I Didn’t Know I’ll Be A Newscaster -Bimbo Oloyede

Mrs. Bimbo Oloyede started her career with the then Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, now Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as a broadcaster. In this interview Oloyede talks about her passion to see women get actively involved in politics and sundry issues

Why are you embarking on a campaign for women in politics?

Well, I think it is quite basic. The percentage of women involved in politics (that is women who have been elected into political positions, not appointed) is so low and it just does not make sense to neglect half the population. You don’t just dismiss 50 per cent of the population and assume that only 50 per cent is enough; it doesn’t make sense.

Women are making so many contributions in so many other ways. When it comes to decision making in politics, why should they be denied the opportunity to offer their service?

We all know that women are very good managers and good organisers; why then when it comes to politics would they not be able to utilise the same skills? As far as I am concerned, I think women need to take the centre stage.

That is why we call it Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality for women but the acronym is The STAGE. It is a deliberate choice because we want women to be on the centre stage; they have been in the wings for far too long. In fact in some instances, I would say they’ve been behind the curtains, they have been in the green room, Bimbo Oloyede223but not centre stage. So it is time for women to take their rightful place.

Jonathan’s government gave women prominence by giving them 35 per cent of slots but not so with the current government.

There are very few women in both governments. The numbers actually decreased from the 2011-2015 elections. I don’t think it is a question of personality. I think it is a question of policy because the political parties are supposed to make room for women. There is supposed to be a deliberate plan to include women, first of all in the party hierarchy as well as the representative positions.

So it is not a large fall but the reduction in the percentage of women in elective positions does not speak well of a country that is supposed to be progressive.

It is not progressive to oppress women; it is progressive to include women. So if we want to be known as a progressive nation and after all we’ve signed up to many international treaties that say women will be included, why don’t we then domesticate those signatures that have been written? Why don’t we become progressive indeed and not just in thought?

The campaign says men have been holding on to power for too long and that is why nothing seems to be working. The reason is that women are not included. How do you break the jinx come 2019? How do you mobilise the women?

Well, the reason why the coalition is starting now is because in the past, we discovered that most moves to get women involved didn’t actually get made until maybe six months, nine months and at most one year before the elections. That period of time is not enough to galvanise the women. So that was why this coalition decided that we would start now. We have certain strategies in place. We formally presented the coalition in September on Democracy Day.

The plan is to follow up by presenting THE STAGE in one or two other states. Of course, if funds permit, there is no reason why we cannot actually launch in each geo-political zone, but we have to start somewhere. First of all, we have to create awareness that this coalition exists and let women who are interested in politics know that there is a coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that is willing to support, willing to train, willing to let them understand what the processes are.

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Once women know about the coalition, those of them who are interested, those of them who may not have ever thought about it may become interested by listening to what we have to say. That is why we want to start now because we have got four years to do it.

What really motivated you into establishing Women Optimum Development Foundation (WODEF)?

In the last may be three to four years of the 90s, I was co-producing and presenting a programme on television called Crystal with three friends of mine. During that time, I was exposed to a lot of issues that women had to contend with. I was unaware about those things, until we started producing that magazine programme for women. We delved into a variety of issues and met a variety of women who were making wonderful contributions to development and to the society.

As a result of that, I felt that if we could not get the corporate world at that time – I am talking as far back as 1997 – to buy into the issues that women faced, then perhaps, if I established a Non-Governmental Organisation, I might be able to get some funders to support some of the issues to which I had been exposed. That was what actually made me establish the Women’s Optimum Development Foundation (WODEF).

My constituency is the media and I felt that at least I could spend more time or sometime highlighting some of these issues by coming up with different ideas and projects.

That was why WODEF was established at that point and since that time, we‘ve been able to do TV Drama on corruption and violence against women. We have also produced radio drama on different aspects of violence against women. We received support to produce those programmes on Radio and TV.

The unfortunate thing is that the majority of the international funders rarely have time for the media, they don’t even have the inclination for the media and they certainly don’t have a budget for media. So, it has been very difficult to continue to get support to spotlight some of these issues.

Are there some wrongs being done to women which you want corrected?

The issue of rape, I think, is very pertinent. Obviously, we would want a situation where women don’t get raped, but I think we also want a situation where those who are found culpable must be made accountable; they must be punished. There must be some kind of deterrent. It is not enough to say that there is a law that is going to take care of those who have been found guilty of rape.

They must be punished and they must serve their sentences. Otherwise, people will keep on raping women and not just women, children, young girls and small girls and they will keep on getting away with it. I think that is appalling.

What is the scorecard of WODEF?

I don’t know what you mean by scorecard. I can tell you that in the last 15 years since we have been in existence, apart from the jingles and programmes that I think we’ve done, we have had a project which is called Rare Gems.

That project is something that we have done on an annual basis to reward and award and celebrate those who have been actualising the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There are a lot of women and men and organisations who have gone out of their way to make the MDGs work. Although Nigeria did not succeed in it entirely, that does not mean that we should not applaud those who made efforts along those lines.

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So between the year 2000 and 2015 on International Women’s Day, we usually give out awards and between then and now we’ve given out 100 awards. Well the MDGs have basically come to an end and we are now into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but I doubt if we will go that way with the awards. But one interesting thing that I think we did towards the end of this project was that we involved secondary schools in Lagos State.

We got them to identify the Rare Gems and we have done this project in collaboration with several agencies over the years but our main partner has always been the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Lagos.

We’ve also had the support of the then UNIFEM now UN Women and UNPA from time to time. We divided the goals between the schools and for 2015, we got them to assess the Lagos State Government’s attainment of the MDGS.

This year’s report feature very interesting findings. Looking at our scorecard, I don’t think I can score WODEF very high in several areas but I would score WODEF very high in effort, in commitment, in dedication to doing what we do and utilising whatever funds available to us as prudently and creatively as possible. When funds are not available, we make personal contributions.

What were your growing up years like?

I grew up abroad. I came back at the age of 21 and started working with the then NBC/TV as an assistant producer and after some months. I was posted to the news department where I worked on the editorial desk and anchored the Network News until I resigned in 1980.

You studied Secretarial Studies but found yourself in broadcasting. Did you ever dream of being a broadcaster?

Before I went to The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, I went to Pittman’s College where I did a Secretarial Course. Then, at Drama School, I learned about Stage Management. That was the forerunner for the TV production job I was offered when I was employed as an assistant producer.

But all along, from the age of eight or nine, I participated in elocution lessons and took Guild Hall examinations in speech and drama. I also took part in drama festivals.

So I was always involved in drama as a performer. For me, there is a meeting point between drama, elocution and being a news anchor. You act out a role to some degree and you are mindful of speech and presentation but at the same time, you cannot ignore production values like sound and lighting to produce an acceptable result.

Why do couples in broadcasting have broken marriages? What has been the secret of your successful marriage?

First of all, I disagree. I don’t think there is a higher percentage of failure in marriages in the broadcast sector. I think it is just because we happen to be in the public eye and so you get to know what is happening. But I wouldn’t say that broadcasters’ marriages have a higher percentage of failure than those of lawyers that are married to each other or doctors that are married to each other or architects that are married to each other.

So what is the secret behind your successful marriage?

The secret behind my own marriage? Well, we are friends, we get on well, we understand each other, we respect each other, we give each other space and our expectations of each other are not ridiculously high. But that is not all; we also have strong faith, we believe in God, we believe that we should be prayerful, honest with each other and trust each other and that is it. It is give and take because nobody is perfect.

Who were your role models?

I didn’t have one in newscasting because it never crossed my mind. I never knew that I was going to be a news anchor. It wasn’t something that I ever gave one second of thought; it was something that was thrust upon me. I was simply told 24 hours before we started the network news. I was called by my Controller of Programmes, the late Eno Irukwu. She called me to her office and said, “Tomorrow you are going to read the news. We are going nationwide and we need fresh faces and voices. We want you to be one of them and you are kicking off tomorrow with Ikenna Ndaguba.” That was how I came into news anchoring.

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Your job entails you getting home late. How were you able to manage the homefront?

Funny enough, there has never been any real issue about late working hours for me. In the early days, we did shift work so we could organise ourselves at home. I usually had assistance at home and our children went to boarding schools.

So my activities in TV, moderating, attending workshops or training in Lagos, round the country or even abroad were not hampered then or now. Of course now, I only inconvenienced myself by coming home close to midnight after the News at Ten. My husband is very familiar with the challenges of TV production and whatever my schedule is, he has always been supportive. In any case, in the course of running Media International, our production company, our duties sometimes overlap and when that happens, we travel together.

The military coup exposed your inherent talent. What was your experience like?

It was after the Murtala Muhammed coup. Those of us in the drama department were challenged to come out with a programme to eulogise the late Head of State because our regular artistes were constrained by the curfew. I was one of those featured and I read poetry. I did not know that there was a plan for the network news and I was not aware that they were scouting for people, for new faces and new voices. I think it was as a result of my performance that I was instructed to report in the Newsroom. That was how I became a news anchor.

How did you meet your husband?

I met him at the station. He was the second in command in the drama department and I was one of his staffers -that is how we met.

What is your fashion style?

I don’t think I have a fashion style. I like to be comfortable. I like colours that match and blend but I don’t think I have a particular style. I believe in being formal when anchoring the news but that’s about as stylistic as I am. Other than that, I like to be informal.

Do you have a beauty regimen?

I exercise, I jog may be twice or thrice a week. When I can, I eat a lot of cucumber and I try to drink as much water as I can.

Your hair is almost going white. Is it natural? Why not dye it as most women do?

No, No. I am not interested in dyeing my hair. I prefer it the way it is and I have a feeling that if I dye it, I will spend the rest of my life dyeing it. So the shorter the time I spend under a dryer at the hairdressing salon, the better for me. In any case, it is hereditary. My mother’s hair is all white, so, I guess one of these days, my hair will be completely white too.

What advice would you give to up and coming broadcasters?

I think up and coming broadcasters should be more particular about being professional, they should understand that they have a role to play; they should understand that there are responsibilities attached to their jobs. They should not lay claim to celebrity status just because their faces or voices are popular. Professionalism will ultimately earn them the accolades.