Ace broadcaster and media guru, Prince Bisi Olatilo, has a whole lot to reveal about both his private and public life, especially about his career which spans over 42 years.Olatilo, who is fluent in three major Nigerian languages, in this interview, discloses how much this has fetched him.
What don’t people know about you?
I may have to do a research on this. Not many people know I like God a lot and that I go to church at least twice weekly. My church is a place where God works a lot of miracles. Due to my upbringing, before I do anything at all, I go before God in prayer. I’ve taught my children to do this as well. Not many firms experiencing the kind of problems I have had in the past survives them like I have.
Having been a broadcaster for 42 years now, how do you feel?
Yes, I started broadcasting at age 21 and I’m 63 years old now. That is 42 years clear.I have not stopped even as an entrepreneur now. My focus is radio, TV and magazines.
What should be government’s focus these days?
For the purpose of putting things straight, I started broadcasting in 1975. I don’t need to bore anybody with the details. I decided to go to FRCN to get myself equipped. Then, there were not many TV stations but mostly radio stations. My popularity soared when I was made the head of Radio Nigeria because I could speak the three major Nigerian languages. Some newspapers and radio stations are today laying off their staff because of the economic crunch.We are spending so much that we cannot afford and that is why you see most foreign investors taking their businesses away from Nigeria and even Nigerians too. These are areas government should look into.
Could you reflect on your humble beginnings and your current status?
I’ve encountered challenges but the never say die spirit has sustained me. Some colleagues of mine are no longer standing as they should but the major problem we have is that if you must do well in this business you need professionals and you know how much that costs. We do a lot of image making also. We try to tell the government not to pigeon-hole entertainment. Government needs people like us to help bring to the consciousness of the public what people need. Lagos State Government, for example, is doing well in that area. Governor Ambode decided to partner with us and even gave us the licence to make it an international thing.
What privileges have you garnered from your relationship with the crème de la crème of the Nigerian society?
Like I say to people, I wish I was rich. My wife doesn’t even believe I am broke every time I tell her. Everybody else thinks that way because they see me with notable Nigerians all the time. But I am rich in goodwill. My goodwill account cannot be exhausted if I have to wait till eternity. I get contracts from people I don’t even know from all over the world. I have been abroad for over 25 times to execute contracts for clients I have never even set my eyes on.We have a website with over three million visitors.
What does it take to start a broadcasting business like yours?
It takes hard work. It takes 24 hours of your time. I hardly see my children whenever they need me. You need a wife that would understand all this. You need a very good home that gives you peace of mind to succeed in this business I do.
What lessons can the younger generation learn from your success story?
There is no success story in life than for you to go through the stairs. You came in here through the stairs, right? But the unfortunate thing is that the youth of today want to make wealth very quickly. I take my children through this lesson everyday, especially my son who I am grooming to take over from me soon. He is also an entrepreneur in his own right because he runs a lounge somewhere at Elegushi Beach. Hard work is what I cannot compromise and the youth can learn from that. If you are hardworking, you are my friend.
What privileges has your fluency in the three major Nigerian languages accorded you?
I don’t see any Nigerian that has been more celebrated than I am. Imagine the Emir of Sokoto calling me and speaking to me in Hausa. Can you also imagine an Obi in Igboland calling me and speaking to me in Igbo? Even my Delta friends speak pidgin English with me freely. I am very free and well loved by Nigerians. One of my sons is 33 and I wonder if this platform is enough for me to attract a lady for him who is not from the Yoruba tribe. My children are five and two of them are married already. One got married eight years ago and the other got married two years ago. I have a girl who just graduated from the university and our last son just graduated from the University of Liverpool. Three of my children are yet to be married and I would love it if they don’t marry from the Yoruba tribe. It would be very nice for them just to propagate Yoruba culture to other tribes.
Do you have any favourite food?
I don’t have a favourite food because I tour the entire Nigeria often.
What would you like to be remembered for?
A friend recently advised that I come up with a reality show on Nigerian languages to see those that would take over from people like us. Even if it is just about the three major languages, I would like to do that. I would also like to be remembered as a free Nigerian because I feel very free everywhere. If you know how much ordinary Nigerians celebrate me, you’ll marvel. My driver is an Igbo man from Imo State and he keeps saying that he is not sure that I am not Igbo. Even Hausas say that to me. The Sultan of Sokoto speaks to me in Hausa and the Obi of Onitsha speaks to me in Igbo. I just like to be remembered as a free Nigerian who loves Nigeria to the core.