Nelson Jack is the Chief Executive Officer of Nelson Jack Logistics, a company known for norm-breaking innovations and creative designs in the event production sector of the entertainment industry in Nigeria. In this interview by SEGUN KASALI, he speaks on the rudiments of stage designing and expresses his view on the Nigerian entertainment industry.
How would you describe your growing up?
I grew up in a rich home. I lost my dad when I was very young. As a result, everything came crashing and for a long time, I was living from hand to mouth till I stumbled upon set design and since then I have been doing fine.
How did you stumble on set design?
I got scammed by one of my best friends and all of a sudden, I was so depressed for a while. I went for an event and I saw the stage design. I just fell in love with it and since then I was eagerly saying who did this, wow. I mean how was this done? I can do this better. Ideas just started rolling into my head.
You have been credited with the concept ‘stageneering’. How did you come about this?
Well, I was going to apply to further my stage design and technology ideas but found out that no course in the Nigerian educational system covers stage engineering. So, I decided to come up with the name ‘stageneering’. Set design and stage design have a lot of engineering. So, there was no Nigerian university that offers that course. They offer it but not as a core course and it’s a wide Industry so I decided to come up with that name.
Stage construction is an aspect of engineering. Is it important for one to study Engineering in the university before one can engage in such?
For one, I didn’t go to school. I did not study Engineering but in my process of self-development, engineering was part of it and as a matter of fact, I grew up from an engineering background. My dad was an engineer and I learnt a lot of things from him. So, I decided to put that into practice and furthermore develop myself by reading books on architecture, construction and Physics. I was a science student in secondary school and so I put in all that and I was very good at technical drawing and I can draw. So, it was all-encompassing. It is important to study Engineering in school before delving into stage design because health and safety is a major priority in set design. So, you should, to a large extent, understand the principles of engineering.
Is there a thin line between stage design and traditional event decoration?
Yes. In fact, there is a wide line, not even thin and I will tell you the reason. We do event technology and event technology has to do with event electricity. It has to do with gravity, displacement, weight distribution and stuffs like that. The regular event doesn’t put that into consideration. They are thinking about aesthetics, while we are thinking about what is practical. So, event planners can’t do our work, but we can do event planners’ job.
Could you please expatiate on why you refer to Nelson jack as 21st-century self-sufficient organisation?.
Nelson Jack sustains its name, reputation and integrity, based on the people that we work with and basically the youths we have successfully trained. Okay. So, we give the youths the science of Entertainment. Our youths love entertainment, but there is an educational side to entertainment. So, teaching them that science empowers them, gives them a means of livelihood. Also, it helps sustain the organisation because the more people we train, the more you spread the word. The more people we have, the faster it’s easy for us to execute projects. The sustenance of the organisation is based on the amount of knowledge we pass unto the youths.
Tell us about your clients and what stands you out?
For one, I work with everybody. I am like a doctor and there are customer-clients privileges. So, I won’t do that [revealing my clients]. I mean, I have worked with everybody such as big companies, government, blue chip companies and so many others. At one point, we have come across organisations that require our services. God’s favour and the creativity we bring to the table stood us out.
How did you come about the creativity?
Like I said, I was already a talented artist. I mean I was taught by the greatest artist in the world, which is God. If you look at everything, including design in the world, God put the idea into somebody’s brain and thus the person now invents it, meaning the greatest inventor in this life is God and God taught me. This implies that man is not my teacher, but God.
In 2015, your company acquired a multi-million naira LED lighting technology. How has this project the company ever since?
When we acquired this technology, it was acquired, not to make money with it. I can’t go and be renting equipment to train the people I want to train because my upbringing states that the only way you can become a master is if you are a good teacher. So, I wanted to teach because I saw a lot of youths on the streets doing nothing and I wanted to train them. But I couldn’t go and renting equipments as at that time. I did not have a lot of money to rent equipment to teach these youths. So, I just decided to sign a deal with a Chinese company. Let them give us the tools we would use to teach. We started small and from there we began to grow. Thus, successfully, based on those equipment we have trained over 448 men till date who are independently sufficient to take care of their families.
In one of your interviews, you said you see your workforce as your own way of doing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Could you please explain?
Like I said, my organisation is based on youth development and it’s like a family thing; we all come together solving all sorts of problems. As a leader and as a teacher, my duty is to listen. And if there are corporate organisations making billions of naira and not looking at developing the youths, I don’t want to be one of them. With the little that I have, I just want to develop as many youths as I can to the extent that, if I die, let my country feels my absence. Those are the passions that drive me and that is why every step of my organisation is a CSR on its own; from the guys who go and do the light to those who are trained for start and have now become engineers today.
What is your view on the Nigerian entertainment industry?
For me, the Nigerian Entertainment Industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Right now, the entertainment industry is the new crude oil. Look at our movies, look at our music. Look at our fashion. All of them are a part of the entertainment industry and if you check it in the last 10 years, the amount of events that have gone down in Nigeria, in Lagos and all over the place have been monumental, meaning it’s a virgin ground. I look at it from the point of the huge populace of the country; anywhere that there is a gathering of 100 to 200 people and above, amplification is required.
The focal point must be there so that everybody faces that direction. So, the Nigerian entertainment industry, if our government should give people like us the funds required to train people in to knowing what event technology is all about, the youths will probably have a more chances of livelihood than what they are getting today. Meanwhile, we have graduates that till tomorrow don’t have work.
Do you think the government is doing what it should to stimulate the growth of the industry?
We heard, at some point that money was given to so and so person for the entertainment industry but what did they do with these funds? I mean if me on my own can train so many people and add to so many people’s lives with the little that I have, imagine what I will do opening training centres in the six (6) geo-political zones in Nigeria. You can imagine the amount of people worthy of the requirements and criteria that will jump into the schools.
We only need their intuitive side, not really their educational background because when they even come, we will enhance their intuitive, their educational side, their writing skills, their drawing skills , their presentation skills, warehousing and every other thing that is attached to event technology. And event technology is wide; you have stage, you have stage construction. You have light; you have animations. You have building construction. You have wooding; you have logistics; you have warehousing; you understand what am saying. You have maintenance. You have administration. You have accounts. It is so wide to the extent that it is tantamount to be a Nigerian University. If the government singles out people like us that we can empower the youths, we will give two or more equipment and by the time we are done and we will kick it off from there. You will start saving money because the knowledge is there to develop itself and the individual involved. So, that’s my take on it.
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