Reminiscences: Our Leaders Lack Knowledge Of Human Mgt- Abolo
By Pioneer Team
January 14, 2021
Elder Tony Abolo is a seasoned broadcast media practitioner with many decades of experience. Having seen
many sides of life in the pre- and post-Independence of
Nigeria. He took a journey through memory lane with
PATRICK OCHOGA, contending the nation's leadership,
through the years, lack the capacity to fully utilize the human
management principles to get the best out of the citizenry. The
Where and when were you born?
I was born in a little village, that has
been growing since I left home, called
Assi, now Ndokwa local government
area of Delta State; that was where
my father came to sojourn from his
ethnic Isoko land.
How did you know that was when
you were born?
I was born on February 21, 1943.
Nobody knows where he/she was
born, at least that was what I was
told, and so you repeat what you
What was growing up like?
Growing up was peaceful; then we
got ourselves involved in the usual
rural occupation such as fishing, farming and going with my grandparents
to the farm or fishing, and that was
what we did all the time. We went to a
rural school, we learnt as much as we
could. We showed a little bit of
brightness, lost some subjects, but
all the same it was a friendly, peaceful
time. Night time was exciting with the
moonlight and you can go from one
part of the village to the other part. It
was playful and nice.
When did you start schooling?
If I can recall, it should be around
1947 because I was through with standard 6 in 1955. And after our standard 6, which was a two-year term,
we proceeded to the college depending on where you were being directed to in terms of career path. The
people around were the role models.
Either you saw a head Christian like
my grandfather or you saw somebody who was a teacher that you
admired. Then the only thing people
were aspiring to be was a teacher. But
I think I was lucky looking back now,
but all the same I spent many years
teaching going through the former
TC2, TC3 and after that you begin to
struggle to do your GCE and that was
the path to go into the university but
that wasn't my route.
Which institutions/schools did
you attend and dates?
My grandfather brought me to
Benin in 1956, and then I opted for
the seminary along the Airport Road
where I did my secondary education.
In 1957, I had to go to the Catholic
Seminary Oke-Are, Ibadan, and that
took us into a different path of life.
When did you start work?
I started work in the old western
region in 1963; I was a bit lucky, because I thought I could teach, the
same teaching that has been around
the place then I went to Ede, now in
Osun State and I got a teaching job
there, the people were very nice. Then
when you applied for a job, you'll
get a response unlike what is obtainable these days where you drop your
application letter and it is thrown into
the waste bin and nobody is telling
you anything or calls you. The courtesy then was the old British system,
if you applied for anything, they will
thank you for your interest whether
there was vacancy or not, they will
Anyway, I was told there was no
vacancy and I ended up in the civil
service in the Ministry of Agriculture.
We had hardly done 3 months when
the Midwest Region was divided and
of course Akintola won't tolerate anybody that was not Yoruba and we
were given 24 hours notice to quit
Ibadan. I am sure you heard the experience of how Ghanaians were
asked to leave Nigeria and that was
how we the mid-western came to
Benin, because Benin was the only
place where everybody could congregate and we all came down to the
Ministry of Agriculture. I was in the
fishery division but that couldn't
contain everybody. So, they asked
people from the old Benin Province
to stay in Benin, the Ibo speaking
area were asked to go to Agbor and
the core Niger-Delta indigenes were
asked to go to Warri and that was
how I went round and round before I
came to Asaba and then to Benin.
Where did you work?
I participated in a Festival of Arts
Competition at the festival hall in 1969,
and after the event, the late Dr. Samuel
Ogbemudia saw me and asked the
permanent secretary, One Mr Ifidon
to search for me and I was asked me
to report at the old Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation. That was the beginning of my sojourn into the media
industry. When I crossed into broadcasting in the 80's, I went to NTA
because I thought I was going to go
round because I was keen about having a total experience of radio, TV and
print but by the time I was trying to
leave NTA then to go over to the
Observer. The Observer didn't have
the kind of reputation it has now then,
you won't believe it, I just got sick
and tired of what the civil service was
so I quit. Ever since then, I have been
working for myself.
Why did you choose the profession
Did I choose the profession? I was
picked. But come to think of it, for
some odd reasons my father heard
me in my growing years and said my
voice sounded like a broadcast voice
whether that was prophetic I
wouldn't know. Maybe that was how
I started. We were doing some drama
series as artists and you come there
and do some radio play on a popular
program called "Wahala goes to
town it was a big one and that gradually got me nearer to broadcasting
and that was how I picked interest in
Was it deliberate or accidental?
I would rather say it was accidental, I love it and we are still growing at
it. Though, I didn't go into print but I
write articles both online, I also write
for some online media abroad and
those in Nigeria and make broadcast
When did you get married?
I have to struggle to remember this.
You see those are not the days or
things somebody remembers so easily. It could have been in the 70's. I
think what happened was that the
kids came before I got married so it
wasn't like there was a big ceremony.
We did the church part of it later and
we just carried on.
How did you meet your spouse?
It was in Asaba, in the course of
working in the Ministry of Agriculture.
What endeared you to her?
I wasn't too certain about that because I was still too young; I wasn't
quite ready but it just happened. She
was someone I could live with. The
kids came and we took it up from
there, our last child is about 40-yearold.
How many children did you give
They are seven but we lost one. In
an interview like this I will like to pay
tributes to her because if she were
alive today, she would have been 41-
year-old. Each time I think about her I
feel the pain of how she left with my
own mother. My mother went with
the kids to the village where she got
cholera due to bad water and she
passed on; she was too young and tender. I still miss her.
How was life in service?
Working in the Ministry of Agriculture was quite exciting because we
were both doing aqua-culture on land
and some of us had to do sea fishing
and it was scary. Then we used to
get boats from Ghana, the boats were
dug out from certain woods that
You know what it is when you are
heading to the sea with an outboard
engine. By the time you move half a
nautical miles, the waves you see is
like three story building and you have
to keep digging before you have a
calmer place to lay the nets and it was
quite an experience on its own before we now have to come to the land
to also teach the villagers how to be
involved in fishing cooperative.
However, as soon as I had the opportunity to jump into broadcasting
and move into the media I did so, and
it was quite a unique experience on
its own. I will do news and broadcast
reporting outside. We were the very
first set of journalists in this country.
But I need to say this without any
anger, everybody remembers Ernest
Okonkwo but Shiola Folurunsho was
the grandmaster and the very first
media star. There were also Bisi
Lawrence, Dele Adetiba, late Yinka
Craig, Tolu Fatoyinbo from Ibadan,
we were all colleagues and we usually gathered at the Broadcasting
Organization of Nigeria, and it was
under the umbrella that we covered
FESTAC. It was an opportunity to
experience the black race doing the
national festival and secondly All
Africa Games in Lagos.
In the course of doing all that the
service also provided me the opportunity to become a member of the
Bendel Football Association and of
course that took me abroad where I
was trained by the BBC and while I
was doing shows, one of the things I
enjoy in broadcasting was that I always wanted to experience the world.
I travelled by road to Monrovia and
it was a pleasant journey just discovering all the Anglo-Phone and
Franco-Phone countries and seeing
the development, experiencing their
foods was quite an experience. All
expenses were paid by myself.
How is life in retirement?
Retirement? I can't tell you about
retirement because I haven't retired
but I am looking forward to that.
What I am looking forward to if I get
lucky is to have lots of money. You
don't retire to nothing so I am trying
to work my way into that retirement by diversifying away from the media
into things that are service oriented. I
am trying to dig myself into book writing which I have started.
How would you compare life during your time with what obtains now?
One of those things I had the privilege of was that I have always been
youthful; I have never looked at time
as past, future or present, I don't have
that kind of mind-set. I take today for
what it is and because of that I don't
say the past was the glorious old
days. Yes, it was peaceful, calm but
the cities offer you a more globalized
life so I find living on a daily basis the
way I see it by engaging today. I really don't see any different. The kids
today are brighter, smarter, there are
certain things I get my grandchild to
do, send me PDF copies and all that,
we read and exchange books. In fact,
this morning I was playing back the
voices of my grandchildren who are
in Europe, I take life for what it is
Where were you during the
country's independence in 1960?
I was in Ibadan, I was 18, when Independence occurred, we had all the
expectations, remember we grew up
in the colonial period. Then, we used
to have what you called "Empire
Day and they gave us rice and fish
and we all marched around the field.
Suddenly, reality of independence
dawned on us that we are going to
look after ourselves, there was this
big hope because the country was
going into a new clime and we were
going to run our lives by ourselves.
Have your hopes at independence
Much as I don't want to compare
the past and the present, it is a different kettle of fish because one of those
sad aspect of our lives is that growing as a people we never know what
management was all about because if
those who are running this country
ever knew what management was all
about things would have been different; management is using people to
get results and that is last thing
people running this country lack.
There is wastage of human capital
and they are wasting human beings
and funds. Look at fund allocations,
they are critical areas the government
needs to put money into but they
never did, leadership enables the
people to be the best that they can
be. Sixty years down the line is a lost
opportunity, we compare ourselves
to Singapore, Singapore is a one state
country but it is a first world country
today. Is it Brazil? Brazil was at the
same level as we are in 1962, a third world country and Buhari now says
he wants to go and borrow $1.2 billion, is that not a shame? Look at
China, until 1976 they were just like
us, a country of 1.3 billion people and
we are just 200m people, we have lost
everything. Look at Rwanda, after the
genocide they now make their own
GSM and all that. Another thing that
is essentially missing is intelligence,
people who lead this country don't
have intelligence, and you have to
be smart. You may like Trump but he
knew where he was heading to four
years ago and he built the road but in
Nigeria we have leaders who are not
What is your favourite food now
Pounded yam and banga or
Ogbono soup was and still remains
my favourite food.
How did you unwind during your
We did everything young people
do; we smoked, not the bad one anyway, piped tobacco, we also smoked
three rings, camel, we drank golden
guinea beer and smoked all sort of
Did you listen to music, go to parties or dance?
Of course, yes; then in Benin we
would move around night clubs starting from 8pm. At palm house there
was this club called "Sharps it was
operated by Pakistanis and if you got
tired by 3am you headed to the limits
and by 4am you'd saunter back
home. It was fun.
What were your favourite tunes,
artists and dance steps?
Then we grew up with the twist,
sentimental, country music; the
Beatles. However, we had Segun
Buknor and a group called the
"Funkies playing pop music. In fact,
I used to travel with the Funkies.
When I was in the UK, they came for
a show and it was something else.
Talking about dancing; have you
ever had a dance with a Jamaican girl
at 2am dancing the night away?
What were your hobbies and what
are your hobbies now?
It's so personal that I don't want to
talk about it.
What would you have done differently?
Maybe if I had gone to school a lot
earlier, got all the degrees and I would
have soaked myself in the academia.
But I'm quite happy for all that God
Advice to the younger generation.
Looking at what has happened with
the #EndSARS protest, I am amazed
at the capacity of the young boys
and girls. I have always believed in
the young people. They are the future; I teach and mentor them. When
I look at the #EndSARS, and how
they walked the streets, it was amazing, and we all need to pay attention
to them to avoid a second wave. The
older ones seem not to have learnt
anything. Let the youth have courage to remake their lives and upturn
it in the right direction and should
demand better deal from the older
generation. I am an #EndSARS follower.
Culled from Leadership