She is one of the faces you love watching as newscaster on national television years back. She is an ace broadcaster, price winning essayist, poet, and short story writer. She anchored the presidential ball of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua and the oath-taking ceremony of President Goodluck Jonathan as Master of Ceremony (MC). In this interview with Effects, she talks about what is off her sleeves these days, her career and more.
The year is still fresh, any new year resolution?
New Year’s resolutions are really set goals you try to actualize. Every day one must aspire to be better, not just in a New Year. I am thankful for those resolved and unresolved. As human beings, we must continue to strive to impact our surroundings and the people around us positively.
Has it always been your dream as a child to be a broadcaster?
I got into media by accident. As young persons, you always want to be one thing but God gives you something else to do. I wanted to be a lawyer but then I got into broadcast journalism and the rest they say is history. I believe it was providential
What have you been up to, you have not been seen on screen these days?
I have been on screen and in the national consciousness for over two decades. This means that when I am not on screen, it is considered that I have not been heard from. But I have been busy, albeit not on screen.
I just opened a bookshop, a training centre and a 40 seater capacity training and conference centre at the Maitama Amusement park Abuja. I am super excited. On valentines day, we shall be hosting a tea tasting event for networking, book browsing and we are also introducing The TEAM scholarship for young persons and a support system.
Do you still write poems, you launched one during your tenure as Vlisco ambassador?
I have been writing short stories and poems since I was 7 years old and grew up to become a broadcaster and a writer. I love to read and write and I love stories. Media provided me with the platform for those story writing interests.
How do you get inspiration for your writings?
My inspiration is everywhere. I wrote a column for Buisnessday for about eight years titled “Tales from the Main road”, it was literally as the column suggests. I could be inspired by mechanics, a tuft of grass, a rose flower, a weeping child, a beautiful dress or even airport stress. I have developed a keen sense of observation and everything is a source of inspiration for me. I am a columnist for Sunday Trust as well, delivering a full page of a column called “Five Favourite Books with Eugenia Abu” for eight years and counting. I also contribute to different journals and newspapers from time to time including ThisDay newspaper. I love to write. I am inspired by society, nature and happenstances and sometimes my moods too. If I am sufficiently angry about something like rape, I write, and if I am very excited about fashion or food, I also write about it.
Can you recall your first day as a broadcaster, how was it?
My first day as a broadcaster was in 1979 at Radio Benue, Makurdi. I was waiting to get into the university and I heard that a new radio station was auditioning. I pretty much stumbled into it and trained on the job. It was a vacation job but it set me up for life. There were many kinds of people who showed me what to do.
What were some of the toughest challenges you faced on the job?
There are always challenges on any job. Working in a broadcast environment itself was already a tough terrain as it were. I found that while there were great and exciting moments, my toughest challenge was with the toxic environment, strange fellows and the poor camaraderie in a lot of instances. But all of it was a learning curve. What does not break you makes you stronger. I am thankful to God for my journeys. It has made me who I am.
How was it working in Nigerian Television Authority?
I was working at the Benue State Ministry of Information in 1982 after my youth service when I was headhunted by the then General Manager NTA Makurdi, Mr Isaac Wakombo who saw me on a television show we produced for the ministry called, Benue State Government Half Hour. He reached out to me and offered me a job believing that I had some talents and that was it. At that time, people spotted talent to enrich their stations. I owe my television career to God and Mr Wakombo who went on to become NTA’s Executive Director, Engineering before he retired.
My career in NTA has been rewarding. It was practically a broadcast school where you learnt from the masters if you were willing and I was. I learnt most of what I know about broadcasting in there, the rest I self- trained from curiosity, hard work, attending courses all over the world and being hands on.
I rose to become the Executive Director, Programmes in the Nigerian Television Authority and served for three years. I retired from NTA last year after being in the same establishment for 34 years and nine months. I believe I gave my best. It was 35 years of meritorious service. That’s a lifetime. I currently run my consulting firm – The Eugenia Abu Media – and a training centre. I believe there is a gap in set skills across the country, from broadcasting to customer service and writing reports and proposals. We are also involved in employability skills, soft skills like managing stress and anxiety, relationship skills, and so on. All these are impacting the workspace negatively and affecting productivity. I am a West African regional media consultant on media, peace building and hate speech, especially before elections. I consult for ECOWAS and ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions on this and I consult for the National Democratic Institute and other international organisations on media access and management, especially for female politicians. I recently joined the Board of the Professor Ibrahim Gambari-led Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development and I also serve on its advocacy council for leadership and accountability dialogue, Council of the Wise. I am a faculty member at the Africa Center for Leadership, Strategy and Development. I have been facilitating a three-pronged anti-corruption training for religious leaders with Lux Terra foundation throughout 2018 since it has become clear that religious leaders have a huge role to play in the anti-corruption war as do media and media influencers. I have also been a facilitator at the Wole Soyinka centre for investigative journalism. I am a keynote speaker and panelist across the world and recently delivered the 2018 National Academy of Science Media award lecture. I left public service and began my life in the private sector. It is exciting. Interestingly, I am having a soft opening of my consulting firm, a bookshop and a training centre at the Maitama amusement park in Abuja. I am super excited. I am a voracious reader. I believe my contribution of a bookshop to the society is a labour of love. More importantly, I am spending more time with my family and enjoying the fact that my time is my own. It is an exhilarating experience. I am also taking all the holidays I deserve.
How did you discover that passion?
I started writing at the age of 7 and my late father, Mr Alfred Amodu would let me into his big library and allow me to wander through it. My mum and dad bought me lots of books. If you are a reader, you will ultimately create your own stories and want to write them. I was encouraged by my parents to write as much as I wanted. I believe it was also a God-given gift.
How do you relax?
I listen to music, read books, visit a park or have my spa time. I love to have massages every six weeks, it helps me to relax. I also enjoy travelling tremendously. I love to cook, it is therapeutic.
How easy has it been combining the role of a mother, wife with your career?
It is not easy but every woman who works must find creative ways to ensure she is doing her best to juggle them well. This must be well supported by family and friends. It is imperative to make time for the family. It was easy to find trusted help in the past, not so now. The economy is not even making it easy to pick the family and give up a career. But if it is beginning to affect one’s mental health then one must think about the options carefully and perhaps pick a less stressful job.
You still look pretty as ever, how have you been able to maintain your beauty?
I don’t know if I am that beautiful to be able to answer this question.
Do you exercise?
I do mild exercises but nothing over the top. I believe everything should be done in moderation.
What do you do when you are not working?
When I am not working, I am spending time with my family or decorating. I love interior decoration. I like to watch TV, read or do absolutely nothing.
What is your favourite book?
Biographies are easily my favourite but I love a good novel too. My favourite fiction genre is short stories, perhaps because I am a short story writer as well. Short stories are always restrained and the best ones have a twist in the tale. I love non-fiction, travel books or investigative pieces and creative non- fiction like Malcolm Gladwell’s books, which are very well researched. Also, as a poet, poetry books resonate with me.
Any favourite music?
I love music, from Fela Anikulapo Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Michael Franks and old school jazz pieces such as music from Al Jarreu, Spirogyra, Bobby Benson, etc. I thought Michael Jackson was genius and Bob Marley. I love Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Asa. My music taste is very eclectic. But I love the new musicians too. Nigerian musicians are amazing. I am a bit concerned though about meaningless lyrics and the depravity in today’s music.
So what influences your style?
My style is influenced by simplicity, comfort, art, good fabric, texture and beauty.
How did you meet your husband?
I met my husband at the Radio station where I was doing a vacation job every time I came home from the university, the same one I started my career at. He was already working there. He simply proposed.
What qualities made you fall in love with your husband?
My husband is a good man, confident, patient and focused. He is also a true believer in his faith. In addition, he has a great sense of humour and humour is important in a union. He is my greatest support and is excellent with children.