By Admin (Editorial)
Today, Sunday October 13, is Cross River born International Documentary Filmmaker, Obaji Akpet ’s 34th birthday. This article looks at his journey of contributions to Nigeria and Africa as a whole. We also look at some of his controversies and failed mission, even as he laughs last and best.
Birth of a being:
Born on October 13 1985, Obaji Abung-Akpet is a journalist, filmmaker and a media entrepreneur. He hails from Olulumo, a small community by the bank of river Cross, where Cross River State of Nigeria is named after; a community somewhere about 275 kilometres from Calabar. Born into a polygamous home, Obaji is the fourth (4th) child of nine (9) children. His parents, Abung Obaji Akpet and Margaret were once class room teachers and now an agrarian father and a mother who works in the health sector as community health worker. His father is legally married to two wives. In his parents ten years of separation, Obaji was forced to grow up in more than one environment, Olulumo, where his father hails from, Ayughasa, his mom’s native home while Ikom, Akamkpa and Calabar became places he attended schooling later on when his parents made up.
Kicked out of work and inconclusive varsity days:
Kicked out of work with Mr Biggs’, a subsidiary of United Africa Company of Nigeria in 2007, partly because of his activism, Obaji Akpet combined studies in Mass Communication at Akwa Ibom Polytechnic and taking up menial jobs as housekeeper, where he served the family of late chief Nathaniel Ogunwole in Calabar.
In 2009 Obaji could not sustain his studies with Akwa Ibom Polytechnic due to paucity of funds and so he applied for internship at the Nigerian Chronicle, where he began his journalistic career. And that same year, he gained admission into the University of Calabar to study Linguistics and Communication, a university programme considered less expensive at the time as opposed to the consultancy Mass Communication programme with Akwa Ibom Polytechnic, which was quite pricey to fund at the time.
Back at varsity, half student, half disruptor:
All through his university days, Obaji combined studies and contribution to several newspapers across Nigeria and was known for campus activism, which often put him into trouble with varsity authorities with the height of it being his 2011 failed planned protest against the University of Calabar, UNICAL Vice Chancellor, James Ekpoke regime that landed him in police detention for a day. Obaji was freed within 24hours of incarceration when sedition allegations against him could not hold on the grounds that he was a student union leader then and so had the locus standi to call on a protest against authorities for unfavourable policies.
Also, during his varsity days, Obaji became among the foremost to single-handedly run a state online newspaper tagged www.Cross RiverEyes.com, that he used to engage authorities and their citizens on happenings in Cross River State. Obaji has since shut down the e-zine later in his troubled days as will be later expanded in this essay.
Obaji graduated in 2014 with a second class lower, although a bright student but never returned to question the result.
Failed acting career:
Obaji Akpet started out as an actor featuring in some Nigerian films that did not see the light of the day. In 2012, he played duo role as soldier and looter in ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ a movie adaptation by Biyi Bandele from Chimamanda Adichie’s novel. But that was the last time Obaji was seen in films; his interest to make films rather than play roles in them grew wild.
Days of humble journalistic, business beginnings:
By the year 2013, Obaji Akpet has made contributions to several newspapers in Nigeria. Akpet contributed reports in The Nation (Entertainment), African Travel Times, CrossRiverWatch and many others. In November that year, Obaji was engaged by then Al Jazeera journalist, Ashionye Ogene to coordinate a TV feature story titled ‘Film industry in Nigeria…by piracy,’ story Ahmed Idris was the presenter. After this first international media experience, Obaji began craving to take his career as journalist to international level.
By the year 2016, Obaji was done with Nigeria’s compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme and went wild with his dreams, against his family’s advice to taking up a 5500USD loan from Bank of Industry and founded Cross River Film Agency; but because the funds appeared too meagre for his need then he started a small photography studio while still holding unto his passion for journalism as official correspondent for Champion Newspaper.
Obaji in trouble and days in exile:
According to an account published on MasterClass website, a US based film school, at the time he was correspondent for Champion Newspaper (engaged from 2016) Obaji Akpet, in 2017 was forced to flee his hometown in southern Nigeria across West African countries after reporting a story that exposed corruption in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which fingered Prof. Isaac Adewale, the then Nigeria’s Health Minister. Obaji fled shutting down the photography studio he invested about 10,000USD to establish.
Throughout his journey, he felt deeply inspired to tell the stories of the people and places he encountered. He wanted to tell them through films. That’s when he began self-teaching depending on online resources and in February 2018, Obaji won a first documentary film commission at ZoomIn TV, Europe’s largest online TV platform to film ‘Meet the mentor for the lost kids.’ The film was commissioned through Zimbabwe born Faith Phay Mutepa who was in Netherlands working with ZoomIn TV at the time. That’s when his journey to becoming a documentary filmmaker began. Since then Obaji has made several film breakthroughs for the Europe based online media house including film titled ‘The justice seeker.’ And has also been quintessential to coordinating key film projects for BBC World News, including story titled ‘Telling Africa’s story,’ featuring Nigeria’s media mogul, Mo Abudu.
Years as publicist for top celebrities and events:
From writing a report that introduced ex-Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, Isabella Ayuk in 2012, Obaji Akpet won the ex-beauty queen’s heart a gig to manage her publicity, a role he played until early 2019 when he and the ex-beauty queen turn philanthropist had a slight misunderstanding. Apart from being Ayuk’s publicist, Obaji under the Tell Africa Media initiative he founded has continued to manage publicity for other entertainment figures including kid actor, Angel-Onyinyechi Unigwe and her siblings; Agnes Madakor, Nigeria’s on-air personality (OAP); ex-Face of Independence Nigeria – International, Peace Eteng; and most recently his company signed Ghanaian top model, Prisca Abah.
Obaji has publicised for many top events including Calabar International Tourism Exposition, Cross River Most Beautiful Girl, Face Independence Nigeria, South-South Achievers Award, among others.
Awards and recognitions:
Obaji has not been recognised many times, but the few speak volume of his incredible personality. In 2011, Obaji was nominated as the ‘Most versatile student’ by Linguistics and Communication Students Association, UNICAL; in 2016, he was recognised for his sterling communication as publicist at the Cross River Most Beautiful Girl pageant; and in 2019, he was recognised as Tony Elumelu Foundation fellow for his ideas judged to be capable of positively disrupting the Africa economic space. In September 2019, Obaji was named ‘student of the month’ at MasterClass, a school in far away San Francisco, United States.
Owning his own company:
Still eager to make a difference in his career, Obaji went further to found Tell Africa Media in March 2019. Shortly after, his idea for Tell Africa was shortlisted by the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme as one of the winning ideas to contribute to Africa’s growth. Under Tell Africa Media, Obaji lives for nothing traveling across West Africa telling compelling African stories to the world.
On behalf of our media platform, PARADISE NEWS, we wish this great genius a happy birthday celebration.
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