One of Nigeria’s most celebrated journalists, Bimbo Oloyede, has been a leading newscaster at Channels Television for decades. Before joining Channels, Oloyede was a pillar on the Nigerian Television Authority Network News for many years. In this interview with Mary Nnah, Oloyede, who recently launched a couple of books intended to assist professionals and students in spoken English, recalled her early days as a journalist and why she veered into writing books
How did you get the inspiration to go into broadcasting?
I was first employed as an Assistant Producer at Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). In my younger years, I did quite a bit of acting. I had elocution lessons but I never thought of broadcasting as a career. What interested me more in terms of performing was acting, not broadcasting. It was when I joined the NTA that I had the opportunity of becoming a newscaster and here we are.
Where was your turning point as a newscaster?
I spent a short time at NTA when I first joined the organisation. When I began as a newscaster I was Bimbo Roberts. When I got married I became Bimbo Oloyede. I read news for four years. I was in NTA for five years but I was in news department for four years. I later had a break for about 20 years before I came back to the organisation to anchor news. If you want to talk about turning point, I could say the turning point really came when I was invited by Mr. John Momoh, the chief executive of Channels Television to come and read news on a part time basis for Channels. At the time that invitation came, I was training people and there were few questions that they asked me then that I could not answer because I was no longer active in the field. For instance, when I was in the NTA, we were not using the teleprompter. But by the time I was invited by Channels to audition, all the stations had started to use teleprompter. So, when I got the invitation, I wasn’t sure if I could still do well, because I didn’t know how to use the teleprompter. I was called to come for audition, which I went and John Momoh said it doesn’t look as if I had forgotten all about news and the newsroom. However, I believe that when I returned to active news, anchoring could be said to be a turning point in my broadcasting career.
You eventually retired from active broadcasting, a terrain you were very much known for. Why was that?
I retired from anchoring the news on Channels TV at the end of 2015. I felt the younger anchors should take over but that does not mean I am no longer involved with broadcasting. I still train broadcasters and other individuals and groups and I also have one or two ideas for new TV programmes which I would like to present or produce. Really once you are a broadcaster you can be actively involved in so many ways. We usually say…..once a broadcaster, always a broadcaster.
What exactly do you do now?
So what I do basically at the moment is training. I also write. So, I’m also marketing my books. The fact that I have just launched two books spurred me on to write more. In actual fact, that’s what I’m doing now. I also mentor young people and I am interested in seeing more women taking an active part in politics. Of course I intend to keep writing.
What inspired you to write books?
I was inspired to write the first book which is, ‘Strictly Speaking: Pronunciation Made Easy’ by the people that I have trained over a period of time. They often ask me that when they leave the confines of the classroom for three or six months down the line, how would they remember the sounds. I thought in the first instance that I should capture the sounds and record them so that they can listen, playback and remind themselves in future what those sounds are. I developed a whole lot of different exercises based on the vowels and consonants to enable them learn, practice and retain the sounds of English.
My new books are called Strictly Speaking… Pronunciation Made Easy and Strictly Speaking… An Oral Guide for Schools and Colleges. I wrote the first one to satisfy the general need to improve the standard of spoken English in Nigeria and particularly for broadcasters, teachers, other professional communicators and students. The second one is specifically for secondary school students and has more technical information to assist them pass Oral English at WAEC level. It has been approved by the Lagos State Ministry of Education, for use by secondary schools in the state. Both have audio CDs to help readers listen, practice and retain the sounds of English.
The message in the books basically is that people should make efforts to improve on their spoken English and I have tried as much as possible to make it easy for them through the books. I have simplified the process so that the people could understand what all the sounds of English are, based on the consonants and vowels. The aim of writing the books is to ensure that people make an improvement on their spoken English, and also become more self-confident to enable them stand out when they are communicating in English Language.
Who else can read your books?
The two books have different targets or audience. The first book is targeted at adults. If you are a professional, broadcaster, professional communicator or perhaps you represent your company or you are an information officer, receptionist, if you are a teacher, lawyer, anybody really that needs to communicate with the public, however big or small. They need to ensure that whatever they say is understood immediately. That is the audience for the first book. The second book is targeted at secondary school students. It is called: Strictly Speaking, an Oral Guide for Schools and Colleges. It has added information that enables them to pass oral English at WAEC level. There’s technical information that is included in the second book that is not in the first and there are extended exercises also in the second book that are not in the first book.
Which of your parents had the greatest influence on you while you were growing up?
I think I was influenced more by my mother; it was my mum who took me to meet some of the executives at NTA. She knew one or two of them and introduced me to them. Happily, I was employed. Actually, I went to radio first, I did an audition at radio but I failed because I could not pronounce Nigerian names so they couldn’t employ me. I was then taken to the NTA and I was employed to work behind the camera but eventually, I found myself in front of it.
How come you couldn’t pronounce Nigerian names?
I wasn’t brought up here. I did not speak any Nigerian language and I wasn’t used to the sound of the languages spoken in Nigeria.
You still have that foreign accent…
Yes, I suppose so. I have been a professional broadcaster for over 40 years. It’s not something that I can just let go of.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the United Kingdom but I came back to Nigeria to work.
Why did you come back, because at that time a lot of people were yearning to live in the UK?
I thought it was time for me to come home. I had spent quite a long time there. And I felt that I needed to bond with my roots. I felt that I would feel more at home by coming back home.
Was it when you came back to Nigeria that you met your husband?
Now that he has passed on, what do you miss about him?
I miss a lot of things about him. He was a good company and he had a wonderful sense of humour. He gave me good advice; he encouraged and supported different things I did.
What was the most memorable time you shared together?
There were many memorable moments. We were together for 40 years. We had different interests as far as the TV was concerned. He was crazy about sports. He watched sports a lot of the time and also some programmes. I’m not so crazy about sports. I like certain sports but I can’t watch it with the same passion he watched it.
What is the secret of your beautiful looks?
Well, I walk. I don’t joke with my exercise. Before, I used to jog but in the last three years, I changed from jogging to walking. I walk a lot early in the morning. I drink a lot of water; I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. I eat a lot of cucumber and I’m at peace with myself. I’m at peace with my God. Usually, I make myself content with what I have, that does not mean that I don’t want more things. I’m just at peace with myself.
Many young people adore newscasters because of the glamour. What does it take to be a good newscaster?
It’s hard work. You could say it’s glamorous from the point of view that you go to places and people recognise you. That perhaps is the only glamorous part of it. But it is hard work. You have to be on top of your game all the time. You have to be current, you have to consistently read and keep on practicing your pronunciation because it’s very easy to slip within an environment. There are tones that they must improve on their performance before they are allowed back on air. That happened in some stations but I think quite a lot of stations people are left to come on air irrespective of whether they have attained the required standard.
How do you spend your day?
Believe it or not, I like watching TV.
What are your favourite programmes?
There are varieties of programmes that I like. I like watching some of the series. I enjoy suspense, I enjoy detective films, drama and when I can, I read. You need to keep your mind active to know what’s happening all around you. You need to keep learning, read new materials all the time and learn different things, especially when you are in a situation where you are interacting with people who also want to learn from you. I have learnt a lot from the school of life.
What would you consider as your most favourite fashion accessory?
First of all, I don’t consider myself to be fashionable. Fashion accessory? Hmmm, it’s difficult to say. I will probably spend more money on bags and shoes than anything else. If I have a certain amount of money now and I was told to go shopping, I’m sure I will spend more on bags and shoes than I would on clothing. It’s difficult for me to answer that question, maybe my daughter could tell you.
Really, I don’t consider myself to be that fashionable. What I can say is that I think I have a good sense of colour combination. I think I know how to combine colours well. And I know how to mix and match well. Maybe that’s what gives the impression that I’m fashionable. Dressing for the news as I have done over the years, entails one to be conservative, I have more suits than anything else and I know how to mix and match the jackets and skirts. I don’t see myself as being fashionable.