Despite a failed attempt in politics at the Oyo State House of Assembly in 2019, Sayo Owolabi has recorded success in other endeavors outside his training as a lawyer. Owolabi, who is previously one of the most prominent voices in Sportscasting on radio in Nigeria and now the secretary general of Africa Esports Development Federation (AEDF), co-founder/CEO, MOBIELE, Africa’s novel mobile gaming platform, founder/CEO, Lagos Esports Forum (LESF), among others is celebrating his 40th birthday on June 17th. He speaks to Obinna Emelike on his life and career journey so far, achievements and expectations, among related issues. Excerpt:
Congratulations on clocking 40 years this month of June. For those who are meeting you for the first time, who really is Sayo Owolabi?
I’ll say I am a Nigerian with a passion for her growth and development. I am calm and easy going with a very creative and innovative mind, which has always set me apart in all my endeavours. I am a proud husband to my darling wife and great dad to my two beautiful daughters. Above all I am a God lover and as I always put it I am “Made of Grace”.
Why are you rolling out drums to celebrate the anniversary unlike your other birthdays?
The truth is I have led and I still lead a quiet life even with the level of relevance God has given me as one of the most prominent voices in Sportscasting on radio in Nigeria previously and now as the secretary general of the most prestigious Esports organization in Africa, the Africa Esports Development Federation (AEDF).
I believe there is no better way to inspire the next generation than to share my story, which is a blend of the Great, the Good and the Grateful (it was not that bad)… smiles.
What have been the most remarkable milestones for the four decades you have lived?
First is definitely making a career switch at various intervals from lawyer to sportscasting to brand management and now Esports at a global level and being able to make an enviable success on each curve.
Another major milestone will be making a name for myself in a whole new terrain as Esports (which is yet to fully take off in Nigeria and Africa) and having my efforts recognized on the global stage with my appointment as a 2 Commissions member at the Global Esports Federation and also the pioneer secretary general of the Africa Esports Development Federation.
Are there targets you missed or milestones you haven’t achieved yet?
The major one will be not getting elected to the Oyo State House of Assembly in the 2019 General Elections. I had put in a lot of work and efforts in this, especially travelling from Lagos to Ogbomoso every fortnight for three years before the primaries.
The minor one (laughs) will be not buying my first car before I was 25… But we thank God we can afford to change cars now.
I know you are a lawyer, why are you in corporate communication and PR, do you regret not practicing law?
So, I am not practising law and I have never practised (in the real sense) since I was called to the Nigerian Bar over 15 years ago.
Corporate Communications has always been part of me because of my love for the media. I published my first magazine when I was in 200 level and this continued till I graduated and then went on to publish a compendium for Ekiti State in 2008 supported by the then Governor Olusegun Oni.
From there I re-ignited my love for sports and got on TV with DBN in 2010 where I was for two months before I joined Inspiration FM just at the start of the 2010 World Cup and my colleague and I held Lagos spell bound I dare say till I left in 2013 to start my own independent production outfit creating radio shows that was syndicated in over 12 states in Nigeria.
Need I say more that all these experiences form why I am leading an innovative drive in Corporate Communications and PR today. No regrets, as the law has always come to bear all the way through this journey.
How is the world of corporate communications and how sustainable is it in today’s harsh business climate?
I believe Corporate Comms is the most sustainable sector even in the worst times. This is because of its many verticals and how you can deploy them for your brand or personal benefits.
For example during Covid-19, digital marketing became a major tool deployed by brands to keep engaging their target group. Innovation by practitioners is what will separate those who survive from those who thrive.
If you are to project your life and career in the next 40 years, where will you be?
I definitely see an opportunity to serve Nigeria in any capacity within my core areas of expertise, especially as it relates to Sports and Esports; seeing that our youths are yearning for opportunities and there is no better time to use these as the key drivers to engage and empower them.
Are there those whose contributions have seen you progress in life and who are they?
The natural ones are my parents and siblings. But my wife, Oluwakemi and my two daughters (Oyinkansola and Oyindamola) have been amazing in the last decade.
Over my professional career there is (uncle) Yinka Adebayo of MediaReach, who gave me my first advert for my magazine in 2003. There is Gbenga Olusoga, one of my few friends I can call a brother and there is Dare Kafar and Efe Obiomah, who kept supporting my craft (Fun Fact: They nominated me to the prominent Pay TV platform in 2014 to be part of those flown to Brazil for the World Cup and that was my first international trip).
In Esports I enjoy support from my leaders at the GEF – President Chris Chan, VPs Tommy Sithole and HRH Prince Faisal and most importantly my CEO Paul Foster (who is a mentor to me).
Do you have any advice for birthday mates and those looking forward to celebrating 40 years soon?
One of my favorite quotes is “Innovate or Die”. So my advice for people is to keep innovating and reinventing themselves. This by implication means you have to keep doing something (meaningful) and shaping your life in the direction you want to see it.
For every transition, the question I ask myself is what makes me different from others and the moment I can answer that question, I dive in and make the best of it, leaving my mark on every execution. I am a work in progress too.