Oga Director, Wahala Dey o!

Posted on 09/07/2011


(Letter To the Director, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission)


Dear, Director,


I have had reason to write to you about these issues prior on many occasions, but decided to sheathe my pen for obvious reasons. In hindsight, however, and judging from the obvious fact that posterity has little patience for thoughts, or ideas, or dreams unhatched, or ‘would have’s’ and ‘should have’s,’ I thought it best to get this niggling problem out of the way once and for all, by expressing my candid views on a testy situation.


I perhaps should also explain why I am using the public space to express my opinions, when I could easily have called or written you a letter? Reason being that the issues go well beyond personal relationship, and as much as friendship should be always cherished, at a time in life we reach the crossroads of life decisions, when each individual must make a personal choice between God, mammon, and the servant principalities – for me, myself and I, for friendship and self indulgence, or for the benefit of all of humanity. The multi-platinum hip-hop artiste, Tupac Amaru Shakur says it best when he put into song his classic epistolary, ‘Me Against the World.’


The question I wonder is after death, after my last breath, when will I finally get to rest? Through this suppression they punish the people that’s askin’ questions. And those that possess steal from the ones without possessions. The message I stress: to make it stop study your lessons. Don’t settle for less – even the genius asks questions. Be grateful for blessings. Don’t ever change; keep your essence.
The power is in the people and politics we address.
Always do your best, don’t let the pressure make you panic. And when you get stranded and things don’t go the way you planned it. Dreamin’ of riches, in a position of making a difference
Politicians and hypocrites, they don’t wanna listen
If I’m insane, it’s the fame made a brother change
It wasn’t nuttin’ like the game. It’s just me against the world, baby.


The Act of empowerment of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission emboldens your organisation to carry out a number of duties, some of which include, licensing, monitoring, regulating and conducting research in broadcasting in Nigeria. A few of the subsections driven by that mandate need further prodding: First the one that empowers the body with the consideration, recommendation and granting of licences, and the regulation and control of broadcast media. One must be able to view these intercessions from the standpoint of national cohesion, professionalism and quality control.


Have you listened to radio lately? The general consensus is that broadcasting isn’t what it used to be. The quality of broadcast output these days leaves very little to applaud. You are either confronted with a melee of voices singing through their noses, or rudely accosted by a barrage of injurious, grammatical garbage. Worse still, a melange of deceit, misinformation and outright falsity is serially paraded as truth in an environment that once boasted of incorruptibility! The most annoying of all, attacks with venom every time you switch on your radio set – at any given moment, on every radio station, what you have on air is a phone-in show! They call it audience interaction. I call it lazy, noisy, immature, unintelligent programming!


Times are changing, agreed, and to remain relevant in a digital world one must be willing to adapt to change, but even as everything changes, standards must remain rigidly the same, even stiffer perhaps – and that is change!


I shall save some stations the embarrassment of mentioning station identity for the obvious reason that as a long-time practitioner at both operational and top management levels, it would be easy to insinuate motive. However I find it difficult to muster enough effort to leave out a few unforgivable errors by uncouth debutantes.


Mispronunciation is the norm these days and one wonders what the managers of such presenters do in such situation. In my day as a young broadcaster, a mispronunciation was the most damnable of offences – you would get suspended or even dismissed based on that! A colleague of mine back in time at the Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation (Today referred to as Gateway Radio) was actually given a 2-week suspension for mispronouncing the title of the Ooni of Ife (‘Orr-nee’) He had called it, ‘Oni!’ (‘O-nee’) Many others had been so punished for even lesser subterfuge.


Much of the blame of poor performance witnessed all over these days can be laid on the doorsteps of the managers of these institutions, the gatekeepers, as I prefer to call them; are they doing their jobs? Employ, train and re-train? Me thinks not! Many of the voices we hear on radio and even see on television these days have no business being any less than sixty metres near a microphone, or a radio station at that! How were they employed in the first place, you wonder?


The latest trend one notices among the ‘Lagos axis’ stations is the preference for voices tainted with foreign tones. We are daily bombarded with ‘Americanese’ and expressions of American origin, idioms, cultures, even habits and customs, and sadly, slang! The Yoruba translation of Lagos is ‘Eko.’ (As in ‘Ay-ko’) How come then that the latest ‘style’ when referring to the Eko Hotel (Formerly Hotel Eko L’Meridien) is to refer to it as ‘Echo’ Hotel? (Cool FM, Rhythm FM, Smooth FM and Inspiration FM…and Mr. Dan Foster, kindly take note!)


Another one. Recently one female radio personality on another of those ‘high-fallutin’ Lagos stations (who somehow seem to feel they are this and that) referred to the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as a former President of Nigeria? Of course this mother of all errors was brought to her attention and what did the silly lass do? She opened her mouth of stink and said: “…er, sorry…the poor man was Premier of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!” She’s lucky she isn’t working for me; she would never see a microphone again in her life…at least not around these parts! Perhaps the NBC has been too busy monitoring the latest Mo Hits and Chocolate City song releases for lewd, ‘NTBB’ lyrics to take a stronger stance on our ‘New Age’ presenters’ penchant for enshrining foreign cultures on our naïve and unsuspecting youth?



In laying the blame on the doorsteps of the managers, some of it will surely rub off on the station owners who employed such inept managers in the first place. That said, some of it will also land on the Commissions’ doorstep  – your office, it was that recommended grants and licences for most of these errant stations. Take a rain check of all the privately owned radio and television stations in Nigeria today; how many are owned by professional broadcasters? Take a second, more critical look – how many are owned by active politicians? Perhaps the time has come to reverse this ugly trend. The main reason why so many bottlenecks exist in awarding broadcast licenses in the first place was the tenacious nature of the profession and to restrict renegades regarded as ‘enemies of state’ from ownership of the delicate, yet powerful terrain of terrestrial broadcasting. The attributes of broadcast medium have much to do with mass empowerment, enlightenment, education and awareness. Put to other dastardly use it could also tilt towards misinformation, disinformation, propaganda and even subterfuge. To place such powers in the hands of politicians could indeed be a great source of political concern and stability.


There is a whole lot of work undone on your table, Mr. Director. Back in our days at the great Olumo City none of these would be allowed. A child must know where he is coming from. Lessons learned must be shared. Now is the time to do the right thing, otherwise those coming behind will ask what solutions we proffered when the grapes turned sour. Some of us have spent our entire professional careers trying to uplift our noble profession; it would be a sad ending to many brilliant careers if this would be the legacy we leave behind.


God’s guidance, always.


~ Femi Sowoolu.

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