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Fu’ad Lawal has an impressive CV – From owning his writing role at Pulse to directing communication as Editor-in-Chief at Zikoko magazine to now heading the growth process at Eden life, he has, in just a few years, mastered the ability to carve out a simple but thriving niche in old territories.
And getting here he says, has just been a accumulation of simple moments.“I literally just stumbled and stumbled and grasped the nearest tree by and swung and swung across the jungle until I got to this tree.”
Fu’ad resigned at Pulse because he wanted to publish key cultural stories that were constantly dying at the editors’ desk.
He explored this vision at Zikoko and showed everyone that news, and other content from the media can be fun, relatable and easy to digest.
But fueling this passion to create things from the scratch is a fear that time is running and death may be closer than imagined.
- You do tell a lot of stories. Almost everyone knows Fu’ad is a great storyteller. How did you get there?
How did I get here? I don’t know. I don’t know how people get there but maybe I do tell a lot of stories. I really don’t know. I don’t know how I got here too. I literally just stumbled and stumbled and grasped the nearest tree by and swung and swung across the jungle until I got to this tree.
- Did you tell a lot of stories when you were young?
I just know I was a curious child, I was a talkative and I kind of grew up with people that enabled my curiosity. And when I asked for books, they bought me books and they bought me books even when I didn’t ask. I think I read more as a child than I’m reading as an adult. Naturally, I had been about consuming a lot of stories. Also, we had like a video club and we used to rent out cassettes and part of my job was to watch all the movies so that we can know what to tell people when they ask which one to watch or not.
So I guess it’s one of those things but I don’t think there was any moment where I was like uhmm this is the moment. I don’t think there was any magical moment. I just think I was naturally drawn to it.
- What was growing up like for you? You just mentioned how your video club experience made you exposed to more stories when you were young.
There was nothing spectacular about it and there was nothing different from the normal home most of us grew up. One parent is a businessperson, the other parent is a civil servant. I grew up in a small estate where we were not rich but you are also not suffering.
Go to the boarding house, come back on holidays, suffer in the boarding house, go back on holidays, eat like a pig. Go back to the boarding house and suffer for six years. I really don’t think there was anything spectacular about it.
The problem is that I remember too much of my childhood. I remember my 5-year-old birthday. I remember a sickness when I was 7. Like I remember all kinds of ridiculous things. So if you say memorable moments, I have a lot of them. I know it sounds ridiculous but like there is no one moment that shaped me.
- What’s the craziest story you’ve not told so far?
I don’t know like, it’s nothing that no one has ever heard before. Are you asking for my secret? Ask me this question before it’s over. Maybe I can remember something but for now, I can’t.
- Money or impact?
Money is impactful (lol). When you make an impact, money follows actually unless you’re actually running from the money. Unless you are like “No, I don’t want money”. But if you impact, money would follow, more often than not.
- Kindly explain that better
Let me use entrepreneurship as an example right. When you solve a problem, a lot of the time you create opportunities. And that opportunity multiplies and turns to money, a lot of money. When you make impact, that gives you a kind of career capital that other people want to make an impact from there and make gain from it. Again It doesn’t always turn to money but more often than not, especially in the type of society we now live in, where opportunities to make money would not evade you or whatever. This sounds ridiculous but I’m not always actively thinking about money first. I have tried, but it is just who I am; I mean it’s unfortunate because it’s not like I have any money anywhere but I clearly lack focus. I should focus on money. Money is important.
- We once had a discussion, and you sort of implied that money is very important
Yea money is extremely important. Money saves you time. Money gives you choices. Whatever impact you want to have without money, money makes it faster, more often than not.
I feel there is a stage in your life that especially in a country like Nigeria where chasing money is an act of survival as far as it is legally because lack of money is how you get crushed in this country. Nigeria doesn’t forgive poor people. I mean when you’re rich you don’t want to do things that require forgiving but money is good in that regard, money is just exceedingly functional for me. For example, I didn’t have money in the pandemic and I was totally fine; I did not need it.
You know how people behave when they don’t have money in their account; they have anxiety and they are panicking; I don’t. Because if I need money, money would come outside. I don’t have a lot of needs. I don’t feel like my life is at risk when I don’t have money. I’m hardly interested in things I cannot afford with like 3 months of saving, do you understand?
It’s actually a little weird because I should be focusing on how to make more money because I don’t have any money waiting for me somewhere. So it’s actually a little weird. So money is money, it just does what it does and if It’s not doing anything I don’t need it.
- Why did you leave Zikoko?
It was a very curious thing that led me to Big Cabal (Zikoko). And the curious thing I think is, I used to work at Pulse and Pulse has a lot of reach, a lot of reach. Pulse’s reach could only be matched by maybe Naij at that point. Pulse’s cumulative reach, even to Linda Ikeji’s reach on the internet, Linda Ikeji was big like a cultural pulse but Pulse’s reach was ridiculous and I felt like people were writing a lot of incredible stories but a lot of it was getting lost like broader policy stuff that Pulse was making.
And I felt like it would have been great if we created a place for new stories that people were writing that were also extremely important. Not necessarily important but they would just have been nice if we created a place for them at Pulse. But like it wasn’t a priority at the time because, I mean it was a business and they had objectives and they will focus on their objectives.
And so when my boss at Big Cabal reached out to me after I left Pulse. I had other plans, and he was like yea, he had impactful cultural stuff and I was like sign me up.
I remember my boss when I was leaving Pulse. My boss said I think you’re going to make a huge mistake. I said well, that’s actually a likely outcome but what’s the worst thing that can happen? So I joined and I feel like Big cabal had gotten to a point where it is evident and I actually did not write news, you can do stuff in Nigeria that is not news. And I was like okay unto the next one.
- Did you feel you had reached the ceiling that you could do with Zikoko?
There’s no ceiling at Big CabaI. I know like one million things that I could do at Big Cabal. But it’s always a question of, this thing you want to do, do you have the energy for it? For me it just felt like a good time to try something else.
- Your current role at Eden makes you tell less stories. What are the things you miss about your former job?
Big Cabal was great but Eden also has a great culture. So it doesn’t matter. You know how when you move from the UK to Canada. Just maybe you miss people you used to work with but work is work. You do the work and move on to the next one. And you hope that your relationships last but work is work. That was work that I used to do, just work around you.
- At Big Cabal, you do more storytelling than you do now
I suspect you’re trying to edge all of these around storytelling as the central point. First of all, I don’t like the word storytelling but it’s just one thing that I can do. And there are way more flexes. I do not feel I will live a very long life and I can as well flex all the muscles I can flex when I still have the time and the muscles. So yeah.
- What are these other flexes?
I like to make things. I like to see things just go from the ground and come alive. I like that process. I like community work. I like organising. I like making complex things simple. I like observing people.
Most of the times, whenever there is an opportunity to try one of these things, i just jump into it
- So what single thing right now would improve the quality of your life?
I know this question. The single thing to improve the quality of my life- Better passport. I just need a better passport.
- Which country’s passport?
I don’t know. Just a passport that would allow me to travel to places. I think a single most important privilege a human being can have is a great passport.
- You feel you’re missing out by having only a Nigerian passport
I don’t feel like I’m missing out, I feel like I should be getting more.
- If Fu’ad is not literate, what would you be doing by now?
I will probably be fighting for a king somewhere now, I will be farming, or I would be working around the market, maybe I will be selling meat. I just know that there’s one deep place inside my mind where I live a very remote life.
I feel like my ideal life is like one that doesn’t have where he belongs to, that just travels from community to community and just travels really light. I struggle with acquiring too many things, the few things I have, I use them a lot. I use the life out of them.
I’ll probably choose an occupation that requires me to move around, maybe I’ll be a trader or I’ll be a warrior. Those are the two people that travel around. And I think I have ancestors that were traders. I have an APENA ancestor. Do you know what an apena ancestor does?
- Google might have an answer. Lol, it says apena
I thought Google knows everything. I think you should ask your parents what an apena is. I want to flex on you.
- Your ideal life looks a bit difficult because you are now married. So what does love feel like to you?
It’s intention, and it’s commitment. You make an intention and you commit that intention.
- Any big changes from before you were married and when you got married?
It’s mostly just skin and commitment. Like I said it’s commitment. Like ok I want to do this and you just have to show up.
- You love food, and now you work at a place where there is a lot of food. Was it a calculated career move?
This scandal is going to follow me for life. There was food at Big Cabal so I had a lot of options. I feel lucky to have had them but I had a lot of options right. But this one was the hardest and as a suffer headmaster, I chose the hardest one.
- What were the options?
I can’t disclose that, but I had options. I had options in the media and I had options outside the media. But this was the hardest.
- How has it been so far? Has it gone as you expected?
Uhm, I think it’s just somewhere you have very few people in Nigeria. This market. So you have to do a lot of thinking from the scratch. So it’s difficult but I mean it’s like going to the gym. So it’s a new kind of difficulty. I love it in the sense that I know it will work and it is difficult but we go do am.
- And the bigger the challenge, the more the money at the end for the next job
You know what’s funny? I think I’ve come to learn that when you make money on these jobs, they stretch you, you come out on the other side, you come out on the other side with more strength, more stamina and just more confidence and your ability to get things done. And coming out on the other side doesn’t always mean success it means just coming out on the other side. I think I hate to use this word but if a person goes to war and comes back home even when they have been defeated, he still comes back a better fighter than when he left. So I think that difficult work is how you build muscle. So I’m building muscles.
- That crazy story you have never told
So the first time I was on a plane, I was like 5 or 6. I was a child, That was the first time I’ll be on a plane. I can’t remember much of it, I just remember I was going to Abuja.
So the second time I got on a plane I was 16. And we got into our seats, I was supposed to wear the belt and for some weird reasons; I think the one on my seat was bad or maybe I just didn’t know how to use it and I was like shit shit. So I just folded it and put it on my lap.
I was with people that will do it for me if I ask. They will probably crack a joke or laugh at me.
So I flew from Lagos to Abuja without a belt And I just kept replaying all those America films where a plane enter turbulence.To now add it, I now had air pressure and my ears were rolling. But you see I overcame that anxiety later, I like don’t even give a fuck. I just stopped giving a fuck. So here’s that story. You’ve gotten your story.. So I was ready to die rather than ask.