Non-fiction ~ My mentor who made me a Millionaire again ~ Tee Jay Dan


I was having a conversation with a friend recently about mentorship and I realized that some of us have the idea of a mentor screwed up such that even when we have one in our lives we are unable to recognize them. Let me buttress my point with a story.


I met Ishaya Bako sometime in 2011, at Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja and I knew that we were going to work together. I was already learning by that time to trust my intuition. So I followed him on Twitter and later added him up on Facebook. Once in a while I'd tweet at him and he'd respond. So I told him that I look forward to us doing stuff together. One evening, he called to ask if I was in Abuja and free to see him the following day. Of course, I was. We met and he told me about a project that he wanted to work with me on. It was a TV series about the Nigerian Police Force, produced by Oliver Tambo. It was my first TV gig. He called to say that the producer loved the first episode that I sent in, so I was going to write more episodes. It was an important learning curve for me, from suggestions from Ishaya to feedbacks from the producers. I banged out the scripts, got paid and that was that.

We talked often and Ishaya started introducing me to everyone. I frequented his house too, sometimes spending the nights either working in the editing room or reading film books. He took me to his office and told me that I could come around anytime and do my work from there. He basically extended a hand of friendship to me.

But I wanted something else. I wanted him to become my mentor. And my idea of a mentor was someone who is all formal with you, sends you an email with assignments and specific instructions on how to grow. Someone who sits you down and advice you from time to time. In my head, at the time, a mentor couldn’t be all friendly and casual. So I did not roll completely with him at that point. I mean, which kain mentor dey drink with his mentee, talk freely about any subject and tolerate being argued with. Above all, he’d consult me about other things. Even though he was always more than willing to listen to me and answer my questions, even when he'd recommend movies to watch and books to read, even though he gave me access to his office and the resources therein, I did not feel like he was a mentor since he didn't behave like the idea of a mentor in my head.

One day, my cousin’s room was burgled and my laptop was stolen. Ishaya gave me a laptop a day after so I could continue working. He was the first I told when my father passed and even though I did not tell him that I was broke at that time, he gave me money to help with movement and logistics. And he called throughout the period that I spent away. That money really helped me in a big way. This is why when people around me lose their loved ones, after sending my condolence I always send some money.

You have to understand that this was 2014. In the previous year, I had taken a break from working with Ishaya and had gone to Niger State where I directed a TV show for NTA and also helped set up a film unit for the state government. I learned the power of delegation from BM Dzukogi within that period. After I suffered a breakdown, I left Minna and returned to Abuja to start all over. I am always broke when starting all over.

Leaving Kubwa for our office at Adisa Estate was always tough. I was staying at my Uncle’s then. On very many occasions I depended on his wife for transport money. That woman, I shall never forget! I was late to meetings sometimes because money did not come on time. Sometimes I missed crucial meetings for lack of transport fare.

By the way, Madam Chinyere, let me tell you today why I missed that first important meeting that you set up for me. I tried my best but could not come up with transport money. I think that was the first attempt to introduce me to Davido’s father, yeah?

Anyway, Ishaya gave me the opportunity to earn. But in between, he started giving me money every day we meet. 5k today, 3k tomorrow, 5k again, 20k to my account, etc. He bought me a pair of combat shorts that I used when filming on set. I still have it even though I have long stopped wearing it. One day he called me over and told me that he had recommended me for a program. He had been invited to participate but he thought I needed the platform more and he believes that it will serve me well. See, that was the first time I was going to attend anything where I was paid per diem on top of the knowledge gain. It was the first time that I’d be in the same space with some awesome people that I used to admire from afar. But this time around we were there as equals and they witnessed my brilliance up close. I even helped some of them with their workload. Whereas I had the talent to be in that program, there was no way I was going to get in if Ishaya had not forfeited his place for me. I had not done anything major with my talent at that time, you see. But his recommendation made up for all that I lacked.

After that one, others followed. And once I had those international organizations in my bag, I started blowing up. You know that I do pretty well at marketing myself. Two years later, I had local and foreign clients paying me money. By 2016, at 26, I was a millionaire again. I set a target to make 10million naira between 2015 and 2016. By June of 2016, I had made 10.5million naira. It never would have happened without Ishaya. I invested a larger part of the money into creating content and purchasing equipment. I traveled across Nigeria, documenting different things. I was going to create a footage bank. Sadly, I lost those contents, had another breakdown, and went back to zero. I had to start all over again.

When I had a mental breakdown in late 2016, almost everyone abandoned me. Except for Otiga, Aidee, and Ishaya. Some even used that opportunity to steal from me. Or fight me for a beef they’d nursed against me. Ishaya would call from time to time to check on me. He gave me a blank check, said I should come to him for whatever I needed that period. When I carried out several tests at different hospitals, he’d call every time to find out what the doctors said. In fact, long before I was diagnosed, it was Ishaya who mentioned to me his suspicion that I might be battling with a form of mental disorder. I remember that evening very clearly, we were standing on the balcony of our Safe House in Adisa Estate. He asked if I had ever thought of seeing a professional for help. He and Emil suggested that I may probably have ADHD or something. I dismissed it and we resumed our gist about God, booze, and politics. Ah yes, Ishaya has always encouraged me to get involved in politics. Four years later, it turns out that he was right. I should have listened to him and seen a professional earlier.

I learned everything I know about preproduction from this guy. I was on set of every production with him, as long as I was available to go. Even on projects that I was not part of the crew, I had unimpeded access to more than members of the crew. He carried me along from ideation through execution. Just recently, when I needed a reminder on how to prepare a certain document I simply went to my email and dug up samples that he had sent to me some time ago without my asking.

When I met Jahman Anikulapo I knew that I wanted to be mentored by him. So when he walked up to me and said that he has heard so much about me and he admires the work that I do, it was a bit confusing. I was happy that someone like him knew about me already, but the way he said it made me scared that he might assume that I do not need his tutelage as much as I do. Thanks to my experience with Ishaya, I simply flowed with the vibe. Besides the friendships, meals, and hours of gist (physical, WhatsApp, and phone calls), I have learned so much from Uncle Jahman about organizing and cultural advocacy by paying attention and enjoying our brotherhood.

I have come to learn that there is no template for mentorship. And that great people do not have the time to tell you how to be great because they are busy staying great. They will never fail to show you. Just pay attention and follow their lead until you can carve your own path. Above all, learn to never abuse access and make people’s investment in your worth their trouble.

Some really awesome people have invested in my life and growth. I have a whole chapter dedicated to them in my forthcoming book, The Diary of A Dying Rebel.

No matter how big I become, no matter how far apart we are, I will forever be grateful to Ishaya Bako for believing in me and constantly investing in my growth.

I love you, bro. Forever.


Daniel John Tukura more known as Tee Jay Dan is a multi-talented artist and publisher of the Praxis Online magazine