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John Paul Akinduro: Leading the Pathway in Digital Media Strategy in Africa

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“HBD to a multi-talented young man, JP @akinduro.. a very quintessence of competence and integrity” former Governor of Ondo state, Dr Olusegun Mimiko tweeted to celebrate John Paul Akinduro on his birthday, 18th of May 2018.

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These two keywords, competence and integrity, perfectly describe one of the finest Havard trained unsung digital media strategists out of Africa. If you ask him, Akinduro would talk about himself as a “disruptor-in-chief who has just started”. Interestingly, he was one of very few media practitioners who leveraged the digital space to promote governments and big brands at the inception of web 2.0.

When he came to join the Olusegun Mimiko administration, he was loaded with truckload of ideas on how the government could gain more visibility and positive public reputation locally and internationally having being part of the pioneer news revolution team at NN24, a 24hrs news channel and CNN affiliate station, now defunct.

He was one of the brains behind the “Mimiko brand” who is seen to have had a peerless public persona among Nigerian Governors of his days.

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“It all started in 2011 when I was brought in to help shape the digital media architecture of the then governor of Ondo state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, and the state government. You know what? The online space in Nigeria was still at its infancy and almost non-existent in Ondo state. I took up the task and pundits have attested to the fact that we did brilliantly well”. Akinduro said.

“It was difficult to change things at first, considering the fact that social media was seen as a trifling tool by the establishment but thanks to Dr. Mimiko and his ertswhile Chief Press Secretary, Eni Akinsola – the people who had my back”. he continued.

Akinduro went on to turn things around including the interface between government and the governed as evident in the public engagement programme that was hitherto broadcast on TV and radio. He digitized it and the first edition attracted over one million online audience, an outcome that was considered a giant feat at that time.

Highly proficient in digital media marketing strategy as certified by Google, Akinduro’s job as Mimiko’s Special Assistant on New Media and Digital Communications, entailed a whole lot. Aside his immediate team of over 20 capable hands, he also had to relate with a network of online editors of newspapers, digital journalists, social media influencers and bloggers, among others.

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According to Femi Ajasa, who was at the Vanguard newspapers at that time, “John Paul (JP) Akinduro, the quiet man with sterling achievements, is one of the pioneer digital media communication experts in Nigeria’s public sector who made sure good leadership isn’t just about the visionary, heroic leader but more about having extraordinary teams. I came in contact with him during the second term of the former Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko – Akinduro was the digital ‘Iroko’ who marshalled new media ideas in selling the greatness of the popular ‘Iroko’ (as Mimiko is fondly called by supporters) to the world at large.

“For those of us in the online media space, Akinduro’s prodigious talent in chronicling narratives of his principal (Mimiko) not only made our job in the newsroom easy, but also borrowed us digital cultures that advanced the fledging of several digital news operations of most legacy media organizations in the country.”

He led a team of new media experts to run the southwest digital media campaign for the then president of Nigeria and candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. “Jonathan, in his four years already had a terrible reputation in the media, no thanks to his team who never saw the need to bring in, not only experts but passionate and loyal people. My team’s handling of the digital campaign in the southwest produced outstanding results” Akinduro said.

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Every professional who has come in contact with Akinduro, attests to his knack for excellence, painstakingness, team spirit and other factors that endeared him to hundreds of young people who see him as a pathfinder. Sophie Marozeau, who works at the United Nations Office for Project Services in Copenhagen Denmark, spoke about his dedication, professionalism and charisma.

According to her “I had the pleasure to meet John Paul during a Digital Media training at the London College of Communication. He participated in the course with great dedication and professionalism. He shared with the group some fascinating case studies to illustrate his work supporting politicians in his country.

“We worked on a project together that we presented before other students, so I have had an opportunity to collaborate closely with him. He demonstrated great team spirit during this exercise, always listening to all opinions and bringing a lot of positive energy to the group. He is a charismatic and outgoing person who will surely leave a mark in any team he works with”.

It is pretty expensive to run digital media campaign for elections, especially a keenly competitive and stand alone one like Edo and Ondo states. Akinduro who is now Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to former Governor Olusegun Mimiko was handed over the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) online media campaign in less than a month to the 2020 Ondo state governorship election. He was able to do the magic that the majority now refers to as “ZLP won on social media” but lost the real election.

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Asking him how he made a success of the digital campaign, Akinduro said “I can’t even imagine how we started with no fund, no situation room. We had a small office that could only accommodate four people yet it was filled with seven creative hands all through. We assembled a team of passionate young people and our result was magical”

From very engaging instant videos to infographics, live tweeting to several social media events, Akinduro recalled the journey into the 2020 digital campaign for the ZLP candidate and how he employed one of the best strategies in political marketing. “I submitted a 48-page media and communications plan to the committee. I was going to deploy a 7 pronged approach but for lack of time, I decided to rest it on just three which were to identify and promote the brand, provoke the electorates and de-market our opponents” He said.

“We took the campaign to the people and wanted them to take the right decisions but unfortunately, we had no resources to run basic campaign activities. Some times, we kept them busy with some crazy stuff you saw on social media. It’s a strategy to buy time.

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The #AketiLied hashtag that stood at the number one trending topic for 24hrs was just something we never planned, we just took advantage of a gap. The Akeredolu team failed to design digital engagement strategy for a much publicised radio programme. Minutes after it ended, we downloaded the progamme and highlighted the flaws and my guys feasted on it and to the suprise of residents of Ondo state and keen watchers of that election, our strategy became something out of the ordinary. The rest is history even after we lost the election, the impact remained indelible.

Akinduro, an alumnus of Pan African University Lagos, is the Creative Officer of Media Friends, a fast rising PR firm he cofounded and also acts as a media consultant for several public and private organisations. Added to these responsibilities, is his role as spokesperson to former Governor of Ondo state, Dr Olusegun Mimiko.

When he was asked what the future holds for him in the digital media space, he said, “We are working on a solution that we revolutionise events and hospitality business, not just in Africa but globally.”

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John Paul Akinduro
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