Benjamin Okoroafor is the CEO of Pipul TV with 27 years field experience in media and communication. He has served with the Nigerian Presidency as head of MIS and Knowledge Management of the Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP) . He is a multi-professional with both public and private sectors experience. InterviewStories got across to Benjamin who was happy to share his story with us and the rest of the world. He also talked about how Nigerians can offer the solutions to the world problems.
Can you introduce yourself, SIR?
I am Benjamin Chibuike Okoroafor, a media and communications consultant and presently the Chief Executive Officer of Pipul TV, Nigeria’s revolutionary IPTV service. I have spent the past 27 years in the field of media and communications both in the public and private sectors, nationally and internationally. I have a Bachelors degree in Mass Communication and a Masters Degree in Project Management from the University of Roehampton, London, alongside several other certifications in the fields of management, computer engineering and knowledge management.
I served with the Nigerian Presidency for over 9 years and was the Head of MIS and Knowledge Management of the Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP) for 6 of those years. I have held senior positions and served as lead consultant in several programmes and projects under various private firms, State governments and the Nigerian Presidency, as well as internationally with the World Bank and other corporate initiatives in the US, Europe and Asia. I am happily married and have three boys.
Why study Mass communication?
As a kid, I was addicted to reading, especially comics, novels and poetry. I also read lots of books and magazines across all disciplines. I greatly desired to be a writer someday, even a newscaster! So, when the time came to select a preferred course of study for my university education, naturally I selected Mass Communication. I wanted to be empowered to pursue a career where I can excel in writing and public speaking. As a result of this education I have excelled in virtually every field I have come in contact with. Mass Communication exposes you to learn or understand something about everything, every subject, every topic. On the other hand, all other courses in school will professionalize you, teaching everything about something.
What can you say about ‘Journalism; when you started and what it is now?
Journalism is one profession that has endured for several millennia. The art of story-crafting and story-telling is a profession that will endure and continue to impact human society in more ways than one. Journalism, in my early days, was glamorous and demanded dedication, thoroughness and honesty. Locally, however, gradually and almost imperceptibly over the years, much of the respectability of the profession has eroded on the altar of “brown envelopes,” partisanship, plagiarism, and greatly reduced appetite for legwork and investigative journalism.
But I am equally elated to see the industry embrace modern technology. I recall reporters and correspondents having to lug around cameras in the 90s but now with mobile phones, high-quality images and videos can be captured without hesitation. The quality of broadcasting has equally improved and what used to be challenges back then are now non-existent. We have also witnessed the birth of the era of independent reporters, where any member of the public can contribute to the news by capturing images and video and sending to the press. The future is indeed bright for the industry.
What experience did you gain as a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Computer Education, Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO)?
I was responsible for teaching Computer Graphics and Design. It was what I loved and discussing it as a job was fun. As a takeaway, I learnt the art of patience and empathy. Teaching humbles the individual. I learnt how to consider issues and solutions from the perspectives of others rather than just my own. I had to learn how to reach the head and hearts of my students and how to communicate. It helped me be a master at team management and a process-driven professional. It also helped me appreciate the art of research and preparation. I learnt the value of being friends with my subordinates and the need to treat everyone with equal respect and honour, students, colleagues and subordinates alike.
What obstacles did you experience as a member of the Foundation Team/Network Design Team of Rainbownet Ltd?
The field of communications is quite challenging. As the project visionary, I realised that no matter how wonderful your business idea is, every entrepreneur, especially in Nigeria, must be prepared to suffer the challenge of funding. You must be ready to face critical and often demeaning questions about your project idea. Be patient and provide simple and clear explanations for every question. You must be confident always, and honest. I quickly learnt that not all your innovations or successes will be celebrated or supported. The dream behind Rainbownet was new and innovative, but the average African entrepreneur and professional are often risk-averse. They would rather favour copying established trends rather than charting new ones. It was a herculean task finding the proper support to launch Rainbownet and only the visionary ambitions of the then State governor made that happen. I also learnt that nepotism frustrates creativity and meritorious opportunities.
How do you manage to be a multi-professional?
I would say I am permanently excited to try and achieve something new and innovative. So, I have always said yes to such opportunities as they arrived. I was never satisfied with a steady salaried job. I craved for the fulfillment, job satisfaction and the exciting conviction. I always wants to be part of something new and innovative. I moved from project to project, acquiring skill and wisdom far beyond my training and quickly ascended the corporate ladder faster than I envisioned.
There is always a fair amount of risk involved in switching jobs, but a determination to excel, come-what-may, and a relentless ability to learn, adapt and improve, has helped me to successfully manage such a career path. It has not always been easy or smooth as it looks, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges. For instance, I recalled leaving Lagos for Port Harcourt within 24 hours after just one phone call for a pay less than what I was making just because the new offer will expose me to new equipment and processes and training opportunities. It wasn’t an easy experience and it came with over three months of hardship as I faced new challenges I hadn’t envisaged, but I came away the better for it.
You have managed to experience life in the private and public sector alike, what can you say is the basic difference?
I must confess, there are two very different approaches to providing solutions and everyday engagement. Private sector initiatives are usually profit-driven, even when those initiatives are focused on social responsibility and enlightenment. Government operations are process-driven, sticking to gung-ho policies and rigid (or pre-established) ways of getting the job done. Private sector operations are more nimble, innovative and challenging. Public sector favours the safer approach and is grossly resistant to change. Oh, and the public sector offers a greater percentage of job security than the private.
What notable achievements did you make during the 6 years you spent as a member of the Presidential Task Force on Power?
My most notable achievement was being part of the team that developed the “Roadmap for Nigeria’s Power Sector Reform,” which spearheaded and umpired the privatization of the Nigerian power sector. I was also responsible for developing and managing the GIS-based Nigerian Electric and Gas Energy Map which identified and managed national gas and power facilities. We pioneered a lot of initiatives that greatly contributed to milestones and improvement of power supply and delivery in the country that is being enjoyed today.
What made you stay as Managing Director of Andromeda Technologies Limited for 10years?
My time at Andromeda Technologies exposed me to a lot of technological potentials on how to effect meaningful change in society. I pioneered several ground-breaking initiatives, most of them never completed. But the job contributed to my career growth and ultimately resulted in the project I manage today. I remember spending over 8 of the 10 years there pioneering Nigeria’s first metro-WiFi project, Evergreen Metronet. This was long before the telcos started selling Internet data and USB dongles and modems. We aimed to provide cheap access to unlimited data but were unable to complete due to poor funding, lack of meaningful support and government regulations.
Why Pipul TV? What makes it different from others and what problem does it solve in society?
Pipul TV is a means to drive meaningful change, improvement and reorientation of the Nigerian society. Pipul TV is the flagship service of Pipul Communications Limited, set up by a group of enterprising and visionary young Nigerians resolved to do something positive about changing the status quo rather than just whining about it. The primary aim is to drive technology inclusion, opening up the limitless potentials of online access and premium educational and entertainment content.
We at Pipul TV seek to promote creative and innovative ways to both create and consume content, all at ridiculously affordable costs, targeting the low-income earners, students and the under-served. Data is quite expensive, hence a huge percentage of Nigerians sparingly access and consume data, greatly limiting our technological potentials as a nation. The more access to the internet a Nigerian has the more expanded our enlightenment and progress as a nation. Secondly, we aim to provide a platform for job and wealth creation and social awareness.
Pipul TV provides a rich and free platform for media practitioners and the ambitious upcoming communicators to own television airtime for free as well as collaborate with experts and greenhorns alike to create jobs and content, expand their potentials and chart the course for a new wave media enlightenment that will definitely take Nigeria to a new tomorrow of social awareness and development. It is time to take our destiny into our hands and allow the government to focus on the business of running a country.
What is/are the most important skill(s) you possess that has made you relevant?
My most important skill is a combination of two factors: my farsightedness and inability to quit. I can quickly read situations and analyse various solutions to timely implement the right and effective options. I specialized in risk management and disaster recovery. I am reputed to be “the man they call when the shit hits the fan.” And I never accept failure, keeping at it till I have a positive outcome to report. That has led me to places and professional responsibilities I would never have dreamed of. I don’t know how to fail.
Are there mistakes you have made in your career?
Ah! Very many, but I have always seen my mistakes as learning curves rather than embarrassing failures. I always focused on what I did wrong and where I lost focus of my objectives. Most of my mistakes were borne out of procrastination or hesitation to grab opportunities as they came.
What is your biggest motivation?
A burning desire to leave this world a much better place than I met it and improve the lives and status of my neighbours and fellows.
Can you advise Nigerians on how to be a ‘solution to the World’s problems’?
Kindly permit me to borrow a line from a popular Michael Jackson song, “Man in the Mirror.” He said, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” It starts with the individual. We must hold ourselves to higher standards. Nigerians must simply refuse to live under a low ceiling and demand excellence and near-perfection in every part of our lives, both professionally, socially and personally. We must have the courage to stand for what is right and beneficial. Focus on improving the lives of our neighbours, and contributing to the happiness of our environment. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, if we all imbibe the foregoing as a habit, 90% of the world’s problems will be solved.
How can people get across to you?
Well, I am freely accessible on phone or via social media and emails. I am always online and on-call. I’m always active on Facebook, Twitter ( Ben_okoroafor ), Instagram, Telegram and WhatsApp. I am never too busy to communicate. I have three phone lines and my phones are always on, except when I’m airborne.