I’VE PASSION FOR STORYTELLING – ODUGBEMI

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Femi Odugbemi is a respected writer and content producer. He is the Academy Director (West Africa) for the Multichoice Talent Factory, and an OSCARS voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Odugbemi, who is one of the founding producers of Tinsel, and the Executive Producer of Battleground, in this interview with TONY OKUYEME, shares his thoughts on documentary film genre, Nollywood, and other issues

You recently served as an OSCARS voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). How does this impact on Nollywood?

First and foremost, it is a validation of our industry. The idea is that the third and most prolific industry in the world is recognized as a legitimate and valued film culture. I think that is the first thing. And obviously, it is an incredible honour that that has happened. But it also at the same time, a challenged to us, a challenge to look at what OSCARS stands for. OSCARS stands for excellence, the most advanced technique and technology in filmmaking. OSCARS stands for powerful storytelling that is compelling and global in its narratives. The OSCARS stand for performances that are beyond the ordinary. So, when the OSCARS recognize your industry, they are also challenging your industry to become better at everything it is good at, take it to another level. But they are saying the door is open, that means that in another five years or 10 years, there is no reason for a Nollywood film not to be recognized, not to be nominated. But you know it is not by rank; it is not operated on a quota system. We have to make that excellent film for us to get that recognition.

How soon do you see that happening?

I believe that the day cometh when we will actually have Nigerian films nominated in different categories. I am looking for to time when Nigerian films can be nominated for cinematography, can be nominated for script writing, can be nominated for performance and so on. There is no discrimination in an incredible performance. The power of performance, the power of excellence is undeniable. We don’t want an OSCAR that will be given to us by quota system. No, we are going to be excellent, and we are going to have the whole say ‘this was a good film’. Not that ‘this was a good African film’; not that this was a good Nollywood film’.It should be that ‘this was a good film’. So for me, the membership of the Academy is simply a signal to say, ‘you guys are on the right part, take our game to the next level’. That is what I am committed to do. We just need our best and brightest to co me together. We need to stop working in individual cubicle. We need our best cinematographer to work with our best sound to work with our best actors, to work with our best directors. We need to stop competing and start collaborating. That is the way to go.

What’s your projection for Nollywood?

I have said this before; Nollywood must become, ultimately, the most powerful voice for the black race in the world. Nollywood must become the voice of our history. But it must also be the voice of ambition, our future. It is from films that I learnt everything about India, about China, about America. Film is the most powerful cultural diplomatic tool. And how do you do that without itself being a documentation of we are? Two thousand years from now, if the world is still here, someone will dig the ground and will find a dvd of a Nollywood film. And inside it will be the documentation of who we are, how we lived, what clothes we wore, what cars we drove. It would be, a documentary, regardless of what story it is telling. Remember my article: Is Nollywood documentary? I always say yes. Yes it is entertainment, it is fiction, but in many ways it is what will be the record of Africa, because the story of Africa has often been told by non-Africans. And it has never been told to our advantage. So, if nothing else, Nollywood is able to put on record our own dreams and values.

Tell us about your early encounter with film

I grew up in the city of Lagos in the 60s, and we used to live at 2, Ayenuga Street, Fadeyi. There was a photographer in the building where we lived, he had a shop. And all he did was taken passport photographs, but that was really the earliest memories I have of encountering a camera; encountering how a camera is used to document people.

At what stage did film come to the scene?

Of course, back in the 60s as well, there were lots of cinemas across Lagos; from house to my school, there three different cinemas. And all we saw were Chinese films and Indian films. These were the films that we, as children, after replayed after watching the films; that is what we talked about. Characters such as Damendra in Indian movies, we used to sing their songs and dance. We loved the songs of the Indians, their dances and so on. That environment we all grew up, it was our ambition either to be a footballer or to be a filmmaker. Evidently, I must not have been a very good footballer. Where I grew up, film and cinema were part of the culture of the city itself. So, for me it is not a surprise that Nollywood would grow out of Lagos. It is simply that Lagos is a state that has stories. And if you look at Lagos, it is a state that is unique in character. Why? It is because Lagos has a heartbeat. Lagos itself is a world of stories. I am a Lagos boy, I grew up in Lagos. But my parents are from Oke-Igbo, Ondo State. I am from the D.O. Fagunwa family.

So, story telling is in the family?

So, I come from a storytelling background. And I live and grew up in a city like Lagos where storytelling was the currency for young people. So, ending up as a photographer, ending up as a filmmaker, ending up as a script writer, storyteller, and content developer, it seems to me almost a natural progression, of the kind of world in which I grew up. For me, that is really why I am very comfortable doing what I do; it is a passion that I have. And whether it is expressed in documentary, in television in series, in photography exhibition, all I just want to do is tell stories; but tell stories that inspires; tell stories that create content, that also create change; tell stories that help people to reflect a little more, and hopefully, that empowers. So, beyond entertainment, for me, storytelling is a very powerful tool for development. And in a country like Nigeria, where we have so many different voices, so many different tribes, so many different languages, so many different political leanings, film can be a powerful tool for unity, for bringing us together, for helping us to understand each other’s stories, as it were. This is why, IREP Documentary Film Festival this year our theme is ‘Storylines’. There is a way in which when I am able to look at you and say, what is your story? I expect a deeper than superficial interest in knowing you and knowing where you come from, and knowing your world view; knowing your experiences, because that is the only way I can actually connect with you, beyond labels. To say I am a Yoruba man is a label; to say that I am a filmmaker is a label. But who is Femi? The only way to do that is for you to hear my story. And you might find that even though I am Yoruba and Tony is Delta, my story is that our stories are different, and so we will connect at a deeper human level when we are able to experience each other’s stories. Contrary to what most people think, it is much harder to do documentary than to do a feature film, because, in a feature, you write the script, you know the end, you know the beginning. You created the characters, so you basically have all the answers. You just need to create a story. Documentary is different; it is different because documentary starts from questions, not answers. Documentary, often, may not have answers, but it has a lot of questions. And when you are a filmmaker who is into documentary, you don’t know where the story is going; you don’t know how the story will shape. The research will take you half way, but when you begin to shoot the film you will find that what you thought you knew was not all there was to know. You will find that the people in the story have insights and revelations that totally can change the story. And I find that to be, for me, an incredible fascination because in that journey, I already am learning, I am growing. I don’t have all the answers but the questions are taking me to new levels of understanding that I think is such a powerful thing for a filmmaker to experience. The power of documentary is that it makes you an agent of change.

“We are creating the future with MTF Masterclass”

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A renowned filmmaker, Femi Odugbemi, is the Academy Director for MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) West Africa. A flagship corporate shared value project of MultiChoice Nigeria, the initiative kicked off recently with the highly anticipated Masterclasses. In this interview with ENIOLA DANIEL, Odugbemi gave insight into the MTF project and its objective to redefine the African movie industry, as well as groom filmmakers, who will tell the African stories with the aid of new technology.

What’s the vision behind MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) Masterclasses and who is qualified to participate? 
The project is conceived for those, who are working and leading difference technical line of our film industry. We got 60 of them doing the audio Masterclass with Dolby, but everybody is selected from the major player in the industry. There are senior people in the audio section of NTA, LTV, Silverbird, independent production companies and Nollywood. The real reason for Masterclass is to actually touch the whole area of the industry with information. We’ve done so much experimentally but there’s more we can do with passion. The world is an amazing technological space; things are changing at such an alarming rate that by the time you think you know it, everything you know would have changed. So, we are not talking about fundamental only, we are talking about how to bring knowledge to the table that is current, global, that is best practice; that’s the only way we can create the future place.

We are doing a lot in our country, but the only way to make our filmmakers prosperous is simply to ensure that their work can travel. Not travel in the sense that Netflix will need to invest a million dollar to redo everything in order to have it ready for international audience; the million dollars should be given to the guy. It’s about time we empowered the HOD for the sound, camera, production design… these are the guys that really make the films look the way they are.

You Started with sound, which is a major issue in the Nigeria films industry, were there experts selected to speak on Nollywood?
Sound is a major problem in the Nollywood. I do believe that our next goal is that our work is best practices across board. Technically, we have the challenge that the sound must be cleaner, better but there are many thing we don’t know about sound that I think we need to tackle. The creative side of sound, the use of silences… few of us are getting better at it, but we need that knowledge to be all of us.

Right now, in Nollywood, a lot of guys are making money by having to clean up sound by doing Additional Dialogue Recording (ADR), costing more than it should. The biggest thing everybody talks about is that even when our sound is clean, it’s mono, or when it clean, it’s been so manipulated that the stereo itself is not so stereo, but our audiences have been very forgiving. If they can just hear the dialogue, they are fine but they are not the only ones that we need to serve.

Those who are in the technical area are committed to getting better, but the question is, can they afford the courses? That’s where I think the industry leader like the MultiChoice must show leadership; they must bring to the table the enablement for these guys to do what they need to do because it comes back to them. The same film that these guys are going to make, are the content that MultiChoice needs, so, in that sense, I think that both training the kids that will start from scratch and training those that are already there actually becomes midterm and long-term strategy. In the meantime, we must make our people better in the technical beat, but in the long-term, we must grow those, who started with an empty hard drive and they’re loading with the right kind of information.

How many participants are expected to benefit and what criteria were used in selecting them? 
You have to actually be doing something before you can be a beneficiary. Almost everybody participating is either the heads of some department in the TV station. It’s for people, who are already doing something; the information is just too technical for someone who is just starting.
Some self-taught people in the industry, who have had some level of success, might think they don’t necessarily need this kind of initiative to stay relevant. What’s you take on that?

The question is, to stay relevant where, in our local industry? It depends on how high you wish to fly. Nobody questions the description of a duck as a bird, but when you are talking about eagles and where eagles fly, its name will never come up because it simply does not have the enablement; it has wing but not of the sort we are talking. So, I’m not keen to force anyone to grow but you know, growing is an economic thing; the better you are, the more you earn. If you are happy with where your life is and you really don’t need anything extra by all means, that’s fine. We live in a democracy but I don’t like this conversation that says to us, ‘mediocrity is fine.’ Regardless of how good you are, anything in the world, there’s always a way to be better and the only way to be better is to get more information.

As the director of this academy, how soon should we expect the students from the MTF Academy to be ripe enough to take over?
I don’t want them to take over; they are not revolutionary filmmakers. If they take over, they will chase me away; I want to be here and working. We believe in them, I believe strongly in their passion but I don’t want them to take over individually, that’s what I mean. I want them to form cells, teams, to work together, to create passion into something that is structurally strong. Not to work as individual, but create production companies. We want 20 of them to hire another 100 people; we want them to become game changers in the economy of the creative industry. I don’t want them to come and show how to make films, films will be made; we want them to come and expand opportunity for other people. We want to have certain mind-set that is exposed and digitally driven. What we’re trying to create are filmmakers of 10 years from now. That filmmaker 10 years from now is not just carrying camera; he/she is making content that is making a difference.

I’m looking for filmmakers, who understand the impact of platform like Facebook create, Instagram TV because content is going to be extremely personal in another five years and we need to prepare those, who will own that space at that time. So, there are lots of technological interfacing in what we are doing simply because they are young enough to understand it; it’s their world. They already know how to manipulate all these devices.

The African stories will never die but technology will ask questions and the questions will be asked of the filmmakers and the filmmakers cannot come to the table as an illiterate; they cannot come to the table unable to explain the kind of stories he’s telling. They cannot come to the table with a cynical village story, where everything is solved by juju. That can no longer happen because even now in Nigeria, how many things do we solve by juju? Those, who know the juju, have died. Essentially, I’m looking for some of them to create apps, not all of them will carry camera; that to me, is the goal.

What are the challenges so far?
I think the biggest challenge in our industry is, everyone questions everyone’s motives and my response to that is to always let the results speak for themselves. I’ve never really been keen to prove to anyone anything. My years as ITPAN president, my commitment has always been to training and to the future. So, for me, it’s a challenge because it means transparency is key to part of what we are doing. I was very keen that we are transparent in the selection process. Initially, my worry was that it’s often easy to create public relations thing and do it like a reality show and throw the kids in like they are kind of zoo animal, but MultiChoice agreed not to make this a TV show.

People understand that I’m a serious person; I’m not a red carpet person, I am not interested in the celebrity part of what we do, I’m a professional. Multichoice has at every point so far proven that they live by the agreement they made with me concerning how we do this. They provided every resource that is needed and some of these resources are extremely expensive. Bringing Doldy here is not cheap; the equipment the kids are using is not cheap. We got like three linux cameras. Multichoice has been honest with their intention and hopefully, it will continue to be that way. I also think that the people I respect in the industry have been great; they come to the table. Kunle came when he was rehearsing for Moremi, yet, he came here and he was supposed to stay for just two hours but I was the one that eventually chased him away. Mildred Okwo spent the whole day here and that’s highly unusual of her. We had lawyers from chambers to come and do intellectually property law. There’s community effort towards this vision that I think is worthy of commendation.

You talked about them forming cells, how well have they been able to integrate?
We created a process to pick 20 out of 3000; despite that process, anything could have happened. They are human beings and they are young, but they have been able to come together; they do their assignment in groups. So, I’m hoping that the group themselves, who live together, work together, do assignment together. It’s unlikely they don’t form a measure of bond; that was what happened to me in school. I went to film school around ‘79 to ’85 and the truth is that some of the people that were in my little cell are still my friends today. So, it’s a lifetime thing but I think I have to give credit to these kids; it’s one thing to have talent, it’s another thing to have character and I’m really quite amazed. They’ve all been passionate and they pay attention. We start here 8:30 every day, sometime I get here by 7a.m and meet them in the compound. They have a lot of homework to do; they do reflective essays on books. They have to read a book a week and they have to write a summary on it. I also hope that some of them would become film critics in the future because there is no better film critic than somebody, who knows film. But they also must know how to write. One of the things I’m proud of is, some of them came here, they had spelling and grammatical issues but after one semester, that’s gone because of the intensity of the engagement.

Is the programme fully funded?
Yes, it’s fully funded with free lunch.

What are you doing to make sure that the major objectives are achieved?
They will deliver at the end of their course; they are pitching, they will sell it like any filmmaker supposed to pitch and sell. Hopefully, those who are in Africa Magic at the other side will commission them and make decision. For me, I think the greatest thing you can have, as a student is to see something that you conceived on a blank sheet of papers, to sit down and watch it broadcast. That you’re going to make money from it or that you are going to win an award from it, is tangential from the initial point that as a creative, you actually create. That’s the first identity point and it is from that you start talking about the economy of that space. So, my goal is to get them to the point of ‘I create’ and hopefully I’ve done enough that the quality of the creativity allows them to find work. They are not going to look for work with uncles or any relative; we are getting the economy for them so that they pitch, they can find commission works, they are able to present a business plan that is clear on how the money will come back. They are not being taught to make films so that they can go on Instagram; they must become entrepreneurs.

ORANGE ACADEMY UNVEILS “THE FEMI ODUGBEMI OVERALL BEST STUDENT IN MAGIC” AWARD

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At the last immersion on the 9th, September, 2018 at the Sheraton Hotels, Ikeja, Orange Academy unveiled “The Femi Odugbemi Overall Best Student in Magic” award. This award will be given to the most creative student for two sets of the most prestigious Brand Management Course in the country, Integrated Brand Expperiene (IBX).

Femi Odugbemi is a founding member of the Orange Academy, a board member, veteran ace film maker, his work, Tinsel is one of the longest running TV shows on cable in Africa. His latest work, another TV show, Battleground, is enjoying massive ratings. He is the convener of IREP Film Festival and the CEO of Zuri24 Media.

MULTICHOICE TALENT FACTORY APPOINTS FEMI ODUGBEMI AS DIRECTOR

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Africa’s leading video entertainment and internet company, Multichoice, has announced the appointment of Ace Filmmaker, Femi Odugbemi as Director of Multichoice Talent Factory Academy.

Multichoice Talent Factory Academy is a fully-funded educational programme aimed at furnishing African filmmakers with the skills to work and innovate in film and television production will be admitting 20 deserving, young, talented people who will be trained for a 12-month period.

The programme will take place at the West African regional MTF Academy based in Lagos, Nigeria and will be overseen by acclaimed local film & TV industry experts.

“The Multichoice Talent Factory academy is the most exciting intervention in the African creative industries to date. There have been trainings on the structure business, distribution and other areas, however this academy offers…” said Odugbemi.

 “I urge all current and aspiring filmmakers to take advantage of this huge opportunity provided by Multichoice and apply for the program. It is indeed a huge opportunity to ignite Africa’s Film & Television industry and you don’t want to miss out on this.” He added.

Following the adjudication process, 20 post-school MTF students will be selected to hone their television and film production skills in company of industry experts during the year-long programme that will begin on 01 October 2018.

Entries for the Multichoice Academy close 6pm on 5 July 2018. All aspiring young film & TV creatives can submit their entries on www.multichoicetalentfactory.com before the deadline on Thursday, 05 July 2018.

CONGRATS!!! Femi Odugbemi becomes member of Oscar’s voting Academy

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OSCARS FO

Nigerian producer and filmmaker Femi Odugbemi has been formally invited into the voting membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the United States of America.

The academy organises and decides the nominations for the universally-acclaimed Oscars award for motion pictures. It is a world recognised movie-related organisaion, comprising more than 8000 accomplished men and women working in cinema.

Academy membership is limited to film artists working in the production of theatrically-released motion pictures. The academy has 17 branches ranging from actors, writers and two categories that involve members-at-large and associates to accommodate individuals who have no defined branches in motion picture.

Odugbemi, who studied Film and Television at The Montana State University, scripted, directed and produced numerous documentaries, short films and drama. He produced Tinsel, a widely acclaimed soap opera that started airing in August 2008 and celebrated as a successful drama on Nigerian television.

The producer’s filmmaking credits include ‘Gidi Blues’, ‘Battleground’, ‘Maroko’ and ‘Bariga Boy’. Odugbemi was the President of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria in 2002, a tenure that ended in 2006. In 2008, he produced ‘Abobaku’, a short film directed by Niji Akanni. The film won the Most Outstanding Short Film at the Zuma Film Festival held in 2010. It also won Best Costume at the 6th Africa Movie Academy Awards held on April 10, 2010 at the Gloryland Cultural Centre in Bayelsa.

In 2013, Odugbemi scripted, produced and directed a documentary titled, ‘Literature, Language and Literalism’ about the late Nigerian writer, Daniel O. Fagunwa, the author of ‘Ògbójú Ọdẹ nínú Igbó Irúnmalẹ̀’.

Odugbemi is currently the Executive producer of the Africa Magic’s hit TV show, Battleground. He was currently appointed director for Multihoice Talent Factory, an organisation that aims to develop young talents in the African Film & Tv industry.

MULTICHOICE TALENT FACTORY (MTF)

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The MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy (MTF) aims to ignite Africa’s creative industries by giving a 12-month educational programme to deserving, young, talented people who want to work and innovate in film and television production.

The MTF Academy students will be provided with skill sets to develop their talent, connect with industry professionals and tell authentic African stories through a comprehensive curriculum comprising theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in cinematography, editing, audio production and storytelling.

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The MTF Academy students will be provided with skillsets to develop their talent, connect with industry professionals and tell authentic African stories through a comprehensive curriculum comprising theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in cinematography, editing, audio production and storytelling.

MultiChoice is calling all aspiring young film & TV creatives to apply for the MTF Academy on www.multichoicetalentfactory.com.

The Call for Entry will close on July 5, 2018. The 60 post-school MTF students (20 for each region) – will be selected from *13 African countries where MultiChoice operates – will have an exciting opportunity to hone their television and film production skills in the company of industry experts during the year-long programme that will begin on October 1, 2018.

Join the MTF social media conversation on the hashtag #multichoicetalentfactory and follow/join on Instagram:@multichoicetalentfactory; Twitter: @MCTalentFactory Facebook@multichoiceafricatalentfactory.

PREMIUM TIMES: How Nollywood evolved from ordinary passion to multi-billion dollar industry — Odugbemi

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“If there has ever been an industry that created digital dialogue from the word go, it would be Nollywood.”

The above was the sentiment expressed by Femi Odugbemi, CEO of Zuri24 Media Limited, who discussed the Nollywood revolution to industry thought leaders at the Digital Dialogue Conference holding in Dubai.

The Conference is facilitated by MultiChoice Africa.

Speaking on “The development of Nollywood Industry — The current Position of Nigerian Films and Creativity”, Mr. Odugbemi reflected on Nollywood’s exponential growth since 1992 with the release of the classic ‘Living in Bondage’ to 2014 when it was declared a $3.3 billion sector by the Nigerian government.

“In 2016, Nollywood’s combined Box Office topped a staggering 3.5 billion naira ($11.5 million), and in 2017 Nollywood was named one of the priority sectors identified in the Economic Recovery and Growth plan of the Federal Government of Nigeria with a planned $ 1 billion in export revenue by 2020,” the filmmaker said.

According to Mr. Odugbemi, digital solutions opened up a number of possibilities across Nollywood’s sub-sectors including distribution, production, manpower and governance:

• Beyond the big screen, small screens are creating a world of opportunities to 130 million active GSM subscribers of which 25% can spend 1,500 Naira per month on movies, equating to a staggering annual revenue of 585 billion Naira ($ 2 billion).

• Filmmaking in Nigeria is gradually becoming more sophisticated because of the growing options that digital filmmaking avail filmmakers, such as applications that can create a virtual rendition of a scene.

• Nollywood amounts an average of 50 filmmakers per film set, 2,000 film projects in Nollywood per year and estimated 2 million in its workforce.

• A sizeable part of Nigerian film industry remains informal, however, there is a new thinking in Nollywood that is reshaping the industry and gradually creating formal structures that allows filmmakers to access public and private funding to address the business of filmmaking.

• In terms of governance, business proposals, right contracts, and chain of title agreements are becoming a necessary part of the business of Nollywood, helping to create a new line of roles and new businesses. There has been increased government participation in Nollywood in the areas of funding and grants, copyright legislation, and taxation. The industry is also being closely watched by guilds, lobby groups, and other relevant stakeholders.

Mr. Odugbemi concluded that despite ongoing developments, the DNA of Nollywood remains constant along with its reputation of being an artistic platform for telling stories that resonate with audiences around the world.

The 2018 Digital Dialogue Conference is a thought leadership platform facilitated by MultiChoice Africa to foster a better understanding of the future direction of the pay-TV industry in Africa.

This is the fifth edition of the conference which was established in 2012 to create a better understanding of Digital Migration and its impact on Africa’s digital landscape.

Since then, the independent and growing platform has been critical in fostering a better understanding and building knowledge on the pay-TV and Digital terrestrial markets while creating necessary conversations with thought leaders about various industry-related issues.

EDUGIST:Orange Academy Provost calls for National Curriculum Review to Promote Entrepreneurship

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Written by Elvis Boniface

Provost, Orange Academy, Mr. Femi Odugbemi has advocated the need for the Federal Ministry of Education and experts in the education industry to review the schools curriculum, such that it will begin to produce entrepreneurs rather than skilled labourers.

He noted that most Nigerian graduates realised upon leaving school that what they learnt does not fit into the realities of the world as well as market demands.

Odugbemi, in an interview with The Guardian at the 8th Annual Immersion of Orange Academy/Art of Positive Thinking (APT) Exhibition, in which 39 participants graduated, insisted that an educational system whereby graduates are thrown off balance in the world of work must be reviewed, as such trends slow down economic progress of a nation.

He said: “The structure of Nigerian educational system needs to be reviewed. The basic assumption of our educational system is that when you graduate, you will work for someone. We have to change that thinking, and start creating entrepreneurs not skilled labourers. To do that is a systemic thing, we have to truly fix our educational sector. Today the only guarantee of good education comes from the private education and it is too expensive.“We have commercialised education, we have to get our bearings right, we have to begin to take care of our children not just to be labourers however skilled, but to be creators and entrepreneurs. Government and all stakeholders must come together to rethink our educational structure. Orange Academy is the first practical school of Integrated Brand Experience and Idea management.

Mr. Tunde Phoster, a board member and lecturer, said the graduating students are creative as they think beyond the norm and are beginning to cause social change through their APT and not for profit activities. Ovuson John Ogonna emerged the best overall graduate at the ceremony, which also featured APT videos on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other social vices whilst proffering solution to them.