Breaking News

I nearly fainted recording Village Headmaster, Says Oba Olusanya Dosunmu

Egba Land.A trained journalist with preference for broadcasting, he started out as a reporter in the Times before moving to the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) where he rose through the ranks to become a director and Member of the Board, NBC, before moving out to establish himself as a film-maker.

He veered into politics in the mid seventies, and became Chairman, Abeokuta Local Government, a position he held  for six years. The Royal father spoke with BASHIR ADEFAKA at his palace in Owu, Abeokuta. Enjoy, it.

How was journalism during  your days in practice?

First, getting a job in any newspapers those days was like a real blessing. It was not very common. My passion for the job propelled my interest in search for a job in the Times.

So, they employed me at a time they were just starting the Evening Times.  Yemi Buko was the Editor and I was one of his reporters and we combed Lagos to discover news.  There was no party held in any day of the week,  that we did not cover.

Later I moved to the NBS, Nigerian Broadcasting Service where I had a great time as a broadcaster presenting programmes on radio.  And it’s amazing that after a while I went abroad to study television and I came back two years later only to become a director, a member of Board of NBC.

That time was it no longer NBC?

Yes.  By the time I returned, it had become NBC, Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.  It was a very exciting thing reporting events, reporting cases or judgements in courts.  So, we had a great time.

Really, the pay was meagre but the excitement of meeting people, the excitement of interviewing great men, military men, even the grassroots people, interviewing them exposed us to a lot of knowledge about human beings, about humanity, about the problems of society.

In fact, when I left the newspaper for radio, I was still writing for papers  I enjoyed it.  Then,  you wouldn’t just go out, all of a sudden find people and be interviewing them.  You had to really prepare, study the subject matter, find out through some researches before you go out to meet somebody to be interviewed.

Nowadays, I am not so sure that, that is happening.

Are you saying that the standard of journalism  has dropped?

I don’t know whether I am qualified to say that really.  But from the little cursory observation, I don’t think reporters have the mastery of the language in which they are writing. Not all of them.  We still see some very few outstanding writers who have the mastery of the language but I think most of what we read from the newspapers nowadays fall short of expectation.

People don’t pay much attention to grammar, to syntax and to the subject matter of what they are reporting.  It also appears that maturity is not there and editorial is a bit below standard.

Morally, it is unfortunate, and this is talking about the the pride of being a reporter as we used to have those days. I think, is going lower and lower.  You regard yourself as somebody who is representing a very reputable paper and we carried on with our job bearing in mind that we were representing Daily Times, Daily Service, Pilot, Times and others.

I think people have become a bit more casual like just going out to get something.  In our own time I think we had a little bit of that kind of orientation.  Sometimes they sent them to too many places; they send you to court and later they say go and meet Mr. Dosunmu and again go and interview Mr. Brown, for example.

And of course, since you cannot entertain all the three assignments in one day, you go to the court and say oh, Tunde you are here.  Whereas Tunde is working for another newspaper.  And you say oh, let me have your story and so, you take Tunde’s story and work on it a little bit and then you have a court story for your own newspaper.  I think there is too much of that gong on now.

But as I said at the beginning television was my calling and I had a great time producing plays, programmes for television which I enjoyed immensely.

Were you and Ambassador Segun Olusola contemporaries?

Yes.  We grew up together.  When I came in 1966 I think he was the Head of Production or something like that and I was employed as Producer, Drama that was when I produced my first play on television.  I think within a year I became

Head of Drama during that play production.

But Segun Olusola was there and he later became Controller of Programmes.  Christopher Kolade was Director of Television; late Diran Ajijedidun was one of the producers, also Remi Sokefun, Art Alabi of blessed memory.

We also had Kemi Kuboye, Funmi Coker, Rosemary Anaeze-Adams, a fantastic example of hard working producer. She was excellent.  She was a presenter in front of camera but you couldn’t produce Rosemary Anaeze without her almost taking over the production.

You see, she was never satisfied with just reading what you asked her to read, she wanted to know  everything about it, how you got your conclusion and she would research with you.  That marked her out as an outstanding presenter.

I would say Segun Olusola, at that time, was all-round personality; be it television, be it production.  Remember that he was the first African to be a producer of programme on the television.  He was an excellent man: Drama, production, front of camera, back of camera, Olusola was there.  Just get one little subject and tell Segun Olusola about it, he would go to town and you will have an exciting programme.

Could you tell us some of the drama you produced at that time?

I produced musicians like Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade and dramatists like Baba Sala, Baba Ogunde: great,  great and wonderful man, Duro Ladipo and so on.  Those were the great performers and great artists of those days.  But the programme I was best known for was the Village Headmaster, which many people thought was all I did.  But no.  I was also interviewing and reporting as a journalist.

You were in the print and electronic media.  What were those things that used to be there and which are no longer there now or vice versa?

I will tell you.  The most important thing in my opinion that was there, which I don’t notice too much nowadays is how to get it done.  Then, how to get things done was very important to us.  The days of torrent cameras on television, the days of going to court and not being able to write anything substantial, days of just moving around from one party to another without even having time to think deeply on what to write, they were all there but we were very resourceful.

Two, you could not fall bellow the standard dictated by your bosses. They had very high expectation of every person that was working with them.  Even facilities that were not provided for you, you had to be imaginative, resourceful and creative to get the very best as it was expected of you.

Today, I go to television stations and I don’t even know how they do it because, those cameras, those equipment are far up-to-date sophisticated.

Also when I went out of television, I later became a film-maker.  Some of you don’t know that.  I made the first all-Nigerian story cast film called Dinner with the Devil.  It was an all-Nigerian affair: Stories and actors, directors and the writers.  Those things that were foreign were only the cameras.  But one or two films had been made before my time.

Francis Oladele partnered with Wole Soyinka on the Kongi’s Harvest.  Later I made other film, the Eye of Life with Francis Oladele again.

I can’t remember everything now but the facilities today are immensely tremendous, I think, possibly in comparison with outside world; may be what people like you are enjoying now. Let me give you another big example.  (pointing to the reporter’s recorder).  What do you call it?

Midget, your Majesty.

Of course it is midget, but what I call midget is the instrument that I carried about to record radio and television programmes which was a huge one almost as big as this television set here (pointing to a 21-inch television set). That is what we called midget.

The other day a television crew came here to interview me and they brought something like this hand-set  (showing a small GSM phone in his hand) and it captured every scene here.  It’s amazing.

I think there are many things that have come into radio, television and newspapers reporting, directing, producing nowadays that were not there then.  But I believe that resourcefulness, the reporter’s imagination, creativity as we were tasked, and almost over tasked in our time, are the major tool of a journalist.

Recording those days was difficult.   The very first episode of Village Headmaster that I recorded was difficult. I recorded it in about four times.  And I almost committed suicide when I saw even the third and the fourth recording.

You know, people though saw it and screamed: Oh, this is great and wonderful.  But by the standard that I knew coming all the way from London, I felt like committing suicide and I almost fainted.

But I thank God I had bosses like Christopher Kolade and Segun Olusola who said oh, it was beautiful, it was great and wonderful!  I think the people that are, writing, acting and producing films nowadays have improved tremendously.

How about the presentation on radio and television…?

(cuts in) I listen to some programmes and hear things that you dare not say in our days.   You know, in those days we had to carry Oxford Dictionary in our pockets, not just for the meaning of words but also the proper and correct pronunciation.

However, there are presenters who speak English very fluently because they possibly they were born in England and they had schooled there.  But in our days we had to speak clearly, Oxford English.

What do you think that your current position as traditional ruler has taken away from you, talking about your profession as journalist and broadcaster?

Nothing.  I read and listen to news from broadcasting stations. The Paramount FM and NTA Abeokuta are my favourites.

How much of improvement would you say the film-making industry in Nigeria has recorded?

I like to praise the practitioners.  First and foremost, I think, they are more courageous than we were.  Secondly I think they are really soaring, establishing culture and tradition better than we did.

Well, in my very first film when I got out of television, as I said, Dinner with the Devil, all the rules set in those days we obeyed.

I obeyed every rule; we made a film that was posted to Hollywood.  I went there to edit the film by myself and when people saw it in America they said waoh! it was great and wonderful.

I think at that time the cost of producing this one-and-a-half hour film was very close to four hundred and fifty thousand pounds in those days.  And at that time some young people came into the scene and started making films on what we called reversal film.

Reversal film is what we used in film coverage.  You then took the reversal film out, you shoot your film and bring it back to the studio and lace it on the projector and change the polarity.  It is negative kind of thing but you can reverse it and that is why they called it reversal, it will change polarity on line. And people made real picture films.  I can’t remember their names now.

So, what I spent was nearly half a million, Of course they made it.  They just took it to these small, street theatres and they made their thirty thousand plus: hundred per cent profit.  I think they are more clever than we were.  We would not go and make film unless the situation was perfect and we had all the paraphernalia of production.  But they did not care about things like that.

They just made films, people enjoyed watching the films and they did it several times, they made money.  They were more business-like whereas I was being more creative.

But thanks to them.  Now, Nigerian film is almost in every house.  I think they have destroyed the situation in which people go out to watch film in cinema theatres.  I don’t know where any theatre is nowadays except that I understand.  Ben Bruce tried to bring about something of that nature.  Somebody took me there on Victoria Island and I saw that it is excellent.

But at least you were being patriotic and joining in re-branding Nigeria in that capacity (all laughter).

Yes.  I give kudos to them.  They are forthcoming.

Between the time you quit journalism and the time you emerged as Oba, did you do any other thing?

Eh! I can say I accidentally found myself in politics.  And I am being honest with you, it was by accident.  I think this was the time when (General Olusegun) Obasanjo and (General Shehu Musa) Yar’Adua were in power and they were trying to come out with a new local government system with a very unique idea that people who wanted to be councillors should be those that their people had chosen.  No party, it was zero-party politics.

But apart from the question of lack of fund, I believe that it was a very beautiful idea, it was another way of feeling the pulse of the people at the  grassroots level, so that they could be helped particularly in alleviating their sufferings.  I did my best in that regard.

The tenure was to last till 1979 but it went on and I was there till 1981 because they didn’t dissolve us and I was not removed as chairman of Abeokuta Local Government until 1981.  It opened my eyes a lot.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.