Today, Tuesday, December 10, 2016, Veteran broadcaster, Chief Bisi Olatilo turns 63. Interestingly, yesterday marked his 35th wedding anniversary with his wife. Chief Olatilo, one of the brightest stars ever shine in the Nigeria broadcast industry and the Founder/Chairman of BISCON Communications (a multi-faceted media and entertainment company) despite having put in 40 years of service, remains much relevant in that sector. This evening, his family has planned a colourful birthday party for him somewhere around Lekki in Lagos. And yesterday evening, in the thick of final production of his weekly TV Magazine show, ‘The Bisi Olatilo Show’ that runs on national TV, the energetic master compere spoke with TOPE AILERU, reflecting on life at 63, as well some of his new moves, particularly plans to bring BISCON World channel back on satellite TV.
It is amazing to see that you are still so agile and still putting so much energy to work at 63. Where do you get the energy from?Ikenna Ndaguba was almost 80 and he was still performing, looking so strong on stage despite his age. That is the training we got. Anybody that goes through the FRCN Training School cannot just but be exceptional. Everything you are trained about is hard work. So, if you check around and you find anyone who has any ill-feelings or anything untoward towards me, I can tell you it is because of work. I am happy you came here and met me working. We have been here for the past 2 nights and I always tell everyone working with me that the training they get here is for their personal good. Whether we like it or not, I won’t continue to be strong and agile as I am in some years to come. Some new people have to take it from where we are going to leave it. Yorubas have a saying that goes like ‘Ise lo npani, ise kii payan’ (meaning ‘its poverty that kills, hard work doesn’t kill’. And I must be honest with you, this work thing you are talking about has taking me to the heights of my profession, where a lot couldn’t even get to. Am sure that there would be only a few people in the land who do not know my first name, my surname or who do not have my phone number. There is another prover in Yoruba that says, O nwa owo lo, o pade iyi lona, ti o ba ri owo naa, iyi ko lo ma fir a ni? (meaning, you you are set on a journey to get waelth and you met dignity on your way, you are meant to go back home with it easily, because your next quest after getting wealth is dignity). I have used this proverb over and over. We didn’t have to pay for the recognition we have got today. It is our handiwork that brought the recognition. I was speaking with Olorogun Sunny Kuku when one of his daughters got married over the weekend, and I couldn’t make it to the event. I had like 5 events on that Sunday. And he asked me, how do you cope with all of these events? I smiled and said, that is my work and I love doing it. I thank God for all the things I have got through this job. I have a good story to sell.
But the way you have been talking about hard work, how easy has it been for you; even as you are growing older?
Easy? How can it be easy? But if it is something you have been doing all your life then you may not have many problems. I mean, for the 63 years of my life, I have devoted 40 of it to Radio and Television and some bit of magazine publishing. So, that is my job. I wouldn’t know anything else I could have done that would have been easier.
Based on your experience in life so far, are you saying hardwork is a pre-requisite for living long? Well, I should think so to a reasonable extent. I was with a well to do person in Nigeria who is turning 60 today, a couple of days back. When I told him I an 63, he said waoh!, how did you do it. I just smiled. In those 63 years, there had been 35 years of marriage. Today, 19th December marked our 35th wedding anniversary. We are blessed with 5 children, 3 grandchildren and still counting (in terms of the grandchildren). So where else does a man want to be in life? At 63 I know am still strong and I can still do a lot more. So, why not? Meanwhile, for all these things, the glory belongs to God.
One other amazing thing about you is the fact that despite the many decades that you have been in this sector, you have maintained your relevance. Even the young stars of today in that sector could not phase you out. What has worked this magic for you? Is it hard work also?
It also has to do with hard work and consistency in what you do. For instance, I pride myself today as the man who conceptualised magazine television and entertainment reporting. I mean, nobody does it the way we do. It is like you are reading a newspaper when you are watching our show and we add everything to it. That is a genre that is a niche that we carved and after 16 years of doing it, the concept keeps going strong. Because we are still the best, I am very proud to say that. It is hard work that leads to constituency.
A unique issue about African entrepreneurs is the way they relate with challenges in business. At 63, it doesn’t tell in your looks that you have passed through a lot of troubled times before you got to where you are today. How difficult has it been since you started running your own business?
Anyway, one doesn’t have to be carrying all the stress in his business up on his face and be rubbing it on everyone’s face. It has been very, very difficult. Because I don’t really seem to know why the Nigerian private sector don’t mind or want to embrace what people like us in the entertainment/media business do. Apart from Glo that is a major financier when it comes to that, I don’t really know of any other person. I must confess that we are crawling on a lot of debts, a lot of problems getting business done. But I know that with prayers and God on our side, before too long those whose eyes have not been opened to what we do, will redirect their focus in that direction.
That brings us to the question about your cable TV channel, BISCON World that has been off air for some years now. What is the latest about the channel at the moment?
A couple of years back, BISCON World TV was about the most popular channel on HiTv. We were running live for 24 hours. We were running everything, from new, sports, entertainment and many more. We had so much subscription then, but we were not the owner of the satellite TV Company. Our relationship with the owners was like tenant to Landlord. When the Landlord couldn’t sustain its operations anymore, they had to pack up. So, as tenants, we were left with no other option than to leave. So that is what happened. But at the moment, we are working with DSTV to bring BISCON World back. I wonder why an outfit like mine would have to cry its eyes out to be able to get a platform for your channel. When they already knew you are a content developer. You sleep, you breathe, eat content. In our office here, only God knows the tons and tons of it (content) that we have. So, the best I can tell you for now is that we are almost there. I wouldn’t say more than that.
On your 63rd birthday, what are the special things you are thanking God for?
Oh, the fact that you sleep and wake up in this very trying times in the country, where life expectancy is shrinking by the day, is enough to thank God for. It has seriously been a very trying time for Nigeria, the land has been dry. It has never been this bad. So, if you can survive these hard times, you must thank God. You just said now that the country is going through a torrid time that has never been experience. As a major stakeholder in the media/entertainment sector, how bad has this sector been hit by the present condition of the country? How bad has business been?
It has never been this bad. We can only pray that those who have locked their doors against what people in the entertainment are doing will have a re-think. I told you earlier that we had to force our way to get the kind of recognition we have today. The popular saying that when the going gets tough, it is only the tough ones that get going is what is applicable to our situation today, at least for those who have something to sell. We thank God that for us, the viewers have become like a movement. But I will plead with people like Otunba Dr Mile Adenuga Jnr to also like to look at the direction of those of us who have been running our shows on privately-concerned level. For crying out loud, it is not easy. We must pay all those TV stations on whose platforms you get to see us. It is a very sad irony. Whereas is the western world, people like us are the biggest bride. I mean everyone will want to have us because we have the contents. At 11 pm today, you cannot imagine how many people are waiting to watch what we are doing here right now; from the very top of the society down the line. These are some of the things that encourage one to keep moving on. But in all, I still hope that someday soon, we shall sing some Hosannas.