Known for bringing in celebrities and smiling in photographs next to former Western leaders, a flamboyant Nigerian newspaper publisher now faces a challenge from his most vocal critics — his own employees.
Workers have barricaded the front of ThisDay newspapers in Lagos, hoping to force publisher Nduka Obaigbena into paying them as much as four months' worth of back salaries due to them. Back pay disputes often hit industries in Nigeria, a country where steady paying jobs remain few, but this crisis has hit a man politically connected to the nation's ruling elite.
"He's stepped on our toes. Believe me, we're not going to back down," ThisDay employee Tony Enabulele said. "He knows the top people, so he gets away with it."
A senior manager at ThisDay referred requests for comment Friday to Obaigbena, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Nduka obaigbena with singer Beyonce
Staffers parked several pickup trucks in front of the ThisDay office Friday, located near Lagos' grimy Apapa Port. Tthe printing plant and the main editorial office overlooking the port were closed, secured with padlocks. Outside, staffers milled around with cardboard signs with slogans like "We reject slavery."
Nduka Obaigbena with supermodel Getty Image)
The industrial look of the office space clashes against Obaigbena's image as a wealthy playboy who has brought in artists like Jay-Z, Beyonce and Snoop Dogg to Nigeria. His award shows have featured former U.S. President Bill Clinton several times, as well as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others. That has meant hundreds of thousands of dollars in performance and speaking fees.
Meanwhile, union leaders and workers say Obaigbena routinely shorted them on their salaries and kept withholding taxes and obligations for himself. He has close ties to major business leaders and those in the ruling People's Democratic Party. But lately, it appears as though Obaigbena has been suffering a cash crunch. He cancelled his annual fashion week, which brings designers from around the world. Meanwhile, he continues to pump money into a satellite news channel called Arise TV. A previous effort to start a ThisDay newspaper in South Africa collapsed.
In a memo to staff sent April 4, Obaigbena promised to pay all outstanding salaries within 30 days. He blamed the salary problems on costly repairs that insurance policies didn't cover following an April 2012 suicide car bombing on the newspaper's Abuja office that killed three people and wounded others.
"No one planned for a terror attack in Nigeria and so we were left to fend for ourselves," Obaigbena wrote in April.
Staffers at ThisDay in Lagos say some of them will sleep in front of their office gates until they receive their salaries.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP
" suicide bomber detonated a car loaded with explosives Thursday at the office of a major Nigerian newspaper in the country's capital and another man threw a bomb near another newspaper office in Kaduna, killing at least seven people in the attacks, witnesses said. The attack in Abuja struck the offices of ThisDay, an influential daily newspaper. The bombing in Kaduna struck a building housing offices for ThisDay, The Moment and The Daily Sun ewspapers, witnesses said. At least 26 people were injured in the attacks. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, though they mirrored others previously carried out by a radical Islamist sect responsible for hundreds of deaths in Nigeria this year alone." - Huffington Post
Shattered vehicles are seen at the site of a bomb explosion in the Morroco district in Suleja, outside Nigeria's capital Abuja on February 19, 2012. Another attack on April 26, 2012 that killed three people at a newspaper office is believed to be a suicide attack. Photograph by: Afolabi Sotunde , Reuters
The body of a victim lies covered on the ground after a bomb blast in front of the office compound of Nigerian newspaper This Day in the northern city of Kaduna . REUTERS/Stringer
Rescue workers tend to an injured man at the site of the bombed office of ThisDay, an influential daily newspaper in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday, April. 26, 2012, . (AP Photos/Gbemiga Olamikan)
Police Anti-bomb officers stand on the burnt engine of the Jeep used by the suicide bomber that ravaged ThisDay Newspapers in Abuja
Nduka Obaigbena is founding Editor-in-Chief and Chairman of THISDAY newspaper and ARISE, the international flagship magazine that is well received around the world. Chairman Obaigbena has done more than any other person in putting Nigeria on a positive limelight. He can be literally called the father of Nigeria's rebranding. Before the government embarks on the cardinal policy of image making and rebranding, he was in the vanguard of redefining Nigeria for 21st century.
Nduka Obaigbena understood the act of compassing public relations and has singularly given Nigeria the prestige and honour she deserved. Putting Nigeria in a strategic and conspicuous limelight by showing the talents, God-given gifts and ingenuity of our great country is the hallmark of Obaigbena.
Chairman Obaigbena did not limit himself only in Nigeria, but he went further into the rest of Africa and global village. By venturing into South Africa at the end of Apartheid he encouraged the democratic dispensation by extending THISDAY newspaper and other literary publications that showcase the downtrodden Black South Africans in good light thus lifting the African soul and humanity.
Chairman Obaigbena now takes his game higher, bolder and more sophisticated by developing and producing the ARISE magazine, which was well received in the global village in London, Paris, New York and other major cosmopolitans. With his THISDAY INTERNATIONAL he has organized seminars on issues affecting Nigeria and Africa in Abuja, Lagos, New York and London with guests including Collin Powell, former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former President George Bush.
One of the nicest things he has done is to integrate our youths into the music global scene by inviting who-is-who to perform in Nigerian soil. Major international entertainers the likes of Beyonce, Jay- Z, have performed in Nigeria. That has helped to showcase local musicians and Nollywood. With his ARISE magazine he has joined the ranks and files of men of goodwill whom has become part and parcel of the forces shaping the views and perceptions of the African world. With his ample contributions comes a new dawn for enhanced African presence in 21st century.
Nduka Obaigbena is a Neo- cultural African ambassador, democratic capitalist, strategist and patriot. Therefore the Board and Staff of Afripol chose him as the PERSON OF THE WEEK.