Ayo Ojurongbe: My Plan is to Change the Media When I Return from Philippines

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SUPER SATURDAY – OJURONGBE

His impeccable voice is unmistakable. His presentation on air, whether TV or radio, is exciting as his mannerisms and passion reveal a personality devoted to development and sound communication. Famous for his role as the presenter of the programme, Be My Guest, on TV, Ayo Ojurongbe Jnr, needs no introduction. His dress and grooming are exquisite, so are his tastes and vision. For some time now, the TV star has been off the screen but has big plans as he plots his return. In this interview with Adedayo Adejobi, Ojurongbe talks about why he’s out of the country and what he plans to do upon his return. He also sheds light on what has changed in his life

Why did you choose to study at the University of Philippines?

In the course of   my career in broadcasting, I had the privilege of attending UNDP-facilitated training programmes in development journalism. The training programmes enlarged my scope of what communication could do in bringing development to the doorsteps of a community. As a master’s student of Communication and Language Arts at the University of Ibadan, I received a deeper knowledge and understanding of development communication and confirmed my previous information that the foundation for the field was laid in the Philippines, and precisely at the University of Philippines, Los Banos, (UPLB). When it was clear that I wanted to experience a more specialised master’s degree, and I was convinced that it had to be development communication based on the interest I have developed in the field over the years, it was natural for me to decide to go to the source.

Did you ever imagine you would go to the Philippines?

I had heard and read about the Philippines from childhood. It’s perhaps weird that I got to know about the country and was fascinated by it through regular news reports of typhoons that the country faces every year. Over the years I built an image of a resilient people because of the way they face the natural disaster. I saw a people who seem to bear a witness to human dignity in the face of adversity. They gained my respect and admiration and that propelled me to read more about them. I saw the beauty of the environment. It reminded me of many cities and towns in Nigeria. With each new knowledge I gained came the yearning for an adventure. From the moment I realised that the adventure was possible especially to help my thirst for more knowledge, I spent two years reading more about the country. So it was indeed a deliberate and planned adventure.

How would you describe your Philippines experience?

My experiences have far exceeded my most optimistic expectations. I have immersed myself not only in the educational experience but in the total culture. I have travelled around the country and observed diversity. I have had a total exposure that will leave me with memories of an educative and exciting experience. I have learned several lessons too perhaps about the universality of human nature. I have also learnt from them that I do not need to have all the money in the world to live and enjoy life. I have learnt not to take life as serious as I took it before I came to the Philippines. I have also had the opportunity to show them my own culture through what I wear. I have also seized opportunities to educate them more about Nigeria and Africa in terms of food, music and family life and opportunities for collaboration.

What were your relationships like with the Filipinos?

You will always find many who are open-hearted and ready to help – go the extra mile to make living in a different culture a pleasant one. I’ve never run short of bright, warm smiles and several of them who truly want to be my friends. I love the children. I have always loved children anywhere in the world. I have built what I believe will become enduring relationships that will transform to future partnerships and networking that will be of mutual benefit to the Philippines and Nigeria.

How did Filipinos see Nigerians, Africans until your encounter?

Many, like it is in some other cultures, thought Africa was one country. And with that notion comes perhaps what I can call a sweeping generalisation. But it is not every Filipino who shares this knowledge. Many are already aware that Africa is a continent made up of several countries and that Africans don’t live in a desert. I guess that is the predominant notion I have had to try to dispel since I came here.

What is the class dynamic like? What are your classmates like?

Finding help with studies if one ever needs it is as common as the air. You will not only find it from classmates but also readily from your teachers. The largest class I have attended was perhaps a class of 25 students. Like many Filipinos, I have had warm, kind, pleasant and supportive classmates. You will never run short of that no matter what challenges you have.

How has your stay in the Philippines affected your life?

I have learnt to be more open and tolerant – and also I guess to be more patient. I have also learnt more not to jump into conclusions based on first impressions. I have learnt to take my leisure more seriously than before and not to wait until I am super-rich to enjoy some of the good things of life.

What were the hardest obstacles you faced in re-adjusting to day-to-day life in a foreign land?

Definitely the food and culture here are different from Nigeria’s. They are not so much into spicy or hot chilli seasoned foods. Also, even though English is widely spoken especially in the university environment, Tagalog, the Filipino language is also widely spoken and inescapable if a foreigner wants to enjoy the hospitality of many of the people.

What do you love about the Philippines?

I love the well-preserved natural beauty of several places in the country. I love the simplicity of the people’s approach to life and living. I love their commitment to family and the support to family.

What parts of their culture have you adopted?

I have been enthralled by their simplicity and their resilience especially to the vagaries of nature. I also wish I could smile as often as many do in that country.

Do you miss Nigeria?

That I miss Nigeria is an understatement. Of course, I miss the food: pounded yam and ponmo; egusi, and pap and akara.

Has your acting, radio and television prowess in any way found expression in the Philippines? If not, do you miss that part of you?

I definitely miss acting and my radio and television assignments. But it was all part of the sacrifice of coming to a foreign land to seek a new perspective to education. But I believe those can wait, and that the sacrifice would be worth it when I return to Nigeria.

What are your plans on returning to Nigeria?

I can’t wait to return to Nigeria. My mission here is half-completed. Interestingly, my professors here know exactly what I wish to do when I return to Nigeria because that was my focus for my just-completed master’s degree thesis in development communication. They are actually eager to see the dream come true in Nigeria and I believe they have given me a thorough grounding in bringing it to fruition. But maybe that should be sealed for now until the time. Maybe the cat should stay in the bag for now.

Would you explore acting?

I can never give up acting when the good opportunities come.

By the time you return finally, you’ll have become a professor. Will you consider teaching at a university?

A professor! I don’t know about that because I do not have any such dreams or probably inclinations. All I want to be is a more respected media, communication and development consultant, and use my knowledge in every way possible to make Nigeria, my country, a better place and the pride of other nations everywhere I go – heard and seen. Yes, I could be a teacher in any or all of these areas. But I am certain it would have to be on a part-time basis.

What kind of Nigeria do you look forward to when you return?

I look forward to a Nigeria that would have risen above ethnic and religious intolerance. I look forward to a Nigeria whose current crop of leaders would have decided to give the promising younger generation the opportunity to serve Nigeria with the vibrancy of their minds while the older ones take a back seat and watch and encourage the youth from the wings.

Describe your biggest obstacles in life and how you overcame them.

I don’t believe my biggest obstacles have come. Not sure they will ever come. They had better not come! I doubt if they will ever come because they know I have enough supply of strength and will to grind them into powder and spew their ashes to the wind. That is the truth. I am what a social media app once revealed of me: I am like a sniper, I take my time, but I always hit my target.

What sort of things irritate you the most and what do you do if someone gets on your nerves?

I hate to be manipulated. It’s more annoying when the manipulator thinks the other party has ashes in their head and can’t think beyond their manipulation. I get easily irritated when you are two-faced. But the weird side of me is that when you get on my nerves, my greatest weapon is to ignore you. And I tell you, that has worked more wonders for me than I could imagine. And it has also put me in some kind of trouble because suddenly I realise that some people prefer that you give it back to them fire for fire – which I am never comfortable with – rather than ignore them and go to any length to get even with you.

Can you share your biggest life-changing moments or epiphanies with us?

The most significant of those moments has to be when I realised I needed to live a life of greater commitment to knowing God and serving Him as a Christian. It dawned on me from that moment that my future had nothing to do with where I was coming from, but on how ready I was to grow in wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Even though I had grown up in a religious home with a strong religious background, I realised that all of that would pale into insignificance if I did not make a personal commitment to have a personal relationship with the creator of all things.

What is your philosophy?

My philosophy has been shaped by my effort to live a life of commitment to the things God cherishes from the moment I committed myself to learning more about Him. From that moment, I ceased to let fear in any form rule my life. I have grown to fear no man but to respect them. I have grown to put fear of anything in the back seat of my life because I have learnt that I have a divine nature, a purpose to be fulfilled. I have grown to understand that in my hand is a key to someone else’s closed door that must be used at the right time. I wake up each day unafraid of tomorrow. When you come to terms with whom you really are in the scheme of creation, you wake up each day as a terror to tomorrow and not fear tomorrow. With each new day you see, you realise that tomorrow is actually afraid of you. But like I said, you have to get to that point of knowing who you are and the infinite potential you carry.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I see myself making a great change happen in the media. I see myself as an agent for a paradigm shift in communication that will cause a ripple effect and change the face of international development across the globe.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I can’t say what I will do with a game I am sure I will not play!

Who are your heroes?

They are Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Professor Dora Akunyinli.

How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?

True success is when you pass on the good thing in your hand, through multiplication, into the hands of several others who also have the ability to pass it on from generation to generation. True success never stops. It’s a beat that goes on. I live each day in that knowledge and walk in that precept.

QUOTE: You will always find many who are open-hearted and ready to help – go the extra mile to make living in a different culture a pleasant one. I’ve never run short of bright, warm smiles and several of them who truly want to be my friends. I love the children. I have always loved children anywhere in the world. I have built what I believe will become enduring relationships that will transform to future partnerships and networking that will be of mutual benefit to the Philippines and Nigeria