Former Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode’s official photographer, Ope Adeniyi, in this interview with the Nation’s KUNLE AKINRINADE, speaks on his life and works, among others.
Five years ago when he walked into the campaign office of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode at Gbagada, Lagos, he had no inkling that he would become his official photographer.
But today, Opeoluwa Adeniyi, a freelance photographer at wedding parties and other social gatherings, has reason to smile, when he recalls the miraculous way God turned his life around.
“It’s been four years since I started working with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode as his official photographer. I did not know him from Adam, but I came in contact with him five years ago through his campaign office at Gbagada, a stone throw from my home then.
“At the start of the governorship campaigns in 2015, I approached the office as a volunteer photographer. I was employed without salary. Up till the time they embarked on local government campaigns, I was part of the team. One of his personal assistants was magnanimous enough to give me some money, having seen my dedication to duty.”
Adeniyi recalled that he was earlier introduced to Ambode, who was the governorship candidate of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC), but that he became the official photographer to the governor by providence, two months after Ambode assumed office.
“I met one Alhaji Anifowoshe, a chieftain of APC, who was the chairman of the chairmen of APC local government chapters in Lagos State at a function organised by the governor in his hometown, Epe. Alhaji Anifowoshe introduced me to Governor Ambode as a graduate photographer and asked that the governor should help me. Governor Ambode replied him that there was no problem and that once he won the election, he would surely look into my case, joking: “Ah, koni ya photo mo niyen (If he’s a graduate, that means he would no longer be taking photographs). I was happy on hearing his response because I was not the only photographer on his team. There was a photographer from the United Kingdom who was also part of the team.
“We were taking photographs and putting them on the social media space. After he was sworn in as governor, I was not appointed his official photographer. There was a man working with him until he left because of an unresolved misunderstanding and I was asked to replace him in July 2015. It was actually one of his aides who reminded him that I had worked with his campaign team without collecting pay, hence, he asked that I should be called to replace the other photographer who had just left.
“My job entailed the documentation of his official engagements. When I took the photographs of his official engagements, they were posted on his social media accounts, including Twitter, and Facebook. I also archived the photographs for him to see.”
How his job affected his family life
The father of two recalled how the job affected his family life, noting that despite being arduous, it was rewarding.
“Life as the governor’s photographer was tough. It involved working round the clock. My wife and my children, though, understood the nature of my job. It affected my health as I took ill on many occasions.
“There was a day we returned from an official engagement at about 4 am and by 7 am, we were up again. At a point, I had to take injections on the job because I was ill, but could not stay in the hospital. But I could not quit because I was enjoying the job. It was not that I was not used to working long hours as a freelance photographer, but you know that parties are held mainly at weekends. We rested during the week, unlike my work with the governor where you could not rest until he said so. But Governor Ambode is a very generous man. He rewards hard work and has done a lot for me in terms of rewarding my service to him.”
Asked what encouraged him to work in the campaign team of a man he did not know, he said: “Aside the monetary gain, I had been a wedding and freelance photographer, but I was looking for an opportunity to earn better appreciation for my work and I felt that that could be achieved by documenting a public figure like him, and that it would give me the opportunity to do more work. You know, as wedding photographer, there were times that you might not have work to do during the year, especially during the rainy season until October and the Yuletide. But as the governor’s photographer, there won’t be a day without assignments to cover and that was what encouraged me to volunteer to work for him.”
His perception of his principal
Adeniyi described Ambode as an achiever, whose giant strides would speak for him.
“What I noticed about Gov Ambode was his peculiar lifestyle. He had a way of bringing his lifestyle to bear on his work. He’s a workaholic. He believes his work would speak for him, rather than flashing his achievements to people all the time. He is a silent achiever. He has done so much, but only about 60 per cent of what he has done is in the public domain. I believe that people would get to know more of what he had been able to do or achieve as governor after leaving office.
“Gov Ambode believes that when you work hard, you will be rewarded. I learnt that from him and that has made me to be very hard working. He’s a wonderful person and despite what happened to him politically, we all are not perfect. Gov Ambode told us his aides that whatever we did would speak for us.Whenever we wanted to post the pictures of his achievements on the social media, he would stop us and say that his works should speak for him. He said those plying the roads he built would pray for him, knowing full well that he built the roads for them.
“I remember that during the inauguration of the Abule Egba flyover, Gov Ambode overheard a man in the crowd shouting: ‘’My tax is working’. He said he didn’t need to go to the media to make a noise about his achievements and asked us to interview the man who made the remarks.
“The governor appreciates good work. There was a particular photograph of a steel bridge at Ojota, which I took at nightfall. The governor saw it on the government’s website when we were in Abuja for official engagement. He liked it. So, he sent for me and applauded my artistry. He ordered that the photograph be framed and used to decorate offices. Another one was that of a picture he took with visiting French President. He also commended it.
“If God gives him another opportunity to serve again, I wouldn’t mind working for him. He was the one who made me train in videography, so I could transmit events he attends outside Lagos directly and live.”
His love for photography
He said he took to photography shortly after he left secondary school, through a family friend. Adeniyi recalled how the job sustained his studies at the University of Lagos, where he studied Educational Psychology.
“I studied Educational Psychology at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and graduated in 2008. It was my older brother, Femi Adeniyi, who made me fall in love with photography in 1999, shortly after I completed my secondary school education. He had a friend who was living in our house. The man later got employment with Fototeck, a photo processing company with headquarters in Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos. He was a manager of one of the company’s outlets in Surulere. My brother asked him to get a job for me in his office. He replied that I could only be trained as a photographer.
“At first, I declined the offer because I felt that I should not be subjected to apprentice-ship, which I considered belittling. But I accepted the offer and mastered the art two years later. I was transferred to Opebi, from where the manager of the Bayelsa State branch spotted a photograph I took and asked the General Manager to transfer me to Bayelsa State. In Bayelsa, I wrote the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), scored 256 and got admission into UNILAG. While I was in school, I worked as papapa (quick) photographer at parties in Lagos metropolis to sustain myself in school.”
Life after serving Ambode
On his life after office, Adeniyi said he would be executing a lot of projects, including establishing a studio, training young photographers and holding an exhibition of his works based on the achievements of his principal.
“In a couple of months, I will be opening my studio. I will train young photographers. I will showcase some of former governor Ambode’s achievements in form of an exhibition. Then, I will move on,” he said.
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