Those who love him love him to the hilt. Those who hate him hate him with a passion, to the extent that all they might be waiting for is just an opportunity for him to turn his back so that they can drop a knife.
But he has followers, lots of them, including those who believe in him and his ways and would likely take a bullet for him. But they don’t need to because the subject here is a survivor who seems to enjoy so much protection from his God that one can safely say he is a veteran of sort.
Some people will convulse when they hear the name Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi but many more will shout Raypower for some reasons that will eternally be difficult to bury unfairly.
When he was 69 on Sunday October 25, 2020, his friends gathered around him for some somber celebrations. Dokpesi has his crowd from across the divides and there is little anybody can do about that. Looking at some faces around him on television reminded me of the story of two boxers Barry McGuigan and Frank Bruno.
One day, a few hours to a major fight, McGuigan told their story, how they grew up in the same neighborhood, fighting their way through poverty to the top, and how Frank Bruno has forgotten his humble beginnings once he came into fame and wealth, lapped up to the nobility, while he still kept his friends from their youthful days.
Dokpesi keeps his friends, no matter the background, no matter the age, no matter the wealth, and no matter the education or tribe or state of origin. Dokpesi keeps his friends and is loyal to them even in the vortex of peril. So he is very much at home in any part of the country, bewitching the people with his ebullient and rambunctious nature.
His life is predicated upon a mixed trajectory that is once emotional and equally laced with determination to overcome the vicissitudes of life. When he was still young he was so sickly that his father’s friend had candidly advised his friend to dispose of this young boy who didn’thave the capacity to become anything in life.
In total confusion and mortal fear he looked at a man he would call his second father pronounce a death sentence on him, and that ignited some grit inside of him. He vowed never to succumb to sickness and the accompanying finality of death, although that was a decision beyond his reach.
Dokpesi is a story teller and would tell the story of his life with some relish and a glint in his eyes, like Unoka in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Born at Ibadan in 1951 in the present day Oyo State, his parents were ordinary folks who tried to make meaning out of life.
His father, William Ayaoghena Dokpesi was a district nurse who worked around the scattered villages in Etsako before joining the army to fight in Boma, India, while his mother, Aishatu Alice Dokpesi who hailed from the popular Garuba Elama family in Agenebode, was a petty trader who sold fried akara balls and yam opposite Central Hotel, Ibadan. When they moved nearer home, to Benin, much later in life, she sold hot rice.
This is the story that drives Dokpesi, the story that makes him angry, that if life could give him the opportunity to aspire, to dominate his world and create opportunities, that same life should do more for the young people of today. Unfortunately opportunities are fast disappearing and the little crevices that are opened are reserved for those whose parents have already abused or are still abusing the system.
The circumstances of his birth stokes his determination. At a very young age, he secured a government scholarship to read abroad. His political father, Bamanga Tukur, who was head of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) at the time, told this writer that Dokpesi never failed to justify government’s investment in him.
“I kept on pushing to ensure that the sponsorship continued because Dokpesi was always a winner, an achiever; he never disappointed me. So, I always had a very good story to tell about him, that the boy was an achiever and should be continuously encouraged,” he noted.
Dokpesi set an academic record doing his Doctorate in a university in Poland. Little wonder that when Bamanga Tukur became governor of the old Gongola State, the wonder kid became his Chief of Staff. And he was from the old Bendel State! Juxtapose this with today’s reality in Nigeria.
Dokpesi is a marine engineer of the highest breed. But there will be time to talk about this and some more; his life in politics into which he has retired, his life as the avatar of the SouthSouth Peoples’ Assembly (SSPA), which he used to homogenize the fragmented agitations of a people who needed better living conditions and environment, for which he is still loathed by external and native oppressors, his life as an unrepentant patriot and philanthropist who has used his enormous resources to fight nation threatening battles; there will be time to talk about Dokpesi, the misunderstood.
My little odyssey here is to affirm that Dokpesi is a fighter. When he gets into a field, he charges at obstacles, human and official. His coming into Broadcasting in 1993 has completely changed the industry forever and infused the kind of combustive energy a private sector needs to fly and show how high it can go. Daar Communications has become a household word to the consternation of those who claim ownership of the air we breathe.
I remember that fateful night, September 1, 1994, when the duo of Olusesan Ekisola and Kenny Ogungbe hit out with the music of All-4-One, I Swear. I swear by the moon/and the stars in the sky/and I swear like the shadow that’s by your side…..It was coming out from a source quite difficult to define but also like a kind of oath to stay with the people forever.
Welcome to 24-hour broadcast service in Nigeria and the signals have hardly been broken ever since except in moments of official brush. Raypower 100.5 was born; this was soon followed by AIT (Africa Independent Television) and other constellation of stations that form the Daar family.
The people know this and they have remained fateful to Dokpesi’s broadcast endeavor, to the extent that they even started to contribute money to bail out the station once, when it ran into some financial storm. It will serve the good of all to leave out the politics that intruded at the time.
Dokpesi is not a saint. He will be the first to agree with you. But he has created a broadcast octopus that has become the alternative voice of those who love broadcasting and its capacity to transform. For a country perpetually in crisis, the people want to hear something beyond the desultory officialdom. Dokpesi provides that voice, for which he is serially in trouble. If the broadcast sector is surviving and doing well today in Nigeria today, Dokpesi has largely provided the head on which coconut is broken.
He is a pathfinder in broadcasting and a televisionary without repentance. But Nigerians are the happier for this. They love him as a human being and are ready to accommodate his weaknesses instead of allowing them to inter his good.
Evidence. People talk of Nigerian music today and its capacity for export potentials without remembering what Raypower, in the main, did to unlock the sector. People talk of Nollywood without remembering that, not too long ago, only AIT was ready to provide air time to air Nigerian movies and, in the process, stimulate the sector into an explosive growth that has attracted the attention of the world. I am happy the government has come to recognize the country’s entertainment sector and is ready to build on it, only if it is just mere sloganeering at the moment. Some reinforcement and redemption in the real sense will come to the sector someday.
Meanwhile permit me to encourage Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi to remain unfazed. Only last year he went under the knife several times but each time he came out stronger. If those things inside of his body could not take him, it is only befitting to reinstate that current travails will pass away, much like the sea water that makes the pebble more beautiful.
His friends came around him with very kind words and good wishes. The current situation in the country is clear testimony that kind words and good wishes are disappearing commodities to people who are socially and politically exposed. It is to the faithfulness of God that Dokpesi has this in large volumes. Happy Birthday to a detribalized Nigerian.
- Okoh Aihe writes from Abuja.