Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Timeout with WAZOBIA FM chics

A LAW graduate from the Lagos State University, Omotunde Adebowale David practised law for three years, before she switched to broadcasting, which she described as passion. And since she came on air, she has registered herself in the minds of listeners, especially now on the pidgin station, WAZOBIA 95.1, where she has irresistible presence. She first started with Radio Nigeria, Lagos, from where she moved to Radio1.
“I knew, I wanted to do broadcasting; I wanted to do radio, TV, and acting… do other things that are inside me that are art inclined,” she said, “I knew that; but I practised law a bit, because I didn’t want to start off from what I wanted to do without even giving Law a chance at all. Even when I was doing my project, I wrote on Performance Rights because that was the only thing I could really identify with, when I was in school,” she revealed.
Then, why study Law in the first place?
“Well, many of us are just creatures of our parents; they want us to do something because they think that something is good for you,” she noted. “But we all walk on our path as we grow older and are able to have independence. But broadcasting has always been the second nature for me.”
Many will be wondering what a ‘learned person’ is doing in a broadcasting house?
“It’s not about what you studied; anybody can work anywhere; what is an agriculturist doing in a bank,” she quizzed amidst laughter.
Probably they are looking for money?
“Better,” she harped.
There’s no money in broadcasting?
“It’s not as if there’s money; it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do for life.”

OMOTUNDE’s broadcasting career had a break after her marriage, but not for too long.
“I got married and wanted to have children. I wanted to take all those things out of the way, so, that I could really concentrate on my career.”
With the break over, Omotunde returned to broadcasting, but this time in a very different medium and style.
“When I came, they said it’s a pidgin station, and I knew I’m a regular pidgin speaker like every Lagosian, but many of us have talents that we don’t even know exist; that’s why it’s always good to face challenges. No matter how difficult it is, if you put your heart to it, you will be able to go through it.”
She continued: “I came in for an audition and I guess my audition was really good, so, I was called and I found myself doing what has been in the inside of me. You know, WAZOBIA FM is a very creative station, it’s full of creative people; I mean people that you just can’t believe what will come out of their mind until they open it.”
Omotunde believes that working with different kinds of people influenced her performance as a newscaster and presenter in the station.
“I try to work with people from everywhere. I try to relate with all kinds of people; people that speak Warri pidgin, Yoruba pidgin, Ijebu pidgin… you know pidgin is not particular to anyone; you speak the one that is typical to you,” she noted. “That’s why I love pidgin because, you can create your own vocabulary—me, I fit say kampe, you fit say tanda, you fit say pere, somebody go say kponkwem, some people will say gbadu, somebody go say gbege…so, it’s a very versatile thing and it’s unending. So, you can create your own vocabulary as you go.”
How has it been working with the station?
“It’s been good, I’ve been doing it,” she sang.
For how long now?
“I will be a year in April.”
And you wanted to do TV?
“Actually, I did TV a bit; I’ve done a few presentations here and there. I did one campaign for OMO two years ago. I’ve done some Sitcoms; I did Adults Only (I played Iya Leja there). I’ve done a movie or two; I did a TV soap, but it’s not yet out.”
You know your audience sometimes imagine what you look like?
“That’s how it is. A lot of people, who listen to WAZOBIA FM wonder who Omotunde is; Omotunde is just a regular woman doing what she loves to do,” she said jokingly.
For those who think Omotunde just jumps behind the microphone and starts talking, the lawyer informs that it goes beyond that.
“Of course, everybody preps themselves. Before I come for my show, I know exactly what my show is going to be like; I know my elements, I know wetin to do. I write some things down, I do research, I listen to people, I read newspapers; you have to read and read, and keep reading,” she says.
Omotunde’s line of duty also involves translating news stories from English to pidgin.
“Our news is written in English, so, I have to transcribe it into pidgin; that means I have to read the news and understand what it’s trying to pass across and I have to make it as grassroots as possible. That’s why something like minister of transport, you hear me say, ‘minister wey dey in charge of wakament,’ because na him dey in charge of waka waka. So, I have to think of how pepper seller on the street, will understand you. So, you have to read and understand, and then translate on paper, before you jump behind the microphone to talk.”
Will Omotunde switch to another job or even return to the bench?
“This is my life; there’s no entrance, there’s no exit. It’s a way of life,” she sings. “I’m not doing broadcasting because it’s a job; I’m doing it because it’s something I love to do.
“WAZOBIA FM has really exposed me because I’ve always spoken English. It has given me a paradigm shift; I’m now doing pidgin — at any level — something I really did not ordinarily believe I could do. If you hear me speak English, you will be wondering, ‘ah, this madam fit yan pidgin.’ But when I come switch again, you will be wondering. It tasks my creativity and that’s what I love about it.”
You were somehow forced into studying law. What will happen if one of your kids opted to be a comedian?
“Ah! I’m an art mummy at home; my house is a singing and dancing home,” she quipped. “My husband is relatively creative in his own way; he’s quiet, but he’s very comic too. How can I… with all I went through with my parents?’ Anything any of them wants to do let them go ahead; the only thing I will ask you is, ‘are you sure that’s what you want to do? Who would have thought dance a couple of years ago will be this big? So, I wouldn’t stop my children at all, at all!”

Though a graduate of History and International Studies from the Lagos State University, Ehidiana, right from the beginning, has also shown serious interest in the arts.
For instance, as a history student, she was part of the Optimum Art Consortium directed then by Tunde Azeez. On graduation, she moved on to join the Gong Beat of Africa, a dance troupe based at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, from where she started building up her career as an artiste.
“Something actually made me study history, but that did not stop me from doing what I wanted to do,” she said. “In school, I used to shuttle from my department to dance rehearsal.”
How did you get into dance?
“It’s just something I was doing when I was small; I used to be a member of the dance group in the church — I drum and dance. Eventually, I continued in secondary school, even in the university, I was fully involved in dance.”
Along the line of dancing from stage to stage, Ehidiana dabbled into business, until Steve Onuh (Yaw) called.
“I used to travel to Ghana to buy fabrics to sell,” she said with laughter. “Yaw called me one day and said, ‘are you ready to work,’ and I said yes. He said to me, ‘you that’s always travelling; today Ekpoma, tomorrow, Ghana, next tomorrow Lagos–– you are Ajala travel,’ she says. “Later he said if I want to work, I should come to Etim Inyang for an audition.”
How was the audition?
“The audition was very interesting because I was expecting them to be formal. But it was so funny when I came and the GM was like, ‘babe, how far now, how you dey?’ He was just flowing in pidgin and that’s that. He asked, if I was going to answer my English name and that was how I came about using my native name, Ehidiana on air.”
Despite her love for the arts, Ehidiana never dreamt of becoming a broadcaster.
“I never thought of doing broadcasting; just the stage and the feel of it. But broadcasting… it was really far from it,” she said. “But now that I’m in it, I can tell you that I enjoy every bit of it because, it’s like me being on stage or TV; I still do the same crazy stuff, so, there’s really no difference for me. It’s my life; it’s what I love doing.”
Ehidiana recalled an encounter she had in a bus in Lagos while still working as a part time presenter with WAZOBIA FM.
“There was this lady in the bus that said, ‘ah, thank God for this station. At least, we can hear everything they are saying; not all those smi smi, they are always speaking on radio.’ That means everybody wants to understand what is being said on air.”
She continued: “For instance, I’m not good in Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa… any other language except my language, Ishan. Outside Ishan and English language; pidgin becomes the language with which I can communicate with people –– the aged, the illiterate and the literate; it’s something I speak in my house. You know, from my area, we speak pidgin a lot. So, coming to WAZOBIA to speak pidgin was not really a tough one.”
Though presenting in Pidgin English was a smooth sail, but translating English news to pidgin was tough for Ehidiana, the Edo State native.
“When I started, they gave me a script in English to translate into pidgin. Initially, it was not smooth; it was rough, but eventually, I got there. That was basically one challenge I had when I started. It’s really fun,” she said.
According to the dancer, who will likely be heading for the Port Harcourt branch of the station, it takes extra effort to be able to carry the audience along.
“Trying to source for topics could be very challenging; there are times I pick up the newspaper, those pages sometimes inspire me and I will tell Mashe, ‘let’s talk about this thing and see the people’s response.’ Sometimes, I will be walking on the road –– it may just be a signpost or sticker –– I will just pick it and discuss it with my listeners. Sometimes it may be something that happened between two people.”

IF you are a regular radio listener, you will surely agree that some callers could be very annoying with their comments, yet, Ehidiana sees it as part of the show.
“You just have to listen to them; that’s why you are there and that’s why you make them call you in the first place,” she says. “You have to be patient with them even when it doesn’t make sense.”
Notwithstanding, the presenter is of the opinion that comments by listeners are of utmost important to the development of the broadcaster.
“There are good listeners, for instance, if you just make one mistake, be rest assured that the next SMS will come from them,” she reveals. “Sometime ago… it was just a little mistake, though it wasn’t my fault; but as the one reading the news I have to accept it.”
What was the mistake?
“The guy that printed the news for me wrote 2008, and I just went on reading; I didn’t take note of that. After the news the call came, ‘eh, Ehidiana, you are taking us back, why? It’s not 2008; it’s 2009.’ You know, just little thing like that, they will want to correct you and that’s what I like about the audience because when you get such feedbacks, it helps you grow.”
But such comments could throw one off balance?
“Yes, it can make you fidget.”
It happened to you?
“Yes. Initially when I started reading the news, one guy was like, ‘eh, Yaw, who be dat girl wey dey air? Abeg make una comot am joo, which kin thing she dey read sef.’ And Yaw was like, ‘wetin be your own; she’s learning now; if I don’t give her room to learn, how’s she going to be strong.’ It sorts of brought me down, but Yaw will always say to me, “if you listen to them, you won’t survive.” Mashe too was of great help; she would call and say, “if they don’t do that, you won’t be strong,’ and that was it.”

DOES she intends to stitch to another radio station, possibly pure English station in future, Ehidiana says, “you know I didn’t really thought of doing broadcasting before, so, I don’t know if I’m going to any other station. For now, I really can’t say; it may just be my acting, dancing and so on.”
Are you saying you won’t fit into such stations?
“It’s not as if I’m not going to fit into other stations; definitely, I will. But the thing is, will I be able to express myself freely the way I’m now? That’s another question; I may be restricted to do some things, but in WAZOBIA, I’m not.”
In-between her broadcasting job, Ehidiana plans to do more of acting and dancing.
“Recently, I did a radio drama. City Sisters, one of the Sitcoms we did last year before I started work, is already on air. But the thing right now is that I need to get used to my work. With time, I may still start my business because I’m not going to depend on my broadcasting alone.”
You like business a lot?
“Even when I’m married, I won’t like to depend on my husband alone; I will like to contribute and the only way I can do that is by doing something on my own.”
You are lucky many people can’t put a face to your name, else, it would have been difficult doing buying and selling?
“I like it that way; that was why when the idea of using my native name came up, I really loved it because I didn’t want people to know that this is the same Rachael. But some people are just used to my voice; even when I try to fake it, they still catch me. There was even a time I mistakenly introduced myself on air as Rachael Ehidiana, and I was like, ‘oh, my God.’


  1. I am glad WAZOBIA FM will soon start broadcast in PH.
    I believe all the folks at the station are truly talented and portray those things that are good about Nigeria. This is a commendable piece. A window into the lives of the people that make radio interesting. When will we see a piece on Mashe?

  2. How do i get to work with this remarkable station?
    Please mail me at vandibari@yahoo.com