by Kenneth Oliko
What excites you about radio?
It’s the power of radio. When I was a boarder at Abeokuta Girls Grammar School, having a radio was like contraband, but we found ways to sneak things in. On school vacations I was always with my radio, on a camp bed outside my uncle’s house, I love music, and that I get to be a part of that now totally thrills me.
Is this what you’ve always wanted to do?
I wanted to be Oreka Godis, MD, then a ‘business woman’, a pilot, an architect and I even joined the British Naval Force just before my first year at university. I must say, my parents have supported me through all my flights of fantasy, even if they didn’t always understand it. Now my mother -bless her- asks: ‘When are you moving back to England?’ ‘This is you now?’ As a child I was inquisitive, argumentative, would be thoroughly upset if I didn’t get first place in class. My nickname was actually professor for a while. My parents have been very understanding. Their emphasis was never about anything other than: get an education, get the tools to empower yourself for the future.
My eldest brother, Martin, and my cousin Niyi, suffered from Sickle Cell anaemia. At the age when things so easily form you, I learnt that I never wanted to watch people suffer. Growing up, I did a lot of travelling and relocating. I’ve found that it has helped me become very independent. My mother is the strongest woman I know and I owe her my life in more ways than I could even begin to explain. The person I am today is really down to my family and very close friends.
How did you start and where you are now?
When I first moved here I was looking to work in a bank like I had been doing in the UK. I started meeting different kinds of people and a friend nudged me towards the radio station. I don’t know what made me go along for the voice test, but I did. I didn’t think much of it and carried on with my ‘working holiday/job search’. Not long after that, I got a call from The Beat 99.9FM and Oreka Godis, MD became Oreka Godis, OAP.
I remember my first day on air, I was not ready at all. My palms were sweaty, my throat was itchy, I was so nervous, I shook visibly in my seat and my words came out in soft, timid whispers. Olisa still teases me about it now.
What are the advantages of being on radio?
Radio allows me to be creative and flexible. One day I could be interviewing Shondrella Avery or Sean Paul or R.Kelly in the radio; the next, I could be in Illorin rubbing shoulders with Akon and the very best talent that Nigeria has to offer as I conduct red carpet and backstage interviews.
Anonymity! So many radio presenters say they enjoy it, don’t you sometimes want to get noticed?
I can’t speak for every on-air personality but I love that I can walk into places, standing in line and not get recognised. It’s like my own cheeky little secret.
Do you ever get the feeling that TV would have been a better platform to get things done?
I’ve met people who worked in radio and now have other jobs, and they’ve all told me how much they miss working on radio. The average Lagosian spends 4-7 hours a day in traffic, and is listening to their radio for 3-5 hours a day, commercial breaks and all. TV doesn’t give you nearly that amount of air time with your audience. In an ideal world, I would love to have both TV and radio.
You recently anchored the launch of the new brand – Y! Experience. How far do you intend to push yourself as an event compere?
I have compered events before in Nigeria and the UK . I’ve done some motivational speaking in my time too. For a non performer, compering is the only time you get to experience the same kind of nerves and thrill that artists, comedians and performers talk about. Scary stuff, but a lot of fun.
A banker might think presenters unserious as regards work profile. How would you reply to that?
I have been on both sides of the fence and whilst the lifestyle might seem all glam and laid back, the reality is that a lot of work goes on in the background. It’s like working for yourself and, as most entrepreneurs will tell you, it is a lot of work just keeping yourself motivated.
Most embarrassing time on radio?
I once interviewed Donae’o aka Ian Greenidge and pronounced his last name wrong on air as I was telling listeners about the guest I was due to have that morning. Unfortunately for me, he was listening in the car on his way to the studio. He spent pretty much most of the interview teasing me about it.
The best show you ever had?
I like the 99 Day events we do at The Beat 99.9FM. It’s an annual event we do on the 9th day of the 9th month of the year and it’s a lot of fun. It’s like Christmascome early.
There’s talk about The Beat 99.9FM girls being hot?
Do the girls fake the accent?
I absolutely suck at doing impersonations, and I am yet to sit in a room with any of The Beat girls and notice any of the ladies decide oh, yeah, “I must impress utunu” and start faking an accent. We are all from different walks of life the way we speak reflects that.
Why would you give up radio?
Olisa Adibua gave us some great advice: ‘…do not touch the microphone that switches the air-sign on if you have nothing to say. If you have nothing to say, say nothing at all’. If I were to stop doing radio, it would perhaps be because I stopped having something to say.
What’s next for you?
I love writing. I would like to explore more of my creative side. Also I’m one of the directors on RockBoy Productions and we’re currently working on getting a few TV projects.
What is that one thing that keeps you going each morning?
I wake up every day ready to be on air from 6am, and I do it not for the glamour or the name dropping but for the sense of purpose it gives me. I wake up and knowing that I am going to be part of someone’s day and something I say will matter to somebody.
If had to come back to the world again, would you choose to be born a Nigerian?
I came to Nigeria not because I didn’t have a choice to stay in England but because I wanted to come to Nigeria, to be part of the future Nigeria. So, if I had to come back to the world again, what do you think I would choose to be born as?
(This interview was first published in The Guardian Newspaper on Sunday, 9th January 2011)