ON Friday, December 18, 2015, Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, was agog as WFM 97.1 radio station was officially launched.
The event was a gathering of who is who including politicians, entertainers and society bigwigs. Among those in attendance were Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa who represented Nigeria’s First Lady, Hajia Aishat Buhari; Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. (Mrs.) Oluranti Adebule who was also represented by Mrs. Adebola; Deputy Governor of Ogun State; Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, Dele Momodu, Foluke Daramola, Doris Simeon, Mrs. Jire Kuforiji who anchored the programme, and others.
WFM 97.1 is a radio station for women and their families with bias for breaking the culture of silence of women. It represents the voice of women.
Founded by Mrs. Toun Okewale Sonaiya and her brother, Dr. Babatunde Okewale with a mission to become a reliable source to women folk.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with the C.E.O of WFM, Mrs. Toun Okewale-Sonaiya who told us what inspired the floating of the station…
What informed floating a women station?
We had a vision many years ago, and the vision was to look for a platform to develop women. Three of us got together. Myself, Dr. Tunde Okewale and Kiki Wale Okewale. We decided that radio is what we want to use. My father was a broadcaster and I grew up seeing the likes of Mrs. Anike Agbaje-Williams and Toun Adeyemi on TV and I just wanted to do something similar. At a very young age as young as 7, I got involved in radio presentation for children. Every step I have taken have always been in the area of women whether on radio or TV. I have always wanted to do something for women because I am one, anyway.
So, the opportunity came, we got a license and we just decided the best thing is to do what we are doing. We are not competing with men. We just want to develop the Nigerian women and every girl that wants to be somebody. We want to be able to give them that support to be somebody and radio is the tool we decided to use to develop women. I tried to explain to people that WFM is not an ordinary station. It is a movement, and we are calling everybody to embrace this movement.
Can you tell us about your journey into the media industry?
I served with the Ministry of Information in Ibadan. I was one of the pioneer staff of OGBC 2 with Olusesan Ekisola as our boss in those days and then I worked with Raypower, AIT. I left for the UK, I worked with Choice FM Capital Extra.
Do you think the voice of women was not heard enough before the advent of this radio station?
No, we are not saying that. We are not competing with other radio stations. I must say that there are 17 stations that are targeted at women. We have come on board to complement the good work the other radio stations are doing. There are over 30 radio stations that service Lagos and each and everyone of them has paved the way for us and we are grateful. However, WFM 97.1 was borne out of a research which says 17 programmes have solely been devoted to women. They talk about marriages, relationships, abuse, etc. But we think women still need more. A total woman wants to be in the kitchen to cook. She wants to watch sports, will want to know how the naira would work for her. She wants to know about politics and stock market. She wants to know about building her nation. It is not just about sitting in the kitchen and that is why we have solely dedicated this radio station to women.
Does that mean all the staffers will be women?
Absolutely, not. There are male staffers as well. I would advice you to listen to the weekend programme. It has been taken over by the youth. If you listen from Friday evening till Monday, you will hear some men talk, men also embraced. We have male presenters.
What is the staff strength of the station now?
The staffers are awesome. They are doing very well, very energetic young professionals who just want to do their thing and that gives you pleasure.
Do you have foreign partners?
No, there is no foreign partner in this, it is self financed by myself, my brother and Kiki, the other director. Three of us pulled our resources together and there is no foreign partner anywhere.
How much have you invested in it as at now?
I am not going to tell you how much it cost us to do this but we are grateful to God for giving us the opportunity to be able to do what we are doing.
Challenges are not things I really want to talk about because everybody will face a challenge. How you deal with the challenge is what makes you a failure or a success. Finance was a big issue. It was difficult because it is a new venture. Financial institutions will not support you, not until they see what you have got. We surmounted the initial challenge and I am seizing this opportunity to tell the banks, big women, big boys, big men, the telecommunication companies to come on board and sponsor and support us.
Do you see yourself taking WFM outside Nigeria?
WFM is actually outside the country. Though we are located in Nigeria, we are all over the world. We are live streaming. We have had tweets from the US, we have programmes from Ghana, from UK. So, it is an international radio station.
Is there going to be a TV programme aside this radio station?
Yes, there is going to be a television station dedicated to women in a very short period.
Going by the enormous task involved in running a radio station of this magnitude, how do you intend to cope?
I will not discuss that at all, the way a man will do it, I will do it even better.
Where do you see WFM in five years?
I see WFM in six months taking over. We will be all over. We are a voice and the voice cannot be unheard.
A lot of people will be expecting the radio to be located on the Island or Ikeja, why the choice of Arepo?
Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) licensed us to operate in Ogun State and that is why we are located in Arepo. Irrespective of where we are, what really matters is the impact we are making. And Arepo is a lovely place.
What is your message to the women out there?
My message to the women is to embrace WFM because it is their voice. For those of you who want to bring your businesses on board, that is the platform to bring your business. My message for every girl and woman is never be afraid to hit the ceiling.
– DAMILOLA FOLAMI