The Betterhalf talk show is the brainchild of Godman Akinlabi, a.k.a PeeGee, a renowned author, relationship counselor, management consultant, resource investigator, leadership and relationship coach who loves to see relationship work. In this interview with journalists, Akinlabi shares insight on why he embarked on the project to plug the knowledge gap in successful relationship building across Africa. Ehime Alex was there Â Â
What informed the name Betterhalf Show?
There was a time I was to give a talk on marriage and relationship in 2011. The title that came to my mind wasâ€™Mr. and Mrs. Betterhalfâ€™. That was how it all started. Since the talk was well received then, I started to build around it.The first thing I did was to call a few friends together.I said to them, I have this idea that I should do something about my passion for relationship especially in the area of marriage to help young people build a strong foundation while in relationship before getting into marriage, and to get people to understand the basic things surrounding marriage. Eventually, I got it involved on social media, that was three or four year ago. When I started the twitter event with the hash tag #MrMrsBetterHalf,I got a couple of singles and married people joined as followers. From there, I started to write more books on marriage and relationship stuff.
So, their feedback motivated you to write more books on relationship?
Having received and read quite a lot of messages from their tweets, I found out that there were areas in marriage that needed to be addressed to engender interactions, questions, action steps and all that. The truth is that, you either choose to bury your head and play the ostrich or resolve the issues in your marriage. A good conversation starter is the best deal to any marriage. So, some of the things we are doing at present were things brainstormed with my friends. Majorities are at the right time, and we are saying, what is the low hanging fruit, the lowest level we could kick-start it? Share your thoughts on twitter. But, at that time, I didnâ€™t know it was going to require a lot of resource pool. Now, I have close to a hundred and fifty episodes which I have created curriculum out of. It was just a very good decision to start from that medium. It is from that pool of resource that the Director of the Show could create episodes while the script writers go to work. The soft documents for writing now become some of the episodes that I have done on twitter. So, you see how everything gets interconnected here and there. Itâ€™s like flipping a resource into several modes of expression. That is what we are doing.My job right now is to write more articles and every other thing snowballs from there.
What do you expect viewers to look out for on the Show?
Besides the excitement or entertainment value, which is strong, I expect as people watch the Show they share thoughts about their lives, since I throw in a lot of probing questions. I share words of wisdom. But most importantly is the salient weight of wisdom, principles that will make any marriage work and last. If for instance, somebody shares experience of marriage challenges, another could learn something from it. It is for the viewers to be able to draw some strength and wisdom at least to cope with pressure from families, friends, parents and all that. There are some principles that are universal that have no respect for any person, religion or political lineage, whether you are black or white, it doesnâ€™t matter.Certain principles govern life, marriage and relationship generally. That is why some people who have mastered those principles do better, a lot better like building relationship across board. Being a good husband is not a gift from God. It is applying to certain principles, and living a principle-centred life, which is profitable. Part of the gain is a good-happy home. There is a way a man should live irrespective of his status in the society. Marriage has values and the valuable positions are there.
But will the viewership be limited to a certain set, the youth?
Not at all, principles can be absorbed by anyone not minding age, only that, young people are more impressionable. They align faster and better. The Show is for everybody, not minding how long you have been married. The basic understanding is that knowledge is relevant at any age. For someone who doesnâ€™t know how to write and the principles that govern writing, even at the age of 50 or 70 years, if you start to teach that person, the person can still learn to write and even write a book before death comes. We have people in their seventies who are going into marriage or who probably lost their spouse earlier in life and for 10 or 15 years have not remarried and are just getting back into marriage.We have people in their mid-sixties who are probably in their second or third marriages and the last two or one has been record failure. So if they glean on these principles now, they can get better. The Show is not only for beginners because principles apply across board. It is something that everybody should watch and gain result.
How do you get couples come on the programme?
We have started gradually to push out emails and numbers people can reach us on if they want to get on the programme. As we continue in the next few weeks featuring the Show on YouTube, thousands of views are gradually building up. From those views, people will want to ventilate, to give opinion. That in a way will help to harvest some people who will want to come on the show, share experience and make comments. We believed that when we have a pool of knowledge it gets better. But, we will improve on that.
Does that mean picking your guests at random?
We intend to use basic approach, but deliberate on who features on the Show. The guest must have something impactful. Donâ€™t forget, the Show is built around principles. For instance, you watch a show that is titled â€˜In-law Wahalaâ€™. What we are discussing is how to handle in-law, the place of in-law in marriage. It is for people who have the experience. In one episode I title â€˜In-law Wahalaâ€™, a woman in her seventies was invited. She has four daughters, all married. She has been a grandmother for few years and mother in-law for many years. So, we were able to ask her, how have you been able to cope as a mother in-law to four men? What were the peculiarities of each of them? How have you been able to keep the marriage of your daughters going well?
How will you handle issues of traditional beliefs in marriage?
I will say that most religions teache life principles. Culture should be progressive and any culture seen not to be progressive should be jettisoned. When you look at it from that point of view, you will see that from time to time whatever religion somebody has chosen will be counter-culture at certain time. Where religion and culture cross is a trouble spot that needed to be navigated carefully. But based on your conviction, you actually have to choose to go in the way of what you believe. Personally, I will say that any culture or tradition that is not progressive and cannot engender development and progress in the lives of the people should be put aside. Why did we decide to abolish female genital mutilation? It was part of a tradition that was not progressive in peopleâ€™s life. I am an advocate for that. Female genital mutilation was seen to be destroying sexual intimacy in marriage. The truth is culture is not hundred per cent right because there are particular bad cultures we need to do away with. The difference between us in Africa and the West when it comes to family issues is because we are more coming-outs in our way of life. We make friends; mingle around and even with our next door neighbourhoods. Relatives can visit us uninvited and uninformed, yet we accommodate them. You canâ€™t do that in the West. The person, be it parent will be turned back. Such action in Africa is utter disrespect, you know. There is no perfect culture as it were anyway. But, we should keep our commoner and borrow boundary when necessary.Balancing is the game.
What are the likely challenges before the project, Betterhalf Show?
Part of the challenges will be to get people come on the show to talk and make it sustainable. But we believe that as the Show gain a good perception and value preposition; many more people will perhaps see it as part of their social responsibility to somebody else. Another challenge is sustainability in terms of sponsorship because it cost a lot to actually put up things together: the cost of production, training people, logistics, equipment, and administration. But I believe with time many people will see the value in it and will want to invest in what we are doing. Majorly those are the two things that will challenge us.
Do you get lost on topics you treat on the Show?
It is difficult to get lost on topics. Any time we have such issue, what I do is to pull people together. The show is all about people. What are you going through in relationship? Has anybody complained to you recently, what are they complaining about? As far as human beings are alive, human issues will always come up. Obviously, issues will always be there, but the body of knowledge is growing at a faster paste now because of how connected we are all around the world through the internet and the speed at which information is being passed.
The Show is only on YouTube at present. What plans do you have to go on national television?
There are plans to go on national television. We are starting out onYouTube; something we think is easy for us and for people to start benefiting. Rather than wait until we have the money or get a TV station to partner with us. Letâ€™s get people to start benefiting from it. Perhaps as we get people to watch and make comments it may even encourage those who have the means to even advertise on it.
How soon do you intend to go on national TV?
Very soon, as soon as we get the kind of support that will make it less burdensome on us. Currently, is just something am doing out of passion. None of the organisations I work and relate with is directly involved yet in the sponsorship. I have only one or two organisations that are partnering with us in terms of public relations which took it as part of their social responsibility and believe in family value. However, the main thrust is sustainability. We need more organisations like that to do stuff for us and before you know it we are there in the face of everybody. But now people need internet data to be able to watch the show.
What success or joy do you anticipate as the project progresses?
My joy will be to have feedbacks from people that the Show has touched their life. Although, I have been getting positive feedback on my twitter handle. So, when people say this Show has changed their life, marriage. We are happier. There is a way you do something just for personal projection but the real fulfillment will only come for us when the feedbacks are positive. The soul of what we are doing is not comedy but impact on the life of people.
So, from your dealings with people, families, couples, what would you say about life?
I will just say generally that life is about people. If you make it about something else, you are going to miss out big time on the purpose of life. God loves people and if you believe in God, and donâ€™t align with what is uppermost in His mind, you are going to miss out. People are very important. One of the things I have learnt in life is that your life gains a sense of meaning and fulfillment when it is about meeting the needs of other people, whether you are a teacher, pastor or political office holder, whatever. You can be rich in money and poor in people. The truth is you hardly can be rich in people without being rich in money because people will make you rich. But if you focus on money you can die miserably because in any calamity you will be on your own.
What do you intend to achieve with the Show in the next five years?
Yeah, the next five years for us, I will say that I want it to be a kind of Show that will shake our national life, not just in Nigeria but across Africa. The moment we jump out with our first episode we will do a bit of advertising on social media and others. We have realised that on our Facebook page, we have close to 13,000 followers right now. About 30 to 40 per cent of them are from East Africa, Kenya and the rest. People just like the Show and they want to watch it online. There is no barrier as long as they have internet to watch it. But we want to get to a point whereby we shape national discourse around families, relationship and the Show becomes the NO.1 resource to look out for when it comes to having a better marriage, principle based marriage across Africa, because our issues are likely the same. And also, see it dovetail into other value propositions as it goes on at various medium as possible. Everything will be towards enriching relationship.