Return to Radio

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

It is an exciting time. For me. This may seem strange to some people, and a knowing smile will crease the “long” faces of others. Why? How on earth is working a source of excitement, especially if it is indeed an added workload, and it is not as if you are shipping a truckload of cash with the stress of the excess “overtime”. Who cares? 

 My interest today is to share with readers the joy of returning to radio, nearly 22 years after the first voyage. You see, in early 1999 (I believe) with the encouragement and support of the then General Manager of Radio Lagos and Eko FM, Lekan Ogunbanwo (he retired a few years ago as a Permanent Secretary from the Lagos State public service), I started a one-hour talkshow called FAJ-Alive. My producer was the quietly brilliant and uncompromisingly efficient ace broadcaster, Tokunbo Ojekunle. He was and is still a good friend, brother and supporter. He was the one who prodded me, nurtured me, and showed me the ropes of finessing my raw talent and proclivity for igniting controversies to produce a weekly show with promise and presence – on the crowded airwaves of Nigerian broadcasting.

 FAJ-Alive on Eko 89.75 FM was not my first foray into broadcasting. I have always been enamoured by the creative process, followed by a churning desire to appropriate the riches of the motion picture – acting, talking, broadcasting, and what have you. In cahoot with Toyin Munis, the elegantly talented and some sort of management whizz kid, who founded the Clapperboard Television (arguably the first privately run television station in Lagos, Nigeria), we started the scripting and production of pilot episodes of FAJ-Alive in 1994! The project was quite elaborate and ambitious, and who else could capture the vaulting imagination of Munis and I than the uproariously brilliant combo of Gboyega Adelaja and Remi Ogunpitan of the then “latest sensation” in private ownership of professional broadcast management and production, Solar Productions.

  We shot two episodes, I believe, in the studios of Solar on Town Planning Way, Ilupeju – on a fantastic set layout reminiscent of the great CNN talkshow, Larry King Live. I believe the rushes never got edited to make appearances on Clapperboard Television until the station ran into the usual storms Nigeria concoct to frustrate and devastate entrepreneurial ambitions and initiatives of her restless brilliant children.

  Let’s flip back to Eko FM and the FAJ-Alive of 1999. For the more than one year it ran on the radio station, it was a wonderful weekly lesson and lifetime training in production of contents and management of human resources at close quarters with my interactions with Ogunbanwo, his senior directors, including my friend, Ojekunle and other senior producers. One standout incident was an encounter with a well-known movie producer who took a vile exception to a review I wrote in one of our publications (I was then Editor-in-chief of Encomium magazine and a couple of other titles). The producer seized advantage of the phone-in slot of the live programme to lambast and torment me over what was considered as wilful and unfair comment. Of course, I would not condone challenges to my professional opinion, especially on areas I consider myself suitably qualified to offer genuine and well-intentioned advisement. Though admittedly, the tenor and colour of my language in critical reviews were somewhat heavy-handed and unsparing – it was basically driven by a desire to see my contemporaries embrace their professions and their offerings as unique opportunity to advance the goals and stature of the creative process as agents of light, development, hope, and posterity – to the generality of Nigerians, Africans all over the world, and the universe at large. 

  So, we had a long and vitriolic exchange which caused a lot of commotion in the studio as the angry party did not care to observe the codes of etiquette and profanity while emoting perspectives. 

 And 22 years after, we are back on radio – a new station, under a new concept and hopefully a more enlightened listenership. Today, 10 December, from 7am, God willing, shall be the fourth episode of “The Vintage TalkShow – with the FAJ” on TopRadio 90.9 FM, a flourishing Lagos-based radio with passionate youthful orientation stretching across diverse demographics. 

  Why Vintage? A friend asked, obviously burrowing back to the defunct “Vintage People” founded by Mr. Muyiwa Adetiba While another friend thought Vintage meant “old stuff”. So, to each, I explained: the second one first – the fact that most vintage cars, etc are often “old stuff”, the main operative essence of vintage is its rarity. Other synonyms would be something of high quality, something highly regarded…respectfully appreciated, etc. 

  And to the throwback to “Vintage People”, frankly, Adetiba’s creation didn’t cross my mind when adding Vintage to the list of titles I shared with over 40 contacts on my WhatsApp line. Usually, when I post some of my write-ups on Facebook or in WhatsApp, one of the most common phrases of encouragement I get is “Vintage FAJ” in different compositions. So, after a few days of back-and-forth with scores of my contacts, Vintage trumped all in a “landslide” (to borrow a political jargon) with 32%. Even my preferred title, “The EyeWitness” came a distant second (16%)! In fact, I kid you not…I still have the collation papers of the “election” in my “strongroom” – for I-don’t-know-what reason.

  Well, the first three episodes were quite challenging as one had to manage producing the show with presenting and driving the core contents of the show. I had interesting guests and ended up overshooting the two-hour time slot which I initially thought was large enough to accommodate all the segments and add-ons designed to feature in the talkshow. With the help of the station’s management, and the good grace of the ace sports analyst and old-time colleague, Godwin Enakhena, I spent about three weeks understudying his two-hour daily sports show, “Top Sports on TopRadio”. Twice a week, I watched Godwin as a master of his trade – he has been at it for more than three decades, and is currently running syndicated programmes on more than 10 radio and television stations. His control, pace and spontaneity on the sessions I watched were a joy to behold. 

  His professionalism, encouragement, input and warmth gingered me to confront what was initially a frightening encounter with the multi-layered sound mixing console, the ubiquitous computer desktop with the almighty “Jazler”…and to the glory of God, and the support of good people that surround my return to radio, “The Vintage TalkShow – with the FAJ” will attempt to change the early morning face of Saturdays as we know it. ‘Katchya’!

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