Ogbeni: Celebrating Nigeria tourism trailblazer at 66

The name Temi-Tope Ogbeni-Awe certainly rings a bell in the circle of journalism in Nigeria, particularly in the travel media.

Mr. Tope Ogbeni-Awe

In the more recent 25 years of his life, the man popularly called “Ogbeni,” a Yoruba word which translates to “Mister” devoted his time to creating a niche in the public relations world of destination marketing after over a career spanning three-decade long in the print media, traversing major Nigerian tabloids like Vanguard, The Punch, BusinessDay newspapers and more.

On Thursday, 1st April 2021, Ogbeni turned 66 years old in an ongoing (yet to retire) illustrious career and personal life that have influenced many personalities and brands across the world. In the nineties and through the new millennium, Ogbeni practically introduced travel journalism into mainstream media reporting in Nigeria by publishing his many travel experiences including Togo, The Gambia, South Africa, Ghana and others.

So many Nigerian journalists owe their very first and other international all-expense paid travels to the actions of Ogbeni who through his establishment of TOPCOMM PR Concept and Events, represents global travel brands in Nigeria including South African Tourism, South African Airways, Delta Air Lines and many more hospitality and tourism brands. In fact, the mention of the narratives about South African Tourism, South African Airways and Delta Air Lines in Nigeria is incomplete without the name Temi-Tope Ogbeni-Awe!

Today, travel and tourism reporting and publications are blossoming in Nigeria through the solid foundation laid and continuously supported by Ogbeni, who is credited as a pioneer leader of the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET).

In 2010 after my National Youth Service (NYSC) in Lagos, I was opportune to work for Ogbeni. An experience that dates back a decade that will shape and define my future. I was serving as an NYSC volunteer at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos during the then ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria. It was the Semi-Final match between Nigeria and Spain which Nigeria eventually won by three goals to one. A conversation ensued between me and Elohor Ovadje, Managing Editor of ‘Welcome To Nigeria’ magazine who was covering the match.

She referred me to Ogbeni and after a little while, I summoned the courage to visit Ogbeni in his office somewhere in Palmgrove, Lagos. I stepped inside the sprawling office where I met a calm man, Ogbeni, who asked a few questions and gave me an assignment to write about my road experience that is newsworthy while commuting to the office.

Eventually, that incident marked the beginning of working for Ogbeni who is the founder and owner of TOPCOMM PR Concept and Events. While working for Ogbeni, I had the privilege of not only learning the art and science of public relations from one of the very best, but practically witnessed professionalism, open-door leadership, emotional support and impeccable reward for hard-work being demonstrated daily by Ogbeni at the workplace.

In terms of professionalism, Ogbeni is very strict with his job and the delivery, always catering and advocating nothing but the best for TOPCOMM’s clients, some of whom have stuck with the company for over a decade. Ogbeni is at least 30 minutes early for any appointment, selects media based on writing performance for the company’s numerous all-expense paid travels to South Africa, United States of America and other countries.

Director Corporate Communications, Delta Air Lines, Olivia Cullis, once described Ogbeni flawlessly, in the words: “Under Ogbeni-Awe’s leadership, TOPCOMM has represented Delta Air Lines in Nigeria since 2006. TOPCOMM has been an outstanding PR agency to work with delivering quality results and ensuring the Delta story gets told. Ogbeni has excellent media contacts and I have always been impressed how is able to position news as much as use his skill and influence to protect Delta’s reputation in the marketplace. A team player with a real can-do attitude, Ogbeni does tremendous work and it is an honour to work with him and his agency.”

As a consummate leader in his chosen industry, Ogbeni exhibited extreme open-door leadership qualities by being accessible to all and sundry without any form of barrier. In the office, astonishingly, all the staff calls him Ogbeni, a far cry from what is obtainable in many corporate organisations in this part of the world. Interestingly, on many occasions where the team has projects outside Lagos, Ogbeni will approve for all other staff members to fly to and from the project locations, while he simply commutes via road because of his phobia for local flights.

Incredibly, a 500-page book may not be enough to describe the emotional support rendered by Ogbeni to the numerous persons who crossed his part. In late 2012 I planned to get married in early 2013 and two tragedies struck! I had an appendicitis operation and all my life savings, about NGN400,000 paid for a new apartment, went to a fraudulent estate agent. Ogbeni came to my rescue by both paying for the operation and writing me a cheque that got me a new apartment. During his 60th birthday celebrations in the office, his personal driver while eulogizing Ogbeni said he is always excited because Ogbeni literally gives him money daily. In fact, all the security personnel of the building where TOPCOMM is located in Lagos unanimously mentioned Ogbeni as the simplest, friendliest and most charitable boss in the building. Ogbeni only reaffirms Nelson Mandela’s ideals that a nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones. 

Unlike other bosses who simply hijack the reward opportunities and leave the staff with the work aspect only, Ogbeni fondly says, “you guys are doing the work, so you are also entitled to the enjoyment that comes with it.” In my 10 years working at Ogbeni’s TOPCOMM, I embarked on over 40 official all-expense paid international travels across the world in which everything to make the sojourn memorable has been provided, still Ogbeni made sure to give me foreign currencies which I absolutely have no use for in my travels other than to save! What manner of a boss would send his staff to all manner of enjoyment abroad including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Dubai, Mauritius, just to mention but a few, and sit back in Nigeria? My boss, Ogbeni, is a rare breed!

For Ogbeni, rewarding hard-work simply exceeds monetary remuneration. Mutual respect and continuous motivational words are key ingredients of encouraging employees and subordinates to repeat success.

 In simple terms, Ogbeni will acknowledge by saying or writing “thank you” to a staff member who accomplishes any task, even including merely sending emails to clients.

This is wishing a happy 66th birthday to a detribalized Nigerian, trailblazer and doyen of travel and tourism journalism in Nigeria.

This piece was written by Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, Lead Consultant at Spider & Ink Communications, Federal Site & Services, Isheri, Lagos

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