Oyeyinka Oludayisi Fabowale
‘Maestro’ is a household name to numerous radio audience, most especially, listeners of Petals Family 102.3FM, Ibadan, Oyo State, and the global online platform.
But only a few among his fans, perhaps, knew the nickname belongs to Dotun Saseyi, the General Manager of one of the leading radio stations in the Oyo State capital. A consummate journalist and broadcaster, Saseyi has paid his dues, having traversed both print and electronic media including the Nigerian Tribune, Third Eye newspapers, Galaxy Television, and Television Continental (TVC) where he was Head of Programmes before berthing at Petals.
In this chat, the On-Air-Personality (OAP), who delights listeners with his rich baritone voice on his inspirational talk, This Is Not Your Pastor, every Sunday morning, and breaks down issues in the news and polity on the current affairs shows, narrates his odyssey in the industry, submitting that despite apparent advance in technology, passion and professionalism are on the wane among the new breed.
Aside raising concern over the future of broadcasting in Nigeria, the Petals FM boss also recounts one of his close shaves with death, in which former governor of Oyo State, Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala, then a council chairman, saved him from being lynched by angry mob. Enjoy it.
What was your first day on air like as a broadcaster?
That has a story behind it. My boss, very fantastic man, Chief Steve Ojo wanted me to start a programme and get on air, but I was running away from that. I did not want to get on air. I just wanted to do and file my reports as a reporter. I wanted to work behind the scene, but it was not because I was afraid of anything, I was not. I just felt more comfortable off-air than on air and so anytime he popped into Ibadan, he would ask: ‘Where is the programme synopsis that I asked you to develop?’ I would say to him, ‘I’m working on it, sir!’ And he would not say anything. It was about the third time that he was going to ask me, ‘Where is the synopsis?’ Again, I replied that I was working on it. Then he said, ‘Look, if I come back again and ask you for that programme and it is not flying, you are fired’. So, I thought ‘this man will fire me o, let me put something together’. So, I started a programme which was current affairs-based, I think it was more reportorial than any other thing. So, I would look at current events in Ibadan, maybe three or five and try to be a little bit expressive and a little more expansive than your regular news. So, I packed those ones and presented them. That was how I got him off my back. But the first day I reckon was my baptism of fire was the day I interviewed the then Governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo. He came to Galaxy TV studio and I was to interview him with another of my colleague. I do not remember clearly now if it was Ugochukwu Emezue or Emenike Agwu. But it was with either of them and so I had a thousand butterflies in my belly on that occasion. I think I slipped up a little, but I cannot remember how the slip-up actually occurred, but it was there I ran it back and apologized to the gentleman and everything went fine. Until tomorrow, I still have butterflies in my belly every time I go on air, but the point is you kind of get to a point that you control it.
Are you satisfied with the quality of professional practice and environment we have now?
You know, in the private sector then; it is not like you are going to become the chairman. If your employers were happy with you, maybe they would just add some things to your salary from time to time. So, we were all like peers just doing our bit, a lot of healthy rivalry and people tried to prove their mettle and if you know Galaxy television of those days, we went out with cameras as reporters, so I was taking my own shots, coming back and doing my editing. I started out doing the non-linear editing. That’s part of the versatility Chief Steve Ojo imparted in us. I enjoyed it because I did not have to ask any cameraman where is this shot, where is that shot. I could start writing my story as I was taking the shot. So, I knew precisely what shot would be suitable for my story and so those were shots I would take first before I did the general bit. So, I got back to the studio, write up my story about 10 minutes and finish my editing. In another 10-15 minutes, I was done and on my way home. Remember that everyone was thinking Channels, AIT, but after a while, it was not AIT anymore. In our stride, we were able to push Channels too a couple of times in Lagos because of the kind of innovation that was brought into the Galaxy news packaging. The vice president of Galaxy, Engineer Francis Ojo was really into that creative aspect of things and he created the National Pulse. He would write and I would voice it with some dramatic stuff. Sometimes, I would write and voice it and it hooked Lagos that time, which was what gave us the push to edge Channels Television at a point. Also, we were over the place, trying to get news as it was breaking and then created the Abuja presence. So, we fought to that point, I think that was some kind of highpoint in my career, I was pleased when the ratings came out and we were topping Channels at that time.
Could you talk about the hazards of the job?
I’d look back and see a time when I went to cover the Ife-Modakeke war and was almost killed. Every time I recall this, it reminds me of Shina Abba, who was the Area Commander then. I think he was DIG when (Muhammadu) Buhari resumed office and took off all those senior officers. I think the war was about its end and I was told to go look what the situation was like in the area, you know, just look around and take shots of a few places, and I thought on this occasion, I would have a cameraman tag along, because of the peculiar assignment. So, I called Seun Falomo, who accompanied me along with my driver and we went to Ile Ife together. When we got to OAU (Obafemi Awolowo University) junction, everywhere was deserted; nobody was outside. So, I said ‘in any case, let us run through the town and see if we could talk to a few people’. So, I took some shots and we stopped at Seventh Day Adventist to take some shots of burnt buildings on both sides. As we were approaching Lagere, we talked to some people and we thought maybe the town was in the process of calming down and proceeded further. We got to Moore Police Station just to talk to the DPO if possible; you know, the DPO does not talk to someone without clearance. Fortunately, we were told the Commissioner of Police would be coming to see the Area Commander, who would be with them soon. So, we waited. The CP came and we interviewed him, and I thought maybe I had enough and should be going back to Ibadan. Then the Area Commander said ‘let us go through Modakeke and link through the other end’. We were in our vehicle and they took theirs too. There was this NTA guy who drove in this vehicle they call Boxer Peugeot? He was tagging along. When we got to the road that led to Modakeke, you know that stretch, we drove in there. As soon as we got to one school, I heard this gunshot coming from the other side. We thought it was a one-off thing, the next one that came… You needed to see, Yinka. If I would just ask one of my bosses, Engr. Francis Ojo to let me have that shot so I could show you. The Area Commander just flattened out, he was down and then the Mopol officers that came with him started replying these chaps, and then we left the place. I could tell you many incidents like that.
Also, I remember the day I went to see what was happening when the NURTW people were killing one another in Ogbomoso, and I was almost killed. That was when Tokyo was leading the NURTW and there was another person who was dragging the leadership with him. By the time I got to Oyo, there were too many dead people and there were guys all over the place with red eyes. You know, smoking openly. As we approached where they were, suddenly, somebody just saw the guy who drove me and said, ‘yes, this guy, it’s Tokyo that sent you’. He said we came to spy and that was all, and they hooked us. They were taking us to god-knows-where. But there was a man there, an elderly man who said: ‘Stop, before you can do that, we have to get to Kabiyesi’s (Soun) palace’. Before they could do what? I wondered. So, we went to Kabiyesi’s palace and Kabiyesi asked, ‘Where are you from?’ I told him. He said this man is a reporter; take him to the local council chairman, who turned out to be the former governor of Oyo State, Otunba Alao-Akala! That was the first time I came in contact with Otunba Christopher Alao-Akala, and there was no way I could forget that day, he was in jeans and t-shirt. He came into his office and said ‘yes, yes what’s happening?’ They told him that we were spies from Tokyo. I do not know how I could possibly be a spy for Tokyo. But these guys were sold on that view. Then Akala asked me what happened and I told him everything. He asked whether I knew the man who drove me down… he then said they should not do anything to me, that they should just let me go. The elderly man who stopped them initially and who followed us to Kabiyesi’s palace also accompanied us to that place. As soon as the verdict of the chairman was ‘let him go’, these boys were not pleased, they were still going to do what they wanted to do. So, the man now told us to take the other direction out of Ogbomoso, and not the way through which we came in, because they had gone there to wait, to lay ambush for us. So, we took that other direction and that was how we survived.
Do you see the same passion among the younger generation of reporters?
I do not really see the glamour that they often talk about, but I think you are never going to see that kind of commitment ever again, because the kind of commitment, the kind of passion, the kind of zeal that we worked with, was built on something and we had foundation and the foundation was our kind of training, our kind of upbringing.
The kind of instructions and advice you got from home, all your early life formed each part of that foundation. So, we wanted to fight it out and make a success of anything we did, and it did not matter whether you were a pilot or a driver. It is whatever you do, whether you are a farmer or anything, you and I know that we have a lot of folklores, which supported that while we were being built in different homes. You had a different margin of sense of morality nationally at that point in time before we ran into this serious moral pollution that I doubt very much if we would escape from. Then, you were not hearing about billions of dollars being stolen and so on, but now you hear it every day, and all these children also want a bite. You cannot blame them for not doing well as we did.