Ace broadcaster, radio and television presenter, Ambrose Olutayo Somide, , has retold how he joined the Daar Communication Plc, owner of Raypower FM, Faaji FM and Africa Independent Television (AIT) decades ago.
Somide, who is currently Director, Radio Services, Daar Communication Plc, DCP spoke during a monitored special Yoruba radio tribute for Chief (Dr.) Raymond Dokpesi, the late founder and pioneer of privately owned radio station in Nigeria who died on Tuesday, May 29, 2023
Going down memory lane, the Egba born On-Air-Personality said: "let us start from the day I began my broadcasting career on March 1, 1983 at the then Radio Nigeria, Kobape Road, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
He continued: "I have narrated the story before that after writing our stories at Ogbe, we used to take it down to Radio Nigeria, Kobape. Our boss, Mr. Dapo Olufade, who is still very much alive was the head of news then".
"In 1984, after the military took over power, the radio station was shut down and many members of the Radio Nigeria, Kobape were relieved of their appointments".
"While many of us were redeployed to Ibadan, few were lucky with their appointments at the OGBC Abeokuta. For me, I secured employment at the Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation, OPIC. As an employee of OPIC, I was among those who surveyed the Agbara, Lusada and Igbesa lands".
"Later, I gained admission into the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, where I later graduated in Urban and Regional Planning. While in the university, I was still involved in broadcasting".
"After completion of the degree programme, I returned to the OGBC where I worked until 1992 when the military administration of Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida announced deregulation of broadcasting in the country".
"One of those Nigerians who grabbed the opportunity the deregulation provided was the late Chief (Dr.) Raymond Dokpesi. It first started as a cable television in Ibadan. During this period, I was working in the OGBC where Kenny Ogungbe was also running a programme.
"It was him ( Kenny) that hinted me that he had discussed with Chief Dokpesi his possibility of establishing a radio station. I later told our boss, Olusesan Ekinsola. We later met Chief Dokpesi at his Victoria Island, Lagos where several meetings took place".
"I remember very well one of the meetings that started after dinner around 8.00pm but at about 2.00am, when it was still ongoing, Chief (Mrs) Moji Dokpesi returned to the kitchen to prepare steaming rice for us. After the meeting at about 5.00am, we left for Abeokuta".
"We continued the discussion on daily basis. As the June 12 protest raged, we continued the meeting. We usually left Abeokuta for Lagos as early as 5.30am so as to avoid blockade of road at Ifo where there used to be bonfire forcing us to manoeuvre our ways through viĺlages around Ifo until we burst out at the major road".
"Also, we usually encountered blockade at Sango Otta forcing us to pass through many unconventional routes where there were no bonefire until we got to Alagbado".
"Later, Chief Dokpesi travelled to the US to procure necessary broadcasting equipment for the project. While this lasted, we used to commute between Alagbado on daily basis to supervise the ongoing struçture. After things have taken shape, we were asked to go and resign our appointment with our employer - OGBC".
"My boss, Olusesan Ekinsola, Segun Shylon and my humble self later joined the project. On December 15, 1993, the Raypower transmitter was officially switched on and Raypower started on provisional license.
"All this while, the military administration of Gen. Sanni Abacha has seized power from the Interim National Government administration of Chief Ernest Sonekan. Many people expressed doubt about the viability of the radio, particularly during a military rule.
"Despite the doubting Thomases, the chief promoter, Chief Dokpesi always assured us of the workability and possibility of the project. On the eve of Christmas 1993, we began to hear from the grapevine that there was an imminent closure of the radio"
"Few days after the Christmas celebrations we were shocked to hear through a television announcement that a radio located in Alagbado operating without licence should fold up immediately or face the wrath of government".
"With this development, many of us celebrated the Christmas and New Year in bad mood. We were at crossroads as we could not return to our former places of work. We could no longer transmit to the listening public as we could not switch on the transmitter".
"I remember very well that we became object of scorn and laughter by our colleagues, friends and even family members. Of particular note were our professional colleagues; those we left behind at the OGBC as they appeared to be doing better than us. They were wondering how we left certainty for uncertainty; following a marine engineer who knows nothing about broadcasting".
"They were mocking us, but we remained steadfast and committed to the radio project. While this bitter experience lasted, we were never starved as the management took care of our feeding as well as on monthly basis, Chief Dokpesi used to give us stipends for our family members that we left behind at our various homes".
"Like a commander who has led his warriors to war, Chief Dokpesi never abandoned us at any point in time. Along with Chief Dokpesi, I remember very well that there were occassions when we used to make loaves of bread with bottles of soft drinks as our menu".
"As this bitter experience raged, some people approached my mother, now of blessed memory, to persuade me to return to my former employers as many of my colleagues left behind were already car owners.
"May her soul rest in perfect peace, I understand my dear late mother asked them if the production of vehicles overseas have stopped. According to her, if they have not stopped production and importation of vehicles into the country, I would in no distant future purchase my own car.
" I can't remember exactly whether it was on the 12th or 13th August 1994 that Baba returned from Abuja only to announce that we have been granted full licence. For me and my colleagues, the excitement turned emotional with many of us shedding tears of joy".
"As for me in the course of celebrations, I injured myself after running on a soakaway. That was how we surmounted the initial radio challenges as we later ran the test transmission for another two weeks. So, on September 1, 1994, we commenced commercial broadcasting".
"After about 2 years, Raypower became a success story with its chief promoter, Chief Dokpesi informing us that he had recouped the initial capital on the radio project. He later announced that his next project was the establishment of a television. Although we believed in his midas touch, but many of us considered it too capital intensive.
"A daring and trail blazing personality, Chief Dokpesi, who dreaded where lions held sway asked us not to worry. As usual, he assured that God would see us through the television project. To him, nothing is impossible as he believed that if a wall stands against one, one should endeavour to climb it. However, if one could not climb it, the wall should be broken and thereafter repaired. We're grateful to God, both Raypower and AIT have changed the face and history of broadcasting in Nigeria with their 24-hour transmission which initially many people considered impossible."
"I know a veteran broadcaster in Ibadan who had asked me to tell my boss, Chief Dokpesi that embarking on a 24-hour transmission would spell financial doom for the company, as for several years, we operated on generating machines.
"However, Chief Dokpesi, a goal getter and trailblazer was unperturbed as he went ahead. The rest is history now. May his soul rest in perfect peace", Somide prayed.
A widely travelled broadcast journalist, Somide has attended many radio and television trainings, seminars and workshops both within and outside Nigeria.