Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Ace broadcaster, Mrs Tosin Dokpesi, wife of High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi, chairman of DAAR Communications Plc, hit the golden age recently. Mrs. Dokpesi, Managing Director of African Independent Television, AIT, who marked the milestone with pomp and ceremony, took out time to talk about her childhood, being a wife and mother as well as her foray into the media world.
How does it feel to be 50, considering your youthful looks?
I am grateful to God. You mentioned that youthful look. A lot of people keep telling me that
are you sure you are 50? And I am wondering; do I look that young? But I thank God I am
Were there moments you felt attaining this age was difficult, maybe as a result of ill health and other challenges?
No. I have always been a healthy child, very healthy. So, if there is any sickness or illness at all, may be malaria or typhoid, but nothing serious to worry me.
So, you don’t have any ailment?
No. I don’t. I have God. I am a believer. Anything that happens, I hand it over to God and I know He is always in control. So, I have never been afraid.
While growing up, what was your future aspiration?
I wanted to be an air hostess first. But I also wanted to be a doctor. I did sciences. I went to Holy Child College in Obalende, Lagos. So, I wanted medicine, tried once, tried twice, tried the third time and after that, in the secondary school, I went to do Advanced Level at Methodist Girls High School. I still wanted that medicine. Unfortunately, I think the third time, in my JAMB form, I put dentistry. And my dad said, “Look, you have always wanted study medicine, why are you putting dentistry? Put your medicine there still.” And then, I had 253 and I remember medicine was two-fifty something and dentistry was 250. Oh! It was so painful, but you know at that time, once you don’t get the cut off point for your first choice, you just have to wait for whatever course that JAMB would give you. And I ended up getting admission to study Zoology. So, by the time I got in for sciences, I just lost interest. I didn’t want to be a doctor again. I wanted the arts. I just loved watching TV (television). Growing up, I used to watch a lot with my dad. The interest just changed and I just wanted to be a broadcaster. So, for medicine, that was the end of that dream.
But how did you come into journalism?
While I was in University of Lagos, I had a very good friend; we are still friends. Both of us were members of the Junior Chambers International. And we used to go attend all the conventions. But we just loved to chat and watch TV and we were looking for holiday jobs. In the course of this, we met someone, Mr Remi Ogunpetan, and his firm was looking for freelance presenters. And we just went for the audition. That was the beginning.
Was it in AIT?
No, no, no. I was still in school at Unilag. I had extra year in school, so I had enough time to do whatever I wanted to do and that was where it started from. It was when I finished from UNILAG that I went to Abia State for the national youth service. But before I went, AIT was preparing to take off, and I met Mrs Toun Sonaiya. At the time she was Toun Okewal. She told me that they were going to hold interviews for new staff. I promptly told her that I was interested because I used to listen to Raypower then and there was something about Raypower. I just wanted to be part of this radio station, but I wasn’t a radio person. Before then too, I also freelanced at Clapperboard. She called me for the interview and said
I had to prove myself worthy. At the interview I was told that I had not done youth service, so they could not employ me. But I did well at the interview. Then I asked if I could do the youth service with the station. The panel said yes.
Did you eventually serve there?
No. I had to go to Abia for compulsory one month orientation programme. You see, when you join the Christian fellowship at the orientation camp, the members always told me that God had a purpose for bringing me to Abia and advised me not to seek redeployment. But I continued to tell myself that there was a job waiting for me in Lagos.
Were you finally redeployed?
Yes. And I got back to Raypower FM. I served in Raypower and by the time I was finishing youth service, AIT started and I moved to AIT. That was it.
Looking back, any regret so far coming into journalism?
At all! No regret. I am grateful.
What is it like working in a conglomerate owned by your husband?
Well, when I started working, he wasn’t my husband. But as time went on, we got married and the job continued. There is no preference. I even get more of the knocks than anybody else. When we have meetings, I would hear things like, ‘Madam, why has this not been done, you are supposed to know better than everyone, blah, blah, blah. So, there is no preferential treatment at all.
So, you don’t exert influence to say oh, I am the wife?
Nothing like that! I do my job as Tosin Dokpesi. It is the job first. I am the wife when I am at home. There is no wife in the office.
What is your relationship with Raymond Dokpesi (Jnr) who is the current chairman of DAAR Communications Plc?
Very good, very cordial! I have no problem with Raymond junior.
How is it like to be married to Chief Raymond Dokpesi, an enigma?
(She laughs) It is the Lord’s doing. That is what I will say. It is not what was planned. But for me, I have always known God and when it was going to happen, I was like God, if this is what you want. Of course, from my home, my mum was worried. I had lost my dad then. But it’s been a wonderful experience. I was one young girl. He is about 18 years older than me and then, not just the age now, but this is one big man that had been there for years. But I always say that whatever God has planned for you, no matter the challenge you think you are seeing, He is able to always see one through. So, it’s been God all the way. Yes, there have been difficult times here and there, especially when we had issues with government or one individual or the other as a company, you just have to be strong. You are with a strong person, so you can’t afford to be weak. You just have to get strong. And I am a woman of faith, so I don’t give up. Yeah, there are times you are shaking, but you don’t have to show it out there. It is between you and your God inside your room and you come out again looking strong that yes, we must go on, we must never give up.
You sound so religious. Do you have interest in going into the ministry?
I am a child of God. It is not the interest. God calls one and I know I love God. I do everything to please Him because I want to make heaven. So, I just don’t give up when it has to do with anything of God.
I have heard prominent musicians in Etsako like Sir Waziri Oshiomha, Young Bolivia mentioning Moji Dokpesi, Funmi Dokpesi in their songs, but not Tosin Dokpesi.
Really? Does it mean you don’t have much to do with Agenebode people?
(She laughs) I go there. That they don’t mention my name does not really mean that I don’t have anything to do with them. We go home when we need to go home. But I am more of a reserved person. All that praising of persons, I am not for it. Let me just do what I have to do and move on.
Chief is blessed amongst women. How have you been coping with Chief’s other wives and those nursing ambition to become his other wives?
Nobody else can be his wife oooo after me (general laughter).
Are you sure?
By the grace of God, this is the last bus stop. With the other wives, I have no issue. This is a family home. When we have Christmas or any celebration, everyone comes and we are all at peace. There is no issue and after that, they go back to where they live. I am the one here in Abuja. There are no problems at all.
How do you strike a balance between your career and your family commitments?
As I said, God always guides me and as such, you have to prioritise. I wake up and for our daughter, I take her to school three times a week and it doesn’t really affect my work because school starts early and by 8’ o clock, I am back home and I get to work. And when I am at work, it is work. Yeah, once in a while you get calls, this is happening at home. But when you have to do the job, I do and when I get back home, I face home. Before I leave home, I do what I have to do for the home. The work is a lot really. So, you just have to be focused, otherwise, you get distracted.
At 50, what are those things or that thing you used to do that you won’t do again?
(She laughs) Can I think of anything?
What do you want to change about yourself?
What is uppermost here is for me to know God more. I know Him, but I don’t think I am doing enough. I just want my life to glorify God, to be a good wife, a good mother and continue having a good working relationship with my colleagues. What do I want to change really? I am not sure I have any habit that I don’t like about myself. I just want to get better in the things I do that are good.
Are you going to make a resolution at 50?
There is nothing like resolution. Just move on. I want live each day for God. Yes, I don’t want to die now, but I want it to be anytime God is calling me home, that I am going to make that heaven. So, I just try as much as I can to please Him and not to please man. If you want to please man, then you just get frustrated because we have different human beings here and there. But to make sure that this is what God has commanded and to try to obey all He has asked me to do.
Were there things you set out to achieve before 50 that you haven’t achieved?
Honestly as I said, I don’t have any regret. Maybe the only one I look back and I am still very, very grateful for is that I had to wait for seven years before I had our daughter. She is 10 now and I am 50. I had her at 40. I got married when I was 33 or thereabout. So, I look back, but I am grateful because there are some who still don’t have at all and they are older than me. There are some we left school together because I look back again, I had extra year in the university. And I look at some of my colleagues; I am well ahead of them. Who am I? It is just the grace of God. So, I don’t take anything for granted. I just believe this is where He wants me to be now. Yeah, that does not mean I need to just relax and just wait that yes, it is what God is telling me. I just keep doing what I have to do, and ask Him to bless it and make it to prosper so that I will keep going higher and higher. But I am not a materialistic person. I don’t say I want to make this money. If I make the money and you go tomorrow, people will spend it. So, I am satisfied with what I have. I love helping people. When I used to walk up and down the hill, there was a girl I used to see with a baby on her back and she would carry water. I had to stop one of the days to ask, why she was not in school. She said her parents could not afford it. I think she is already in primary five now. Such things I look out for. I have parents who just call. It is not that I have the money, but the little I have, I want to be able to say oh, this child is a graduate today because it is good for us. When you have them and they are not in school, you cannot sleep well because these are the people who become armed robbers and kidnappers. But when those of us who have whatever little we have that God has blessed us with and we are ready to help these children, we make a better society. We try to pick some of them off the streets and make sure they are in school.
Who influenced you while growing up?
My Dad! I am daddy’s girl. My mum is alive; she is going to be 85. I used to quarrel with my mum because of my dad. There was this telepathy between my dad and I.
What lessons has life taught you?
The life-giver is the one that has actually taught me about life; to know that He is the giver of all things and that no matter what happens to us in life, He knows all, He knows everything and we should not be in a hurry, but to wait on Him and to trust in Him. He is able to do all things. Challenges will come, but He says we should never give up since many are the afflictions of the righteous, but He is faithful to see us through it. So, it is good to wait on God, but do your own part. Don’t just fold your arms that yes, God is going to do this, God is going to do that. You know what you want, ask Him for it and then, continue doing your best and He will always bless the work of our hands.
How do you relax?
I love sleeping and I love to watch movies at home. If you see me out, maybe at a wedding or any function, it is because it is a must; I have to be there; otherwise, I am at home or in church. If you ask my husband, he will say if she is not in her room, go and check, maybe she has gone to the church. But l love spending time with my family, I love being at home.
Do you have any food preferences?
I used to love dodo and garri. I am not really a food person. I eat a lot of rice, but I try to exercise when I can. I used to do it regularly, but not that regular anymore.
Is there anything that you can’t be caught wearing?
I don’t wear makeup. Maybe I use the eye pencil. That is what you will always find me wearing. But weekends when I am at home, you leave your face. As a woman, leave your face, let it breath. Is there anything I can’t do without? Maybe my glasses – for me to see you clearly (general laughter).