Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Treasure of Airwaves

The original plan was to put a call across to her and possibly fix an interview for a later date. But as it turned out, Funke Treasure Durodola was very considerate.
“You can come around now since you are already on the Island,” she says willfully on phone.
Anyone who lives in this part of the country, must be aware of the usual Lagos traffic jam, especially shuttling from the Mainland to the Island.
Truly, Funke saved lots of hours that would have been wasted on a second trip to her office, possibly.
She was about entering into a meeting when I arrived her office in Ikoyi. However, the award-winning presenter/producer had to squeeze out time for the interview.
An alumnus of the School of Media and Communication of the Pan African University, Lagos, having done an executive course in Media Enterprise in the institution, Treasure Durodola has been working as the country focal point (Nigeria), on the WANAD/ALCO Corridor Project on HIV/AIDS and she oversees the production of features and programmes on six partner radio and TV stations in Lagos on the project.
A Principal Announcer with Radio Nigeria with 13 years experience as a broadcaster, describing her persons seems a difficult task for the Oyo State native; she’s a woman of many parts.
“I’ve been here since 2000,” she says, beaming with smiles.
Before joining FRCN Lagos, Funke had a stint with the Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State (BCA), where she actually cut her teeth.
“I did my youths service in Abia State, where I handled the Orientation Broadcasting Service in camp. After NYSC, I got a job with BCA and I spent about four years with the station; that’s where I started from,” she muses.
Funke’s efforts and versatility on the job landed her the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association/Thompson Foundation Fellowship for International Broadcast Journalism programme in 2005, which opened a new chapter in her already flourishing career.
“It was a three-month summer course in Cardiff, Wales,”she says.
From the onset, Funke had always wished for a working experience with the BBC and that opportunity provided itself during her fellowship programme in the Wales.
“There were these journalists from Jordan; they were sponsored by the BBC. So, one of the officers in charge of training for BBC, Dian, came around to find out how they were fairing. I happened to be the producer of a programme we did in Wales; it was an agricultural show. We had packaged it and we were going to do a critic of it in class and Dian was part of the panel that listened. All the while, I had been telling one of the coordinator that I would like to have a work experience with the BBC; we had been talking about it. So, Dian came and listened to something I had produced for the first time. After that, it was easy for her to say, ‘oh, great, come on in and have the BBC experience.’ That was how it happened,” she recalls.
While other participants for the fellowship were heading back to their countries, Funke left for the BBC office in London.
“I was a guest at BBC for two weeks. I spent one week with the programme, Outlook. It’s a great show, with more than 30 years running. They were about repackaging that show then, so, they needed my insight. I was there for a week, understudying the production; I was also a guest on that show.”
the highpoint of Funke's visit to the Queens's country was during her one week of understudying Network Africa, a BBC programme, where she also featured as a guest.
“that was my dream show," she enthuses. "I had always listened to the programme before anything while I was actively a continuity announcer with Metro FM. I had information on my fingertips then. At that time, a lot of people loved listening to me because then, I was breaking everything to them before they get to work. I’ve always loved Bola Mosuro. I saw her as an idol and role model; I had always wanted to meet her. So, working with her for a week was a dream come true.”
Funke believes that hard work is the watchword for practitioners.
“The loopholes are there, but the idea is for you to go an experience such a place and then see how you can translate whatever you’ve seen there, and add value to what we have here. Though it can be tough in a civil service setup, I’ve been lucky in the sense that I handle a programme on the network service of Radio Nigeria now; it took me time to get there,” she notes.”
What’s the name of the programme?
“It’s called Nigerian Pride; it has to do with our image abroad. People always say, ‘oh Nigeria is a 419 country, oh check their bags…”
Is it part of the re-branding process?
“No, It’s not; we started way back before the re-branding. We started planning in 2007 but airing commenced in 2008. We saw a need … I’ve traveled to a couple of places and I’ve met Nigerians abroad. Yes, we have bad eggs just like every other country, but we are under reporting Nigerians home and abroad. My boss then saw a need for us to showcase these people to the international community.”
Her nomination as one of the finalists for the CNN Journalist Award held in Cape Town, South Africa, paved way for the take off of the programme aimed at highlighting the achievements of Nigerians living in the Diaspora and celebrating them.
“We were to have a week workshop organised by those who sponsored that particular category. My boss, the DG of Radio Nigeria, Ben Egbuna, was there; he was invited as a media executive. He said to me, ‘Treasure, we are thinking of a programme on Nigerians in Diaspora; there are lots of them, who are professionals, contributing to the economies of the countries where they are.’ That was how we started; we were in Pretoria, Johannesburg. Since then, we’ve been to other countries such as Germany.”

To Funke, Nigeria is not all about bad new. “For example, if you get to a place like the UK, there are so many Nigerians that are doing brilliantly well there; I’ve not even done the UK edition of the show and I’m really preparing very well for it. Look, Nigerians are very credible people. I’ve met a lot of them and some of them have returned. There’s a woman who I got in touch with; she was trained as a nurse and she’s into anti-skin bleaching. She has dual citizenship, with children over there, but she’s back in Nigeria now. When she was coming, she called me and said, ‘I’m coming back; Nigeria needs us.’ She was so excited coming home to execute her project here,” she says.
Funke adds, “there’s another medical doctor I interviewed recently. He was in the UK but he returned to Nigeria to set up a health scheme for low-income earners, such that you could be able to pay for your health expenses. He brought his colleagues from different parts of the whole world to Nigeria for a medical mission in the Niger Delta area. He’s settled in Nigeria now.”
For young Nigerians, who queue at embassies from morning till night for visa, the land is not as green at it sounds out there.
“People see travelling abroad as the ticket to wealth, fame and greatness in life. So, when we meet our people there, we talk to them on how they cope with their finances, racism… and how they’ve been able to attain the level they are now. The idea is to paint a picture to Nigerians at home that things are not really as easy as they look.”
Funke is of the opinion that the Nigerian media has a vital role to play in rebuilding of the already battered image of Nigeria, which mostly comes from the Western media.
“The media can help to position ourselves in such a way that we report credible people to let the world know that we have able people. Soludo (Chukwuma Soludo) was in the Diaspora before he came to Nigeria. Somebody discovered that the man can do something, and we’ve seen what his contribution has been in the banking sector. We have Nigeria in Diaspora, who you can beat your chest any day and say, ‘thank God I’m a Nigeria.’ We need to let people at home know that we have people like this abroad and also let people abroad know that we have credible people among us here,” she says.
According to the producer, no country is free of fraudulent people.
“A colleague of mine from the NTA said her bad was stole abroad; the bag was stolen right in a place that’s supposed to be secured. And she said to herself, ‘this can never happen in Nigeria, not in a place like this.’ The minister for information (Dora Akunyili) was on a programme on the NTA recently, and she was talking about how her handbag was stolen at the airport abroad and the French press did not report it. But if it was in Nigeria and it happened to a visiting minister, we would have gone to town with it. The point is that we have credible Nigerians out there and I believe they are much more than the ones, who engage in fraudulent acts abroad; we need to showcase these people. We need to have a voice as the media”
Though there’s need for objectivity in the media, Funke insist that the interest of the country should also be considered in the process of information dissemination.
“The media is really not that objective anywhere in the world; there’s some form of subjectivity in the media. CNN will tell you they are objective, but they have their agenda. Who is our voice? What’s the agenda the Nigerian media is pursuing internationally? How are we positioning ourselves abroad? It’s not about reporting people, and events, what are we doing proactively to position Nigeria.”
But it seems the Nigerian media is in some sort of loggerhead with the government, if not, what is delaying the freedom of information bill (FoI) for years?
“I don’t think because we don’t have the FoI bill, we should do whatever we want to do,” she says. “I think it should get us to think creatively on how we could work; we are going to get it anyway, but I know the lawmakers are just trying to remove one thing or the other or put one clause here and there. But we as media people, we got to have an agenda; we need to have common front internationally. What do we stand for? Yes, Nigerians are fraudulent people; they are being deported every now and then, but where are the success stories,” she says.
But how can we achieve that when politicians and businessmen, who think less of national agenda, mostly control the media in Nigeria?
“Well, you can’t stop anybody from setting up shop as a broadcaster, but the regulators can insist on good content. Apart from the business, everyone has a corporate social responsibility; somebody has to ensure that these media organisations have corporate responsibility. It doesn’t have to be public owned stations. It’s our responsibility to hold the torch of excellent for Nigeria. We might not look excellent now, but we have credible people all over the world.”

The 2008 Nigeria Media Merit Award winner, Funke, has also won the Child to Child Producer of the Year, FRCN Excellence Award 2008 and Best Radio Feature 2007 - JAAIDS Red Ribbon Award. She won the Bournvita Education Reporter of the Year Award 2007 and was a category finalist (HIV Journalism) at the 2007 CNN /Multi Choice African Journalist of the Year Award in Cape Town, South Africa.
In Nov/Dec 2008, she co –organised and facilitated a reporting skills exchange workshop between German and Nigerian TV journalists with Human Trafficking as its theme. The workshop held for two weeks each in Benin, Nigeria and Berlin, Germany, with a total of 12 TV journalists from the two countries participating.

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