Beautiful, brainy and eloquent, former Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, Mrs. Omotayo Omotosho, MFR, holds sway in several disciplines and is not winding down any time soon on age factor. The media professional cum tourism consultant has been a source of solace and strength to a number of lives through her deeds and offerings. She is still willing to do more with her “Towards a Greater Nigerian Foundation” that concentrates on youths empowerment. Omotosho takes Omolabake Fasogbon through her rosy journey of life influenced by her upbringing, indelible childhood memories and her dreams for a better society
At an incredibly young age of 32, this personality was appointed board Chairman of the Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation, where she turned things around, to bring back to shape the state owned Lagos Television and Eko FM. It appeared that was the height of her success even at that age, but no, it was merely a tip of what destiny had for this wonderful creature.
No wonder throughout the interview session, the ace broadcaster was full of life and quite appreciative, except for that moment when she recalled that she lost a dear one very recently. She was forced to return to her shell for a split second, but was soon full of life again after she consoled herself with biblical injunctions.
Studying Omotayo’s life trajectories, one could not but feel life at the other good end, where pains, hustle and competition are less thought of. She hinted that her rosy life was simply rooted in her upbringing after God’s influence: “I remember as a child, my parents spent quality time on my siblings and I and so they impacted tremendously in us. As a devout catholic, they nurtured us in an environment of collaborations with one another, the fear of God, persistent prayers supported with relentless efforts, perseverance, tolerance and endurance.
“Having grown up with these attributes, I found life easy at every juncture. But beyond this, I’ve also learnt that one needs to be submissive to one’s husband and create ample time for the children. This is a cheap secret to a complete success. In all, I have come to realise that one cannot make a headway as a complete woman if one has not been able to make a success of everything within the fabrics of woman hood.”
Aside the output of her 30 years old “Towards a Greater Nigeria”, (TagNigeria), television programme by which she addresses political and economy issues , her footprint in the nation’s tourism sector as a former DG of NTDC is legendary. Till date, nobody has been able to rival her achievements in the industry. Still, she owes her feat to grace from above, and on earth, her parents and husband’s teaching. “I was just 36 years when the appointment came. I was like N for Nigeria, T for what? Honestly, at first, I didn’t know what the corporation was all about, yet, I was in the media, that was just to tell you how literally dead the corporation was. I almost rejected the appointment because I was already bombarded with gist of inactivity in the corporation, which as at then was over 18 years. My husband prevented me from turning down the offer, yet, there was no fund to get the corporation moving, as the President had already informed me that he had limited funds.
“Bearing in mind my parents’ teaching on perseverance and husband’s encouragement, I set out for the mission and eventually found a way out which was to involve private investors. Hence, I came up with different initiatives which I sold to the likes of Tony Elumelu, O’tega Emerhor, Atedo Peterside, late Remi Olowude, Jacobs Ajekigbe and others. They assured me of their support and kept their words, gradually, the corporation bounced back to glory”.
Her alias, “Madam Tourism”, didn’t come so cheaply, as she had to break all known and unknown barriers to place Nigerian tourism at a very attractive spot in the global map. This period, according to her was no doubt challenging but an indelible moment of her life. Full of life, she said: “Yes, I succeeded in promoting partnership between the private sector and state governors of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria to do something specific in relations to tourism attraction. Also, with the dogged devotion of my team, we were able to get President Olusegun Obasanjo (as he then was) to approve the establishment of Presidential Council on Tourism, comprising private and public players. But the greatest of it all that squeezed out tears from my eyes was when the most prestigious beauty pageant in the world, Miss World, was won by a Nigerian, Agbani Darego. This, I explored as a good trademark to promote Nigerian tourism.
“Although, she is a Nigerian, she grew up abroad and that means she needed to know more about her root. I quickly arranged for her to go on a tour of our attractions in Nigeria; she came around and was really excited about this. This is why till date, she’s still very much in touch with me. One of our trips worth talking about again and again was our tour to one of the biggest tourism exhibitions in Europe, ITB Berlin in Germany, where we had about 120 countries on ground to exhibit the best of their attractions. Believe me, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, Every other nation within the big exhibition mall, left their own exhibition stand to come and line up in front of the intimidating and beautifully designed Nigeria stand, just to take the autograph of Miss World.
“This was actually significant to me and Nigeria as a whole because it was a period when Nigeria suffered image battle globally as we just got out of military rule. So, the same Oyinbos (the white) who have condemned us were now struggling to identify with us. It was a moment we were able to exercise control over tourist from across the world as a result of the rush to access Agbani Darego. You can hear my staff telling the crowd, ‘eh you, fall into line, we don’t want it rowdy, we are law abiding people in Nigeria’, while I was just seated beside Agbani and watching. It was really a glorious moment for me.”
Another notable thing about the Ibadan entrepreneur is her choice and style of headgear. Asked if the style mantra was informed by her function in tourism, smiling, she responded, “I’ve always loved promoting African culture even before I got to tourism. It happened that my mother used to make Aso-oke in those days and I began to love the material, I remember I used to tie a strip of the material while standing in front of the mirror to see how it will turn out, It used to turn out well and that’s how I mastered it and it became part of me.”
The psychology graduate of University of Lagos spoke about her growing up as being eventful. “I was born and grew up in Ibadan over 55 years ago. I am the last of my parents’ five children. I attended Sacred Heart Secondary School in Ibadan and later, Christ School in Ado Ekiti. My father, late now, was an educationist and agriculturist while my mother is a retired nurse. Both were civil servants. I can say it again and again that in those days, fathers were fathers. When it comes to the family, my father was up and doing. He never left everything in my mother’s care.
“Both parents had their duties mapped out for one another. As soon as he came back from work at about 3:30 pm or 4pm, by then, we were also returning home from school. He ensured we take our lunch at the right time, then, between 5 and 7 pm, we must have concluded our homework. He took care of the coaching aspect such that he never engaged tutors; he personally taught me phonetics as an educationist. My mother handled the food aspect and ensured that the house was tidy. Both spent quality time with us physically and spiritually and were never too busy looking for money. Growing up was really fun-filled in terms of mummy and daddy ensuring they gave us a stable life.”
Still speaking on her growing up, she thought of a childhood memory that wasn’t too funny to share. “It was the day my grandmother was sick, my mother had gone to work and my sister was away to the market. Mama started complaining of pain and dizziness, I was just five years old. I couldn’t stand the pain, so I begged her to take Orheptal tonic since I know it can take care of dizziness. After so much pleading, she eventually agreed, unfortunately, I mistook iodine for Orheptal because the bottles looked alike, that was how I gave her iodine. But thank God, we lived in the hospital quarters; the situation was brought under control before it went out of hand. Mama was around 85 when the event happened and she lived 20 more years after.”
Upon sighting and hearing her talk, even without knowing her before, one wouldn’t fail a test of her profession. This is because everything about her smells broadcasting. She speaks of her passion thus: “You see, right from time, I have always wanted to be a broadcaster, the desire to be one was further lifted by people who encouraged me to go for it since I have the voice and every other trait. But when it was time to study in the University, I was denied Mass communication, I almost waited for another year but the then Head of Mass Communication Department in Unilag enlightened me to go for the course I was offered, which was psychology. He assured me that studying psychology wouldn’t stop me from becoming a broadcaster. I heeded his advice and settled for psychology. But, as fate would have it, I was posted to NTA Ibadan for my NYSC. That to me was divine and it was the beginning of a dream come true.”
Highly spiritual and religion as she may be, she never fails to neglect the rule of beauty, no wonder she is untouched by age even at over 55.” She reveals: “The secret is simple. I try to eat well by avoiding fatty foods and take more of veggies and fruits and I’m not far from the gym. Above all, I’m also content with what I have. For a lot of people that know me, they will tell you I don’t struggle over life’s vanity and that’s why you won’t see me wear gold or diamond even though I can afford it. Another secret to looking younger is staying happy. I tell you once you take away worries and embrace happiness, you won’t only be healthy but also look younger than your age. I am always happy especially if I’ve succeeded in making people around me happy”.
Even though she is a pastor’s wife, her judgement on secular issues is fair and frank. For instance, when grilled about how she managed advances from the opposite sex even as a married woman and pastor’s wife, she shocked the reporter who already envisaged a lash. Wearing a welcoming smile, she answered, “Naughty you! To be honest, I get advances from both old and young but I tell you, they aren’t genuine. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know how spiritual I am, until they get close. I see the young ones that approach me as gigolos, once they come, I tell them, ‘how are you my son’ and then they feel embarrassed and look like, son ke. I get to see my age group who come in form of seductive hand shake, seductive compliment, text message and complimentary card, but I tell you, people like this only want to take advantage of one’s success.
“I ask myself ‘where will this lead me to, is it now that I need a man to flatter me with the cliche like – oh! You are beautiful, I like your personality, I like your voice,’ e.t.c’ oh! Spare me the thrash, something that I’ve heard over 30 years ago from my husband when we met and he still tells me that till date.”