Agidigbo 88.7 FM, which formerly operated on the Internet, recently launched its radio station in Ibadan, Oyo State capital city, and commenced full operations in March.

The station is the brainchild of Oriyomi Hamzat, an ace broadcaster and social activist, who made critical comments on the administration of former Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi on his radio programmes aired on the internet.

The popular critic was later arrested and his broadcasting equipment seized over the receipt of a petition against one of the radio programmes by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).

A day after the launching ceremony, which was well attended by dignitaries, including the incumbent Governor of the state, Seyi Makinde, PREMIUM TIMES’ Alfred Olufemi paid a visit to the community journalism-focused radio station, and had a robust conversation with the 25-year-old Head of Station, Yousuph Adebayo.

Mr Adebayo in his office

In this exclusive interview with our reporter, Mr Adebayo, the self-acclaimed youngest radio station manager in Nigeria, spoke on the plans of the media organisation and its sustainability.

Mr Adebayo, who once worked as a television host at a Lagos-based television station and a reporter with New Telegraph newspaper, also reviewed the practice of investigative journalism as it relates to the broadcast industry in Nigeria and the organisation’s relationship with Governor Makinde.

Read excerpts below

PT: So you have been on the job for a few weeks now, how does it feel? You are 27?

Adebayo: 25

PT: At 25, how do you feel heading a station as big as this?

Adebayo: it feels really good, great. You know that phase where you are excited about the opportunity to head an organization like this, you are also apprehensive about the challenges that may arise. It is easier if this is just any radio station but this is Agidigbo FM 88.7.

Understanding the plan and the blueprint of the station as well as what the radio station set to achieve can cause that level of apprehension.

“Okay. Am I going to be able to do this? At the same time, the excitement of ‘Yes, we are changing the landscape when it comes to radio.’ So it is a mix of both.

But the track record and the success recorded in the past few weeks of being in operation, seeing the level of acceptance means that the planning we’ve done in making sure the broadcast content that people listen to on our radio station is superb – is paying off and the strategies we’ve deployed, is paying off.

So, it gives you the sense of just leaving the apprehension behind and focusing on the assignment.

PT: You’ve been in this industry for a number of years. You’ve tasted the broadcast, print and being on the TV for some months. What’s your overview of the industry and how it relates to Ibadan as a town?

Adebayo: I had a few stays with a few radio stations in Accra, Ghana; a couple of them. And Ibadan, then Lagos.

Talking about Ibadan, the peculiarity of Ibadan is so different and so amazing as well. Because what works for a radio in a place like Lagos might not work in a place like Ibadan. Let me give you an example. This city sleeps pretty early. If you step out by 9 p.m., the roads are already scanty. Lagos never sleeps, that means that the broadcast curtain for the two cities will be different.

In a place like Ibadan, people will say fewer opportunities. Lagos is where everything is happening. But I tell you that all you have to do is to pay attention to the peculiarities of the city and what it seems to consume as broadcast content and then give it to them.

PT: In the last few years you’ve been about entertainment, lifestyle. Heading a station as critical as this, are you not afraid you will tilt towards that side?

Adebayo: Well you can say that but the thing with me is that I started off as a news person. As a matter of fact, I tell my team that field reporting is a part of me. As a journalist, your business is not even in the office. Get out and work.

As a news reporter, I studied someone on a newspaper report show intensively and what I noticed was that that space is saturated and I feel like there is so much that can be done at that space but it’s not being exploited.

You know a lot of investigations, original storytelling, a lot of radio stations do not empower their newsroom to tell these stories and that’s very bad. There was no investment in telling investigative stories, everything was bare, culled stories from print, broadcast it, do analysis to report, cover event.

It was just really watery at that time, I got sort of ‘I don’t even have a word for it’ but it was a moment of this could be better. Yes, I’m a huge fan of entertainment and lifestyle, right, and I feel there are a lot of stories to be told in that space as well.

Then I thought about if this space is saturated and it is not reaching its full potential, let me face this, it is less saturated and there’s a lot of potential as well. A lot of stories we can do to make it substantial rather than the ‘Wizkid has another baby mama’ and co. We could pull stories to what we hear about these people: ‘Flavour said I sold a million copies of my album. How true is that?’

In Nigeria of today, a lot of stories about Video Vixen being exploited, we sort of put it together, put it side by side with the story you want to tell in politics, governance, so you could bring that perception into entertainment and lifestyle. That is what I was doing before and the record has shown that kind of intensive reporting can work on a ‘vain’ beat like entertainment and lifestyle. But then, will I want to tilt towards this?

I don’t exactly think that I will and the reason being that I understand that radio is a mix of everything. You have people who want to listen to breaking stories, the analysis, particularly on governance and politics, at the same time you have people who want to just enjoy themselves, even the people who want to listen to (the) news.

There will be a point in time where they want to also relieve themselves of things going on in Nigeria. Then you can give that to them as well. Even coming from my background means that I have a taste of everything and I know what works for each demographic and at what time.

PT: You mentioned something about investigation being a hard nut to crack in the broadcast industry. Can you expatiate?

Adebayo: I mean it is what it is, it is a hard nut for broadcast particularly radio. For TV I think they are trying but for radio, it is not exactly hard, it is something we’ve experimented with at Agidigbo FM and it is working. We have an investigative show on our radio station. It is called “Digging Deep”.

PT: But you just started…

Adebayo: You are looking at sustainability? Cool. Why don’t other radio stations start first? This thing will sort itself out.

PT: How are you sure they’ve not started? Recently, I came across a post about a radio station here in Ibadan that facilitated data journalism training with its staff. You can’t be so sure.

Adebayo: We did that here too. Dataphyte came to have a training with us and it is a reflection of our commitment toward areas in journalism that are often neglected. The reason people think it is hard to do is because, over time, we have shifted broadcast journalism from its foundation of being human beings’ closest means of consuming information to the point where it is just for entertainment. We have a standing rule in this station that your programme must have content.

P.T: You’ve once mentioned that a community radio is lacking in a place like Ibadan. How is Agidigbo filling that gap?

Adebayo: Good, that’s exactly what we are here to do. And I’ll give you an example to prove we have been able to do that in recent times. This is Friday, we just went on full commercial broadcast a week ago. People come here to share their problems here because we are seen as their voices, community radio is the space that is missing.

Check out a lot of broadcast media houses. How many original stories can you get? A lot of radio stations only reflect the situation of people in Ibadan when there is a launching by the state government, and they report the story as an event.

PT: You know the Agidigbo brand started via Oriyomi Hamzat, a social activist. Now, he is coming to people as a team. Don’t you think there will be a slight difference in the audience’s perception of the brand? It used to be Oriyomi Hamzat to the people, now Agidigbo as a brand with a team.

Adebayo: We have over 65 staff. The brand identity of Agidigbo FM is bigger than the man Oriyomi Hamzat. He’s the founder of the radio station, right. He has social activism. I’m proud to say that whatever we are today as a radio station is a product of his dedication to the fulfillment of human rights particularly to the common man.

Everybody on the team is working to make sure that the dream stays alive because Agidigbo is an extension of the founder’s commitment to upholding social justice every single time. It is an extension of who he is in a more refined and structured manner.

And everybody is aligned with the dream. You can tell from the overwhelming reception we got from the masses. You can see the impact one person (Oriyomi Hamzat) could drive, now imagine the impact of 65 more people on that same agenda.

PT: Okay. You seem to have enjoyed the support of the current administration in Oyo, compared to the previous administration that seized the station’s equipment when it was operating on the internet. Are you not afraid that in the long run there might be issues arising from criticising this same government?

Adebayo: It is not. What you have to do is that your criticism is not laced with politicking.

We call ourselves the people’s voice and we make sure that those voices are a true reflection of the concerns of the common man. We established it yesterday (at the launching) that we are not here to fight any government official. What is dear to us is the interest of the common man and we know the government of today has the same in mind.

There could be an oversight, then we call their attention to it. We said it yesterday at the commissioning that we are partners in progress, I mean it’s a known fact.

PT: There is this belief that “activism does not pay bills’ and running a media organisation on activism solely may hamper that financials. So what is the business model of the company?

Adebayo: The first one is very simple. Activism does not exactly pay the bills but through it you can earn trust and trust is what you sell. What we are pushing our social activism is towards the establishment of trust, when we are trusted, then anything commercial can happen. Because then we will be believed, and people will patronise organizations, advertise on the station, the advertiser will then see a return on the investment, and he comes back.

Our social activism is directed at the area of earning the people’s trust. And it is the foundation for everything we do on the radio station. I don’t think there is any other radio station in the entirety of Nigeria that investigates its advertisers before putting it out. We do that here, because we enjoy the trust of the grassroots. We don’t want it to be compromised.

Now, the investigative desk, the most important thing when it comes to sustaining an investigative desk is acknowledging it is your calling and it is something that the people you are broadcasting deserve. That alone will help you put a lot of effort into sustaining it. Practically, you can’t put ads on it to prevent dilution.

The programme is 30 minutes English, 30 minutes Yoruba. We are a community radio and we want to make impacts and we are aware that our listeners are 60 per cent Yorubas. In the long run, we look at it from the angle of sustaining it because it’s our core calling.

We have about 105 programmes on the radio station, so if one is not giving direct revenue, we won’t mind. Also, we are working towards partnering with credible NGOs that support good journalism.

PT: There is this thing about media organisations in Nigeria — where you have meagre pay or allowance… What do you think about it?

Adebayo: The welfare of our staff is something very serious. This is the first radio station in Ibadan owned by a broadcaster himself. And that helps us in many ways. He understands every single programme that goes on here, so if your programme is not hefty enough, he knows areas you have to improve on to make sure the quality of content is pretty good. It helps in the area of staff welfare.

We have made a commitment that no presenters, broadcast journalists will enjoy the highest staff welfare than Agidigbo FM because it is owned by a broadcaster who has had to go through the poor welfare we have in Nigeria media. He has experienced it firsthand and he knows nobody deserves to go through that. Our staff appraisal is the best you can find around.

PT: To cap it up, where do you see Agidigbo FM in the next five years?

Adebayo: Best community radio in the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa.

PT: Sub-Saharan Africa? So you could extend your tentacles outside this country.

Adebayo: Could be!


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