My Village Background Is A Plus To My Excellence – Ambrose Somide | Independent Newspapers Limited
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My Village Background Is A Plus To My Excellence – Ambrose Somide

Ambrose Somide
Posted: Aug 6, 2016 at 12:54 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ambrose Somide Olutayo is a fine presenter. Though he started broadcasting in Yoruba language, Somide has proven himself to be a vast presenter with very good command of English language. He is the initiator of the popular 20-year-old ‘Mini Jojo’ programme on Africa Independent Television (AIT) which he co-anchored with Baba Gboin. He had his secondary education at the popular Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta and his first degree at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where he studied Urban and Regional Planning. ANTHONIA DURU recently met him and he spoke on his experience in broadcasting, growing up days, and on other interesting issues.

You have been a television personality for over three decades. At what point did you delve into television broadcasting?

I started with radio broadcasting in 1983 with Radio Nigeria, Abeokuta during the military regime and in 1984 when most outstations of FRCN (Federal Radio Corporation) were closed down, which also affected Abeokuta, so many of us were moved to other zones and I was also affected by that development.  I later moved and joined Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation (OPIC). I left that place in 1985 for the university to study Urban and Regional Planning at the Obafemi Awolowo University. I did my national youth service at Delta State before I joined Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation. After that I left for Ray Power to midwife the birth of the first privately owned Radio Station. Opportunities were limited when we started because the number of stations was limited; the field was dominated by government stations until 1992 when Babangida administration allowed private ownership. From there it became more beautiful and competitive as we had more entrants coming on board. With the growth of the economy, population and awareness, radio and entertainment got some boost. As regards our staying power, when I started it wasn’t really about the money and not totally about fame but it was about making impact. It was about doing the job the way it should be done. Along the line maybe some things came on but my objective was not about money. Maybe that is why I have been able to keep the name and the reputation and integrity. Integrity is the key in everything and once you lose your integrity every other thing will fall like a badly arranged card.

Broadcasting undoubtedly must have opened many doors for you…
Yes to some extent but don’t forget our society is structured in a way that they find a way of shutting the door against you even if they know you. You can’t have everything your way because our society doesn’t respect you for what you have done over the years. You still have to fight your way to get some things done and get the attention of those in authority. I can say it boldly without any iota of contradiction that I happen to be one of those who fought for the democracy Nigerians are enjoying today. There were days during the Abacha era that I didn’t sleep in my house. There were days I drove out of our office premises in a car and I would be warned not to drive back in that same car for my own safety and the safety of the organisation I work for. All these happened because of my views on air. There were days I was confronted and warned by agents of the government. Having gone through all of these, the same people who are leading us are not better than those who led us during the military days. I finished programme one Sunday afternoon, I travelled to Abuja for a conference and about 2a.m, someone called me and warned me to stay away from a particular area because some gunmen were after me because of something I said on air.  I took the risk and I came back because no one can send me away from my father’s land. We survived Abacha and we are surviving at this democratic dispensation. For integrity sake because it is brand Ambrose Somide that I still sell, so it is difficult for me to do some things.  I can’t just start throwing my name and my fame around. People will start shutting the door on you once you get rubbished and I am contented with the much God has done for me. I am ambitious but not over ambitious.

How ambitious are you? Do you have the ambition of owing a radio station in the nearest future?
I have made attempt in the past to get a radio license but it got stuck on the way probably because I wasn’t properly connected to the powers that be then. I will still try as I am not losing the dream yet. Beyond that I have other ambitions.

How was it like growing up in the village?
I was born in Elesin village and there is no pretence about that fact. I grew up in a very strict catholic home in the village. We come into the city mostly during holiday and festive period. Coming from an educated catholic family, there is no member of the Somide clan that is not educated. The clan is quite big but we are all educated. Our parents then made it a standard that each and every one of us must be educated because you can’t afford to be fetcher of woods when your relatives are educated. Then it was compulsory for you to attend mass and go to school. My primary school was about three kilometers away from home, we walked there. I grew up like a normal village boy that was fascinated to see television once in a while, fascinated by the train which we see once in a while. Our family compound is located on the hilly part of Ago-Iba in Abeokuta so we see train when it is moving from Lafenwa and we see Olumo rock from our compound. I was greatly fascinated when I came on a visit to Lagos to visit my elder brother who was then schooling at the University of Lagos.

Aside broadcasting, what else do you do?
I am basically here; everything I do is around entertainment. I do things connected to radio and TV. I don’t know anything about oil exploration or any other business.

How have you been able to sustain the relationship between you and your partner, Baba Gboin over the years?
We have been together for over 20years. We have differences in age and possibly outlook; how we look at life. Tolerance, accommodation, understanding and professionalism have been helping us in the relationship. Don’t have the impression that we don’t quarrel or we don’t disagree because there is no way we will be together for that length of years and we don’t disagree. We have fallen out on a number of occasions but that disagreement does not go over 24hours. One of key things that divide people is money; once you realise that money is a means to an end and not the end itself then you have no problem. With this, I can never allow money to sour my relationship with anyone. We are both from Abeokuta, so women can’t come between us because his spec is not my spec. As the older person in the partnership, most of the times he concedes to me probably because of the age difference and at times I also concede to him. That is how we have worked together over the years. There has not been any reason why we want to part.

Do you really have time for your family?
Yes I have time and I create time for my family. I try as much as I can to make the best out of anytime I have with my family because what is the essence of working when your home is not in order? You just have to create that balance.

What will you say gives you an edge over your colleagues especially those whom you started this profession with?
I am a very reserved person. I am not a frivolous person so I am a bit private and I am a thoroughbred professional. I pay attention to details and I do a lot of research and reading. There is no aspect of broadcasting that I don’t know a bit of. I am a total person; I don’t like half measure and whatever I am doing I put myself totally into it. I am fully involved in whatever I do. I never assume that I know it all so I continue to learn every day. I learn from everyone.

What is the greatest lesson life has taught you?
Life has taught me to be open to new ideas, be ready to learn every day.

As a broadcaster, can you share with us your most embarrassing moment?
I was to be an anchor person at an event few years back. The church service was meant to start by 9am so I assumed they will end around 11am and reception won’t start until 12noon. I got there about 11am but to my greatest surprise, the reception was almost over and I have been paid. I was embarrassed because I am always time-conscious. The chairman of the event, a professor from the University of Ibadan insisted that I refund the money and I wasn’t given the microphone. I begged to be allowed to at least say something even though I will refund the money; the groom’s father came in and vouched for my timeliness. We persuaded the professor and I was allowed to compere. I was able to influence the professor. He said it would have been a disservice to people in the hall if he had not allowed me to take the microphone. At the end of the day he dashed me money.

What are the qualities of a good presenter?
Some are born, some are made but both the born and the made should be trained. It is quite unfortunate that the industry has become an all-comer affair. My own sector, the Yoruba genre is worst for this because anybody just picks up the microphone and talks on air once the person has the financial wherewithal to pay the broadcast station and since broadcast houses are profit making ventures, which were set up basically to make profit, they accommodate such people. Most people are now broadcasters because of the proliferation of broadcast outlets. These set of bad eggs are not trained and that is why we have repetition of programmes. They simply go on another station and replicate what you do. We have people who go to states like Kogi and clone a programme that was broadcast in Lagos. They don’t even change the name, they only change the station. There is lack of independent thinking. To be a very good presenter, you need training and you need to be constantly abreast of happenings around you. The world is highly digital, which was not the case when we started many years back. For you to be a good presenter you must have good knowledge of all the hi-tech gadgets that are in vogue. Research is also good for anyone who wants to be a good presenter. The late Kola Olawuyi introduced some panache into his programme and that made him the first among his equals but lots of people have gone out to clone him. That is lack of independent thinking and lack of original thinking. This is the bane of modern day presenters across Nigeria .