I met Andrew Osayemi over a decade ago when he was doing his A-levels and I was at University. I can’t tell you that he made an impression on me back then to be honest with you; but I could tell that he was highly intelligent and confident guy. Andrew is probably best known as one of the executive producers of the Nigerian-British comedy series Meet the Adebanjo’s and the Managing Director of the television production company-MTA Productions. Along with fellow producer and Creative Director Deborah Odutuyo, Andrew dared to pursue a dream, to tell a story and provide a visual representation of a new generation- The British Nigerian Family. There are plenty of stories of how they overcame numerous challenges to make their dream a reality; I would like to tell some these stories from a different angle.
The reason I have chosen to write about Andrew is simple, he is a man who has inspired me and I believe has the ability to inspire many more. He can be described as “Young, Black, and Nigerian-British”. In a society where perception matters; being put in these three categories has been (and can still be) an anchor on one’s quest for success. Andrew had the courage and self-belief to break down the proverbial barriers in order to pursue his ambitions and achieve his goals. He broke the mold early on when he took a gap year after college before going to University. Nigerians will understand this action required courage because at that time this was not the norm. There was no such thing as taking a gap year to travel or “find yourself”. The average Nigerian’s child’s educational journey is mapped out from birth. From Primary, Secondary, College, University (maybe 2nd degree) Masters and then the PhD. That year away from study made Andrew realize the value of having a degree, hence he chose to study for a degree in Economics. I believe this decision would provide him with the resolution need to overcome the many challenges he would go on to face as he and his partners struggled to turn their ideas into a visual reality.
Andrew worked as banker in New York for a while before being made redundant in 2010. He could have got another job in New York but instead he returned to London. The difficulties (this was at the height of the global financial crisis) he experienced during the first six months as he searched for a job upon his return made him realize life can’t be taken for granted and he could not rest on his laurels. One of the things I must commend Andrew for is his ability to turn challenges into opportunities. I don’t believe the word impossible is in his vocabulary. I have turned to him for advice on different projects I am working on; after a few minutes conversing with him, I always feel like everything is possible.
The reason I say that Andrew is a credit to a generation is what he represents; honesty, integrity, and perseverance. Meet the Adebanjos has been deemed a success because of its multiple awards, the number of countries it’s been shown in, the legions of fans around the world etc. For me personally, the numerous challenges that had to be overcome are the greatest success story and Andrew is one of the strategic architects. Andrew and Deborah experienced numerous rejections from major UK broadcasters and television production companies as they pitched their idea for an African sitcom, the first of its kind. Andrew could have given up on his objectives and returned to work in the banking industry, but he persevered and he set out to find private investors to fund the project. As mentioned previously, his race and background could have been a barrier in his search to attract investors. But attract investors he did due to his infectiously positive attitude and ability to make people believe in him. Additionally, his reputation preceded him; he had already established himself as a trustworthy and industrious individual who never gives up when faced with adversity. There were no guarantees that the show was going to be success, but self-belief and determination enabled him to persevere and overcome challenges that arose- and there were many.
The first season of the show was produced on an extremely small budget for a TV show that would go on to be watched on three continents. Even more remarkable Andrew chose not to receive remuneration for approximately three years as he built up the profile of the show and the company. He ensured that all investors got a return on their investment and staffs were paid before he took a stipend. I only fully appreciated the magnitude of what Andrew and his partners had accomplished when I was invited to make a cameo appearance on Season 2 of the show. Getting investors was only the beginning, they built a studio set, hired a full staff, conducted the marketing and promotions, put on a theatre show and sold the show to multiple countries around the world.
Andrew worked tirelessly crisscrossing the globe in his quest to make “Meet the Adebanjos” a global success. Qualities such as patience, courage and self-belief were required in order to achieve this objective. He quickly understood and adapted to the rigors of doing business in Nigeria, which he likened to playing chess. In order to avoid the ignominy being told to coming back tomorrow after waiting 8 hours for a meeting with a “big man”, Andrew quickly made himself desirable to the key players in the game in the Nigerian and African entertainment industry, no easy feat for a man in his mid 20’s. He also built key relationships with some the biggest companies in Africa as he developed his company brand. He recently told me that “if you can make it in Lagos make it anywhere in the world”. I am sure that one of the greatest moments of his many journeys was when he gave a speech at the African Business Conference at Harvard Business School in 2013.
Andrew credits the foundations of his success to the belief and support his parents showed in him throughout his life. They saw his abilities and surrounded him with an aura of positivity, this instilled him the drive to pursue his objectives and the belief that nothing is impossible. I would be doing my friend a disservice if I did not acknowledge his wife, friends, partners and team who supported him and helped to make the show a success. Surrounding oneself with the right people is not an easy thing to do, Andrew’s positive attitude attracted positive people.
I do not bestow the title ‘Credit to Generation’ to Andrew because he is young black and Nigerian. His experiences, qualities and accomplishments should inspire all beyond race, nationalities, sex, age, etc etc; it goes beyond labels or perceptions. Industry experts said the show would not work because there would not be a sufficient audience for it in the UK; Andrew went beyond these shores and sold the show to a worldwide audience. Today, black British actors are campaigning for more diversity on British television. Two young aspiring individuals set up Television Company called MTA Productions with the objective of telling their own stories on their own terms to the world. They broke the mold. I believe Meet the Adebanjos will do for Black British television industry what The Cosby show did for Black American television- break down barriers and create opportunities.
Each one us faces different challenges in our daily lives, we all have hopes and dreams. I hope I have demonstrated through Andrew’s story, that courage, self-belief, positivity and perseverance will enable you to overcome those challenges and achieve your objectives. If you believe in yourself, the right people will believe in you.
Mark my words ladies and gentlemen; Andrew Osayemi and MTA Productions will have a significant role to play in expansion of African-British Entertainment on the global stage in the very near future.
Andrew Osayemi KKB salutes you.
Till next time-KKB Out.