– Says the success of every event is hinged on the versatility of the MC
+ How being MSSN PRO sharpens craft
Mustapha Kelani is one of the young Muslims in his generation making fervent strides to change the face of Islamic events anchorage in Nigeria. With his dexterity backed with professionalism and humor, the Assistant General Secretary of University of Lagos Muslim Alumni (UMA) has been able to provide a touch of modernism to Islamic events and more importantly, Islamic TV hosting. In adding class to Islamic events, however, the Lead Host for Global Anchors has not lost sight of the ethics and principles of Islam as the standards have always been maintained. In this interview with Muslim News Nigeria, the young man who has become a household name in Islamic event anchorage relates how it all started for him. Excerpts…
MN: Can we meet you sir?
Kelani: My name is Mustapha Kelani Owoseni. I am the Lead Host for Global anchors. I had my first degree in Business Administration from the University of Lagos. I compere events, from corporate to social events, including Islamic functions. I also handle conferences for different organisations and companiés as well. Aside these, I coordinate trainings on public speaking. On the corporate professional arm of it, I am an Assistant HR manager for one of the leading top five media agencies in Nigeria.
MN: Tell us more about your educational background?
Kelani: Firstly, I am a Lagosian. Essentially, I am from the Awori part of Badagry. The name of my town is Ibereko, Badagry. I started my educational journey from Badagry. I attended a secondary school, State High School in Badagry and I proceeded to study at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, where I bagged my NCE. From there, I was admitted in the University Of Lagos to study Business Administration. I’m also an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM), which of course speaks to my full time job of being an Asst. HR manager.
MN: You studied Business Administration at the University of Lagos, but you are today an established TV host and MC at Islamic circles. How did this happen?
Kelani: This is quite an interesting question. As a matter of fact, a lot of people still think I probably work for a media house or I am a broadcaster myself. But, my flair and interest to be a public speaker and also someone who compere events; essentially for the Muslim folks or Islamic gatherings as it were started when I was at Adeniran Odunsanya College of Education. I was made the P.R.O of the M.S.S.N and I discovered that a couple of times when people anchor programmes, or sometimes when they want to give talks, even to their fellow students, they probably do that in Yoruba and some will do at times, of course in English. But I wanted to be more professional and do it like some of the very good speakers that I knew as of then (e.g. Khalid Yasir, Sheikh Yasir Qadhi) I’ll say that how I started my public speaking engagement.
MN: Can you share with us your first experience as a public speaker?
Kelani: My first attempt was nothing short of terrible. As a matter of fact, I think terrible is still being a bit conservative. It was colossal disaster. I would use present tense when I was meant to use past tense. I would pronounce words wrongly. At some point, I could tell that my audience, the people I was speaking to would almost ask me to say “ogbeni, o o dee so Yoruba” (meaning, Mr man, speak Yoruba”). That was the vibe I got from them, but some of them sat back, listened to the talk I was supposed to give after solah and I chose to do that in English. And pretty much, that was the first time I was doing that. So, coupled with the fact that I was not all prepared for what the outcome would be like because I had never done that before. My first attempt was really really terrible. Some decided to walk out, they couldn’t really stay to listen to what I was saying. And ultimately, at least the five minutes talk extended successfully to about 15/20 minutes or thereabouts. And some sat back, listened to me and got a few messages from my presentation.
One thing I learnt from that scenario was that one shouldn’t be really afraid to fail. I failed at that point. Some laughed at me even though they couldn’t laugh out loud, but you could see it in their faces. However, I learnt never to be afraid to fail. Get whatever you need to get started. Some people laughed at me at that moment perhaps, I am not all good and I am not saying I’m extraordinary or I’m the best or extremely professional, but I’m sure I’m not where I started from. I have grown over time and still growing, and I’m still learning as well. And I’ll like to say that it was a learning period for me.
There are still a lot of things I’ll like to improve on myself. But ultimately, I can say ALHAMDULILLAH. That was how it happened. So, from there, I moved to being the P.R.O and expectedly, you will be saddled with the responsibility of anchoring one or two programs here and there for MSSN. I contested for the SUG President of that institution. At that point, it required that of course, I present a manifesto to my fellow students. Basically, I could say that was another milestone in my speaking engagements.
However, I had a great opportunity when I got into the University of Lagos. Interestingly, I was also made the PRO of MSSN when I was there and trust me Unilag is an institution that presents you with quite a lot of experience and exposure which makes you understand that you really need to equip yourself to get better if you get into the job market or perhaps, that makes you a better person really. When I was made the P.R.O of MSSN University of Lagos, I could remember vividly then that I started anchoring events within the campus at different occasions. I had compered different occasions for different departments, faculties. The high point of which was when I anchored a programme back then at the University of Lagos Main Auditorium with an audience numbering over 2,500 participants. It was The Ambassador Summit back then. I think that happened in 2014. It had a lot of personalities as guests, including Funke Akindele and a lot of Senior executives from the private sector. So, I would say AlhamduliLlah that He made my effort yield a lot of fruits.
MN: When and what inspired you to take up a TV hosting and event anchoring professionally?
Kelani: Basically, I would say that the zeal, desire and of course, interest to be more like a spokesperson for the Islamic community led me to TV hosting and event anchoring. But I think the zeal was borne out of the fact that a lot of time, when you see people or when people see you, and in their opinion you actually speak well, or you look good at some point, perhaps because of some certain level of intelligence that you possess, they somewhat categorize you as a non-Muslim, because in their wildest imaginations, Muslims don’t speak that much of English, or perhaps when they speak, there are lots of errors. That’s not to say that at this point, I don’t make mistakes myself because it is part of the equation of life. There is a part of the equation of life where you make mistakes and some people laugh at you. They are meant to be there because if no one is laughing at you, if no one is listening to you, you are not really making impact. You are getting nothing done basically.
So, my interest was borne out of changing the narrative so to speak on how Muslims are perceived and how “Muslim events” are anchored. At some point, their events settings is similar to that of ‘ile ikewu’, (English word of local Arabic School) setting. So, I wanted to change that narrative and add more value, excitement into into our way of doing things, especially events. That’s what brought me to broadcast and anchoring Islamic events.
Sometimes, it is not about what the events is all about, but how it actually went. So, you could plan yourself a very fantastic event or perhaps the panellists or the program of events excellently designed, but not well executed, because the job of programme execution is right in the hand of the event host. So, if you find yourself a host that is not that fantastic, you might end up having a disaster at the end of the event. It’s very important because ultimately, who runs that show or who runs the programme that you have designed is the host. And that is the reason you should get yourself someone who can add that touch of excellence and professionalism to your events.
And on the TV hosting part of it. I got into TV hosting and radio show I think far back as 2013 or 14, I can’t remember specifically. I think, I had my trainings even though not totally professional. I might not have attended a training at the Institute of Journalism or Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), but trust me, sometimes, even if a broadcast student writes a news story, I can tell where exactly the fault is in that story. Or if you read a story on radio or TV, I could tell it could have been better done because I’ve also gone through some training from some senior members of the fourth estate like you call them, journalists that trained us back then at the camps we attended at MSSN. I have at some point been the news producer or program producer where we had to plan and design the program and news that we had to present to audience on campsite. So, I was well trained on how to write a very good news story. What you should look out for. If you are also presenting; how you should present, what you look out for; what kind of audience you are attending or speaking with and the content or the choice of words you need to use to actually bring them on board. Interestingly, when we were getting these trainings, we didn’t know that they will get us these far. And to the level of my ability as well, I’m also willing to give back to the younger generation or those that are younger than myself in the best possible way. Alhamdulillah for that.
And for the programmes, I anchored MSSN Half Hour, which later metamorphosed into Righteous Garden. Also, on a few occasions, I was a guest on MOMENTS, a radio programme MSSN Lagos had on UNILAG FM back then. Also, I think MSSN Half Hour and Righteous Garden aired on radio every weekend, on Saturdays, on Star FM. Thereafter, I moved to TVC where I anchored their Ramadan programmes for two years. Myself and Ruqayyah Giwa worked together greatly back then. You will say that it was an eye opener because that was the first time I was having a shot at the TV in formal setting, in the formal sense of it. We would be up from 2am till around 5am to 6am every morning during Ramadan, presenting different segments of the programme. And these were not scripted programs so you really don’t have access to a teleprompter to read through what you need to say to the screen. All we just needed to learn was what do you really need to say, how do you say it, when do you say it. It was really a lot for a first timer like myself and ultimately was a success I would say. Alhamdulillah.
MN: Do you specialise in Islamic events alone?
Kelani: I would say yes, pretty much. But on the other side, I would say I have had to anchor a lot of programmes especially back in school that were not necessarily Islamic events and had no touch of religion correlation or whatever. I’ve anchored a lot of conferences and I can say to the Glory of Allah, that there is hardly no hall in the University of Lagos that I didn’t stand to anchor one programme or the other. Name it, from the Multipurpose Hall to the Main Auditorium, Staff School Auditorium to Julius Berger Auditorium, among others. Alahamdulillah, I had that as a success.
And aside from that, I had anchored a few programs outside the University of Lagos environment. I hosted the reception programme that was planned in honour of Alhaji Abdurrazzaq Oladejo, the president of MUSWEN and vice president of the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs. It was put together by the University of Lagos Muslim Alumni held at the Radisson Blu hotel, Ikeja.
I had the honour of anchoring that programme and most recently, I anchored the AGM, University of Lagos Muslim Alumni as well. The reception programme had in attendance a lot of dignitaries. It was really a success and I thank Allah for that. I also anchored the reception hosted to honour Mr. Wale Babalakin, the former Chairman, governing council and the senate of the University of Lagos, also put together by the University of Lagos Muslim Alumni. That was also held at Radisson Hotel in Ikeja. It had a lots of dignitaries, including Dr. Muiz Banire, Alhaji Femi Abbas and Ogun State Chief of Staff and President of UMA. I also co-anchored Muslim News 3rd Anniversary lecture/Award ceremony in 2021 with Alhaji Jubril Folami, now with the News Central. I have also anchored series of weddings where I had the honour to meet quite a lot of people, captains of industries, including First Bank’s MD and Alhaji Fola Adeola, the President of Companion, Alhaji Wale Sonaike (Muslim Organisation) and a host of other great personalities. But, Alhamdulillah, it’s being Halal all the way.
MN: Which would you say is the biggest Islamic and non-Islamic event you have anchored?
Kelani: Errmm, biggest Islamic event? I can’t really say because I can’t really recall from the top of my head. But most recently, I was the host of the second graduation ceremony of Abdul Lateef Qur’an Memorization, which was held at the Agege Stadium, Lagos, on the invitation of Dr. Abdulhakeem Abdullateef (Former Commissioner of Home Affairs, Lagos) It had a lot of people in attendance. Pretty much, well over three thousand (3000) guests. You know, a graduation ceremony that produced over 130 Qur’an memorizers would have guests from all the graduands. It was an honour to host such event. As for un-islamic event, it has been a while that I’ve anchored such. But the one I could remember was the one I anchored back in school, The Ambassador Summit at the University of Lagos Main Auditorium of about 2,500 participant in attendance, students and other participants from outside the University environment. That’s the one I can recall for now.
MN: How much do you charge? We’ve heard people saying that you are expensive. Is your charge based on the personality or the event?
Kelani: When it comes to charges now, you would be amazed if I told you that the biggest event that I’ve anchored that’s a non-Islamic event was back in 2014 when I was in school. I actually did charge I think #20,000 or thereabout. I think I was ultimately paid #10,000 because really, it wasn’t about me charging. So, my charges are pretty much based on personalities or the time or sometimes it’s all about the situation I’m dealing with. I wouldn’t really say I’m expensive I’m absolutely not.
As much as possible, I try to make sure that the value I’m providing is the core in whatever conversation we are having about the fee or the charges. So, if you call me for an event, the first thing I’m talking about is certainly and certainly not the fee. However, I want you to actually see what I bring on board in terms of the value and I will also want to see what exactly is the aim of the event and how you want the event to go, before we now talk about the fee. The charges depends on the event. There is really no round figure to put to that. So I wouldn’t say if you call me for a wedding, I’m going to charge you #200,000 or #500,000. It all depends, and I am highly reasonable. So whatever the challenge is, let’s talk through it. There is nothing you can not resolve through conversation. Just have a conversation with me, let me know. Sometimes, I’ve had to take a pay cut in instances where I know that I don’t think this person has the ability to afford this. You tell me what your budget is and I will work around it. It’s that simple really.
MN: Why do you think Muslims who most times stage low-budget events need a professional MC?
Kelani: For those that have low-budget events, they need good MCs because the success of their event is primarily hinged on how good the MC is. Regardless of how low budget an event is, if you hire a very good MC, the event might turn out to be a lot more fantastic and more successful than you could have imagined. So, it is very important you have a very good MC for your events. Sometimes, they say that it is not what you say, it is how you say it, right? And that’s because sometimes, I can anchor a show or an event, I’m saying the same thing that someone else is saying, or someone else is saying the exact thing that I’m saying. Of course, we say things in different ways, right. You want to ensure that whatever you do, put the budget aside, ensure you get yourself a good and witty MC that has his way with words. Nothing else.
MN: What are the languages you use for anchoring?
Kelani: My languages for moderating events are pretty much English and Yoruba. Occasionally, I use pidgin, but I sparingly use that. The Yoruba aspect is inevitable of course because of the environment we find ourselves and also one of the spices I also bring to your event is that I give you very good “waka”. And they are premium wakas. And if I do my waka, I’m not doing a polish waka. I’m going to give it to you raw. You know what it means to give it to you raw. I’m not giving you and adulterated waka. Waka to jina de le ni maa fun yin. Waka to je pe tee ba gbo bayii, e ma ni openi fun Olohun. Those are the kind of wakas I’m talking about. And waka of course, you can’t take it out of an average Islamic event in Yoruba, at least in the southwest.
When I was asked to anchor a reception in honour of Mr. Wale Babalakin, I remember the environment was looking so tight and it was too cozy so to speak. We had all the power house and I could say that a lot of corporate people in the house. I had to throw a waka into the audience and before you knew it, everybody joined in and you know, it was a really good experience eventually. I was highly commended ultimately. After that event, I had one or two referrals after the event.
SUPPORT MUSLIM NEWS NIGERIA
With your generous financial contributions to MUSLIM NEWS, you are helping to sustain a culture of journalistic integrity that promotes tranquil Islamic values and ensures it remains free and available to all.
Rawshield PR Company
Guaranty Trust Bank