I was once a radio presenter, and it was one of the best times of my life.
I had just left secondary (high) school, and I had come across this advertisement on radio asking for interested young person for a radio programme aimed at the youth. I didn’t have so much to do after high school so I jumped at the opportunity, and also because I had so much energy that I just desperately wanted to channel in a creative direction. I was sixteen.
I was also very smallish, but already showing signs of growing. I surely wasn’t as tall as I am now so the first fear was that I would be turned down because of my young looks and voice. It was an unfounded fear because when I got to the broadcasting studio on the day of the oral and practical interview that had us making impromptu broadcasts on radio and television in front of all the judges and other contestants, I found that I was the tallest and one of the oldest of the applicants, and all of a sudden, I had another sudden fear of being turned back because of my height. Eventually, that turned out to be unfounded too. I went into the air conditioned cubicle that I had seen for many years on television (It was where their presenters announced the beginning of each television programme) and read the prepared script. For effect, I even added a few words of mine, and smiled. Time up, next person. After a while, the interview was done, and the over thirty of us young boys and girls were asked to go home and wait for a phone call that will confirm our acceptance.
I got mine a few days later from the producer of the show, a beautiful woman and a veteran broadcaster of the radio station who had trained in England and was married to a famous Nigerian football goalkeeper (now late). She told me that I’d been accepted, and that I should show up on Wednesday to meet with my co-host to prepare a jingle that will be used to promote the show, and get familiar with the broadcasting house. There was a snag though: we would not be paid for our work like normal staff, but we would sometimes be given stipends to cover our transportation. Was I still interested? Yes, I said, and hung up. It was going to be fun to be a radio presenter of a thirty minutes weekly radio show (which was later extended to one hour) on Saturdays.
There were a few other snags along the way, one of which was the lack of a functional record library in the Broadcasting House. The good records have either been lost or stolen and the library had only a few old albums. For contemporary music, we depended on commercial Deejays who demanded that we mentioned their names at the end of every show as their only compensation. For a while, I also stole and borrowed some of my father’s records from his library and returned them afterwards (if I remembered to). It really was fun. My co-host was a young beautiful girl who was then still in secondary school at the time. (The last time I checked on her, she was working in a famous bank in Ibadan). We would meet on Wednesday at the big broadcasting house to rehearse and get our lines right, then later an hour before the show at the FM station to get comfortable and cue CDs and record tracks, then when it was 1.30pm, after the introductory signature tune that was the chorus of We Are The World, our voice would come on: “Hello to you folks out there. You are welcome to Children’s Delight. I am Sola, and with me is Kola…” They later changed the name of the show as well.
Till date, I sometimes get the impression of being considered too old, or sometimes being too young. At the coffee lunch on Monday a few weeks ago with Prof. McClinton, I had told her my age since she thought I was still twenty-five, and she couldn’t believe when I told her that I was a few years older than that. I almost couldn’t believe her either. “Your mannerisms don’t show you as that old,” she said, and I laughed. I agreed too, while also adding, “It could be because I don’t have much of a beard.” Or maybe I am an old man in a young man’s body. Till date, I still also get questions from friends who knew me in those days on the radio. They always wondered why I walked away from it when I entered the University a year after. The fact was that I was actually bored after a while. After up to a year presenting and giving all of myself to it sometimes for free, I was ready to move on. However, I enjoyed every moment of it even though it was becoming too stressful to manage and to combine with a new experience of University life. I also began to consider myself grown up for the themes of the weekly shows. I was moving away from the realm of questions and polemics for the reality of answers and actions. University called. In any case, Sola had a few more months on the show before she adapted it for older youths, and eventually walked away when she went into the University a few years later as well. They were fun times.
Today, I co-hosted a radio show on Blogtalk with Nigerian blogger Vera Ezimora along with two other Nigerian bloggers. It is a two hour weekly web-radio show discussing a general lifestyle topics. This week’s topic was a subject of good fiction: When do you object to someone else’s relationship in light of what secret you know about one of them? Never? Immediately you know? Or, right before “I do”? You can listen to the show here. I enjoyed the discussions and the phone-in contributions, and it reminded me of some of those pleasant days in the cool padded rooms of the FM radio studios in the late 90s. On one of the office boards today in the Broadcasting Corporation in Ibadan is still a copy of a picture of the young me in suit with large headphones on my head, of Sola my co-host and our beautiful brilliant producer in the studio all of us staring at the camera. Good times.