– Speaks on 30 years in broadcasting
A new television talk-show has just been launched. It is called Seriously Speaking, an initiative of one of Nigeria’s golden girls of TV, Adesuwa Onyenokwe in partnership with Ultima Limited owned by Mr. Femi Ayeni.
The interactive talk show which is launching Adesuwa Onyenokwe back to the tube as anchor started airing on Channels Television on Sunday, July 6, 2014. Gracing the studio as a guest, was soccer great Chief Segun Odegbami and other sports personalities.
Seriously Speaking seeks to engage millions of television viewers across Africa and in the Diaspora. It will focus on topical issues, live experiences, challenges and successes of those who make the news. The new show will also take viewers on a journey of re-discovery of Africa’s continental heritage, helping the young generation to explore various aspects of history as well as social and cultural values that have been neglected.
Apart from Channels TV and Get TV (Startimes) where the show will be aired, it can also be accessed online.
The one hour talk show with “near-real time recordings shot with state-of-art quality will enable flexibility and adaptability given the programme’s format.” Guests that will come on the programme cut across statesmen and women, celebrities from the arts and entertainment, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and others. Adesuwa Onyenokwe spoke more on the show.
What have you been up to?
For the past five years, I have been publishing Today’s Woman magazine but planning to come back with my television show. I didn’t want to come back and do TV like I did before. What I did before was to produce my show as an independent producer and have it transmitted on the network service, which is the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), because that was where I worked and so I had relationship with them and it was easier.
While I was there, I also presented a programme called One on One which was more socio-political. Today’s Woman was specifically for women, directed at women, because I saw a need at that time. When I was leaving television, the dream was to have one show that will incorporate everything that I stand for which is national development for women, for the nation, and for the world in general, but I was not ready.
So, I stopped. I translated Today’s Woman into a magazine while I went looking for partners that would help to bring this alive. I didn’t have all the money. I didn’t want to own all of it. Like they say in business, 5 percent of 0 is nothing but 5 percent of 100 is something. It makes sense. So, that’s what I’ve been doing until I came in contact with Ultima Limited owned by Mr. Femi Ayeni, producers of Project Fame and Who wants to be a Millionaire?
They have the studio, the facilities, and the background that suits the kind of things I wanted to do and Ultima Studios which has its own channel now which is called GET TV on the Startimes platform was also in the market for a solid programme which they could use to push the platform and was beginning to think about expanding their networks of programmes and being seen as content producers.
They have a great studio that has two fantastic shows but what happens to the studio the rest of the year. So they were thinking of starting their own programmes and make it worthwhile, that’s how we met. I was ready, they were ready, and we decided to partner to have that one show that will address issues of serious importance in a relaxed way that will be entertaining as well as informing and educating. That’s how, in a nutshell, the story of Seriously Speaking came about.
Seriously Speaking, is it already on air?
Sincerely, it took one year to put it together because we had to develop the programme’s idea and consider the cost. We can get very great guests into the studio just by our combination. For instance, if we invited you to the show, you just believe that if am doing it, it would be worth the while.
I heard stories like ‘when are you coming back to TV? You must come and claim television, you must come back. So we decided, to produce some very great episodes. We could have produced a live show but with a live show you need a live audience, you need people to always be there.
So, we decided to cut the live thing and play back, which we have done. We have done 17 episodes, the next step was, who will partner with us for airtime, we did not have to own a television station. We didn’t want to just say it’s going to be on GETTV or NTA so, we looked for people who wanted content and the only person that thinks like that is Channel’s Television.
They felt this is a great programme and we want to partner with you, we would give you a platform to transmit it. Ultimately, we had our recording done, we had great guests on the show, from entertainment, to elder statesmen to politician. We have all of those done, ready to go, and we started transmitting on Sunday on Channel’s Television at 6:15pm, so that’s our first partner. Of course, GET TV on Startimes will be airing it every Friday at 6:30pm
Now that you are back on TV, how do you feel?
If you watch the promo, one of the things I said was “I like to talk.” But I don’t talk for nothing, it’s talk that makes sense. There’s something that you are given as a gift. Besides the fact that I trained as a communicator, I have that natural gift to do interviews and get people engaged, it’s a gift.
So I think when you have that gift, you should be able to use it to elicit information that will help other people, that’s what I do. So, for me, I am what they call a duck, sitting in water, comfortable, at home, and I’m glad.
So what is the most memorable thing that has happened to you from talking?
There is this one from Today’s Woman. A young boy of about nine years walked up to me when I was in Niger state, this was years after I stopped the programme, and this is actually one of the reasons I decided to go back. The boy said, “That is Aunty Adesuwa, the woman my mummy used to burn the soup every Wednesday because she was watching her programmes” I’m like what! And he was asking, “When are you coming back to TV? I hear that all the time.
So, I thought it’s a disservice to have a talent and not being able to channel it. So, I said ok, I don’t have to have a television station, I don’t have to own a camera. I have something that is of value that I can give back and that is what I’m doing. So, for me, it’s just knowing that you’ve been able to impact somebody just because you interviewed somebody else and brought good information from that person, that keeps me going.
Soon you’ll be 30 years on TV…
That’s true, it reminds me of my age. The thing about our job is, you can do it forever, for as long as you are alive and you have a voice. I’ve heard somewhere that the last thing to die in a human being is his voice. So, 30 years is nothing, I’m just starting.
So, how do you want to celebrate your 30 years in the media? Are you planning ahead?
I don’t know, sincerely. I have not thought about it. But it’s nothing, it’s just the beginning. However, maybe it’s a great thing that there is Seriously Speaking. I believe that all the big sponsors in Nigeria would be on Seriously Speaking and therefore we can make all the noise about it and talking seriously about moving our nation forward. Truly, life is about what you learn and what you know.
So, if we’re not able to give people knowledge that can help them be better, we can never move forward. It’s not about my speech, but what did you take away from it? That’s what is most important to me. And for me, I find Ultima Studios absolutely divine, God sent, because they have the technical quality, the production ability, and the pedigree that I needed to get back on air.
You still have that soft voice, how do you take care of it?
The thing about voice is, any language you want to speak, if you speak it right, it will be right. Maybe I have a deeper tone, but no matter how your tone of voice is, it is still a function of how you present what you are saying. Like Cossy, she has a very sweet babyish voice and she says “I even do it more because that is what sells my market”. So, pacing and delivery determines how your voice sounds. And you also develop it.
You have interviewed many people, but who is that person you would really like to interview?
The person is dead unfortunately; Nelson Mandela.
So, why didn’t you achieve that dream?
Because I just never got the opportunity. But for me, generally, it’s the ordinary people, any day or the person that is speaking from the heart. One of the people we interviewed for this show is Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. He is an intelligent man, he is a committed person, and he is a good person. Forget about the fact he is a governor. Anybody who is totally in control of his job and what he does, and has love for human beings, it’s divine for me. I’ll tell you one, from Today’s Woman’s days. That woman that used to direct traffic, she was fantastic. Even if it’s President Jonathan, if I ever have a chance to interview him, I’ll be asking him what it felt like walking barefooted.
When you were growing, what made you realize you needed to go into broadcasting?
I talked a lot and I wanted to communicate. As young as nine, when everybody was playing with dolls, boys playing soccer, I would pack the dolls and start talking to them like a teacher would to a student. And then when my parents came back, I would tell them about everything that happened in their absence.
So, I knew I wanted to do communication. I grew up in the era of TV. Television started in Benin in the 70s and I was in my teen years so I was attracted to TV. What attracted me to TV was more of the commercials than anything. I used to marvel at the fact that you could pass a message in one minute. I was very fascinated by that, so I wanted to do PR and advertising but I knew communication would be it.
What can you say about TV in Nigeria. Is it moving forward?
It is moving forward, even if it is slow. The cost of television has been very expensive, fortunately by 2015, with digitalization, all these will change. You don’t need to have some fantastic transmitter to be able to transmit and there’s a lot of cable television now, people will begin to look for content.
Like what we are doing with Seriously Speaking, we produced something because we knew there’ll be a market for it. So, people are going to begin to look for video, they may not be able to pay for it but they’ll be looking for it. So have the content ready and give it to them.
Is the market ready for it? We don’t have enough advertisers yet, that’s the truth, because we are not a producing economy. We don’t have a manufacturing economy, even with the few that we have, we can accommodate it because pay TV will work. Before you can watch GETTV, you have to get Startimes. So, the future can only get better. What happened before was, you would produce the programme, look for a marketer because the station had bills to pay too, but that will change.
Let’s talk about what you have achieved.
I have produced seven lovely children. I did my job creditably for a long time in the industry, got a couple of awards for doing my job well. For me, there’s no end to achievement.
Are you earning well compared to your counterparts abroad?
If in terms of cash, I would have my own TV station. In terms of professional achievement, I would say I am one of the best in the industry. In terms of material achievement, I am well paid, but not enough as everybody will tell you. I pay my bills, and that is very important, and like I told you, advertisers are still very few.
Are you grooming some people to be like you?
People have to groom themselves, they need to seek knowledge. Nobody gave me knowledge, I sought it. When I knew I wanted to be a communicator, I bought myself the Daniel Jones pronunciation dictionary. Till today, I read it. Because I wanted to learn to speak Queen’s English not American English so, I watch BBC, I learn a new word every day.
So, I think you have to develop yourself. I recently teamed up with a group of women to start what we call Women in Journalism Conference every year. We get women together and we learn from one another.
Is there any of your children showing interest in journalism?
There is one about seven who might be interested, but I am not entirely sure yet.
Where do you see Seriously Speaking in a couple of years?
In a couple of years, any advertiser that has not been on Seriously Speaking has not even started, and any elder statesman, entertainer, sportsman, that has not been on Seriously Speaking has not been anywhere because it is where you can speak your mind without being judged.
– FOLUSO SAMUEL