It was a long wait. And it wasn’t my first call. I had made repeated attempts to have a face-to-face chat with the “witch doctor” but it was instantly obvious it wasn’t going to come easy. Too many people, too many far more important people made these daily visits to the Mecca and the chances of a small time writer/ producer and minor league talent manager/ label exec were always going to be paper thin.
Eventually I got my chance to meet Edi Lawani – the Edi Lawani. It was a brief meeting. It had to be brief. Industry heavyweights too numerous to mention were waiting to see the go-to guy for all kinds of reasons and I felt a mix grill of relief, excitement and anxiety when the receptionist muttered “Oga will see you next“. Then the process began.
Edi Lawani apologized for the long wait and repeated fruitless visits I have had to endure. I was stunned by his humility. He was Edi Lawani, the industry guru and I was but a small fry with a big dream. This was in ‘97 and I was fresh out of Unilag. Everyone I spoke to about my plan to grow a major league label and management outfit directed me to Edi Lawani, at Oremeji.
They all appeared 100% certain he was the one guy that can point me in the right direction. I had heard quite a bit about him and was convinced I was pursuing an aging guru who had come to cut the image of mythical Atlas in my head. It was the first shocker when I first saw him, a good number of visits before I got my 5-minute talk time. He looked way too young for his “showbiz age“. Now here he was, apologizing to me. OK! What’s next? He asked me a couple of random questions, busied himself with some other stuff like he wasn’t quite paying attention and asked me to pick up a form from the receptionist. I did. I was required to fill out the form and pay a registration fee for consultancy services. I filled out the form in a flash but struggled terribly to raise the balance payment for the fee. On one of my knowledge-tapping sessions, I tried to apologize for the delay in the payment. He simply smiled and said “Efe, I didn’t forget there was payment outstanding. I have left an instruction that no one should accept payment from you here. The fee was just something to scare away un-serious time wasters because I am of the opinion that the value one places on anything is directly proportional with what one is willing to sacrifice for it“. Poignant, those words and they stuck. I have found a more succinct version and it has stayed a personal mantra – “pursuit is the proof of desire“.
16 years down the road, Edi Lawani remains my ultimate go-to guide for all things showbiz. He is to a lot of us, a role model, mentor and the most dependable of friends. Edi Lawani has taught me so many amazing things by just sticking with old fashioned principles of hard-work, professionalism, integrity and selflessness.
Let me recount just one episode here.
A few years ago, I got a production brief from an agency client. The money was good [for my level then] but the notice was short. Worse than that, the production was tricky. I did the natural, call Edi Lawani and he offered to guide me through the drill and gave me an appointment. A while later, I got wind of some pretty disturbing gist.The job was originally Edi’s. The guys at an agency seemed hell bent on pushing him a raw deal. He had offered them first class technical solutions on numerous productions for their major client for years and felt they were acting too greedy. He had insisted on being paid right for the job and their response was to call up another production consultant, me. Once I found out, I pulled out and asked my agency friends to negotiate with the boss. Eventually he rejected the brief and “ordered” me to do it. Edi Lawani went ahead and gave me the prepping session. He was the last person I spoke to before the production and the first once we wrapped. It was my first stage management brief of a nationally televised live show and Edi Lawani practically executed the brief in absentia for “the alternative” stage manager.
Over the years I have leaned on his priceless counsel. He has stayed in the background, guiding, steadying the ship through our pursuits at Now Muzik and my personal forays through Music Business Forum and AM.B-Pro activities unto the birth of COSON and more, never hesitant to lend a hand, to come out of pocket to finance a move, to tell us the TRUTH, however unpleasant in any situation and never demanding or jostling for praise or recognition.
My boss, my mentor Edi Lawani. I have navigated my biggest productions with you. I have listened to some of the best music and talked about the most fascinating back stories with you. I have encountered the most thought-provoking books in your library. My flyest pair of sneakers ever, I got from you. I’ve been so blessed to know you and I’m certain there are many like me out there who are in a better place today because they got a little nudge from you at some point. Our commitment to the greater good for industry and country has been inspired and significantly strengthened by you.
As we get ready to celebrate and party with you at Playa’s Ball on January 31, 2013 at Club Rumors, I take a second to reflect and all I can do is smile. It’s amazing how much value a ₦10,000 part payment for a quarterly consultancy service has delivered 16 years down the road. It’s just it is difficult to measure but I have a sneaky feeling that if the Guinness Book of World Records guys can find an empirical way to ascertain it, that may well be the most rewarding ₦10,000 investment ever.
May God bless you and yours abundantly.