Time and chance

Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: babawill2000@gmail.com Twitter: @Babawilly

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.

We were chatting over lunch at home and Michael Buffer’s name came up.

“Do you know that the guy who announces boxing fights by saying, ‘Let’s get ready to rumble!’ is worth about $400 Million?” I asked.

I got the usual suspicious looks I usually get when I say things that sound unexpected and everyone reached for their smartphones to Google his net worth.

As soon as everyone was convinced about the wealth of this super boxing ring announcer, the conversion soon drifted to how a man could make millions from having a five-word catchphrase.

Nigerians are no strangers to catchphrases. Throughout history our public figures have made statements which shook the country for various reasons.

“Ya own done?” was said by a surprised Nigerian delegate to his colleague when he was served salad on a foreign trip and thought the chef forgot to cook his vegetables. I am not sure who exactly said this but it remains a popular phrase among Nigerians of a certain age.

Here are a few of the catch phrases that have entertained or made Nigerians cringe over the years.

“On Aburi we stand.”

“Where is Anini?”

“What is two thirds of nineteen?”

“Two point eight billion Naira missing?”

“Zombie way na one way.”

“I dey kampe.”

“My oga at the top.”

“Diaris God o.”

“Na only you waka come?”

“Gerrarahere here.”

None of the above Nigerian catch phrases netted Millions for the owners and the reason is quite simple. Time and chance. Or perhaps location-location-location.

Now back to Michael Buffer. According to him he was watching a boxing match with his son on TV when the ring announcer did a poor job of announcing a split decision. His then 13-year-old son suggested that he could do a better job announcing fights. He then wrote up an embellished CV and found himself a job announcing a boxing fight.

His initial catch phrases did not get the crowds going and he took inspiration from Muhammad Ali who said, “I’m ready to rumble” before one of his fights.

As “Let’s get ready to rumble” became popular he trademarked the phrase and over time began to licence out the use of this trade mark to various businesses for a fee. Video, games, movies and commercials kept the Dollars flowing in.

If Mr Michael Buffer had been born in Nigeria where intellectual property cannot put garri on the table, he would have made nothing from his catchphrase save appearance fees.

His foray into his profession was down to pure chance but his took opportunity of this chance. He had served in the military and worked as a model prior to becoming a boxing ring announcer so he was not a lazy person hoping for a lucky break. He is a hard worker but he was pushed into his destiny on the back of career advice from a thirteen-year-old.

More incredulous was the fact that his was brought up by foster parents and meet his father who contacted him after seeing him on TV. He was then introduced to his step brothers and one of them went on to be his business manager.

As the story sank in over lunch my wife broke into prayer, “Lord, push us into our breakthrough”. (This is the sort of prayer that could make a husband shift nervously in his seat as he wonders if he is doing well enough in life).

It sounded incredulous that a five-word phrase would transform into a business empire.

Then the questions came up.

“What if he did not trademark the phrase?”

“What if he did not listen to his adviser?”

Even in America the copyright laws can be enforced, not everyone with a unique catchphrase would be bothered to get involved with lawyers and pay money for a trademark.

Ironically Michael Buffer whose grand-father was a boxer, is now richer than many of the high earning boxers he introduced in the ring over the years. This sort of story makes you wonder what gifts we have that are lying dormant in us and why our kids don’t suggest great enterprises to us instead of begging for McDonalds and Mr Biggs all day.