Ukoma Ezeokoye: Radio is More About Passion

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Ukoma Ezeokoye

Ukoma Ezeokoye is a quintessential On-Air-Personality  with great passion for wellness and national transformation at Omega 101.7FM in Anambra State. Ukoma has four years experience in the nonprofit sector, over five years in media, and earned a Higher National Diploma in Mass Communication from the Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra, Nigeria. In this interview with Maduabuchi Ubani,she talks about the life of a radio presenter and her fight against drug abuse among other issues. Excerpts:

What should people know about you?

I am a broadcaster for wellness and national transformation at Omega Radio 101.7fm in Umuchu, Anambra, and President, Dear Oma Global Foundation since July 2016. I have been touring schools in Anambra with my team in the campaign against Drug Abuse, after a media course in February on development and social change in Hilversum, Netherlands, by Radio Netherlands Training Center.

Also, I am volunteering as a Nigerian reporter on children and young people for WADADA News for Kids, Free Press Unlimited Netherlands. I have volunteered as an inspirational speaker on self-esteem for girls for female and more, as team member on community projects and currently on a spelling bee competition for YALIServes on July 18, 2019.

While working as the Vice President for Editorial Board Members in Katsina state, Nigeria, a Community Development Service group under the National Youth Service Corps, I helped improve the economic state of young adults and women in Northern Nigeria through a self-empowerment show ”Creative Minds” that I hosted on Vision Radio 92.1fm Katsina, for which Katsina Bloggers gave me the award for ”Best On-Air Personality in Katsina 2016″.

Also, Entrepreneur Africa nominated me for the award of “The Entreprenur Africa Prize for Youth Empowerment 2018”. I am also a certified mentor after a course in Enugu, by the Institute of Marriage and Family Affairs U. S. For me, I enjoy focusing on the topics of education, social campaigns, and I have strong passion for girls and teens.

How long have you been an OAP?

I started as a student broadcaster in 2009, while pursing my National Diploma in Mass Communication at Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State. I read news on Moment 106.5FM now 98.7FM, did productions and songs. I currently work for Omega 101.7FM in Umuchu, owned by Godwin Ezeemo since January 2018.

Before now, I have worked with AIT Alagbado Lagos as a Production Assistant and NTA Osogbo as a reporter during my Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) and Industrial Training (IT) respectively.

In 2016, during my National Youth Service Corps placement, I worked as a presenter and reporter with RayPower Katsina 106.5FM and was a guest artist on Vision 92.1FM also in Katsina. After my service year in 2017, I worked temporarily with City Radio 89.7Fm Onitsha as a presenter and reporter and briefly as the Schedule/Programme Officer.

What does it really entail to be an OAP?

An OAP does many things, scriptwriting, announcement, voice-over, moderating, interviewing, host/anchor et al. Being an OAP entails always having good content that will sway and engage the listener/viewer, being updated with goings on local, national and international scenes, which cuts across information, entertainment, weather, sports, politics and more; though an OAP can decide to major in one area.

Being an OAP also entails having a great broadcast voice and a likeable personality.

At what point was it clear that your journey was heading towards radio presentation?

In year one in school after some courses, I preferred radio production assignments maybe because we used the radio house in school more, then in year three (HND1) when we were grouped for assignments, the audio productions made sense and was quite easier than the others.

How do you handle sensitive issues as a radio presenter and media personality?

Sensitive issues are bound to occur, accounts of events in time. The media is an outlet that relays these topical events and lets the listener respond and each reacts differently. It is also powerful in helping people form and shape opinions.

Handling a sensitive issue as a media personality, I show empathy and listen/read intently, detaching emotionally from the issue and keep it professional. Get the appropriate data, prepare and ask questions regarding the issue, share my insight with compassion and provide guidance without bias.

What are the basic misconceptions people have when it comes to radio presentation?

Many people believe radio presenters are rich and ‘big’. To some, it is just the passion that drives them, not the money, as many radio stations do not pay as at when due, if at all they pay.

Some people believe getting on the radio is easy and radio presenters just talk for a living, but there is more we do. A lot goes on behind the scene, most programmes take longer hours to prepare than presenting them- content, voice training and preservation, playlist, traffic, timeliness. A radio presenter needs to be happy at all times on air, despite mood, personal problems. A radio presenter does many jobs at once, not just turning on and off a microphone.

Many people believe radio is all about commercials to make money, hence they tune out of commercial minutes to musicals and entertainment shows. Many radios are mainly ‘More music, less talk’

Some people believe that small radio stations are useless, they only tune into radio stations that are well known and heard of, even if it entails paying heavily to subscribe online and listen. Meanwhile, small radio stations are not that small, they beat some mega stations.

Have you had an awkward situation as a radio presenter?

Yes, severally. That particular night, on the show “Thrills” this caller, a widow, orphan and mother of four girls, narrated things she was going through in the hands of her in-laws and emotions set in, I had to call for a musical break, to let myself ease off. Unknowingly, I didn’t turn down the mic. I cried, mumbled some words and cussed at tradition, on the other hand I asked myself ‘what if the woman was lying?’, and let out this very loud laugh. To return on air from the break, I realized I was still LIVE, yuck!!! I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation, hence I pretended like I hadn’t noticed.

What impression do you think people make of you when they finally get to meet you?

 ‘The easy life lady’, ‘love coach’ etc

Some are amazed, others disappointed. Some expected me to be bigger, some listeners say I’m smaller than my voice, and smart for my age, well they do not know my age and I don’t look my age either. Some do say they expected an older woman. Others think radio presenters with pretty voices are ugly in person, hence they are amazed. Some match the voice with the presence immediately, others doubt I am the radio girl. Some listeners expect a ‘deeper life’ sister, based on my Christian program ‘splash’.

To some, I’m welcoming and hospitable, to the few who say I’m a snub on Messenger I’m friendly, to others I still am a snub; meanwhile, it depends on mood and the environment.

When did your campaign on drug abuse kick off?

The campaign began on May 22, 2019 with online awareness through June. Together with YALI Fellow and Social Change Journalist George Natural Onuorah, we visited the NDLEA, local government offices of catchment areas, schools to submit letters requesting approval of our tour, then we kicked off the school tour on June 11 at Pioneer Secondary School, Umuchu.

What actually prompted it?

The drug abuse campaign is my social change project, having trained on Media Campaigns for Development and Social Change by the Radio Netherlands Training Centre, Hilversum, The Netherlands in February 2019. Every fellowship has an assignment for the beneficiary, to return to his/her community to effect change as learnt, and mine is to reduce the rate and possibly in the nearest future put a stop to the degree drug is being abused by young adults, teens and girls in Anambra state (my immediate community), which in turn kill or mar them.

The NDLEA in 2018 said Anambra state was leading the state in drug peddling and misuse in the country, and in April 26 this year warned that the number of deaths as a result of these drugs is escalating.

The drug tour is designed to promote healthy living with hashtag #CHOOSELIFE, crusading against the abuse of substance.

The persuasive aim is to persuade young adults and teens in Anambra who have been influenced by peer pressure or who believe that abusing substance makes them smart and productive and earns them positions among friends to shun bullies, that avoiding substance makes them even more productive and sane to face bullies, and earns them better friends.

So far, have there been factors that have given encouragement to continue?

Yes, there are factors that keep us going. One of my objective is to increase number of people who crusade against drug abuse, with the publicity the tour has gained online and on dailies, thanks to THISDAY Newspaper mostly, the message is spreading.

The NDLEA motivates us by sending information on each arrest and catch, and resource person. Also, the state government recently provided a rehab place for addicts, it is a great news in the right direction.

Why is your organisation more focused on young people?

We believe in national transformation, and it takes youth to make it rain. Advocacy for good governance and a better country/Nigeria begins with the youth, hence we need to build them to be leaders and get them ready for what the future holds. Volunteers who made impacts in the world started as youths.

We want them to be responsible for their future, as a lot of youth complain about the government and blame their setbacks on the economic and many other problems in Nigeria, we inspire and energise these youths to believe in the future of the country, but to be self-empowered, while they wait for the big change.

How do you see collaboration among agencies as a tool to combat drug abuse?

It is a great idea, a good move in the right direction. Whenever like minds work together, for the right reasons, change takes effect. If agencies and organisations m can actually come together and put/pull resources together in the fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking, drug abuse will be kicked out, or at least reduced to the lowest percentage because no number of campaigns can kick it off totally since some countries are already legalising these drugs.

There’s WHO, UNODC, et al, addressing the most fundamental and essential questions about drug abuse, from detecting and responding to emerging drug abuse trends and understanding how drugs work in the brain and body, to developing and testing new approaches to treatment and prevention. Also supporting research training, career development, public education, public-private partnerships, and research dissemination efforts.

Any takeaway lessons from this year’s drug abuse day?

The abuse of drugs is harmful not just to the individual but to the society.

Withdrawal from substance abuse is a brutal experience, it is best to abstain, just stay far away and shun peer pressure.

Drug users need help, they should not be punished, help should be provided for them.

What is your organisation’s long term goal/vision?

To inspire and energise a whole community; to bring hope, the greatest gift of all, hope and solidarity which empowers the most vulnerable; with strong passion for education, girls, young people.

What better approach can the media use to key into the drug abuse campaign?

The media will continue to be a critical component in encouraging more responsible use of alcohol and drugs prescription by adults, discouraging tobacco and illegal drug use, and to promote universal abstinence among youth. The public has been heavily influenced by the power of the media and its ability to shape society. Airtime should be subsidized and if possible given for free to drug agencies so resource persons can always come on air to crusade against drug abuse. Newsmen should be willing to visit drug campaign events and report the stories with or without brown envelopes.

How do you combine OAP job with drug abuse advocacy?

As a radio host and newscaster for Omega101.7fm, I work around my programmes timetable as my radio shows are on Tuesdays, Thursdays night and Sundays while news falls on other days except Fridays and Saturdays which are my off days. The station’s Head of News, Veteran broadcaster Efiom Archibong is also very considerate and accommodating.

Any advice for young ladies seeking to lead your kind of life?

Hello young lady, keep your head straight and heart strong. You too can. No one started a career as a professional, follow the ladder patiently, be yourself. Promote yourself, keep quality friends, be confident, take risks, network, good networks, in all, remember God first, family, and career. See you at the top.