By Adebayo Bodunrin
“A good head and good heart are always formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something special” – Nelson Mandela.
The late South African President and anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, abhorred flippancy. His pronouncements have turned out to be golden words on marble. The above expression of this great son of Africa fits those with a mission in the continent.
Perhaps, many are aware or may not yet know that the Managing Director of Africa Independent Television, AIT, Dr. Oluwatosin Folake Abimbola Dokpesi, falls into this category of people Mandela had in mind, whenever the subject of discussion is Journalism of social relevance. This type of journalism could only be driven by thorough and politically conscious professionals who see themselves as crusaders for the good of the society, agenda setters and sticklers for media ethics.
Tosin, as she is fondly called in Nigerian Media circles, did not originate the journalistic philosophy known as social relevance. That credit belongs to the New Trend Movement within the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, in the 1980s and 1990s. But she is one of its foremost exponents. While she sermonises that a media outfit must be run as a big business, she also believes that the outfit must enjoy its unfettered Independence. That is not all. She wants media professionals to be truly professionals in words and deeds as well as develop unquestionable appetite for skills acquisition to enable them fulfill their mission in the society.
For Tosin, broadcast journalism is not just a calling but a passion with aplomb. Indeed, she is giving broadcasting her all without negative thought. Her credo is shaped by a selfless consideration for the good of the society. Anything to the contrary is instinctively offensive and repugnant to her cherished rules of conscientious journalism or journalism of social relevance. She has so far spent 26-years of her adult life as a broadcaster.
On Friday, July 12, 2019, Tosin stepped out in style to celebrate her 50th Birthday. It was her finest hour. Family members, friends, associates, school mates, numerous admirers and of course members of the DAAR Family converged on Guzape in Abuja to honour her for her accomplishments so far. It was time for joy. It was a moment for celebration as the drums were rolled out. Name it, the gangan, (talking drum), iya ilu (mother of all drums), sekere, trumpet and flute, all combined to provide good music for admirable dancing steps.
Oluwatosin, which means God is worthy to be worshipped and praised, has every reason to be joyful. First, her birthday symbolised the age of full adulthood and maturity – the golden age of 50 years.
Also, the attainment of the golden age is a unique opportunity which only a few are so privileged to so have in a country ravaged by malnutrition, poverty, insecurity and where hospitals are just mere consulting clinics.
Aside from all these, it is heart warming that Tosin is alive to celebrate her birthday this year having escaped death by the whiskers three years ago. The date was Saturday, June 4, 2016. Her husband and media mogul, High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi was a target of an assassination squad, precisely a gang of four bandits. The gunmen trailed his vehicle to a private hospital in Abuja and accosted the vehicle. The windows of the vehicle were tinted. Dokpesi was not in the vehicle. But his wife, Tosin with two of her relatives, a driver and police detail were in the vehicle.
Tosin had just left the vehicle and gone inside the hospital, having complained of serious stomach cramps, when the attackers moved in and released a hail of bullets. The attack left a police detail, sergeant Den Gaius dead, riddled with bullets.
And so both Tosin and her husband escaped the assassins’ bullets. Friday, July 12, 2019, her 50th birthday would have been all gloom had the bandits had their way. This miraculous escape is a source of joy for this beaming lady of the tube on her birthday.
At every age, birthdays are special days. It is one of the landmark achievements many celebrate. But birthdays by themselves could turn out to be meaningless. It is not how long but how well one had lived his life that actually matters. More appropriately as Peter, not Peter the apostle but the hero of Hugh Walpole’s novel entitled FORTITUDE, in an ageless saying popularised by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in his famous 1963 Allocutus speech said: “It isn’t life that matter but the courage you bring to it”.
What is it all about Tosin that excites others? Is there goodness in her to appreciate? Is her story outstanding with positive values to share with others?
In her early life, Tosin had a flair for the sciences. She actually went ahead to earn a degree in Zoology. Her unalterable destiny made her to discover sooner, her love for broadcast journalism. She returned to her alma mata, University of Lagos to horn her skills in broadcast journalism. Today, she is glad that her abandonment of sciences for broadcasting was worth it after all.
Tosin’s career began in Multimedia Limited as a TV presenter. She later joined Clapper Board Television in 1994 as a presenter.
In 1996, she joined DAAR Communications Plc. It was in a new era when bold moves were taken to end the worrying monologue in the polity which government’s hold on broadcasting represented. The company launched RAYPOWER 100.5FM on September 1, 1994. It was the first private radio and broadcasting outfit in Nigeria. With the resounding success of Raypower and in a manner reminiscent of the activities of pathfinders this was followed up with the setting up of Africa Independent Television, AIT, the first satellite TV channel in Nigeria which hit the airwaves on December 6, 1996.
Tosin was first engaged as a presenter and News caster with Raypower FM. Her performance as presenter blossomed at Raypower and caught the attention of management which in 1996 moved her to Africa Independent Television, AIT when the channel hit the airwaves.
In the last 23 years she has operated in various capacities as a programme officer, Programme anchor, News Caster, Head, Domestic and International Operations and top level managerial positions.
But of all of these roles, the one that propelled her into limelight was her deep involvement as one of the pioneer anchors of KAKAAKI, a breakfast time broadcast time belt platform that added value to the quality of what the audience get in the early hours of the day. A little history here will not be out of order about KAKAAKI on AIT.
Before AIT, there were feeble attempts to run “shows” at the weekend on the AM time belt of public owned TV Station.
However, AIT nurtured, sustained and Institutionalised what could be described as a great programme concept and tradition through KAKAAKI that set the pace for virtually every other TV station in Nigeria today.
KAKAAKI is still riding on the crest of public confidence as a trusted, reliable and dependent platform for credible information, decent entertainment, reliable education as well as a reputable platform for agenda setting for the good of the society. As a News Programme, it is equally helping to enhance People’s Consciousness for public policies and a bounteous harvests of ideas to erase the malaise afflicting policy making.
Globally, programme anchors have emerged as significant personages. They are now virtually indispensable on TV and Radio as their influence and popularity help determine favourable rating for the media establishments. By dint of hard work and skillful touch to hold the audience spell bound on any subject under the sun, they sometimes enjoy power and influence.
There are great expectations from the Programme Anchors. The audience expect them to be well informed. It is an uphill task for a pin head anchor to use his or her platform to set agenda, shape public opinion as well as elucidate, inform or educate the audience on unfolding events or torrents of issues of public interest being thrown up.
Tosin proved her mettle as one of the pioneer anchors of the 22 year old KAKAAKI on AIT. Within a short period she emerged as a rare broadcaster by whom anybody can set his or her compass on the job. Meticulous. Courageous. Unassuming. Knowledgeable. Discipline. Consistent. Above all, a stickler to media ethics.
My path crossed Tosin’s at the take off of KAKAAKI, the longest Breakfast show on TV in Nigeria as one of its pioneer producers.
Her training and exposure gave her loads of professional integrity, frankness and discipline. Till date, she asks the tough and thought provoking questions with simplicity, openness, respect and bluntness associated with the Grand Masters of the profession. Her experience and performance as a Programme Presenter put her in the same class with my Editor in the Punch and later Vanguard Newspapers, Muyiwa Adetiba who distinguished himself in the craft of interviewing and whose passion for must-read interviews on the pages of the PUNCH in the 1970s and 1980s endeared him to the rulers and the ruled. There is a consensus within and outside the DAAR Family that Tosin is unarguably a fine professional, a consummate and ultimate broadcaster.
Presently, Tosin is a Managing Director, Africa Independent Television, AIT, a subsidiary of DAAR Communications Plc. In this capacity, she is wearing two caps. With all the talents that it pleased God to give her, she is participating actively and constructively in all activities and strategies that will elevate DAAR to its targeted stratosphere. Daily, she exhibits the commendable panache of a modern day corporate manager with deep commitment to team work, strict but compassionate and acceptance of honesty, boldness and sincerity as strong virtues. Simply put, she is not bossy.
Of all her traits, some stick out like a pot belly on a skinny man. She is very humble, religious, accessible, kind, caring but forthright.
But her role in DAAR Communications Plc is not limited to just occupying a managerial position. She has been part of the pioneering efforts to turn an idea into a reality. That is not all. As wife of the visioner and founder of Raypower FM, AIT and Faaji FM later in her life, Tosin has been playing a supportive role to High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi to consolidate his foray into broadcasting which was a product of sound thinking, deep passion and thorough work.
Today, Daar Communications Plc has secured its place in history following the deregulation of broadcasting in 1992 by military President Ibrahim Babangida. But as it is usual with trail blazers, it had contented with adversaries, sabotage, blackmail, persecution, oppression, witch-hunt, jealously, envy and even rebellion. Yet, the company can not be denied its enormous pioneering efforts and contributions to the development of private broadcasting in Nigeria as pathfinder.
DAAR taught the nation in its 26 years of existence that round the clock broadcasting is possible and practicable. Today, with DAAR’s pioneering bold moves no one is in doubt that the political decision to deregulate broadcasting was well taken. Nobody is being denied his or her right to choose any longer.
Another major contribution of DAAR is that it is now a breeding ground for top flight professionals. One of those it has fathered is Tosin, whose impact in the society goes beyond broadcasting. In a strict sense, she can not be categorised as a radical, anti-establishment agitator or ideological extremist. She is not of such breed. But she exhibits extra-ordinary commitment to uplifting the society and exemplary selfless service to humanity. She meaningfully engages in various efforts by women groups in championing the good of the society. She is also an unyielding advocate of child rights. She is a philanthropist of an appreciable level.
As one of the fathers of Nigerian Journalism, Lateef Kayode Jakande, once said Journalism trains practitioners to become leaders and administrators. One can say that Tosin is now a leader and administrator in the media industry. But at 50, the velvet voiced broadcaster is still dreaming. She is not under any illusion that, as reggae musician, Jim Cliff, sang several years ago, there are still more rivers to cross, to attain and remain a professional prodigy and icon.
Happy and memorable birthday, Mama Tee.
*Adebayo Bodunrin is a Journalist with AIT/Raypower FM, Abuja.