4 October, 2020
Frances Olisa Ogbonnaya, popularly known as ‘Tabitha,’ is one lady who is passionate about touching lives and lifting others up. After achieving a perfection of performance at Kiss FM, Lagos, she decided to move on to the political terrain, doing just what she knows how to do best. In this encounter with Yetunde Oladeinde, she takes you into her world, passion for creativity and why she decided to go into grassroots politics to contest the local government chairmanship election in Abia State next weekend.
TELL us about your experience in broadcasting?
I would say that having spent some ample time in other aspects of journalism, I will say broadcasting is the one I enjoyed the most simply because of its distinctiveness. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful jobs on earth.
The fact that you impact positively the lives of millions most times from a studio room is intriguing. Despite whatever you are going through as soon as you step into that room called a studio, you drop your problems and worries at the doorstep and become more concerned about making the lives of others (viewers and listeners) meaningful. They will be all that matter to you. Broadcasting is indeed beautiful, and I am enjoying every bit of it.
What are some of the memorable moments?
Oh! That must be when I walked into a supermarket around Ojota and a devout listener of my flagship radio show, ‘The Podium’, recognised me. So, by the time I finished shopping and went to pay, I realized that the person had paid for all I bought and had left almost immediately. I couldn’t even get a chance to say ‘Thank you.’
I was left speechless!
Such moments and many others are quite memorable to me.
What were some of the challenges?
The challenges were not many except time management. As a mother , I had struggled to balance my job and raising my children.
Since I worked in the Current Affairs Department, most of my programmes were socio-political in nature and they were usually better in the morning. So I was usually caught up in between the school run and meeting up with my programmes which were always live. And you can trust the Lagos traffic to be very unpredictable. So, that posed a lot of challenges.
What is your assessment of the sector at the moment?
The broadcasting industry has indeed grown larger with the emergence of many new radio stations with many digital or online broadcasting platforms, but just like with everything that has advantages, this unguarded growth has led to the entrance of a lot of quacks into the industry. Some actually think that all you need to be in the industry is some borrowed accents. Unfortunately, that it is not what it should be. Let me not even talk about the online platforms. Everyone now claims to be a presenter with a camera phone and stuffs like that.
But I know that with some right regulations, the industry will become one of the best soon. And then again, I seriously think that the government, through the NBC, is interfering a little bit too much in the industry and such meddlesomeness is stifling creativity.
You are also in politics. What has been the experience?
You would say I have just decided to go into politics, but having been a political correspondent for years, a political analyst and heading the Current Affairs Desk, you are also not far from the truth, if you say I have been in politics.
But with my little experience so far, I will say that the Nigerian political terrain is quite tough and not tailored to encourage women. But we will keep trying and demanding for legislative affirmations to afford women a fair playing ground.
What are some of the hindrances for women in politics?
The challenges facing women in politics are enormous. There are financial factors stemming from the fact that politics in Nigeria is unarguably capital intensive. And we have advocated that political parties should support women by making the nomination forms free for them and giving them other incentives.
There are many other challenges like socio- cultural factors. For example, a woman is naturally saddled with the responsibility of raising her kids. A man can decide to join active politics at age 25, but a very few women can do that because at that age, you are more concerned about getting married because there is the belief that women have a ‘time limit’ for marriage, and if you are married, you are more concerned about having kids to avoid menopause and other things. I must also add that there are too many issues derailing the woman from joining politics at a younger age just like most men.
Then again, there is the issue of state of origin facing a woman in politics. This is very prevalent in the South South or South East, even though it almost reared its ugly head in Ondo State, following the nomination of Nimi Akinkungbe (Née Ajumogobia) as an ambassador nominee. Literally, a woman in politics who is married to a person from another state appears ‘stateless’. It’s really a very bad situation.
I have experienced a similar situation where a spokesperson of the governor referred to me and a group of other women who became Abians by marriage as ‘non-truly’ Abians, simply to undermine our input politically. Even though I believe this does not reflect the views of the state government or the governor himself, but just to let you know some of the challenges women in politics go through.
As regards how I hope to surmount these challenges, first of all, it is determination.
I am inspired from time to time. I have told myself that you have to be determined not to just be speaking on television and in newspapers, but to offer myself for public work.
So, whatever challenges, I know I will survive them just the way I had always survived in the private sector.
What are some of the changes that you would like to see in politics?
I want to see ‘money politics’ minimised. I want to see that people’s votes count. I want to see the electoral umpire and electoral system become very credible. And most importantly, I want to see women duly represented in all aspects of government.
Do you have mentors in politics? What has been their impact?
Of course, I have many of them, particularly in Nigeria. I love Senator Uche Ekwunife of Anambra State and her style of politics. I also love the current Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Paullen Tallen of Plateau State, and a host of others. On the international scene, I love Angela Dorothea Merkel,the Chancellor Of Germany.
If you had to change something in the sector, what would it be?
I would love to see money politics being totally eliminated. If this is done, you will find a situation where politics would enable leaders with genuine interests emerge and make the political positions less attractive.
What advice do you have for young people who want to go into politics?
I advise young people, especially women going into politics in Nigeria, to expect anything. On this terrain, one minute can change a lot of things. Most people say one thing, when they mean another. I will advise young people to get ready to change this narrative by playing politics of ideology.
What are the other things that occupy your time?
Apart from politics and my media business, the other thing that occupies my time is my family, Yes, as a mother, I try to spend quality time with my kids and husband. In addition, I try to listen to good music. I have no specific genre of music. I love any good music. So, don’t be surprised when you see me dancing to Egwu Ekpili by Prince Morocco Maduka or fuji music by Osupa Saheed, Pasuma and the rest.
How have you been keeping safe?
I would say that keeping safe is one message that I and my team have been passing. Personally, I try to keep safe by observing major safety measures.
What lessons has life taught you?
The lessons are just many, but this is a learning curve so far. Narrowing it down, life has taught me not to put my hope in any human being and that most times your help comes from the quarters you do not expect.
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