Omolola Akinbo is the Head of Programmes at Crest FM, Akure. In this interview with Boluwatife Adedokun, the radio diva, laid bare her passion for radio broadcasting, the support she got from her husband, and her relationship with the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo.
Can we meet you?
My name is Omolola Akinbo. I’m a broadcast journalist. I love adventure, reading, I’m a movie addict, I love to talk, teach and I am easygoing. I love to impact knowledge into people which I think is my major selling point and something very vital about me. I love to meet people, impact knowledge, gain knowledge. Also I do not pretend to know it all. I like to get new experiences when I meet people, so I go out of my way to glean knowledge from people. I constantly strive to improve upon myself but I’m also very shy. I am a very shy person. People don’t believe it but I’m very shy. If I come out of my way to introduce myself to you, then there’s really something about you that is intriguing and I want to know. That’s me in a nutshell. A broadcast journalist, wife, mother and a loyal friend to those I am close to.
How have you been marinating your career and the home front?
It has never been easy managing my career and the home front. You have to pay the price at the beginning. People do not understand that it is so vital. You have to pay the price in the beginning. What do I mean by paying the price? I’m glad that I married someone who understood my desire and my drive especially in broadcasting, so the days I had to do nights back-to-back at the office, he understood that that was what it took for me to become what I want to become in future. He had to stay home with the kids. He had to be the one taking care of the kids, so as I grew in the career, as I grew as a mother, I was able to better balance things. I won’t really say to myself that I have struck a successful balance of both worlds, but at one time or the other, unfortunately the family did suffer more but because of the drive I had to find ways to balance it, the days that I don’t work weekends, I make sure my family was the number one priority and when I’m at work I had to put checks and balances in place to ensure that the home front was well secure. As I grew on in my career it got easier. I haven’t gotten all my t’s crossed and all my i’s dotted even till now 15 years down the line, but it’s better than the beginning. You must pay the price, if you do not pay the price at the beginning you’ll pay the price at the end. You just have to strike the balance. When you need to spend time at work, make sure the home front is well protected and the time you’re at home, make sure they’re priority. Do not also forget yourself. Getting better and getting training and resting when it is really important is key to a healthy mind.
Why did you choose radio broadcasting over TV knowing well that you’re photogenic?
Oh wow I am so flattered you think I am photogenic! Radio was actually something I stumbled into. I didn’t really prepare my mind I was going to do anything with Mass Communication, so when I took it up, it was more like an opportunity that opened up its door. I started off both as a radio and television presenter but then radio won at the end of the day because it gives you flexibility. It gives you this sense of deep research as there is this creativity that can come from being behind a microphone that the TV does not really give you. For me, radio anonymity is no longer anonymous. At Crest FM we’re streaming online across all social media platforms, so it’s no longer as anonymous as it was. Before now, people could only identify by your voice but now, it’s not just by your voice but also by your face, so gone were the days when you could just hide behind the microphone, now everybody can see who you are. Modern technology is really changing broadcasting from what we’ve always known it to be but I love radio. It is beautiful. It’s is acting without having to be under so much strain from being in front of a camera. It’s been a beautiful experience for me.
How long have you been a radio broadcaster?
I have been a broadcaster now for over 15 years. I started full-time broadcasting just after university, before I went for service. I started with Grace FM in Lokoja, Kogi State and I’ve never looked back since then. I just keep growing and getting better at my craft.
What are the peculiar challenges you face as i. A broadcaster ii. A female broadcaster?
Peculiar challenges has to do with knowing the kind of trainings I wanted to go for. One of the ways I was able to streamline that is to have a picture of who I wanted my mentor to be. Who did I want to pattern my news drive, my news style by? Who did I feel I could learn from their style of doing things in broadcasting and introducing that into my own life as a broadcaster. My particular challenge was believing in myself that I was as good as anyone on the international stage but it got easier after a discovered my mentor, because I could now see exactly where my career could be in the next 10, 20 or so years down the line. It was easier after I picked out a mentor for myself. As a female broadcaster, for me my mentor had to be someone who I perceived had been able to reach a successful balance both on the home front and broadcasting as a career. So particular challenges for me was trainings on speaking better, trainings on being more polished, trainings on how to ask questions during interviews, how to get the very best out of your guests… so that was a particular challenge for me and the answer to it was get a mentor. Someone who you could plot your life around or after and it made so much sense.
You’re the head of programmes at Crest FM, Akure, will you say your station’s programming has impacted on your audience?
Crest FM’s programming has impacted on our listening audience. We changed the pattern of what they were used to be and brought something away from the norm. The audience respond differently now to current affairs issues in Ondo state. Before Crest FM came on came on board everything could go but after we started transmission and of course became the number one news and current affairs radio station in the southwest, even the people upped their game. There is a standard now that they have come to understand and they would not settle for anything less. We at Crest FM, we’re very meticulous about the quality of programs we put out. Every time, every quarter, we sit and strategize on how can we make programs better. What programs are not living up to expectations, we take them out. What programs can we improve upon? So we do not take our listening audience for granted. We continue giving quality programming. We keep improving on our presentation skills. We keep improving on our research. It’s a whole board game when we come to put topics together, to put ideas together, to bring about that program that you probably just listen to for 30 minutes or 1 hour. It took a whole team of research to keep thinking of ways to providing quality programming and quality presenters always.
Do you have a good relationship with your colleagues in the state, particularly those who work with you at Crest FM and other media stations in Akure?
I do have a beautiful working relationship with my colleagues at Crest FM. We are a family and I’m not just saying that because I am being interviewed and I want to make my station sound nice. No! Crest FM is a family. We believe in teamwork. We believe in supporting each other. We believe in pushing ourselves to becoming better. With other female colleagues across stations, I have a great relationship with most of them especially those I know. When we see each other, there’s no rivalry, we leave that to Nollywood. We support each other, we help each other out, we are there for each other and that is common about the broadcasting world. We are more of a team than people competing against each other and believe me, we make a formidable team.
It is often said that most female OAPs are arrogant, are you arrogant?
Really?! Female OAPs are arrogant?! Wow! This is the first time I’m hearing of this! No! I don’t believe I am arrogant. I see that as a character flaw. It’s not something that is domiciled in a certain gender. What you may perceive as arrogance may just be self confidence in knowing how far we have come. The hurdles we have overcome and the people we are being right now. Accomplished people, richly deserving of their successes. No, I am not arrogant and no I do not believe female OAPs are arrogant! We have come a long way. We have overcome so many challenges and we are here to stay. We are some of the best at this job so do thank us!
Awolowo is one of your names as seen on your Facebook profile. Can you shed more light on that, knowing well that the name is a household one in Yoruba land?
I am a descendant of the famous Awolowo family dynasty. The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo is actually my great-uncle. He and my grandfather had the same Father and Mother, so he’s actually my great-uncle. I read books about his life because I was very young when he passed, but then I read books about his life. I know he left huge shoes for us to follow as Nigerians. I am proudly from Ogun State, I am proudly Ikenne, and I am proudly Ijebu. I am the grandniece of the famous Obafemi Awolowo.
Today’s society is faced with a lot of challenges. Particularly, let’s discuss the youths. If they’re not into substance abuse, they’re into internet fraud and other negativity. They want to make it quick. You’re atop an important section at Crest FM – a Programme Head. Do you think radio can help salvage these challenges facing our youths?
The media is a very important means of changing people’s mindsets. It’s very important because you can start a war through the media. You can end the war through the media. If there is one thing or a message we need to pass right now through the media to the younger people in society, it is that it’s okay to wait. It’s okay for things to slowdown. This sense that everything needs to happen now! now!! now!!! It’s put a lot of young people in trouble because of instant noodles that is food in less than 5 minutes, we’ve raised a generation that believes everything can be answered within the twinkling of an eye and that is not true. You build character overtime. You build resilience overtime. You build success, wealth over time. It has to take time for the foundation to be laid, it takes time for the lintel of a house to be fixed, so young people who indulge in all that and then just listen to the radio or to the TV or to music or to whatever just for that quick fix, it’s not true! It’s a facade! It’s a lie that has been sold to you and radio can help salvage the situation. If everybody works together to produce programs that help… what do I mean? People will spend billions of naira, billions of dollars, to have a reality TV show that teaches nothing but when it comes to funding an entrepreneur, same reality TV show, you would not see one single investor or you’ll see less people coming to invest. So for young people, it’s a disappointment and they just feel that any means is the quickest way to make money. You have to build business. You have to build a certain form of lifestyle that can sustain wealth. It takes character that will last throughout the years. You know I see people like Mo Abudu of Ebonylife, it took years! It wasn’t something she woke up yesterday and six months she was there! No! It took years! So we all need to understand there is no quick fix. You may have an idea that is good but then it takes time for that seed to grow to yield to become the money making machine you want it to be. It’s not just a one-day thing and the media can do that by partnering with relevant organisations to turn out quality programs that can change the mindset of this generation. They didn’t turn out like this, it was based on programs we put out there so to change their mindset, we need programs that can help build positive thinking.