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John Ajayi: A legacy journalist and consummate professional @60



By Ralph Tathagata

Ever heard the phrase “60 is the new 40”? While that may sound biologically and literally impossible, it’s meant to highlight the very real phenomenon of being productive, a continuing and innovative presence in the workforce even at 60 years of age..

The above poser and its ensuing explanation encapsulates the life of John Ajayi, a.k.a Omo Ajayi, a legacy journalist who has spent over three decades of his sojourn on planet earth, practising a career that gives joy to his heart and soul.

Born on June 12, 1963, in Ijan-Ekiti, in Gbonyin Local Government of Ekiti State in Southwest Nigeria, Ajayi, known for his visionary and highly focused journalism, marketing and public relations acumen, graduated from the prestigious University of Lagos with a Bachelor’s degree in English Language. In his quest for more knowledge and to prepare for future endeavours, he obtained a postgraduate diploma in Journalism at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, and later a Master’s degree in Political Science, from the same University of Lagos.

A consummate professional, Ajayi worked with prominent media firms in Nigeria, particularly in the print media, distinguishing himself as a well sought after journalist, covering the wide spectrum of business beats ,features ,and later the political desk where he was once posted to the Governor’s office as a State House Correspondent. He cut his journalism teeth at The News magazine, where he was first employed as a Proof Reader on the Sub- Desk. He later moved to THISDAY Newspapers upon the completion of his Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism as a Staff Writer where he also introduced the Media page column of the Newspaper.

Meritoriously celebrated as an investigative journalist, and a very hard working news hunter, John Ajayi is known for delivering breaking news and top exclusives that have positively lifted the profession in the annals of Nigerian journalism. In his drive to move beyond the established mark and do something extraordinary, Mr. Ajayi took a very bold, surprising and decisive decision in 2003 that stunned industry watchers and even his family by floating his own media outfit, MARKETING EDGE Publications Ltd .His bold decision to call it quits with a paid employment even at a relatively young age was seen as a risk too grievous and ambitious. The focused publication’s objective as envisioned and moulded by John Ajayi was aimed at ” promoting the brand idea”, while expanding the frontiers of marketing and advertising knowledge for all the players and practitioners in the Integrated Marketing Communications sector (IMC) .This initiative offers the IMC group the first and novel opportunity to embrace and identify with a news platform that solely deals with the industry happenings, developments and growth .This media group has today metamorphosed into a multi-channel media news Channel that cuts across print, online, broadcast and OOH; and with a subsidiary, Media Edge, that is into 360-degree marketing communications and brand management consultancy services.

In further pursuit of the vision, Ajayi, in 2013, signposted the 10th anniversary of the company with the flag-off of an annual two-in-one event: the National Marketing Stakeholders Summit and the Brand and Advertising Excellence Awards, an event which, on the one hand, galvanizes the industry to brainstorm on a contemporary and topical issue in an effort to extend the frontiers of knowledge in the business of brand management and the management of the brand business as well as provide the environment for stakeholders engagement to chart the way forward for the industry.

The awards event, on the other hand, is a platform that honours outstanding product, corporate, institutional, and personality brands across marketing communication and other sectors. The two-in-one event has since grown to become another pace-setting and torch-bearing initiative which, over the last ten editions, has enjoyed a consistent rise in profile and equity, both locally and internationally.

In twenty years of establishing MARKETING EDGE, John Ajayi, a Fellow of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, FNIMN, has truly developed the publication as a likable brand reputed as the authoritative source of news, events, and happenings in the IMC sector. As far as Ajayi is concerned, the MARKETING EDGE vision remains very green as ever-green as the water lilly plant by the river bank.

It is no secret that the magazine and, indeed, the print media industry have had to cope with some significant changes in recent years. From declining print sales to advancement and incursion of the social media and digital technology, it is fair to say that the print industry is verging on extinction and looks very different now to what it did 20, or even 10 years ago. What remains of print journalism is shifting, morphing into a loose web of digital outfits populated by a corps of young freelancers, citizen journalists and keyboard hustlers, Twitter fiends and social media soothsayers. Gone are the packed days of the newsrooms. And gone, in many cases, are the journalism of the olden days as technology and innovations have distrupted the trade and the profession.

Despite the shrinking of the sprawling lattice of the newsroom and the extinction of several publications in the Nigerian media landscape too numerous to mention, John Ajayi as a publisher has continued to strategically and creatively navigate the media ecosystem with exceptional courage, innovation and creativity. His audacity and can do spirit inspired him into replicating the MARKETING EDGE in print with MARKETING EDGE ON TV, broadcast version of the print in partnership with TVC and WAP TV, two leading TV News Channels in Nigeria. MARKETING EDGE ON TV, a weekly TV Content rich 30 minutes programme is aired on TVC news station every Wednesday of the week between 12.30pm – 1pm while it also airs on WAP TV Wednesday by 8.30pm – 9pm and a repeat broadcast on Thursday between 9.30am – 10am weekly. The fact that MARKETING EDGE is riding high and still enjoying great success while holding a strategic place in the hearts of IMC stakeholders, Nigerians, and the world is a testament to the irrepressible nature and versatility of this iconic personality.. A staple of Nigerian brand and marketing news and events, MARKETING EDGE, magazine has been focusing on exclusive news that touches the heart of the industry in Nigeria since 2003.

In 2017, John Ajayi was inducted into the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), an umbrella body for Nigerian top editors and media elites. In 2022, the national body Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Lagos Chapter and Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (BJAN) recognised and honoured him for his immeasurable contributions to the growth and development of journalism profession. While the BJAN conferred him with the Industry Torchbearer –award (Brand Journalism) in recognition of his pioneering, pace-setting, and continued torch-bearing credentials in birthing and nurturing the genre of journalism which is now recognized, respected, and celebrated as brand journalism, the NUJ national body added more feathers to his cap with a milestone award recognition as one of the Media Icons in Nigeria. John Ajayi was bestowed with this award and honour alongside media gurus and icons at an event where the Governor of Lagos State Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu was the Chief Host/Guest Speaker. Other veteran journalists who were conferred with the NUJ Media Icons awards included Mr. Bayo Onanuga Publisher/ Founder, The News, coincidentally John Ajayi’s former boss, employer and role model. Others are Mr Sam Amuka Pelu, doyen of Journalism profession in Nigeria and Publisher of the Vanguard Newspapers as well as Mr John Momoh, Channels TV CEO/ Founder, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, and Mrs Funke Fadugba amongst others. The Occasion was chaired by another journalism legend and a doyen, Chief Olusegun Osoba, former Governor of Ogun State.

It must be recalled that the earlier days of this veteran journalist and workaholic wasn’t a bed of roses but tough and tedious, as initial efforts to get sponsors and investors failed woefully .Most regretably , the few who were keen showed reluctance to part with their money on media enterprise when the die was cast for them to represent their stake with funds back up…Indeed, they pulled out within some months!

In John Ajayi’s own words: “At the point when we thought we had investors ready to invest in our business, no sooner did we kick off after business registration than they pulled out.” According to them,” it will be unwise to invest funds in a business enterprise where we did not have the wherewithal and knowledge” For John Ajayi, that was the most glooming and harrowing day in the life of the business. Most significant, he would recall as one of the “reluctant investors” said: “John Ajayi, if MARKETING EDGE fails, you have failed, if it succeeds, you have succeeded”. That singular development, despite how unpalatable has continued to goad and inspire the publisher in relentless pursuit of higher ideals and goals for the magazine.

In all modesty, it is pertinent to attribute the phenomenal growth of MARKETING EDGE as the IMC industry, Nigerians and indeed the world know it today to determination, passion, ruggednness and doggedness. Simply put, MARKETING EDGE is a story of an individual audacity in the face of adversity and a man who braved all the odds to prove the nay-sayers who thought that the enterprise would collapse within one year wrong.

We are grateful to God today, for giving us a man in John Ajayi’s mould and persona who has been impacting positively on the Nigerian media landscape with innovative and brilliant ideas ever imagined in this part of the world. Interestingly, MARKETING EDGE will be celebrating twenty years of its operations in September this year, having redefined brand journalism, a new genre of journalism which “John Omo Ajayi” as fondly known in some circles pioneered in the annals of journalism practice in Nigeria.

The professional success story of John Ajayi will be incomplete without mentioning his former boss and Publisher of Thisday, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, a genius, innovator and avant-garde creator. It is worthy of note that Prince Obaigbena gave John and his other colleagues enough space to try out their new ideas, which worked and are still working. Kudos must of neccesity be given to his hearthrob,wife and mother of his amiable daughters, Mrs Sarah Olwabunmi Modupe Ajayi.In those challenging and sometimes frustrating early days of MARKETING EDGE businnes, Modupe Oluwabunmi Ajayi a banker wife whom Ajayi had met at UNILAG while doing his masters degree was a pillar of support and a good partner in deeds and words.

For those who work closely with John Ajayi, the fountain of his innovation and ideation never runs dry. There is no sign that it is going to do so any time soon either. As we celebrate this indefatigable journalist and exemplary entrepreneur with an insatiable appetite for excellence today, may 60 years of age mark the starting point of the best he has to offer his family, his community, his state, his country and the world at large. Happy birthday to John Omo Ajayi. We wish you growth and prosperity in all aspects of life.

Ralph Tathagata is Managing Editor of Marketing Edge magazine

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