Former managing director of Metro FM, Lagos, Mrs. Ndidi Osaka, recently came out of retirement to mark the silver jubilee of I beg Una, a pidgin English programme she created to highlight the ills in society.
It was a colourful event that saw awards going to MTN Nigeria, the Lagos Sector Command of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and an individual award to ex-LAWMA boss Ola Oresanya.
To add more verve to the occasion, the management of the station invited a few ardent listeners who had followed the audience phone-in programme over the years to have a feel of the studio. Each one of them had an opportunity to go on air.
The studio was a beehive of activity. The facility saw large crowds of the station’s alumni and on-air personalities, including Charles Anazodo and Nonye Alegbe, coming in to add lustre to the event. A 25th anniversary cake was cut as part of the celebration.
It was learnt from the marketing unit of the radio station that the audacious I beg Una, which was created by Mrs. Osaka in 1995 (at a time it was too dangerous to have an audience phone-in programme), is the highest revenue earner for the station.
At the moment, I beg Una is a two-hour programme that airs between 10 a.m. and 12 noon every Tuesday and Thursday.
Over the years, sponsors have been falling heads over heels to grab a segment of the programme to showcase their offerings. For more than 15 years, MTN Nigeria has maintained a hold on one of the segments.
Mrs. Osaka was everywhere on the occasion. The radio queen, who quit the services of Radio Nigeria, having attained the mandatory retirement age, years ago, manages to visit the studio to participate in the programme on Tuesdays to assist the current anchor, Comfort Agba, aka Comfilala.
In his days at LAWMA, Oresanya extensively leveraged the programme in his advocacy engagements with Lagos residents. At the event, he said: “I always listened to I beg Una. This is the only programme that really highlights the problems of Lagos. People listen to it and use it a lot to vent their feelings. That was why we made a promise to support it and I did.
“Marking 25 years is a milestone. I think, because of it, other radio stations in the city have developed their own Pidgin English programmes.
“The language is simply Pidgin. Everybody can speak it. That is why everybody listens to it.”
The Lagos Sector Commander of the FRSC, Mr. Segun Ogugbemide, who received his organisation’s award on the occasion, expressed happiness at being present. He said: “I thank the management of the station and I beg Una for this award given to us. We are happy with the partnership we share and the great services you have been rendering to the good people of Lagos.”
Mrs. Osaka is now an Onitsha titled woman. Her title is Eziogoli, woman of virtue.
Osaka told the reporter that she was fired to create the programme by the anomalies that reigned over 25 years ago, which needed to be addressed.
“I feel great. I feel highly elated. For me, this celebration is the height of fulfilment. I never believed I would celebrate I beg Una at 25, judging by the fact that, when the programme started, I had a lot of challenges with the powers that be. The feeling all over the place was, ‘How can such a programme be on air – a programme that was fishing out the ills in the society and addressing them?’
“Then, Radio Nigeria 2 was on Martins Street on Lagos Island, where a lot of things used to happen.
“Then, coming out of outer Marina, you would see men in their jackets, defecating and urinating on outer Marina, not minding who was looking on.
“Then, every part of Lagos State, you would hear that so, so landlord removed the roof of their tenants for one reason or the other. They always did it at the peak of the rainy season so that their tenants would feel it the hardest.
“The traders were just cheating everybody. Those cheated had nowhere to express their anger.
“Right there on Martins Street, we saw and heard a lot. It was drama all the way. You would see, men in jackets – bankers – lining up with plates in hand to patronise ‘Mama Put’ – local canteens.
“We had the notorious Oluwole area close by, where every document under the sun could be forged in a jiffy. They all gave us a lot of materials to work with.
“I now looked at the situation and said ‘why is nobody addressing these ills? Let me create a programme that people could call in and make complaints. The storyline must come from the people. That was how it all started.
“This programme sacked a lot of people who were in the habit of doing evil. When their organisation investigated and saw that the allegations against them were grievous, they were sacked.
“When we survived the first year, we celebrated. Many sued the station but they didn’t go far. Then sponsors started coming in. I never knew the programme would come this far.”
The current handler of the programme, Comfort Agba, also expressed joy at anchoring the programme, which she said she started listening to while she was in secondary school. She said her nickname, Comfilala, came from her co-presenter.