She became known as a ‘Quintessential Maritime Icon’ and when retired, after 22 years, her friends, associates and family gathered to give Hajia Lami Tumaka, a memorable send-forth. In this interview, she tells the story of her meritorious career in Corporate Nigeria, and how providence helped to fast-track her education.
In the entertainment industry dominated by men, Mrs Anita Aiyudu is one of the influential women that stand out, on account of the impact she made behind the camera, during her days at BlackHouse Media (BHM), before assuming her current position as Country Manager, MTV Shuga at the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. In this interview, Aiyudu shares her success story and offers tips to teenage girls.
As woman, how do you feel rising to this position in your career?
I feel great because I’m very grateful for every opportunity that comes my way. It’s been a long time coming and you know how my journey has been right from BHM. I started as a graduate trainee and from there I continued to grow until I became the Head of the Public Relations (PR) Department. I wanted more so I came into the marketing industry, and gradually I’m with the right hand of guidance with my team and my bosses. I’ve gotten some form of experience because I’ve not only learnt but built some amazing relationships with government officials, health organizations and NGOs. This opportunity gives me more push, it makes me want to do more and continue to effect the change that I want to see.
What actually inspired you to choose this career?
To be honest when I left the university I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I went to Obafemi Awolowo University and studied Dramatic Arts. When I was leaving the university I said I would go to a film school, but by the time I graduated I didn’t want to sit home, so I got a job on BHM team-up. I had no clue what PR was about at that point, but I went in anyway and continued to grow. PR has remained a passion for me because I know that during my time at BHM, I not only got used to the business but I was privileged to work with some of the major companies in Nigeria, from MTN, BBNaija to Nigerian Breweries and a couple of other brands. So, it has only pushed me to want to be a better person.
Why did you leave your first job?
When I was at BHM, I had a good time for five years, and after five years I said, how do I expand my career? I wanted to be more; I wanted to go out more. Every year you do the same campaign and even if you change the strategy it still goes down to the same thing. I wanted something completely different and my former boss, Mr Yomi Adekunle, told me about GLO and encouraged me to go for the interview. In fact, every year that MTV Sugar came to Nigeria I was part of the team that worked with the project. I have followed the brand from the beginning. I was used to the brand already. I completely understood what the brand was looking for and here we are today. We have put together two amazing seasons of MTV Naija. Our stories continue to expand, continue to develop.
Why did the MTV Sugar series focus on HIV?
MTV Sugar started with HIV, we centred our lecture on HIV, but we decided to shift our focus for the last two seasons and our focus now is on family planning, contraception and gender-based violence. What we do is try to do away with myth among young people, what they believe right now along every campaign that we had, every season of MTV Sugar, we ensure that we carry out the evaluation, see how much impact we’ve been able to make in the society because you know MTV Sugar is not just in Nigeria but also in South Africa and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. It is also in India and Kenya, which is where we started from. From our recent evaluation, we reached out to over 600,000 young people within and outside Lagos. We also found out that 60% of females have gone ahead to speak about sexual violence to their family members or their parents. Our plan is to continue to push that link and ensure that we are able to reach as many young people as possible. So far, we are in close partnership with the Ministry of Health and Hello Lagos, a centre
that focuses on young girls. We ensure that even our storylines are run by them because they are the ones on the ground. They are the ones that can advise us on the best way to push this lecture. While receiving their feedback we also put it in a way that remains relatable to young people. We engage them so that we can get their feedback and know how to do better, moving forward. It is that feedback that guides our storyline. The last two seasons of MTV Sugar have two storylines on rape victims and we were able to follow their journey of healing and also retribution.
Do you actually rescue ladies or girls that are in such situations and bring them out of it?
We are in partnership with various health centres around Nigeria. They have a hotline where they actually attend to people and then in terms of sexual violence, we refer them to the Domestic Sexual Violence Response Team. These people will talk to you and help you put your life together. Most of our stories are fictional but are very relatable. We follow real-life stories of young people. We have MTV Sugar young mom, where we follow the lives of three young women, 16-year-olds, who found themselves pregnant and had to deal with life, had to deal with leaving school. We got them the right counsel on Hello Lagos, and we gave them proper check-up and we followed them up. The reproductive system of one of the girls was not okay, so she had to go through CS. There was a particular scene in the labour room where the baby stopped breathing, it was very emotional. We not only talk about fictional situations, but we also engage with real people. We ask young people questions on how they deal with their sexual life.
Do the women in your career have a hard time getting promoted?
I would say it was a problem in the past, but I don’t think it’s the same today because there is a shift in the way a lot of people do things. We believe that that there’s a quality when it comes to working. There are so many women who are making a difference.
What has been the most significant barrier in your career?
My biggest challenge is getting to be the head. Most of the time, they don’t see the work from the back. People just see results. One thing I was able to do was whenever I met a new client I try to leave the room with your mind completely changed. With the help of my team we have been able to produce two major campaigns, one by Sun Bull, directed and produced by Tope Osun, and “Who is a Female?” Most of the time you hardly see very prominent females as producers but today a lot has changed. It’s now an open field for men and women to make the difference. It takes a lot of time to get to this point, but I’m fortunate because I have the right people to guide me.
How long have you been on the job?
I joined the MTV Sugar in 2016. I left BHM in April, 2016. I didn’t know much about the marketing field, but with the help of everybody involved I was able to get to this point. I’ve had more experience since I joined in 2016. I know a lot of men who I work with regularly and they don’t have any resistance.
Have you ever been afraid of the job?
When I started I felt like I wasn’t doing enough because sometimes you get criticisms, it’s now left for you to decide how you want to get better. I like to take feedbacks, I like to get better, my confidence is better now.
What would you say earned you this position and what is your success tip as a leader?
I’d say work hard, it can never be over-emphasized. There are good sides and there are also bad sides. When I was in PR I used to work on campaigns, where you would see people dancing and having a great time. Most people don’t understand why you have to work so hard and earn so little, but the truth is you have to work hard to get to where you want to be. You need to make a sacrifice; so work hard, look for opportunities to improve yourself. If you need to go and get a certification, that will be very good for you. At the moment I’m 35 and I’m also working on how I can get my certification in marketing. I’ve spent six years in PR and I want to continue improving myself. You are never too old to learn.
They say most successful women don’t make good wives. How do you balance home, marriage, the business and everything?
I don’t agree with that. I may not be in a position to say something about that because I got married only last year, but I have a very supportive husband. We always balance it out between both of us on everything.
What advice do you have for young ladies, who want to be successful?
For young people today, especially what I’m seeing online, I’d say pick somebody that really speaks to you, somebody that is instrumental to your life and can help you grow as a mentor. So many people have mentors but they are looking at the wrong people. You don’t have to meet the person one on one. From how the person has shown good prospects and how the person has gone through his or her own life and has been able to share their story. You can learn from that and try to do something with it.