The encounter that will live with me for a long time


It was a sunny afternoon in Lagos and I had just boarded a bus from CMS when a man in a blue polo shirt and black trouser, who looked emaciated and a bit unkempt, stood up to speak. He introduced himself as Daniel and was quick to point out that he was not a madman neither was he a beggar; he just wanted to share his experience.

The man regained his freedom on Wednesday 13th March, 2013 after spending 13 years behind bars. He was arrested in 1995 alongside 708 other people by General Sani Abacha’s operative as part of a suppressive measure against anti-government crusaders following the mass protests that greeted the cancellation of the June 12, 1993 election and Abacha’s rise to power. These indiscriminate arrests were known in the Southwest as “Won ko #Roga” and more often than not innocent people were usually the victims.

After his arrest, Brother Daniel was remanded in Ilesha Prison where he was until 1998 when a riot broke out and some inmates escaped following the news of Abiola’s death. The escapees we later recaptured and the prison authorities decided to relocate them. The prisoners were transported under inhumane conditions, a great number of them were squeezed into a Black Maria, they could not sit or stand comfortably coupled with very poor ventilation. Brother Daniel thought his end had come.  They were scattered all over Lagos –Kirikiri, Ikoyi and Badagry – and the prisoners believed that it was in a bid to frustrate their friends and families who might want to locate them. He was remanded in Kirikiri.

During his 13 years stay in Prison, Brother Daniel only had two court dates that did not yield into anything meaningful. They were fed twice daily – Half cooked beans in the morning and Eba with terrible soup in the night. Often time they spiced their food with ajinomoto that had been smuggled in to enable the swallow the food. The only access they had to information was through the radios wardens brought with them when they made rounds. The living condition is unfit even for animals and they had very little going for them in the way of care from the wardens. The little respite they had was from RCCG, other church missions and Major Al-Mustapha who provided food, medical supplies and assistance to pregnant inmates.

More on prisoner welfare in Nigerian Prisons


There he was in the bus, fully given his life to Jesus – the only thing that sustained him all through his time in confinement. Fresh out of prison with no money in his pocket, no idea where to start from, no assurances about his welfare and security, no guarantees on how the society will react to him and no compensation for the years he had lost and for the pains he had suffered. After addressing us, he was lost in thoughts every now and then, interrupted by commuters offering him money, some N20, some N50, others N100 and he expressed heartfelt gratitude to each of the donors. As he was about to alight, I squeezed N1,000 note into his palm, he was too stunned to say thank you and was almost moved to tears. My only prayer was that he could find meaning in life again…. And joy!


–          How many innocent Nigerians are currently rotting in Jail?

–          How many of them have dreams, aspirations, loved ones and desire to live like you and I?

–          Why is the standard of living so poor? Is the point of incarceration to debase their minds or to correct them?

–          Why would you release an inmate without making adequate plans for his welfare and security at least to help him find his feet and adjust back into society?

–          Why do the billionaire thieves get pardons and national awards while common ones/innocent people rot in Jail?

–          What is wrong with our (in)Justice system?

–          Is there hope for Nigeria?



I have been opportuned in my few years of experience in the design business to come across different kind of people, organizations, teams, businesses and events and I must confess, I marvel at the way ideas are been worshiped  I have heard speakers speak about ideas in ways that can make entrepreneurs turn their business ideas into some demigods. Saying things like “ideas rule the world”, “ideas make the world go round” and “all you need to get a break is a brilliant business idea” Every now and then I hear people say “you got to protect that idea”. Here is the bad news; our ideas are as useless as a dirt. Ideas don’t rule the world neither do they make the world go round.  And please do note that when I say ideas, I mean every kind of business ideas you can ever think of.

A larger percentage of ideas been protected or even the ones being pitched around will never go anywhere, and it is important to know that these ideas are bound to fail not because they are invalid or because they are not brilliant, most of them will fail because of only one thing. Just one thing- EXECUTION.

All kind of people have absolutely brilliant ideas, just thinking about them, writing them down in some documents they guard diligently, discussing them with friends, family, associates and waiting for them to say WOW that’s a great idea! But in the end do absolutely nothing to make the ideas come to life, or having poor execution.

My job as the Director of Magic (yes! I do magic) at Urbanbaze as thought me a lot about ideas and executions, being in the business of selling ideas to clients as turned me into a student of understanding ideas and execution. Three years ago, we had an idea that was absolutely brilliant, we were sure it will change the way brands engage the youth market. It was so great that we talked about it at every meeting. But it was just an idea, a mere pregnancy that can get aborted. We decided to push it, we pitched it to some Nigerian brands and multinationals that we were sure wants innovative ways to engage with youths. Meetings after meeting, and as usual, all the pitched faded into complete silence or truthful rejection like “Guys, we are sorry, we tried, we couldn’t get management to approve it”.

One of the meetings, the manager walked up to me, shook my hands and said “you see, let me tell you the truth, no one is ready to buy into an idea that has not been executed, go back to your drawing board, create a product with it, give us a better reason to believe in it, come back and pitch, I believe it should fly, and if it doesn’t fly, well you have a product, so you can easily pitch it to other prospects”. It was like a veil was removed from my eyes, as we drove out of their premises, I knew we have all we need to make it happen. We gathered every resources we had, built our product, went back to pitch the same client and that was it. After eighteen months of pitching around, we struck gold. My lesson, it’s not the idea that will take you there, it’s the execution.

Truth be told, when an idea is yours, being biased about it is inevitable, it’s like your baby and you are likely to believe it is brilliant even if it’s not. An idea is just a starting point, it is the first step you take on a journey that may last your entire business career as an entrepreneur, which is why what you do with it and how you do it is more important. When next you come up with an idea that seem great, these few tips among others can help you strike gold.

  1. Spend more time working on your idea than you spend discussing it with people who won’t make any contribution than just nodding their heads and saying that’s a great idea.
  2. Start with anything, anywhere, making as many mistakes as possible. I was at a Google event and their team put us through how to execute ideas, they don’t wait, they just start immediately, learning how to make it work while doing it.
  3. Look at how your ideas can be monetized, by fixing problems for people or firms with it. If your idea can’t fix a problem, you are not different from a mother who just learns a new way to change a baby’s napkin, when others have moved on with diapers.
  4. Find people around you or far from you who can help make your idea happen and don’t just approach for favor, tell them what’s in it for them.
  5. Kill your own baby. That is be ready to allow your ideas to change or metamorphosed from what you first came up with into what the world needs, more often than not, your initial idea that seemed great is just a lamp to lead you to the real deal, clinging to it may stop you from making things happen.
  6. After all said and done, don’t ever think of protecting your idea, rather think of protecting your execution, a finished product or a service ready to be rendered, Google didn’t patent the idea of a search engine, Apple didn’t patent the idea if an iPhone, they patented the product itself. So no execution, no protection.
  7. Be aware that no one is ready to buy into your idea if there’s nothing in it for them, so while developing it, always look at the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) part for every stakeholder which include you or your organization, your prospects and every other person who might have a stake in it. Let your prospect know what your ideas can do for them, is it awareness? Will it increase their bottom-line? Put the values first.

Via @under40prenuer