Reminiscences: Our Leaders Lack Knowledge Of Human Mgt- Abolo

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 excerpts. 

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 were told.

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 reach you. 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 you practised?
 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 the profession.

 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 analysis.

 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 birth to?
 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 don't capsize. 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 been met? 
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 smart. 

What is your favourite food now and then?
 Pounded yam and banga or Ogbono soup was and still remains my favourite food.

 How did you unwind during your younger days?
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 things 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? 

 Any regrets? 
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 has done.

 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

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