I stayed in Eket. Any time I visit Eket the video rolls back. It was a very interesting experience.
Who influenced you the most? Your mother or your father?
My mother, as she was responsible for paying my school fees at the most critical period when my father was conditioned to stop my school fees of N23.50.
How come you have lots of qualifications and academic degrees?
That is what God can do. That is one of the by-products of my Eket experience.
So in reaction to that I promised God, my mother, Chief Bryson and any other person that I will read to the zenith of education. Honestly, I discovered that after Ph.D, that is when reading and studying actually starts. So I am still reading and studying. The product of that decision is the books- Political advertising in Nigeria: creativity, intrigue and electoral outcome, and My Stella …One in a Million.
How did you meet your wife?
We are members of the same Church, The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, TREM. I saw her for the first time at closing of Kingdom Life World Conference (KLWC) 91. We have been married for 28 years now.
What makes her very special?
At the most critical period, you can count on her. She is wonderfully patriotic and sacrificial. Against all odds, she remains a star. A good wife, a mother and unbelievably kind hearted.
What lesson has life taught you?
Put your trust in God at all times because at the most critical period the best of men will fail you.
You wear good perfumes with good fashion sense. Why?
I like perfumes, I just put on what I think is attractive to my eyes and complexion. I don’t know any design.
What are your most historical and embarrassing moments?
Historical moment was when my wife got delivered of a baby boy after close to 13 years and also when I defended my PhD thesis and was pronounced a doctorate degree holder to the glory of God.
Embarrassing moment was when a brother of mine, asked the most senior member of the family not to stand up to give testimony about my mum during the burial of my mother right in front of people and when I was not given an offer of appointment because I had HND and so I had to go back to school to read for my BSc.
Who are your role models?
Bishop Mike Okonkwo, Rev. Uma Ukpai, Dr. D. K. Olukoya (my wife’s Egbon), Prof. Ike Ndolo and Dr. Bel Molokwu are my role models.