Home Entertainment Yomi Layinka: How We’ll Finance Ibadan Media City Project

Yomi Layinka: How We’ll Finance Ibadan Media City Project


Yomi Layinka is the coordinator, Ibadan Media City project, an initiative of the Oyo State Government to galvanize resources to create a media hub for digital economic activities across the Southwest. 

In this interview with BISI OLADELE, the former Special Adviser to Governor Abiola Ajimobi on Communication and Strategy, talks about the ambitious project.

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What is the Ibadan Media City Project all about, and what is it out to achieve?

The project is Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s initiative which seeks to establish a regional hub for media organizations and professionals in the Southwestern region of Nigeria and, indeed, the West African sub region. The idea is to create a hub where media professionals and businesses can use technology to propel very deep and extensive cultural resources of the Yoruba nation, not only for consumption of in-house, I mean Yoruba land, but also for the people across the nation and all other parts of the world.

As you might be aware, technology is the most important driver of change in the world today. And as a driver, what does it drive? Essentially, it drives content, which is culture – people’s way of life and their belief system. It is all about the worldview of a particular people who are projecting that cultural framework. Ibadan is the political capital of the Yoruba nation from the pre-independence days. Ibadan was the place where most of the major initiatives of the old Western Region took off, including, but not limited to, the first television station in Africa, the first Olympic-size stadium in Nigeria, and later the first FM station in Nigeria. Ibadan has always been the intellectual capital of Nigeria on accounts of its being the place where the first university was established in Nigeria- University of Ibadan. It also houses the first teaching hospital in Nigeria. So, Ibadan has always been known to be the first and has been a pacesetter, particularly in issues of education, culture and entertainment. It is therefore not a surprise that the government decided to leverage on this pedigree of first and the other many advantages that Ibadan holds to use it as springboard for the marketing of the Yoruba cultural views, not only to the people within Nigeria, but also to those in the Diaspora.

We are not going to depend on the oil industry for too long. We, therefore, need to get involved particularly in the creative cultural economy where young people are the dominant players globally.  About seven of the ten richest people in the world are in the area of technology. Technology is the biggest driver of economic change and prosperity and when we have a global creative industry in excess of a hundred trillion dollars, we need to participate in it using the tools of technology.

Ibadan Media City is a regional hub for media organizations, practitioners, especially young people who are able to use technological resources to drive this and participate and profit in this creative economy that we are talking about.

Is the project going to be located in a particular place within Ibadan or you are looking at using locations within the city? Also, who are the potential beneficiaries and what kind of business ideas do you expect the media professionals to initiate for the hub to be successful?

The media city development strategy is fairly new and the media and the entertainment industry have become what I call the leading light of the technology-driven economy that we are talking about. 

They are the exemplars because technology itself is a tool. It is the content that delivers the money and it has been established that in urban regeneration strategies, using the media creates opportunities for these cities and centres to attract attention and investment from global players who are then able to regenerate those urban centres. You probably know that there are six media projects around the world some of which include the Dubai Media City, Media City UK Manchester, Digital City in Seoul in South Korea, and in Copenhagen there is a Media City Project. There is also what is called the Digital Mine in Zaragoza, Spain. In Egypt, even before the Dubai Media City, there was the Media Production City in Cairo and in Durban, South-Africa, we have the Film City. The whole idea is to use the media as a driver for urban regeneration because it attracts attention. Once you have a hub, you then have big media players in that hub that naturally attract attention. For instance, you will notice that in the last few years, since the establishment of Aljazeera, the Middle East has begun to have a voice in global affairs and it has attracted a lot of attention – both tourists’ and global media attention. It is the same idea that if leveraging on the pedigree of Oyo State, especially Ibadan, with this concept of Ibadan media city, we can create an innovation centre where, particularly young people in their hundreds and thousands, can assemble and begin to create innovative solutions in different areas of our natural life, especially in the creative industry of music, movie making, tourism, code writing, software writing, games, animations and there are huge markets for these kinds of products and services globally.

So, what we are saying is that using Ibadan as the hub, we can tap into the many cultural resources of the Yoruba people in Ife, Osogbo, Ekiti, Abeokuta, Ede and other parts. For instance, in all parts of Yoruba nation, you have different festivals, different cultural resources, fashions, music, arts even food that we can collate and develop and market to a global audience. There is an interaction and dialogue and we can effectively participate in this huge and ever-expanding global economy.

That’s a very good idea. But the government obviously will need funds and infrastructure to support the project. How do you hope to tackle the problem of paucity of funds and poor infrastructure to ensure that this project becomes a reality?

This is a very important point. In conceiving of any project, you must think of the future and sustainability plans. This project is actually being conceived as an innovation project, innovation hub and to demonstrate that, even from the very beginning, issues of power, issues of management, issues of sustainability have to be thought through and that is where the innovation issues come in. For instance, in conceiving the structures, we are talking with architects. We are also talking with firms that are already in the cutting edge of the alternative energy system in construction. The architectural design seeks to look at eco-friendly archetypes that are not dependent on the current energy system to be able to use a combined resource including wind, turbine, solar and such others to ensure that they don’t depend on one linear source of energy, so that even from the very beginning, the innovation is embedded and it creates a solution ahead. In fact, the idea is to create models for others to copy from. We intend that the centre will have satellite centres in Osogbo, Ekiti, Akure, Abeokuta etc. But Ibadan will be the main hub. The idea of the centre is such that from the very beginning it attracts the best talents in all areas of human endeavours – creativity, solution provision, code writing, such that for every project, we are tapping into the best possible alternative ways of doing things.

Again funding would rely on the typical Ajimobi model which is public-private partnership. You know, because he is a private sector trained person, he has always argued that the only way to sustain a project of this magnitude will be for the government to give the lead by creating enabling environment in terms of policies, and then invite private sector players. They are already thinking of return on investments, always thinking of creating markets for products and services even before they opened shop.

How soon is this project starting and where is it going to be domiciled, is it within BCOS or government secretariat or within the city of Ibadan?

It is domiciled, especially the physical hall, will be on the ground of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS). Just for explanation, the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) is sitting on 24.7 hectares of land in Basorun which has a completely built up area. In other words, this prime land is 24.7 hectares which is about 65 acres of land and the built-up area inside that land is less than 15per cent. So we have this considerable expanse of land where we intend to build this hub and this hub comprises five different distinct but complementary businesses, one of which is a major sound stage studio where you can produce the best possible programmes anywhere in the world. So, by the time it is built, it will be accessible and usable by major players like BBC, CNN, HBO, M-NET to produce reality programmes, sport shows, concerts and so forth because it will be fully equipped to international standards and it would be able to produce the best possible programmes as it is produced in London, New York or wherever in the world. That’s one part of the hub. Another part of the hub is a Film Park and Resorts. We intended to build a Film Park and Resort on about 5-10 acres of lands where you can have game shows; families can come from around the world to enjoy like we go to Orlando and Film Parks around the world, like in South Africa, a Film Park with animals and stuffs like that. We also intend to have an entertainment mall, which will comprise cinemas, exhibitions halls for fine arts exhibitions, conferences and so forth. We also will have a four-star hotel which will of course accommodate the workers in the hub, the creative staff that will come here, entertainment moguls, Hollywood and Nollywood and Bollywood and whatever stars who are visiting or recording the television series or films in this environment. They will stay in the resorts, the families across the world who may visit and stay for a week or two or whatever. We have chalets as part of that accommodation profile. Lastly, we intend to have a media academy.

The academy is primarily set up to provide the manpower required to sustain such cutting edge hub, therefore the training with all due respect to the existing media schools in Nigeria is not anything like that. We are setting up an international standard media academy where media arts skills at cutting edge levels will be shared, where students and practitioners can go in for short courses- practical courses that are available to engineers, software engineers, code writers, game developers, fashion designers, film directors and all the other crafts that are required to run including the business managers of the entertainment and media businesses. So, it is a composite place or centre that will then service and have relationships with the Technical University of Ibadan (TechU). The university will have a direct relationship with the media city, the media city will have influence and relationship with the University of Ibadan, with other parts and institutions of common interests and values, especially in the area of tourism, fashion, broadcasting etc. So, it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

The Ajimobi administration has only one year to go and this project is huge, how far do you think you can go within the next one year that this administration will last?

I will keep echoing my boss- Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who says his government will be running not walking until May 29, 2019 because he says governance is a continuum. That he has spent eight years doesn’t stop Oyo State from continuing and moving forward, all he has done is activate and create the opportunity of exponential growth for the state to become a truly modern state and therefore his business as it were is to lay the foundation and to put us on the highway. It is hoped that the succeeding government will find the energy and the capacity to follow through on the vision

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