On the maiden edition of #TheRadioChat, LearnRadioOnline‘s Sultan Grey engages the amazing Anthony Dim Shedrach of thirtytwo FM 94.9 to discuss the topic; ‘From School to Studio: The Evolution of a Student OAP’. They discussed Anthony’s journey so far and the challenges that comes along with being in school and on Radio. Excerpts:
How are you doing? Are you happy with your career right now?
I’m doing great; really excited about life and how far I have come. I am definitely optimistic about what the future holds.
Am I happy about my career right now? Well, I am but you know my happiness is relative. Sometimes I feel I should have gone farther than where I am right now. For some people, they think I am too fast and I have achieved a lot in a short while. But for me, I believe I should have probably been a bit more ahead. So far so good, the positives are there too show, the future is looking very bright and I’m doing everything I can to make sure that I’m well equipped for the big stage.
Let’s delve a bit more into your journey to Radio now? How exactly did you get the platform you started with?
I started my work in the media and entertainment in school when I was in 200 Level. Growing up, I have always been this young lad who has dreams and aspirations. And as I grew up, I gradually found solace in my power of speech and oratory. I just loved speaking well and flamboyantly and using big English. My regular listening to Radio formed me. For 5 years, I listened to Radio like a ritual from one station to the other.
It’s really shocking because I broadcast at a level that if you probably listen to me, you’ll think I have a broadcasting or journalism certificate somewhere. And then getting into the university as the ground where you know who you are and chase your dream.
By the way, I didn’t get into school very quickly. I stayed at home (for) 2 years after my JAMB. Those two years were years when my psychology formed in the act and art of Radio broadcasting because I listened to different kind of Radio stations with different structures.
And getting to school, I was like this is it. When I was in 100 Level, I was still trying to get the style of Radio here in Ib. I also looked at the fact that I can speak English and if not for anything, I can organize and make sure a programme is well orchestrated. I can also anchor event.
So, in 200 Level, we had a personality lecture and they had paid a lot of money for the M.C to come. It was already 30 mins into the programme and the professor who was to deliver the lecture – Professor Banjo – was around. Meanwhile, the M.C was nowhere to be found. So the executives were running helter skelter as to what they would do.
Meanwhile, in class already, my colleagues have known me with the way I go about my talking and use of words. So I was like, okay, this is my opportunity and that was the first day I went into anchoring. I was a rookie but I did fairly well and I kept getting better.
200 Level was the breakthrough for me because people knew me as the youngster who could anchor event and has a very good, deep voice. Also in Zik Hall, I was very active, I would go to the Maracana pitch whenever they had football match, pick the mic and run football commentary.
So one particular day, Zik Hall had an event. It’s a yearly event which brings back alumni of the Hall who are doing pretty well in different fields for a symposium. And I was called to anchor the event. They said they won’t pay me and I should just come and do it. I knew I was still growing and it was normal for them to exploit me. So I anchored the program. In the course of the program, there is a man named Edwin. He is based in the US and he was a Special Guest at the program.
As at the time when I had to call him up on stage to speak, they had not printed his citation. So I went to whisper to him that they hadn’t given me his citation. I asked him if he had it on his phone and he said yes. So I asked him to send it to me and I read the citation on my phone much to the applause of the audience.
After the event, he chatted me up and appreciated me for my performance. And I told him ‘Sir, I want more than just anchoring events. I have always had this aspiration of being a TV and Radio person.’ So the man said, he had a cousin who was the Head of Sports at Petals FM; Peter Omoh. He said I should send a voice note of me talking about anything so he could forward it to Peter which I did.
So he sent my phone number and the voice note to Peter and Peter sent the voice note to Mr. Dotun Saseyi, the GM of Petals FM. Saseyi listened to it and was like we need to see this boy. So Edwin called me to inform me that they had booked an interview for me at Petals FM. He told me to read about anything I know; Politics, Entertainment, Sports. I was jittery though but I read the much I could read.
I got a call from Peter on Friday and he said he has listened to the voice note and I don’t need an interview to get on air. So, I should join him on air that morning by 7:30 AM. I prepared, I was optimistic and got to the station early.
For the first time in my life, I went on Radio. And I do not know but the effort of the years back proved itself. The power of listening was the difference. Everything went perfectly. After the show, Peter hugged me and he said I did well. He gave me #400 new notes and said I hope to see you on Monday. From then, the rest became history. I started coming regularly to Petals FM and that’s how my career started.
Did being on Radio affect your relationship with your colleagues in school in any way? Did they see you in any different light?
Absolutely! I mean in 200 Level when I was still doing the M.C stuffs, the students were already seeing me as a special breed. But the perfect breakthrough came when I definitely got on Radio. I became more than a student. People, colleagues, friends saw me as a special kind of student who is just in 200 Level and is already towing his career path.
Things for me became really nice. People wanted to be my friend. So many girls loved me. My lecturers respected me more. They wanted to be friends with me because in the course of going to work at times, I will miss classes and I will have to go and meet my lecturers personally to explain myself. And after explaining myself, they will be like; ‘Wow! You talk on Radio, that’s amazing.’ I became like an elite student.
They saw me in a totally different light. Not just because maybe I was making money but 200 Level is still a very young level for you to already know where you are heading to. I mean 80% of students don’t know what to do at 200 Level but here I was already living my dreams. I was a special kind of student. I’ll just put it that way.
Were you comfortable with that or wished things were different?
Comfortability? Well, I was. Just that sometimes I wished the buzz was a bit lower because once the buzz is at a very high level, so many people begin to expect so many things from you. Before you know it, so many people begin to dislike you for an adjudged sort of neglect because you are now there. They say you are now proud and you don’t talk to some people.
(There was) a woman I found who gave me an opportunity to work with Splash FM – Mrs. Abimbola Olowu – I met her when I was anchoring a personality lecture in my department. She got me a job with Splash FM which I turned down. The point is I was pretty comfortable with the ways things were but I wished the buzz was a little bit lower.
We could say your adventure in the university propelled your career into what it is today, you think the case would have been different if you hadn’t attended UI?
Well. I would keep saying this Sultan. I do not want this to sound like I’m giving a particularistic statement because it can change. Where you school, the state, the environment, the people will play an integral part of your career. If I schooled in Lagos, Sultan I would have been 10x faster than where I am today.
Sometimes I have that regret that oh I wished I schooled in Lagos. I mean if I was schooling in Lagos, Unilag have a functional Radio station that works. And I’m very sure that I would have worked in that Radio station. I would have probably been on TV now. I would have gone farther. That is my postulation.
Now, Ibadan is somehow 4,5 steps behind Lagos on the pecking order media-wise. To a lot of people around here, I’m doing so well but to me for where I am coming from which is Lagos I know I still have a long way to actually go. So if schooled in Lagos, maybe, just maybe I would have gone farther than where I am today.
Nonetheless, UI also contributed to my journey in Ibadan. Today, I have a clout in this city as a young broadcaster with a fantastic and unique voice. People already know the voice. My jingles are being played on many Radio stations. But I have my clout just in Ib. and that is because I schooled in UI. It’s all about waiting for the right chances to come. I was destined to pick an opportunity and maximize it.
Asides missing lectures, what other challenge did you encounter as a result of being on Radio?
While being on Radio and also schooling, one other problem I encountered was, almost giving up on the importance of finishing well as a student. It is a big temptation. You know, when you are on Radio, you feel that your future is sorted out. ‘What I’m I even reading for?’ So I faced an issue of priorities. What was more important; was it the Radio? Was it school?
I knew my parents had no idea of the Radio and they probably were not concerned. They were concerned about me producing results. I was on a partial scholarship too and those who gave me scholarship were looking for results. You are working on Radio, fine but who cares?
But in all, I needed to fulfill so many mandates which were keeping up with what I was doing on Radio and keeping up with my educational mandate. As a person, I’m not the bookworm type but I believe I am brilliant and smart. As the Radio thing was on, I was not catching up like I should. I would copy note behind the class, do assignment whenever there was one. I just did one thing; I never gave up on my studies. I can submit an assignment late but I’ll make sure I did.
So I never allowed the issue of being an OAP get into my head. I made sure my papers were cleared and lo and behold, I finished with a second class upper.
One of the problems one can encounter is having to please so many people. Some people started asking me for money. My voice is on air so they thought I was in millions. So trying to handle these various sets of demands was a really big problem but I found a way around it.
You talked about not making money yet then, and I remember someone said the worst thing that could ever happen to you is being popular but not having money, how did you manage?
For the profession we are in, I’m sure what I’m saying now is not new to you Sultan. And for people who do not know, it is a career that pays attention to the process. There is no magic. I never struggled as a student though. I had money. My parents were doing fine and I was on a partial scholarship but it wasn’t like I had all the money. People thought I was earning huge money from Petals FM. They thought I was at a Level 80 when I was really at a Level 50 or 60.
I was really never broke but you know if they are doing something in class and sharing bills, they will probably give me the highest because they felt I was ‘blown’. It was a big challenge but who do you want to go and begin to explain to that Petals FM is not paying me o. I couldn’t say it. In fact, when they talk about ‘Hope Petals FM is paying you well? I’ll say ‘yes, they are paying me well.’
So I think for me my situation wasn’t about being broke and popular. Even before I became popular, I was this guy who loves dressing well and looking very nice. I was a cool guy and the popularity just came and raised the standard of people about me which was wrong but I wasn’t broke afterall.
You mentioned turning down an offer to work with Splash FM at some point? Why? Why did you turned it down? Were you scared of some kind of pressure mounted on you if you had accepted the offer?
Well, while I was at Petals FM, I was looking for greener pastures. I felt that I was giving a lot and I was getting nothing in return. So when I met that woman at the event, I told her this is what I do and I want something more serious. She spoke to Tunde Olawuwo who contacted me. I came over to Splash FM and we sat down to talk.
He said I have listened to you a couple of times, I think you’re good but then you have to audition. So I went into the production studio and auditioned. Three days later, he called me and told me, you’re good. We want to work with you. This is an opportunity to join the biggest Radio station in the city of Ibadan.
I went back and I told Peter, ‘Splash FM has given me a job’. In fact, we had agreed on the salary. So Peter started advising me on why I should not just leave yet. Am I ready to take up the responsibility coupled with the fact that I was still in school. So many questions were raised by him. He was saying I should wait. Even the GM said they were going to work on something for me as per salary.
Sultan, I was confused. It was a big career decision for me. Meanwhile, Tunde was on my neck to come and record the promo and start the programme with them. And I was not fully convinced. The money was okay, it was #25,000 for 3 times in a week. But I was thinking about so many things.
What if I go to Splash and after two months they sacked me that I am not good enough. I had so many fears and I blocked contacts with Tunde. He kept calling me and I was thinking. Peter was thinking if you leave, you’ve stabbed me at the back.
So finally, I rejected Tunde’s call, I never called him and I went back to Petals FM.
If you had the chance to take this decision again, will you still do the same?
If I had a chance, maybe I would have. I mean Splash is like the biggest Radio station in Ib. And an opportunity to join them is definitely growth of some sort no matter the kind of show you’re doing. You know they have the city love now. And the impact especially when you’re talented and good will rise at a geometric rate.
So if I had the chance to take that decision again, I would have taken it up and see how it turned out but as we speak it looks like an opportunity that might not come again. People say there are so many ways to the top, maybe Splash was not just the way for me. I had my chance but I fluffed it. Some would say for the right reasons but some would say come on, it’s not a valid excuse, you should have jumped on it. But if I had the opportunity again, I would have tried it out.
Talking about getting to the top, you know a lot of people would say you’re doing pretty fine? What more do you do you wish you’d achieved at this point?
Well, talking about what more I should have achieved by now. If let’s say I started in 100 Level, what you need to do is just add extra 2 years to how well I’m doing right now. What it equates is what it is.
I discovered that I could do voice overs in 300 Level. I was at Petals one day and they were looking for someone to voice some things and I was like let me give it a trial and boom it sounded amazing. If I had started from 100 Level, I would have discovered my talent in voicing probably in 200 Level. One active year in the market, I would have probably been doing jobs in Lagos. I do few jobs in Lagos now right, but I could have done more.
I could have entrenched my name more in the system. I could have been more popular. If I was in a state where media is much more integrated, I would have done more than I’m doing now. So I think that more of more is what I want.
To some people I started early but to me I felt if I had discovered much earlier, I would have gotten more experience. I mean that would be 5 years under my belt; that’s massive.
Some of the big OAPs we have now don’t even have 5 years of experience and if you have someone with that much, that’s a big edge.
So you finished with a second class upper which isn’t bad actually but would you have performed better if Radio wasn’t in the picture then?
It’s a difficult one. As of 200 Level when I joined Radio, I was on 2:1 but it was a weak one. I think I was just one point behind 2:2. So first class wasn’t really looking good. I mean if you’ll finish with a first class, you’ll know from your first year. Because your first year is like your easiest year when you have to come in and make a statement. And at least finish with a 6:2, 6:3 and probably have to consolidate.
So for my first semester I was on 4:2 and second semester I had to fight back to 4:6. So it was a coincidence because when I started Radio, I wasn’t doing too good with my studies too. So I was multitasking. I tried as much as possible to catch up.
And it is shocking because I had my major breakthrough academically in that same 200 Level. I pushed into 4:9 that year. Going into 300 Level, I was on 5:1. Second semester of third year, I was on 5:2. I finished with 5:4 or so but it’s crazy because it was growth.
Normally, it should be a decline because I’ve got Radio to add to the workload but it was a push. I would double my effort during exam period. And what I and Petals FM agreed on then was when it was two weeks to my exams; they will give me a break. So for those two weeks, I was going to read the hell out and this I did and here I am.
So if Radio wasn’t in the picture, maybe I wouldn’t have probably finished with a first class although you never know but it looked like it was going to be a 2:1 for me especially looking at the fact that I started slowly from 100 Level.
Let’s talk about your current platform now, how is it like reuniting with Peter Omoh on thirtytwo FM?
I think it’s a match made in heaven. I mean, I learnt on the job from Peter by working with him. We have this natural phenomenon that exists whenever we are on air. I can guess what he’s going to say next and how he’s going to say it.
So I think it is just a big bonus for thirtytwo FM being able to move us from the same station down to theirs. Peter can come into the studio one minute before the show and we’ll have a fantastic show with no single mistake. You rarely see that kind of connection on Radio.
That’s why to me I didn’t really see it as work. I just see it as being myself, enjoying myself. I really don’t have to work too hard because the person I’m working with understands the inner workings of how I do my thing.
So reunion with him was massive and you have a feeling that a day will come when I will have to leave. I guess he’s preparing for that day. It could come this year, you never know. I would have to leave some day. It could be him that would leave. We have built a brand together on air. And if I leave, if he leaves too, we’re going to suffer it surely maybe for the first one year but we will pick up more later.
So if I’m going to leave him here, I’m sure I’m going to leave for somewhere that’s really worth it in terms of listenership and the money that’s coming in.
How much influence does the course a student is studying have on his/her proficiency as an OAP?
Well, I would be very unfair to say that no matter the course you’re studying, it does not have any effect. No, it does! You know this Sultan. There are some people who are born broadcasters and orators. Even if they study botany or zoology, you’ll bring them to the MIC and they’ll kill it. There are some who are born broadcaster and luckily find themselves in a department which helps groom them. Now you in Zoology who is also a born broadcaster can never be as good as that person.
I mean, I am an English student and a lot of people who are as good as I am cannot particularly speak as well as I will speak or have the same language horoscope like I would have because for 4 years I studied the language in every part of it. So I’m expected to do better than another OAP who didn’t study my course.
Same thing with Mass Communication, you could be talented and if you are in a department that aids what you do, it’s better. It’s one thing to naturally know something; it’s another thing to consciously know that thing.
So to some extent yes, the course you study can determine your level of proficiency but your talent gives you a certain level of proficiency already.
But if all you do in Zoology is test plant and animals, unless on the side you take professional courses or learn sporadically the act and art of broadcasting, then you could probably say you are also schooling yourself and doing as much as a Mass Communication student will do. If not, there’s no magic to it.
Okay. I can remember I’m one of the very few people you called when you got signed to thirtytwo FM and I asked you what the pay is like. You said it’s okay for a student. Is it still okay right now having graduated and evolved beyond being a student OAP?
Okay. When I got in, I was still a student and I was very comfortable with what they were offering to pay then especially looking at the fact that Petals FM had little or nothing to offer. But typically, the way the Nigerian structure works is for you to get a standard job, you need to have your NYSC certificate. Most corporate organizations and federal government parastatals always ask of it. But thirtytwo FM went out of the way to give me a job when I was still in final year. They didn’t even ask of me of my result.
And when I was given my letter, I spoke with my CEO that I was still in school and I will soon be done and move straight to my NYSC. And he said it’s alright, we would wait for you. We won’t particularly pay you the big pie now because you’re not done with your school yet. And when you’re serving, Federal Government will give you stuffs so we will give you something fairly okay to complement what the Federal Government gives you. And I said okay.
The company have a structure with the casual staffs, the corpers, the workers, the interns; it’s a level. And at all of these levels, there is a certain amount to be paid to them. May9ine joined when she just started service and no matter the fact that May9ine is really good at what she does, we were both collecting the same salary because we fell under the structure of Corpers.
Once you’re done with service which is after one year, your contract will be renewed. Now depending on how well you have done within the space of that one year. If you’ve done exceptionally well, you can have the bargaining power and if they are not dancing to your tune, you leave.
So that is where we have been for a long time now. I will be finishing my service by February/March and I hope to go back to them that let’s talk. What is obtainable?
I’ve been having offers from different Radio stations but I do not want to just jump out because most of these Radio stations are stations that are just starting off. And looking at what I have built with thirtytwo FM, I just feel that maybe I should just stay true to it for now, finish my NYSC and get to see what they are offering. If it’s not good enough then I begin to plan my next move.
That is where we are. I am no more a student OAP, yes but I’m still a Corper and because of that, there is a level at which I’m being paid. Once I leave that status of being an NYSC member that will change.
That’s perhaps a nice arrangement.
So you started out more like a volunteer OAP with Petals FM, what other ways are there for an aspiring OAP who is still schooling, to launch into the industry?
Well, it’s no news volunteering is always a sure means. Always sure but being mentored by an established OAP could be a means too. But for you to volunteer and all, you must be sure you are the type that can handle the pressure that comes with the job. If you have a mentor, he or she can bring you on board as a guest on his/her show. You can offer to provide content for OAPs. You can offer to go do Vox Pop and bring it back to the news room to be used for news.
All these are major forms of volunteering. No radio station will particularly employ a student as an OAP. Mine was an exception. It doesn’t happen as such. So if you start early to look for chances. A job could come before you graduate.
For students in schools with radio stations, that should be your first stop. Offer to do anything at all there. Get in touch with the OAPs handling programs and be under someone. Keep observing. Once you’re in and around opportunities, when it comes you will take it. But when opportunity is in UI and you are Ondo state. Nothing go happen. The desperation must be there.
Thank you so much for speaking to us on #TheRadioChat Tony. It’s been a worthwhile discussion and I believe every student OAP out there will have something to take out of this.
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