Professionalism they say requires qualification, hard work and ability to explore talent. Dr. Ayotunde Alao, who is popularly referred to as, the only MC with a Ph.D, is not only a professional by qualification but also a master at what he does.
The entertainer cum lecturer bagged his doctorate degree at 28, which made him the youngest PH.D holder in the field as at 2013.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with him on July 25, 2016, where he explained how he has been managing his life as an entertainer and a lecturer.
How did your growing up influence your choice of career?
First, my dad is a journalist, he worked basically in the print, he was the chairman of Daily Times. Growing up, I have always been inquisitive about how people appeared on television. I used to wonder how it is possible and I had it in mind that one day, I will be on the television, they must show me too.
It was there I started getting the motivation of being an entertainer. But right from childhood, I have always been entertaining.
Your dad, being a veteran journalist and a lecturer, did it have any influence on your choice of career?
To an extent, it did. I liked the fact that when I woke up every morning I see my dad writing and editing. Even at night, when I am about to sleep, he still edits. At the time when GSM wasn’t out, he had this walkie talkie whereby he receives call always.
So, I thought being a journalist comes with a lot of packages. A lot of funny things actually motivated me through him, like seeing him on TV during a press conference, his pictures in newspapers.
What motivated you to be an entertainer despite your qualification?
I started my career as a radio presenter and television producer. I started with a media house before going to further my education. When you have a Ph.D, the most reasonable place to work obviously, is in the academic sector. It was what really motivated me into academics because I started as an entertainer.
Bagging your Ph.D at a very young age, how did you go about it?
I finished my Ph.D at 27 and the degree was conferred on me at 28, that was when I collected the certificate. When I finished, I was the youngest in Mass Communication in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Bagging my Ph.D at that age was not easy but the first thing you need is focus. When I started in the media, a lot of my friends were making money and I was also making money too but I realized that the media is just a one way thing. There was no much development for me. I wasn’t really learning anything, so I decided to go back to school to see if I can expand my knowledge and going to school actually changed a lot of things about me.
While my friends were busy working, I was investing my money on my Ph.D. most of them laughed at me but I was determined and focused.
Up till now, are you still the youngest Ph.D holder in the field?
I can’t say but where I work presently, I am the youngest Ph.D holder. Where I worked before now, I was the youngest too but apparently, with private universities, especially Babcock University now helping and making Ph.D not as difficult, I am sure there will be younger Ph.D holders now but as at when I had mine, I was the youngest in Mass Communication and I can boast of that.
The quality of graduates produced now is not what it used to be, what do you think is responsible for that?
Good. There are different levels to this. Lets starts from how people get into the university, do they write JAMB themselves and pass it? Or is it one of those special centres that their parents have paid heavily for? The second one is the screening process. How do they get screened into the university? Is it by connection or the normal way? What role do government play when it comes to financial education programme.
For instance, MTN Project Fame is throwing out millions of naira to people who do not have degree, send them into the academy, train them and make them superstars, whereas a child who is very intelligent gets a school bag, a laptop and N50,000 cash at the end of the day. If I was in this category, I will choose MTN Project Fame over school.
It is very logical to understand that until we change our priority by not endorsing drop outs to endorsing those with good GPs, there won’t be any change in academics.
The level of disseminating proper and accurate information in our society has fallen, do you agree with that?
Obviously, it has. I still link it back to the previous question. If Linda Ikeji can make millions, buy exotic cars, be worshipped and celebrated by our so called journalists, then why go to school to study journalism? Information comes out unguarded, no more gate-keeping of information because the internet gives a platform for everyone to participate, irrespective of who, you are.
The standard I will say has obviously fallen and there is so much to be done.
How did the journey as a broadcaster start?
My first experience on radio was terrible. I was sounding like a cockroach. I was just talking and wasn’t presenting, but overtime, I started building my confidence. When you do something consistently, you become a master at it. Though the journey started weak, overtime I started building myself.
How did the journey as an entertainer start?
I started when I was a kid in church whereby they made me Jesus baby because I could talk well even though I was the shy type. When I got to secondary school, I saw myself always talking, participating in debates and comedies. I got into the university and started a comedy group and anchored almost every show on campus.
What do you detest most about being a media practitioner?
The only thing I don’t like about it is that it exposes you to the world. Your privacy is taken away and everything you do becomes a topic of discussion.
What are the special benefits of being a presenter?
The calibre of people you get to meet. While anchoring a show, you get to meet people of high class because you are the host of the day.
What are the challenges you wouldn’t forget in a hurry?
Challenges are part of life but the one I had with one of my lecturers when he said I couldn’t make it in Mass Communication. For me it was one of the most down period of my life. During that period, I had two options, I almost gave up on education and I almost gave up life. It was one of my biggest challenges and also a motivating factor.
As an insider, what do you think can be done to make the profession better and more lucrative?
The same way they screen doctors and lawyers at every level should be done in journalism. So as to filter a lot of unwanted elements before they are employed and the screening should be properly done and shouldn’t be based on beautiful face, voice and what have you.
Have you ever been embarrassed in any show?
To the glory of God, I have never stepped on the stage and felt embarrassed. The only close encounter I had was going to a show that was well published and I was expecting to meet a large number of people. Only for me to get there and met only 12 people, I had to beg some of the organizers, the ushers, the cleaners to sit with the 12 people so that it won’t be too obvious that we had only 12 people in a big auditorium.
It should have been an embarrassing show to me but I had been paid to entertain there even if it was person.
As an entertainer, a lecturer and a broadcaster, which do you have a stronger passion for?
For me, the three are just one. When I am on radio, I am lecturing people, when I am anchoring a show, I tell people what they should know. I don’t think there is any difference among the three.
How do you manage your time?
The truth is I make sure I put lecturing activities during the week and shows on weekends but there are times when an entertainment programme comes up during the week. I train people on whatever skill I have today, I have nothing less than 10 people that can do it like me.
So, most times, if there is a programme I need to be at and I couldn’t make it, I could always send someone that won’t disappoint.
Which is more promising?
Lecturing is more promising and as a lecturer, you get to train a lot of people and one day, someway, somehow they will definitely be useful to you.
How do you juggle your family life with your career?
Like they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Family is family, career is career, I don’t mix it together whatever I do, I let them know I have a family and I won’t sacrifice my family for my career and I will not sacrifice my career for my family either.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Dr Ayotunde Alao, I am from Kwara State, Oke Oyi precisely. I am from a well educated and royal family. My father is a professor and currently the Vice Chancellor of Adeleke University. My mom is the Chief Nursing Officer of Babcock University Teaching Hospital (BUTH).
I am from a family of four and I started my primary education at One Ara Children School, Ojodu Berger then moved to Lerato Secondary School, Alagbado, Lagos. I proceeded to Babcock University, Ogun State, where I obtained my first degree in Mass Communication.
-MUBARAKAT AKANBI and ARAFAT ADESINA