Media entrepreneur and former Director-General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Mrs. Omotayo Omotosho, talks about her life, career and current projects
How fulfilled are you as a broadcaster?
I feel fulfilled because I knew what I wanted from the scratch. From the age of seven, a lot of my friends told me, “Omotayo, if I were you, I would not study difficult courses like Medicine, Engineering or Law. Do something that is relevant to your creative talent because there is something about your voice when you talk.’’ I never took my friends serious until when I got to secondary school, Christ School, Ado-Ekiti. First, I had a stint at Queens School, Ibadan. I realised that when the literary and debating society was being established, my teacher impressed it upon me to become a member. I would be the lead of the team for debate with other schools and we always won. My friends said they hoped that I would study Mass Communication or English at the university. That helped me to know my area of creativity and talent.
Didn’t your parents object to your plans?
They didn’t because my father was an educationist and also worked with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture as a public servant, so he was learned enough to encourage whatever talent a child had. He taught me phonetics and would often ask me to read, “Hercules’ father said to Harry, Harry where is your hat? It is hanging on the hanger in the hall.’’ I didn’t realise that he wanted to test the ‘h’ word because when some people talk, they put an ‘h’ where there is none or make it disappear in words. My parents actually encouraged me. I must say the greatest thing that can happen to any individual is for you to know what God has destined you to do from the scratch and run with it. By the time I got admitted to study Psychology at the university, I wanted to study human behaviour. I didn’t find Mass Communication and English as curious as Psychology, which I studied at the University of Lagos.
Thereafter, the National Youth Service Corps programme came and I was posted to the Nigerian Television Authority, Ibadan. It was as if destiny and providence were unfolding. A few months down the line at NTA, some of us got to know that the Oyo State Government had started paying youth corps members higher; the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State had just been commissioned, so we moved there. I was retained after NYSC and that was where I cut my tooth in broadcasting. I said to myself that I didn’t want to stay too long working for a state or national broadcasting corporation, I wanted to be self-employed.
What made you feel that way?
I felt that since I was passionate enough about the job, I could start my own television production company and that was how Pacesetters Communications was birthed. I felt with that I could be so creative and divert all my attention to what was mine in the field of healthcare, social amenities, infrastructure, et al and people would sponsor these programmes. That’s what I did and by God’s grace, it has been awesome. I don’t just present programmes, I produce as well. I am also into public speaking and act as compere at policy-based ceremonies often organised by government. I would be marking 30 years of my TV broadcast career in 2017, having started out in 1987.
Have there been challenges?
There have been a lot of challenges. Over the years, I have realised that Nigerians measure success by your level of publicity and how much noise you can make, to the extent that we have lost substance and we are looking at the façade. I don’t really go to parties and I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I shuttle between Abuja and Lagos, because my television production firm is in Abuja. It is not easy. I realised that Nigerians have put a lot of priority on wanting to look good and wearing designer outfits. I want to be an advocate for reawakening. In a nation where 80 per cent are under the poverty line, where our children are on the streets begging for alms to feed, unemployment is everywhere and if you are one of the privileged few making money, why should such monies be for yourself alone? It is not by your proficiency or your intellectual sagacity. The point I am making is that gold or diamonds don’t make you a total woman or individual.
How do you juggle being a wife, mother and career-oriented woman?
Combining the three is not an easy task. Any woman that says it is easy may not be that sincere but it could be made easy if as a young mother you set your priorities right. I had always been tutored by a mother who set hers right, so when I got married, I knew what was important to me. I knew that keeping friends, moving from one friend to the other and partying were wrong moves. I knew that my time should be apportioned between my husband, children, career and the society. Most people that I have touched through my Towards a Greater Nigeria foundation, which was established last year, to take care of less-fortunate ones, call me ‘mummy for real’ which is a coinage from my MFR national honour. I have also realised that the institution of marriage is very important and every mother should be committed to her family. When I was the chairperson of the Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation 23years ago, under the government of Brigadier- General Buba Marwa(retd.), my mother advised me that since my marriage was young, the toga of my office stops within the broadcast corporation and by the time I return home, I am back to being the wife of Pastor Olusegun Omotosho. By God’s grace, the children are all grown and my career is still on. The understanding and cooperation that should exist between man and woman is still on because he is a man that loves God and from him, I have learnt a lot of things. My children jokingly tell me, “Mummy, we don’t know how you juggle everything,’’ and I tell them that it’s just through the grace of God that I do these things effortlessly.
You have three daughters and a son who came much later…
I had my son when I was almost 50 years old and I must say that I wasn’t surprised that the baby came because I never gave up. By the time we had the three girls, my husband told me that he was done but I knew I wanted a baby boy. Ten years after, my mother told me that if I wanted my prayers to be answered, I must pray in agreement with my husband. My boy came six years after my husband and I prayed about it.
How did you manage a pregnancy at that age?
God decided to do it at his own time. For the first five months, many people didn’t know I was pregnant because of the way I dressed. I always used my aso oke as a shawl to cover my stomach. I was about six months gone when I travelled abroad because I needed to rest. I had to cut off from my career and I was away for about four months up until when I was delivered of a baby boy.
What informs your dress sense?
I had always tied my headgear and worn a shawl since I was a youth corps member and that was over 30years ago. I realised that there is a lot of uniqueness in our local traditional fabrics. I love aso oke, especially the original ones that are not heavy because they are done like lace. It is easy and convenient. I love tradition because my grandfather was a traditional ruler and my father always told me that I am a princess. With all that, I had always fallen in love with adire, batik, ankara and aso oke and they don’t cost much. When you know what you love and you have a designer that cuts your outfit the way that fits you and makes you look very graceful, that is what you’d stick to. It is good for a woman to stick to what suits her. I know what fits me so I like my kaftan-cut outfits because they are easy to wear in our tropical weather.
How do you unwind when you are not working?
I write plays and I have published a handful. I love singing and the song goes, “Praise God, it’s another day,’’ because we take a lot of things for granted. I jog round my house. I also enjoy swimming but I don’t do that often because the children swim better than I do. I deliver speeches on women empowerment and tourism promotion and development, gender issues, youth development and sometimes, on spiritual well-being and wholesome wealth. I have always lived in a family where my parents were together in holy matrimony for over 61 years, one man, one wife and that’s why I watched the way my mother conducted herself in the home while I was growing up. Another thing that I do is take care of my mother who is almost 85. My profession is also a form of leisure for me because I love broadcasting. I have my television license and pretty soon, we would establish our own television station. It would be a good avenue to generate jobs for a lot of our children.