My name is Kevin Ejiofor.
One thing many people do not know about me is that, essentially, I am a lazy man. I fight myself each day to get up to do what I have to do, and at every excuse, I would rest or sleep or something like that. And this has been on forever: I am not kidding.
The only saving grace is that when I start doing anything, I do it with everything I have and, more often than not, it comes out good and people are happy with it.
The effect of this is that I lost many things….
I hated mathematics, which I now know was a factor of that laziness. How did I know that? My daughter in the United Kingdom took after me in that respect - not only her but she, particularly - in this hatred for mathematics. Her children started coming home from school asking to be helped with their homework. Here, we send them to lessons, but there in the UK, there are no lessons. So, she panicked. Then she called me, one day, and said, 'daddy, this mathematics thing is not so hard.' I told her, 'I have been told, it's just laziness.'
In my time, in school certificate (examination), if you had a "P" you could not get a Grade One. So, not to have any "P" anywhere, I had to drop physics where there was harder thinking. I was not afraid of getting a credit in chemistry, biology. In mathematics, I had my plan: I had seen the question paper of the previous year; they usually had seven simple questions, which would give you sixty per cent, if you passed all, and two or four questions in the harder part which gave you forty per cent. I did not bother with that part. So, I divided the time for the whole maths paper into seven and timed myself. I am sure I must have got six over seven to get a C. So, when the school certificate results came out, some of my friends said, 'Kevin, you had a "C" in maths, how did you do it?'
This was at Government College, Ughelli, in 1957.
The other thing that people do not know about me is that it looks like I have never applied for a job.
Back in Ughelli, before we sat for the school certificate examination in November, I was called up to the principal's office, that a gentleman wanted to see me. It was Dr Kenneth O. Dike, who was setting up the National Archives and was looking for future archivists, young men who were good in history. He asked me a few questions which I can no longer remember. He finished and left with nobody telling me anything. But, by February 1958, a letter was waiting at the postal agency in my village, Eke, in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. It was a letter of appointment as an archive assistant at National Archives, at Abadina Village in Ibadan, next to the University of Ibadan. Dike was the first director of the National Archives. He had presented a proposal on the preservation and administration of historical records across Nigeria and Government approved it.
My parents prepared me. They gave me three names of Eke people who were in Ibadan: Livinus Agu who was the secretary to, or in, Ibadan Council; the other was a Railways man, Aloysius, and Francis, a policeman.
I travelled, second class, through train to Makurdi and down to Ibadan and asked myself 'who should I look for first?' The answer was obvious, since I was in a train station. So, I went up to an official and said, I was looking for Aloysius Anigbo. He looked up and said, 'Aloysius? Oh dear.' He called somebody and told him to go and check the train timetable. It turned out that Aloysius was a train guard and had gone to Offa. The man did not look confused at all; he paused for a moment. Then the man surprised me: Noting that the other fellow knew where Aloysius lived, he brought out one shilling and six pence, gave it to him and instructed that he should take me to Aloysius's house. Then in Ibadan, what we call "Drop" now, in the old black Morris Minor, was six pence a ride. So, one shilling was to take the man and me to Ijebu Bye Pass where Aloysius lived and the six pence was for him to return to the station. No question asked: who are you or whatever else. I did not ask his name. Nothing. May the Lord bless him.
Aloysius came back two days later and met me in his house. By then I had settled in. His wife had asked me who I was, where I came from and so on. She started dancing and told everybody her brother had come. She received me well. I stayed with them for three months before I was transferred to Enugu to open the Colliery Avenue branch of the National Archives. Originally, we were in the basement of the Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly until they finished the building at Colliery Avenue. The first supervisor in my working life was Ikenegbu Atta. Coincidentally, I met his son today. Before him, there was Mr A B Shofu, who was our head clerk in Ibadan. At the Archives, we were called liaison officers…I travelled everywhere to the District Office, Provincial Office...picking up documents, asking questions, making notations, sorting and arranging the files. You should pay a visit to the Archives and see what those District Officers wrote about us in proper, intimidating English Language; how deeply they knew us, and, therefore how easy it was for them to manipulate everything that was going on in this country.
I worked in the National Archives as a clerk of various grades until 1966. I learnt a lot.
In 2019, I was at the Archives here in Enugu, for my Pension records, and I met an enthusiastic young man there, Emeka, and I was pleased they still keep records…they brought my personal file.
Now, to how I joined radio.
We were having our department's end-of-year/Christmas party (at the Archives) and the husband of our telephonist, one Victor Egwuatu, from Onitsha, came to pick up his wife and saw me emceeing the event. When I finished, he came up to me and asked me in a playful yet serious way, 'young man, what are you doing here?' I told him I was working there. Then he said, 'the way you speak English, you should not be working here at all.' Less than a week later, he came back and said 'there is an advertisement coming out in the Daily Times on Thursday. I want you to apply ' He told me to go to Radio Nigeria and collect an application form. I did. I filled it out. I was interviewed in November '65, the Nigerian tension had started. There was the coup in January '66, so I could not start until May 1966 when I was employed as Programme Assistant/Presentation. We were just announcers, reading the news, presenting programmes, and interviewing people.
It was then called Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) but the on-air identification was Radio Nigeria.
The civil war started soon after I joined.
On radio, I enjoyed the creativity of the work: a five-minute programme could take you five hours to prepare.
I would never forget an interview I had in 1973 with a British curator and anthropologist, William Buller Flag at the British Museum. He had worked in Nsukka. He was a stammerer. I sat recording him on my Nagra (portable audio recorder) for forty-five minutes. And I needed only an insert of two-and-half minutes from him. The editing of that programme, with a blade and sellotape, splicing, was one of the most tedious I have ever done.
Now this, before being interviewed for the Radio Nigeria job, Sam Nwaneri, who was then the controller, East Regional programme of Radio Nigeria invited us - we were three - for audition. I started reading, Page 1, Page 2, I think I was on Page 3, when he banged on the door and said I should come out. I thought that I had failed. Then he asked where I went to school. I told him, Government College Ughelli. He asked, 'oh, did you know Mr Kolade?' I said he was my teacher.
Yes, one thing many may not know is that many, many years ago Dr Christopher Kolade was my Latin teacher at Government College Ughelli. His first job ever after graduating from Fourah Bay College was to come to Ughelli. He wanted to be an education officer. He set the place on fire, not literally. Very unorthodox man. Very particular man. Very demanding man. Our interaction has not ceased since then, from 1955, not even for a month. Oh, he was also our Housemaster at Sapele House for a brief while before he left.
I have been lucky with bosses.
Even Nwaneri took an interest in my progress at Radio Nigeria.
I left Radio Nigeria in 1985 as manager (programmes), North Africa and Overseas but spent a lot of time in Voice of Nigeria which was then part of Radio Nigeria.
On my time as a sports commentator.
Now, in every other part of the world, it is former sports people who do commentaries. Here, with Ishola Folorunsho as the beginner of everything, it is those who spoke good English and were quick on the uptake, that you could quickly describe what you see (then you are good to go). In my group then was Sebastian Ofurum, Ernest Okonkwo, Dele Adetiba and Yinka Craig and myself. Ishola Folorunsho was the founder, the originator, the unbelievable guide and teacher in that profession. Followed by Yemi Fadipe and Ernest Okonkwo who took it to new levels…dizzying heights. Oh yes.
After each commentary, your boss would sit you down, and take you through every sentence, every expression…it was an exciting time.
I came back into broadcasting…after working in public relations…in 2002, courtesy Eddie Iroh (then Radio Nigeria's Director-General) who insisted despite my protestations that I was too old…then I was sixty-four years old.
It took us about six months of arguing. We had set up Image Consultants then and it was looking as if it was going to blossom, but Vincent Oyo said I should leave it to him to run while I was away. Eventually I took up the job as Executive Director and I was grateful that I accepted the offer. We had a great team.
When Eddie's time ended, I had to take over from him….
Two main things I do now.
With Dr Ayo Adewunmi, a chief lecturer in fine art at the Institute of Management and Technology Enugu, we have been running the Life in My City Arts Festival for about fifteen years.
Then there is the West Africa Broadcast and Media Academy which was conceived by a friend of mine.
I now know that I find it exciting mixing with younger people at a professional level, although occasionally frustrating and annoying. Remember Alfred Opubor (professor of mass communication at the University of Lagos). He was (of Class of 1950) at Ughelli and we remained friends until he died. He told me that what he enjoyed most when talking to his students was watching the fire in the eyes of those who were listening to what he was saying. The thing was that he was seeing fewer and fewer of those because many of those who ended up in mass communication were those who could not get into medicine or whatever was now regarded as profitable. I am now seeing it in WABMA. You can imagine what people who taught all their lives must have enjoyed.
At WABMA, I told them at this age, they cannot expect me to be running classes and all of that. So, I do selected things: interviews, presentations and occasional production, just bits and pieces. When we have long courses, I appear three or four times. For me, it is mostly pro bono now, same with Life in My City Art Festival, but I find it quite enjoyable.
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Taiwo Obe, FNGE
Commonwealth Professional Fellow
Founder/Director, The Journalism Clinic
+234 818 693 5900