Interviewed by Funke Olaode
What was your childhood like?
My parents were Egbas. I grew up in Ibadan. My father was a police officer. My mother traded in China wares. I was born in Queens Barracks in Mokola Area of Ibadan. We enjoyed communal life. If you went astray you would be disciplined irrespective of whose child you are. We lived in an environment where there was no religious or ethnic discrimination.
How was life growing up in the barracks?
It was a wonderful experience. Incidentally when you look at that time, it would give you a glimpse of policemen of yesteryears and today. In those days, virtually everything in the house was provided by the police authorities: the bed sheets, the mattresses, rain-coat, torch light and even the battery to power it, blankets including their uniforms which had buttons that could be replaced every month. They provided leather boots for them with polish. And every month, whoever that was in charge of the police barracks would come on inspection. Mothers would have cleaned and scrubbed the floors and everybody would be out and only our fathers would attend to the inspector. And if the man finds a speck of dust there would be problems. In those days, police barracks were clean. It was a setting with different diversity. We were raised to behave properly.
Were you involved in your mother’s trade?
Apart from selling China wares, my mother was a woman of all seasons. When orange was in season, she would sell, during plantain season she would be involved and so on. She engaged in this before going to the market and as a child I had to help. I hawked oranges and when Premier Hotel was under construction I was selling oranges to the construction workers.
Why did you not enlist in the police force, having grown up in the barracks?
I never wanted to be a police officer. There are several things I never wanted to be. My childhood dream was to be an engineer. I had what it takes to study engineering because I came out with good grades from secondary school. I went to The Polytechnic Ibadan where I enrolled for Electrical/Electronics Engineering. I was also at the University of Ife to study the same discipline. I later went to University of Lagos where I did an MBA in 1983.
What influenced you into engineering?
I fiddled with a lot of things when I was young. I always found a way of powering a used battery to function again. I would put them in the sun, put them back in the torch light, look for a small wire and connect it with a small bulb. And it would bring tiny electricity. I went through the process and I was convinced that I wanted to be an engineer. After my secondary school I came across something in the brochure of The Polytechnic in London. There was a line which said “if you want job satisfaction read engineering.” But if you want money go and read something else. I became convinced that I was toeing the right path.
How did you get into broadcasting?
I got into broadcasting when WNTV/WNBC came to interview students in 1975 at the Polytechnic. I passed the interview and I was employed. Immediately after my examinations at the Polytechnic I resumed work. After my study at Ife, I came back to work. I switched job in 1993 when I sought for a job at the NBC. I was employed as assistant director and along the line I became a director and in 2007 I was promoted as director-general the position I held till I retired in 2013.
Are you fulfilled?
I couldn’t have wished for a better profession because getting to the top was fulfilling. I don’t think there is anything I want to change. God has been kind. I came back from the university and was promoted as Engineer One and rose to become the Chief Engineer. I joined NBC as assistant director, became a full director and capped it as a DG.
What lesson has life taught you?
The first lesson I learnt about life is that it is not the beginning that matters but the end that counts. At the beginning you must trust God, believe in yourself and don’t use circumstances of others to rate or judge yourself. Sometimes you think others have gone ahead of you or better than you, don’t ever think that way because your end matters. I also learnt to be loving, caring, honest, and kind to people I meet on my way.
You are wearing a wedding band…
I am a Muslim of one man and one wife in the last 33 years.
But Islam permits you to marry more than one wife…
The injunction says if you can be fair to all of them, go ahead. But you know it is not humanly possible; so you marry one.