How it all started  What he did to make night club place for high and mighty


By Agatha Emeadi


Ken Calebs Olumese was the Guv’nor of the most popular nightclub in the then old Lagos State known as Nightshift Coliseum. 

Stylish to the core even at 80; he is a reporter’s delight and one of those who lived a robust life to the fullest. 

As all categories of his members prepare to host the ‘Entertainment Impresario’ to a super grand reception @ 80 soon, Olumese is devoid of any illness. One then wonders how a bubbling flourishing night club owner managed his home front, stayed away from women and came out clean in over 30 years of running a night club that hosted the high and mighty, movers and shakers in the country . 

In this exclusive interview with the Sunday Sun, the Guv’nor went down memory lane, saying that he went into the business purely with passion and not-for-financial gains. 

He also revealed how the late Dele Giwa converted him from drinking Gordon Gin to the best of cognac and Remmy Martins for 34 running years now; how his pilot friend converted him from a particular brand of perfume to only Azarro in the last 50 years.  


What formed the decision to run the most popular and fun-seeking Nightshift Coliseum in Lagos then?

Nightclub business is like any other business. From time, I have always liked the entertainment industry. As an extrovert, I saw nothing unusual for entertainment at its best. It only depends on the level and at what time I had to do it. From my youthful days, I love entertainment when people sing and dance. Leaving secondary school, I was initiated into entertainment already, handling microphones as the Master of ceremony from one place to the other.

There are night clubs, and there are night clubs. Nightshift Coliseum came with a special package, features and management, how did you do it?

For the fact that I have special passion for entertainment, I have watched it grow from different levels both here and in foreign countries. Again, I have been to a lot of entertainment outfits both here and abroad. So, with all the exposure and a long-term passionate ambition, I told myself that I must be in a different entertainment industry. Note that I never went into the business because of financial concentration because I was fairly comfortable as an executive director of a multi-national pharmaceutical firm when I started nightshift. I would not have left an exalted position to start a joke. So, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. My vision was guided exclusively by passion, so because I knew what I wanted, there was age by my side, and I put in my best until I retired. At retirement stage, seeing that daily passion dwindles, excitement reduced, age set in; I knew it was time to retire.

If there is re-incarnation, would you go into the business again?

I will go into the business because I can describe myself as a fairly successful person. If you succeed in your business, you don’t change the winning team.

Nightshift attracted the high and mighty, movers and shakers and in fact, the most influential, rich and accomplished in the society, were you reaching out to them for patronage?

Well, I was already an executive director and was running the club at the same time. If I did not run the club, somebody else would run it. My target audience were people of my status as an executive director which was not child’s play. I had made friends within my circle in corporate meetings, publishers, media enthusiasts at that level. So, when I started the club, it was logical that the group I wanted were the type of group that I belonged to and I was able to attract them easily. But then, I will not tell you that I know everybody that came there. So, if you enter the club which was almost a semi-membership club, we allowed people to come in as members or paid the gate fees to have access into the club.

Why was there no continuity when you retired?

Night clubbing is not a pure profession like medicine, law, journalism etc. For instance, in the case of a lawyer, or medical doctor, there are hospitals and libraries, documents etc, when the lawyer or doctor passes on, his children will continue from where he stopped. Night club business is different because of your presence, interaction with people, ambience, personality etc. There cannot be two Ken-Caleb Olumese. My sons have the same DNA with me, but the truth is that, there is always a difference. Even twins cannot be the same. So, though the club was a semi-membership club, but it was highly personalised. I knew every member by name, to get a glamour, gold or platinum card, I must give it to you myself and, therefore, must know you by your name. If you bring a guest who you want to become a member, there is no other way than coming to me and getting the card from me. No money is paid. It is not done by proxy and that made the club very personalised. Therefore, when I retired and maybe my children want to take over, if they do not have the passion I had, it might not be as successful as it was when I was there. They might not have the concept and passion I had for nightclubbing, they might want to go into the business bearing financial upliftment, it, therefore, might not work because you might not know the members, probably looking for the new members. That was not the phase, it was set to be personalised. I also believe that the lifespan of the club at that time has expired because the logo and name were patented and trademarked, so no one can use them. If my children or grandchildren want to revive it in another form, but Nightshift Coliseum as it was at the time I retired cannot be repeated. It was a personalised club which cannot be duplicated. Do not forget, when I moved from the rented Nightshift at 21 Opebi to Salvation Road, we moved the location to a bigger place, but the concept remained the same. Everything we did there was planned. Nothing happened there by chance. When the time expired, there is nothing one could do about it again.

From your style, I could imagine what Coliseum looked like then, how do you feel at 80?

I believe that age is just a figure or a number. There are 20 years old who feel very sickly and 80 years who are strong. It is not my own making. It is God who determines what happens. The nature of the job I did in Nightshift was the stressful one that would make me look weak, but fortunately, I am strong. I still drive myself around, busy writing my autobiography.

Sir, women, wine and money are the soul of a nightclub, how did you stay away from women in such a business of over 30 years and came out clean without marital or romantic drama?

As a journalist you are, I hope you know your job is like entertainment because you are everywhere, how are you able to cope with it? If the motivation for setting up a club was running after women and making millions, it would not have succeeded. Again, do not forget that I have made a few marks while working as an ED. I was well paid, had paid holidays with my family, first class tickets all over the world twice in a year. So, I was fairly comfortable compared to my contemporaries. Again, I was married with children. The purpose of the business was not after women, but the passion. So, there was no other consideration. Even without setting up Nightshift, my status then could have also enabled me to marry other women if I had wanted. Unfortunately, when I set up the club, one of the conditions I gave to myself, and the staff knew was that Nightshift was not a centre for prostitution. Now, even my staff, were trained not to get closer to any member. If a member comes in with a female on Monday and another female on Wednesday, it is not their duty to monitor or ask after anyone. We do not ask after your wife; it is not part of our duty rather a personal issue. Except a man comes in with his wife and introduces her, it is different. We were very strict in everything we did which people did not know about that, and members were very comfortable with our arrangement. Because I have visited clubs all over the world, even locally here, I know that one of the main reasons there is high mortality rate for clubs is because of this. When members bring their beautiful wives, girlfriends or even relatives, the owner of the club should not get familiar with his guests. Once the story makes the round, the clientele will be lost unknowingly. Do not forget, in the membership of the club, we had people of various professions. We had to be sure we all operate on the same level without betrayal etc.

Related News

How did you manage the relationship between journalists and the big-wigs of the club, knowing that journalists will always nose for news at all places?

We all know that anywhere journalists are is always a problem, in fact, when I opened initially, the first fight I had was that my senior gold card members were not comfortable with journalists. These big media people today were young reporters and their publishers were members of the club. Reporters were at the club looking for negative stories that will attract readership. So, the big boys and the journalists were cats and rats. That was the period that soft sell thrived. Then these Ogas were not comfortable with the presence of journalists. I did my best to ensure that there was no friction among them. In the club I created a sector for the young people who were heavily populated by the journalists and some young mobile professionals. So, I separated them, it was a hard job. When they all became members of the club, they realized that there was no need to scandalize other members of the same club. The concept was for all to get good fun which should not be destroyed. That late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was at the club with Bianca was enough news. Whatever behaviour he puts up is not the issue. Almost all the publishers then were members, Uncle Sam Amuka of Vanguard, the Ibrus, Dr. Dele Cole, Stanley Macaybu, Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese were all my personal friends and members of the club. With time, gold card members started inviting journalists for interviews in their offices and homes. Publishers were also members of the gold card. For instance, your publisher, Orji Uzo-Kalu then had not set up The Sun newspapers, but he was a member of my club in 1988. So, assuming he had come to the club with a lady, will you as his reporter write and publish that? There were notorious softs sells then that dwelt on lies, today where are they? Why I went down memory lane was to tell you that these were my personal friends. Biodun Shobanjo who was a Public Relation (PR) expert but was not a journalist, is my member. These were all decent gentlemen. There was no negativity around them. So, if the journalist needs interview from such gold card members, I come in as a balancer, through the club. There were unwritten rules which the journalists too knew. The first journalist that broke the news of Nightshift Coliseum then was Tony Okonedo in his column called Can-talk in Vanguard. Uncle Sam asked him to come and interview me in January 1988 when I was about to open the Nightshift.

How were membership of the club defined?  

Before the club was opened, the membership was somehow already defined. That is why it cannot be replicated. I have known Uncle Sam Amuka Pemu for about 12 years before I opened the club and so many others during my days as an executive director. Then again, I used to hold a very massive yearly party every November where all A-list, top politicians, government functionaries, movers and shakers, name them were invited. I already had the clientele waiting to be put in an enclosure.

Speaking with you shows club business is in your DNA. If one calls you a lady’s specification; one might not be wrong because you have all that women require, the security, accomplished profession, handsome, up-to-date financially. How do you stay away from women as a club owner?

We all know that an adage says the oldest profession in the world is prostitution because it is in the Bible as well. The business I was into was wine, which Sampson took, woman, where Sampson was involved with Delilah and money which Judas and co used to betray Jesus. These three things, wine, women and money were the core of the business. I met various women with the status I had. Night club then is not what it is now. It was a disciplined job. I knew many people who met and married their wives in my club and still living well till date. It was not a club for red-light girls, but a club for responsible professionals and that is the perception people had. In Nightshift Coliseum, once one dozes off, you will be shown the way out. Gold card members were served with different glasses; glamour had theirs and some people raised their eyebrows. I asked them that even in Church, can you seat where pastors or elders sit? It is not out of annoyance, but to show that discipline can thrive in the country. During the Ground House Reception (GHR), when a state governor is coming to the club, his ADC must remove the magazines from their gun and leave them at the reception, none takes gun inside the club, all to ensure safety and discipline. The guests were also comfortable because before we invite you, we ensure our security is very tight. To hold one GHR, the resource team normally meet for at least six times because it is debated by highly top professionals. Any decision that the resource team takes is final on pro bono basis. They were the unseen engine room that propelled the club. After the experience of the late Dele Giwa, we were the first night clubs that started using metal detectors. So, we knew what we were doing. Everything we did was well calculated and designed. We did not joke with May 27th Children’s Day party for over 30 years. It used to be a heavy party for all children within where two cows must be killed for entertainment. I have once attended a party where the newlyweds came to where I seated and told me they attended that party. It was a big honour for me. In fact, that party was so important that even when my house got burnt in April 1993, we still had that party on May 27th. Again, we started fashion shows where the likes of Folorunsho Alakija, Nikky Afikana, Dakova and others showcased their creativity.

Allen Avenue is known as a popular street for the red-light girls. Men also come there to pick the girls. How come they were not parading around the Coliseum?

That is now. Then, Allen Avenue was like the Broadway, it was purely residential. I lived on Allen Avenue until my house got burnt in 1993. It was a sleepy classy residential area. It was when Alade Market came that it became commercialised, including the Lagos State headquarters that was moved to Alausa.  

Now, I must also tell you that any business is a reflection of the owner. We had a custom that Nightshift Coliseum will be for very responsible professionals. It was difficult to have prostitutes around their because they had no clientele there. By the status the members are given inside the club, they cannot bring prostitutes. Those Allen girls can only go to places where their clienteles are. Nightshift dries their source of clientele because we do not run the club outside, rather inside. These are strict rules that all adhered to.

What advice would you give to upcoming night clubbers?

There is no advice to give to someone who want to make money from night clubbing. There are many night clubs where a bottle of wine costs N5 million. So, there is no advice to give to such a person who wants to emulate that type of club. The people who go to such places to buy such are like the owners of the club and vice versa. My members would not do such.  

What was your favourite drink then, any idiosyncrasies?

I have my personal idiosyncrasies. The first is my perfume which I have used since 1974. It is called Azarro. I have used it for 50 years and still on it. I had a brand I used then before my pilot friend introduced me to Azarro. It is Azarro or nothing. Unfortunately, the franchise has been sold, but only on sale through order. Whenever my many friends are travelling, the only thing I ask for is my Azarro perfume. You cannot find or smell any other perfume on me except Azarro, never. If it is finished, no other, but I will always have my stock. For my drinks, I was a fan of Gordon Gin, until 1981 when I met the late Dele Giwa and Ray Ekpu. They were Remmy Martins, and cognac enthusiasts. Then we used to go out together a lot. On a particular day, Dele told me that Gin was not too good, that I should try Remmy Martins, I tried it and discovered that it was the loveliest drink ever. Since 43 years ago, I have been stuck to Remmy Martins and not ready to stop. Then, for my food; I do not have very particular meal and do not eat too many things. At parties I can drink, but not much. But since I was born in 1944 till date, I have never tasted salad and not likely to do so.


When I was young, there are some white things I saw on top, including green leaves, then, it is served cold again. I said, I will not eat it and for 80 years of my life, I have never tasted salad. My wife cooks it regularly, they will eat without giving me because they know I will not eat it. In foreign countries, at various parties, dinners, launch, buffet and all that, I do not eat salad. I call it pharmaceutical mixtures and do not eat it.

But you take cold drinks and the likes of Edo native soup?

Yes, I can add ice cubes in my Remmy and enjoy it. Yes, I ate that soup yesterday. My next idiosyncrasy is flying. If it is possible to drive from Lagos to America, I would do it. As young ED then, I have driven from Lagos to Kaduna  six times for conferences and exhibitions. I have travelled round the world, even though I have phobia for flying. When I am travelling to far distances, I try as much as possible to break my journey for fear. I cannot fly Delta Airline straight to America. Never, I must break the journey because of the phobia I have. When the roads were good, I never flew to Benin, I drive down. My wife to be then was in Benin and I was driving down every weekend. When I fly abroad on business class, in the aircraft, I do not talk even with my wife. She will reserve all her talk until we land. I do not eat or use the restroom. I am glued to my seat in fear until we land. A practical example was one of the days I flew Okada Air from Benin to Lagos, I was on my first-class seat, and a woman sat beside me. Though we exchanged pleasantries. When we taxied off, there was heavy turbulence in the air, I held my seat in fear. Next, snacks were served, I waved in rejection of the offer, that woman collected hers, had a bite and said, it was not fresh, but a bit soured. She started talking, complaining and her talk disturbed me a great deal. I shouted her down in anger, she became cold and quiet. But when we landed, I felt guilty and went to her with apologies. That is how bad my phobia is.

Were there times when women came to the club to look for their husband?

Yes, once has a woman came to the club and beckoned on me that she saw her husband’s car parked at the club. I told her that it was not my duty as the owner of the club to examine marriage certificate at the gate. If your husband comes here, I do not have to request the marriage certificate between you and him. So please, if you want to enter the club, go and pay your gate fees or that you are a card-carrying member. But be also warned that any misbehavior inside the club is met with serious force. When she left, I thought along her action and says for a woman who comes to the club to look for her husband, that marriage might not last. I believe that respect begets respect and everything should be done in moderation.

As a happening man, very stylish, ladies peck and the global Guv’nor of Nightshift Coliseum, how did you manage the home front with many women starring at you daily. How did you manage the home front?

But you just saw my wife now, did you see her as an unhappy woman? The biggest problem on earth is the management of the way of a woman. You women are very complicated human beings. To manage you is a special skill and experience. My wife came and greeted us here, she told me she is going to Church, meanwhile today is not Sunday. I said fine. So, in the evening, if I say, I am going to the club with my friends, she will also permit me because one good turn deserves another. It is a balance. Again, a woman can also find a boyfriend in the church. Have we not heard stories of priests and pastors who have girlfriends? We are happy in our balancing. Managing the home front requires understanding and trust between the two. Now, I must tell you that our first child came as a special child with special needs. We took him abroad for special school, after all sometime we returned back to Nigeria. We all love him and will keep loving him. So, managing him is a major challenge for us as a family. Since he was 12, my wife and I has not travelled together again because we do not leave him alone with domestic workers. One would go, while the other stays put. So, we have our unwritten understanding. Do not forget that I was always in the club, I ran the club more than a fulltime business. I close from the club at 6:00a.m in the morning, by 5:00p.m I am back there. With my programme in the club, my wife was the one managing the home, but with my full support. I have never failed in my responsibility as a husband or father. Never did I joke with that. Even when our house got burnt in 1993, we all ran out in only pyjamas to save our lives first. Ray Ekpu my friend came in immediately and evacuated my family to his house in GRA, Ikeja until we were able to settle down again after six months. Even in that disorganized state. I made sure all my children did not miss school even for one day. Every activity was put in place, the only thing we missed was our building that got burnt. In marriage, one should identify what his wife wants. In our younger years in marriage, we travelled all over the world together, even as a young family with children at tender ages. If one’s wife could trust a husband that much, she should be encouraged, appreciated and be made comfortable. In fact, my last child was given birth to in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) while I was in the club. It was in the morning I went to see my wife and my new born baby. She knew I was in club, but did not disturb me.

So, how did you meet your wife?

Though I want to reserve all these in my biography, but I met her through my mother who was sick, hospitalized in Benin. I drove down to Benin to see her. My niece and her friend (my wife) were the ones who took care of her as student nurses then. I actually wanted to marry a big girl in Lagos not a lady in Benin, but was very impressed with the passion and care she showed to my mother. Next, I went to Benin and saw her, I thanked her for her good deeds and in fact proposed marriage to her. One thing led to another and here we are today blessed with children and grandchildren.

VERIFIED: Nigerians (home & diaspora) can now be paid in US Dollars. Earn up to $17,000 (₦27 million) with premium domains. Click here to start