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Cryptocurrency Is Not An Investment But A Support For A Project- Dr. Ope Banwo



Worship Without Walls


Dr. Ope Banwo is a season Lawyer with an enviable pedigree in the Nigerian entertainment industry. His footprints in the industry include his work with Dove Media and Stingomania Records, to mention a few. In this interview, he talks about his new project Nollytainment, how it will change Africa’s movie industry and Nollycoin, a token associated with Nollytainment.

You recently unveiled your new project under the auspices of Nollytainment, can you tell us about it?

It is a project that is going to change the game in Nollywood again. It is called Nollytainment. It is basically a new entertainment eco-system which is backed by blockchain technology. What this means is that we are trying to create a whole new community that carries along movie consumers, home videos, TV series, but backed by the blockchain technology, the most talked about technology related to Cryptocurrency.

Entertainment is an industry you left years back, why are you coming back?

When entertainment gets into you it is like a drug. If I have to look at some of my worst time in entertainment, I should not go into it again. However, I chose to look at my best times. One of the times I was fulfilled was while I was in entertainment. My two years as the Managing Director of Dove Media were some of the happiest times of my life, if you take out the last two months which were tumultuous.

When I was also doing Stingomania, I mean the aspect that had to do with music. It was probably one of the most fulfilling times of my life, trying to help young people achieve their potentials as musicians, regardless of the ultimate success of each of them. When we were recording a video for them, when we were having an in-house tour, those were the things I enjoy doing even though people say that I am a pretty good Lawyer. I don’t think I really enjoy Law when I was doing it. Law is a business, you go to court, make your money win or lose, but entertainment is something I really enjoy win or loss.

If I don’t make money in Law I won’t do it, but if I don’t make money in entertainment I will do it because I love it. When you get involved in entertainment especially in Africa, it is like a drug, it is like an addiction that never really leaves you. Since I joined in 2005, coming in as Managing Director of Dove Media, I have been fascinated by the industry. And that is why when blockchain technology came in and everybody was talking about it in relation to Cryptocurrency, I went to research and realise that it was the perfect technology for entertainment in Africa and indeed the world because it solves some of the major issues that we have been talking about in Africa and other developing countries.

What issues are you referring to?

The issues of Copyright protection, fair compensation for artistes, the issue of cross national payment for entertainment works, all these problem are solved almost overnight with blockchain technology. So, there was no way I wasn’t going to get involved money or no money. It’s a whole new era that is about to be written in entertainment and for anything I like to be one of the pioneers in any new area.

The future of Cryptocurrency is uncertain, why are you investing in it?

The day I settle for certainty is the day I am ready to die, mark it now. The day I tell you that I am okay that is the day I am ready to checkout, and I am not saying this as a joke. Why do I wake up at 4: am and I am excited to go to work every day of my life, it is because I don’t do things that I am not excited to get up in the morning for, the fact that I don’t know how the day will end excites me. Those are the kind of things I like to do.

So, blockchain is tailor made for Ope Banwo, trust me. In uncertainty is where great worth is made, greatness is never made in certainty. Yes there is the potential that you could lose, but there is also the potential that you could win, and more importantly there is the probability that you could change a whole industry just by what you do, we did it with Dove media. Before, media and entertainment in religious circles all ended in the choir. We changed that.  We positioned a lot of artistes that you are seeing now singing gospel music to operate the way secular artistes operated so that we can be able to do effective evangelism, the way broadcast is done on television.

People don’t even remember the way broadcast was done on TV before Dove Media, it was just a pastor on his podium preaching. We put entertainment into it, all those things you see on Love World were started by Dove Media. All you are seeing now started in the era of Dove Media, those were uncertain times too.

Are you aware that you are tying the future of a lot of people to an uncertain project?

Saying that I am tying a lot of people’s future to this is wrong. I am not tying anybody’s future to anything because I am not forcing anybody to do anything. If you get involved in Cryptocurrency it’s your choice. I am going to do what I have to do such that I am going to be okay, win or lose. If I lose every dime I put in this Nolly project, I am not going to regret. At least, I tried to do it. I am okay. Let other people make it work later. So, it is in uncertain times that you really see the best of certain people and I am one of those guys. Some people shine when you put them in a settled environment where they will run an established organisation and they will do it spanking.

Are you working with any government regulator on this project?

I don’t work with regulators and I don’t want anything to do with the government. The whole idea about Cryptocurrency is to actually reduce government influence. If you look at the history of Bitcoin, the guy that created Bitcoin, his whole essence to have a currency that is not controlled by government because he was upset that government charged so much money from tax to processing fees and he thought that it was  not necessary.

So, he thought of creating a currency that the government couldn’t control no matter the law they passed. So, I am not working with the government, as a matter of fact, if you are seen working with the government as far as Cryptocurrency is concerned, you are considered a traitor in certain Crypto circles. That is why Ripples is having issues because it is a Cryptocurrency that is working with banks. The Bitcoin purist and Crypto purist don’t like them for that. So, how can I come here and say I am working with the government; I don’t want to work with them.

Should the government get involved in Cryptocurrency?

Yes. They would be stupid not to get into it. A lot of capital is getting developed outside the normal banking system and government will be stupid not to tap into it either with regulations or a Crypto of their own. What is the biggest problem in Nigeria, let’s say its electricity. Try imagining Fashola launching an electricity token, it can raise a trillion Naira in under one week because people will be donating or contributing money to the project of solving electricity problems in Nigeria.

They will also know that the more electricity that they have, the more the value of the token that they get when the token goes to the exchange. So, everybody that contributes to that token get the opportunity of making money from it. When I meet my General Overseer very soon, I am going to ask her how come we don’t have a bethel token because Cryptocurrency is tailor made for evangelism work.

How do you explain that?

What do you do when you go to church, you donate money, they pray for you and you go back home and there is no hope of you ever making anything from that donation. Try to imagine when you now create an evangelism coin to raise money to go and do charity work in Haiti and all those places and you get Christian people to contribute money because they are not investing in a business, they are donating money, but this time you are giving them a token in exchange, a token that might end up giving them more than they donated if it goes up in the exchange. If it rises, they are okay and if it doesn’t they are okay because they donate anyway because they have been able to raise enough money to do evangelism work. Mark it down today, one church is going to do it before the next one year.

Which church do you have in mind?

If you ask me I will say Daystar. That is Sam Adeyemi’s church because he is forward thinking. Many churches are still seeing it as evil, but when they get into it, they will know. I am shocked that many industries have not seen the potential of Crypto; they are seeing it as a risky investment. It is not an investment; it is a support for a project with the people supporting it knowing that at one point they might get some of their money back probably in multiples.

How long will you be spending on this project before moving on?

I set up my first finance company when I was in my 20s. People didn’t believe that it could be done. Not only did I make money, but I bought my first house in Ikoyi with cash. Uncertainty has made me thrive; I started my staffing agency in America in uncertainty. My first year return was $3.2 M. So, my point is that some people thrive in settled area, but others can’t.

My wife can’t function if everything is not set. She knows exactly where she is going to be next Friday, if I get to that point; it’s time for them to bury me. I am not that kind of person. That is her skill set and she is great at it. The home runs perfectly. Before food finishes another one is coming because she has already booked it. I wake up in the morning thinking what will I eat? That is me. I go and look inside the fridge for something. That is her skill set, my skill set is to look at where there is nothing and put something.

That is called the situation of a catalyst. While I was growing up till almost 12 years ago when I met Dr. Miles Monroe, a lot of people use to think I needed deliverance, some thought there was a problem because I do something for two years and I am gone. I am not joking because people have approached me to say maybe somebody is cursing him, maybe he has a problem in his life. They can’t understand how an intelligent guy can do something for two or three years and walk away. The answer is because they are judging me from the angle of those guys whose skill set are different.

Their job is to come and do a job continuously over and over again. Mine is to come see confusion and create order, the moment there is order, my job is finished there. If you are going to hire me, give me a two years contract. Anything more than that won’t be in your interest because I will give you 200 per cent the first year, same the second year and you will be lucky if I give you 30 per cent the third year. At that time I am gone except if there is still a crisis. Dr. Miles Monroe, my mentor was the one who helped me to deal with it, I call him my counsellor.

Can we talk about Dove Media because there were a lot of misgivings about what led to your exit?

There was this rumour when I left Dove media that Charles Novia was responsible for my exit. One thing which I haven’t cleared was if I resigned or they fired me, it was both. I went into it with my Chairman and it was either you resign or I fire you, and I was not going to let anybody fire me.

Was Charles Novia responsible for your exit because there were speculations he signed a production contract, but didn’t deliver on it?

The truth of the matter is that Charles Novia didn’t cause me my job at Dove Media, and I am not saying this to take the hook off him. Charles Novia is a businessman; he came earlier because he was recommended by another pastor who I trusted because she worked with me in raising the funds for Dove Media.

I knew that Nollywood was a place that was unpredictable, so Pastor Funmi Johnson brought Charles Novia to me. I was happy I had found someone I could trust. He gave me a budget of about 2 Million for each movies to be done and I think I negotiated for each movie to be six hundred and fifty thousand. So, we paid him 70 per cent of the cost of the movies that’s about 27 million.

We knew he wasn’t going to do all of the movies himself, but he would help us interface and supervise the other producers and directors.  The whole thing would have worked well, but here is where the problem came and why I said I am responsible.

When the contract was signed, no one knew Dove Media, but as at the time he was ready for the shoot the price went up and those people he thought he would pay N 10 for instance were asking for more. They just turned him down believing that Dove Media was a big deal and they want more. When this happened Charles came to my office and said the guys he was hoping to shoot the movie at 650, 000 where now quoting N1.5 million as the minimum they could take because they thought that Dove Media had a lot of money and he was offering them peanuts.

He asked that we revised the contract from 650,000 to 1.4 Million, but I told him that he had to respect the contract. I was a lawyer there and not a good businessman and I will never make that mistake again. If I had been smart, I would have said okay don’t do 13 movies just do four movies. He would have delivered and it would have been good for my company too. But I basically threw him out of my company saying if he didn’t bring the movies I would jail him. So, he went his way to do his thing because he didn’t have the money to turn the movies in, and there no movies. He told me he later delivered the movies two years behind schedule when the guy that took over from me started chasing him.

So there were nothing like a church politics leading to your exit?

There were internal politics about a guy who just came from America and was seeing the General Overseer every time. People started writing different petition and it got to a point that I had to go. So, my exit from Dove Media had nothing to do with Charles Novia, but my failure as a Chief Executive Office.


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