The Bisi Olatilo Show: Two Decades of Resilience 

Bisi Olatilo

The Bisi Olatilo Show, purportedly Nigeria’s first and best event/showbiz TV show, marked its 20th year anniversary last Friday, November 22.  The famous producer of the show, Prince Adebisi Olatilo, a multilingual broadcaster on account of his mastery of the three major Nigerian languages, has been in broadcasting for over 45 years. The accomplished master of ceremonies who has compered major events across the nation, recently gathered friends, colleagues and well-wishers to commemorate two decades of resilience. In this interview with MARY NNAH, the head honcho of the BOS who bared his mind on the journey so far, revealed that against all odds and challenges faced by private and independent television producers, BOS soldiers on 

How would you describe your journey with the BOS so far?

It has been 45 years of broadcasting and 20 years in Bisi Olatilo Show (BOS). I started broadcasting in 1974. It has been turbulent. There has been this financial climate; you know it is not easy for private and independent producer like me. It is safe to say that the Bisi Olatilo Show is a culmination of dividends of the extensive connections and goodwill that I have amassed in the past 45 years with painstaking discharge of my professional chores as a news reader on National Network of progammes initially on radio and later enjoying the exclusive limelight of the klieg lights as the presenter of the Bisi Olatilo Show, that I leverage on through African Independent Television (AIT) through Raymond Anthony Dokpesi, founder of DAAR Communications Plc, the first private broadcasting company in Nigeria. That’s why we are able to stay for so long.

AIT knows that they are getting a lot in terms of the content that we produce there.  So, although Dokpesi says often, “Mr man if you owe us, we would yank you off”, that’s a lie because he give us some kind of leeway in terms of paying in our own way, good terms and all that.

However, the growth, sustenance and consistency of the programme over the last 20 years can be ascribed to the qualities of dogged determination, tenacity of purpose, belief in oneself and above all, the ability to reinvent oneself, which has defined Bisi Olatilo’s professional life in the last 45 years.

I must thank God for members of my team who have stayed the whole course with me. I would like to thank them for this. It is worth celebrating our 20th.  It has been a tortuous journey but I really braced it up against all odds.

So, tell us, how did the BOS show start?

It started like a joke. It was a friend of mine, Eddie Emesiri, Director of Research at DAAR Communication Plc and one of the pioneer staff of DAAR Communication that said I was just enjoying myself busy producing contents and never looked at the business side of it. So he brought my senses back at that point. He told me, “You can make money with this one. When you make a lot of these things, put them together in form of a social diary and charge for it. That was how we got going. Today, there is no privately produced programme that is as consistent as ours, knowing how very expensive it is to run, for being able to do this for this length of time, makes us a darling to the people.

My foray into broadcasting actually began with the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State in the early 70s. I read the news and presented variety of programmes. The programme that shot me into prominence at that time was “THE WAZOBIA SHOW”. A request programme which as the name implies was presented in the three main Nigerian languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba as well as in pidgin.

The show was presented by Tonia Igunbo and I. In fact, I make bold to say that the popularity the Wazobia programme prepared a soft landing for me by the time I first met my wife, Folashade Olatilo to whom I have been married for 38 years.

After having made my mark at the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, I moved over to the External Services of Radio Nigeria (VON) in 1979 and later to Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). I read the news and presented different programmes.

Due to my mastery of the three Nigerian languages and Pidgin English, I was made the pioneer Head of Radio Nigeria 3, the indigenous language services of Radio Nigeria. I was very popular among the young, old and not too old listeners at the time.

I left Radio Nigeria in 1999 to set up my own company called BISCON Communications, public relations/image enhancing consultancy outfit.

Although, I was the one with the natural talent to speak in different languages, and operate as Master of Ceremony at different functions across the country, particularly Lagos, which was the melting pot of Nigeria’s culture, and the place where all categories of events were organised, it was a very good friend of mine Eddie Emesiri that advised that I should capitalise on the great potentials of providing a programme out of all my many appearances as MC at all the happening events at the time and that quickly struck a chord in me.

Simply put, Eddie Emesiri said, “Create a programme like a social diary that will incorporate all the events at which you are MC, every week, for say 15 minutes, with a dedicated cameraman and you as the reporter and look for a television platform to showcase it every week.”

In 20 years of BOS, what would you describe as your most memorable moment?  

That’s a tough one. In fact today is my most memorable day. If you were in the hall and you listened to what everybody said. They did not hold a meeting but in unionism, there was a consensus opinion amongst all of them; that this guy has done well for the country, he has done well for the African race and has done well for our culture. I mean, the Western world would rather write us off but with programmes like ours, which I champion, the right things were said, our culture was painted in the right way, everything that concerns us were properly projected. It was like a role of ambassador that we played for our country. People got to understand our culture better and so on and so forth. So, I think we have done well.

Over the years, you have been able to make yourself a big brand, now a lot of young people admire and look up to you. What would be your advice to them, especially in getting things right?

I have always said that if you don’t like hard work, don’t even near it. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t go near the kitchen, but most of the young ones these days are direct opposite of what we were when we started.  We went into it for the fun of it.  We went into it because we loved it, money came later, in fact money hasn’t even quite come but the fame we have been able to make and the respect we have been able to command can’t be bought with money. As I said to you, you can see what happened today. I mean, if you know the kind of society we are in today, where people are so busy with their own things that they hardly have time for other people but these are great personalities in Nigeria which I just sent text messages to and they came because I have made a name and I am still hands-on even at my age. Others would have just let off; they would have just sat down and be enjoying the fame now but I work 24 hours a day and I am on my feet at all times.

What the young ones of today are not doing right is that they don’t want to crawl before they walk. They don’t want to be corrected, unfortunately. In our days, we listened to corrections and that is how you get better. And they should let go of their phones. Like Mo Abudu would say, their whole lives revolve around their phones. They should read, do other things. They should be voracious readers.

20 years after, what more is there for BOS?

BOS is evolving. BOS is looking forward to align with the 21st century tradition of broadcasting, which means it has to be 24 hours broadcasting. So, 24 hours you can now watch us on the phone.