The lens master

He read French and Yoruba language from Kwara State College of Education, but clearly, his passion was somewhere else. Though he never practiced as a teacher, his decision to dump his well-paid job of over a decade for photography was seen as crazy. But in less than five years, with courage, foresight, determination and perseverance, he is today a success story as he is a proud employer of labour

Indeed, when he started out sometimes in 2009, Peter Ajayi never knew that what he was dabbling into would earn him so much fame and fortune. To him, dumping a well-paid job of over a decade of active service at Amnesty International where he was exposed to the best of trainings and seminars within and outside Nigeria for mere photography, was a fulfi llment of a burning passion. He knew what he was doing and was not prepared to get distracted despite open condemnation by friends and close relatives.

As a teenager, while in school, Ajayi is noted to have developed a deep passion for the camera and always sought opportnuty of showcasing his creativity. While he had no formal training in the photography fi eld, during his compulsory NCE programme at the Nigeria French Language Village in Badagry, he and his colleagues had engaged the services of a photographer during their stay in the school for the purpose of documenting their stay, but the photographer often disappointed. Amazingly, it was this disappointment that made him to explore the use of his small camera. “It was during one of those moments of disappointment that I remembered that I came with a small camera, so I bought a roll of fi lm and decided to take photograph of myself and my friends. When other students saw the photographs I had taken, they approached me to take also and that was how I went into the world of photography.”

“I missed classes because I was always at a photo laboratory at Volks bus stop to print out the images. I had to engage the service of a friend to collect money on my behalf and within a short time, I started helping my friends with their needs,” he said.

Ajayi bought a professional camera with part of the money he made and decided to take his new found job to his school at Kwara, though, it was his last semester, he gave it a try and became a relative success in it. “So when we left French Village for Cotonu, I bought a professional camera and took it to school which was our last semester and I engaged myself in photography. I picked it up as an interest and developed it into a career without any professional training but you cannot do a job you don’t know about; I handle camera as a professional and I see myself as an authority in it because I dedicated myself to it. Today, I do have enough workers with me and whenever our services are needed, we are always there to give the very best which has remained our unique selling point. The fear was not there because I was young and I started it to make myself happy with the aim of taking photograph of myself and friends, but when the business opportunity in it came, I took it with both arms. I don’t exercise fear in anything I am doing that also affected my venture into politics but I listen to advice from superiors and elders”.

Although, he started making money at a young age, Peter never lost focus on his education as he pursued it, bagging a fi rst and second degree in journalism in addition to his NCE qualifi cation; yet he is unsatisfi ed as he aims for his PhD programme .

As a matter of fact, one can say that Ajayi’s story is akin to that of a lame rising into fame. Sojourning to Lagos with almost nothing to broke the yoke of poverty through the application of his unlimited potential and quest for better qualifi cation, little wonder, he hopes to retire into lecturing in the later part of his life as a social service.

It would be recalled that the Ora- Ekiti born photographer had had it rough at the beginning when he fi rst came to lagos to sek for greener pasture. Then, with his NCE, he had secured a job in a real estate company and rose to the position of a manager but he was poorly paid; a paltry N2000 as his take home at the end of the month. He complained to his then boss about the poor remuneration, his complaint fell on deaf ears and he was left with no option but to resign. He was frustrated with his condition of living and chose to return to Ekiti State to start life afresh.

“I left the job and also relocated to Ekiti state because my condition of living was very poor; I could not imagine I will stay in the type of apartment I had in Lagos State; it was not befi tting for habitation,” he disclosed in an interview with Business Courage.

Having relocated to Ekiti, he approached the Ekiti State Broadcasting Corporation and Ekiti State Water Corporation for employment, though he was not having any educational qualifi cation that would have made him suitable for either of the job. However, he was called for test and almost at the point he was certain of gaining employment with either of the corporations, he was hinted that a non-governmental organisation in Lagos was recruiting, unwillingly; he chose to attend the interview. There were 41 other applicants with him and only one person was to be employ. He did the interview and after the third stage, he was employed and that started his second coming to Lagos State. His return to Lagos with Amnesty International was a blessed one as he was well paid and exposed to the best of trainings and seminars within and outside of Nigeria. It was where he discovered some of his hidden talents.

In the mix of the human rights struggle, Peter never lost focus of his passion in photography and little wonders, after a fulfi lled career spanning over a decade with Amnesty International, he again embraced the lens to earn a living.

‘I see education as the very solid foundation in life. I could have stopped at NCE but I knew I needed to attain a higher degree because I do not allow people take negative references from me. I learnt a lot from people, I have seen people that lose out of opportunities because they do not have the required degrees. When I was at Amnesty International, I was running a degree programme (French Education) at University of Ado (UNAD) and there was this opportunity at United Nation; I applied and met all the other requirements except for the educational qualifi cation, which is a degree in communication. So I was not picked because of the education qualifi cation and if I had gotten the job as at then, the salary was over one million naira. So I do not believe in being a half-baked person, not just education but in everything always aim for the best. Education is our pride in Ekiti State; a fi rst degree is the minimal for you to be proud of whom you are. It is also my way of setting a standard for the younger generation which includes my children,” Peter noted.

Peter has since expanded his company, LongView Concepts, beyond photography and video coverage; there is a monthly magazine publication and a weekly newspaper, in addition, the company also helps clients to place advertisement in the various media while also serving as a consultant to some of the media houses. The company is also working on a television programme where it can showcase some of the events it engages in, hoping to be a giant in the media and entertainment sector of the economy. His inspiration, as he put it, apart from God, is his wife.

“My wife motivates me; she is my source of inspiration. She was the one that propelled me to start a programme at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education; she later got the UNAD form for me and when I could not complete the programme because I was working at Amnesty International in Surulere; she was also the one that brought the Lagos State University School of Communication advert and encouraged me to enroll for the programme because the campus was closer to my offi ce. She did all these while we were courting and now that we are married, she prays for me and support my success because she sees it as her success. She loves transparency, open-mindedness; she will not be your friend if you lie to her.”

He also hinted that he has drawn inspiration from great minds such as the former Inspector General of Police and current chairman of Nigeria Police Commission, Mike Okiro, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Mike Ozekhome and Sumbo Soremekun among others.

He disapproves laziness and people complaining that there is no job, believing that there are potential that every young person has to tap in. He stressed that opportunities abound in the country but the right attitude and prioritizing rightly are required from the younger generation.

“The young people should see themselves as potential; there is no need to be jobless, opportunities abound. I am shocked that most of the youth concentrate on worthless things rather than education. If you complain that your parents are not rich; I will tell you that mine were not rich as well and I made it. I did menial jobs in Ibadan. I worked with the Police during Mike Okiro tenure as a consultant. I worked briefl y with some newspapers; The Champion as a consultant for special projects, I also went out looking for advert for The Sun. I was also a consultant to Guardian going out to seek adverts and get my commission. I got a good number of adverts with a rewarding commission. I don’t believe so much in salary, you can make a living without earning salary. Some people are earning salary, unsatisfi ed with the pay and they keep complaining without making a move until they are sacked or ask to go maybe in their late 50s, when they can do very little to help themselves”.

He counseled that every individual should endeavour to stay off crime because it leads to destruction. “God time is the best; don’t be desperate, take things easy as they come. I believe that if God does not do something, nobody can. Desperation lead to jail, untimely death and destruction, the end product is always evil. Be good to people, help others and fi nd something doing, no matter how small,” he advised.

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