Mr Onoja J. Okpanachi is a dogged entrepreneur who has been active in the media, culture and entertainment sector for over two decades. He is the promoter of Arise Igala, which started out as a high-quality print magazine and branched out into an annual awards event, to a forthcoming TV station known as Arise Igala Television. In this interview with AkweyaTV, the graduate of French from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria bares his mind about his driving force and why he won’t consider quitting.
First, let us congratulate you on the 10th anniversary of the Arise Igala Awards and the Arise Igala Magazine at 13. We can see that the Saturday, May 27th event held at the Abuja Continental Hotel was a very successful one. How do you feel?
Thank you very much. Honestly, the feeling is a good one. Looking back at where we started from and where we are today, I can say we have made progress and it comes with a kind of fulfilment even as we press towards the goal.
The approach you have used has been very community-oriented and it seems to be receiving a very commendable response. Why do you think this is so, considering the recent history of the Igala people?
Yes. We were deliberate about our approach from the beginning that the project be community oriented and we stayed at that but with a global outlook, appealing to all via our productions, presentations and packages as the world itself is today a global village.
So, the people, seeing that we are convinced about what we do, they see the platform as a means to tell our story of greatness by ourselves and also achieve greatness together through collaboration and partnership.
This is important given the reality that today, modern politics has terribly divided the people once great and revered amongst nations.
I like the use of the phrase “once great”. Pushing a Renaissance agenda for a once great kingdom can be a daunting task. What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge on this journey has been people’s mindsets – being a socio-cultural project, working on people to have a renewed mindset about our approach and project is the most difficult task.
The mindsets make many not to see possibilities in our objectives, some don’t see the business sides of what we do and so on.
And, until there’s a right mindset, collaboration, sponsorship, investment and partnership will be difficult. However, we are grateful to God that we have been able to jump that hurdle as many are now seeing what we stand for and do as ARISE IGALA. Our productions and presentations so far are giving them good insights into what the future holds in stock for the project.
That said, what would you say are your highest points each time you have embarked on this journey?
I would say it’s the idea of breaking boundaries at every turn.
First, many doubted the idea and when we moved to bring out the first edition of the ARISE IGALA magazine in hard copy. That was in November 2010. I was elated. It was a dream come true for me.
We moved on and three years later we announced the ARISE IGALA Leadership Awards & Lectures to be held in Abuja and Sheraton Hotels precisely, and it was like an impossibility being dreamt but, we staged the maiden edition successfully and that moment brought an untold joy to me.
Currently, the progress we are making on the ARISE IGALA Television has placed me in a mood where I don’t feel the pain from the many sacrifices we have been making as I am constantly anticipating the first day we will hit the airwaves.
In summary, every step of progress made gives me great joy and this keeps me moving against all odds.
What has ever made you want to quit?
The traps, setups and blackmails from within, emanating – I think – from just wicked hearts, ’cause I wonder of what benefit would our fall or stagnation be to anyone.
But, with eyes on the goal always, I don’t contemplate giving up.
That’s impressive. We can see the television has started some kind of test transmission. Can you tell us more about the idea behind such a gigantic project and do you think it is sustainable?
To the glory of God, the ARISE IGALA Television will be up and running 24/7 soon via cable channels. We have approval from NBC and are finalising arrangements with cable channels providers.
From the beginning, we knew we will be going into broadcasting but we have to start from where we could at the time.
Today, the ARISE IGALA Magazine is in its 13th year of print, the annual event just had its 10th edition and this year the television will be up by God’s grace.
The TV project will be sustainable as we have plans to run it as a standard business and a global television largely in Igala language.
What is your greatest worry about the Igala people as a whole? Do you think that the culture is getting to extinction or do you think that very positive things are happening that would mean the culture and tradition will not die?
The language going into extinction is one of my greatest worries. This challenge is not only peculiar to the Igala people as many languages are confronted with this challenge today.
However, instead of worrying too much, we are channelling our energies into bringing the television to reality so to fight this ugly challenge – with the television station running, we would create interesting programmes that will save the language, help its growth and then return it to the category of the living languages.
So, from our experience so far, having such a rallying point will turn around our lots for good and our culture will be sustained.
As an organisation what are your future directions, especially given the technological innovations like artificial intelligence, and the economic and political atmosphere within Kogi State and the country in general?
In as much as we are primarily concerned about the development of our primary market, we will employ all of today’s and future technologies where and when necessary so as to keep in touch with reality.
We will be dynamic in our approach to building and doing businesses.
Thank you for granting us an audience.
Thank you for having me.