Oluwatosin Abimbola Dokpesi is the managing director of African Independent Television (AIT). This zoologist turned broadcast journalist is our woman of substance this week
I was born on the 12th of July 1969 in Lagos. I am an Island Maternity baby. I grew up in Lagos. We lived in Palmgroove. I started my primary school education at the Lagos Mainland Local Government Primary School in Fadeyi. We later moved from Palmgroove to the Island, an estate in Ilubirin, which was for government officials. My dad worked for Lagos State government.
By the time we moved, I was almost done with primary school and set for secondary. My mates were posted to Onike High School but because my father worked with the Lagos state government, I had the opportunity to be asked where I wanted to go. I knew there was Holy Child and Aunty Ayo. I chose Holy Child School in Obalende for my secondary school after which I went to do A levels at Methodist Girls High School. I wanted to study medicine in the university, in fact, the choice had always been medicine, but after writing JAMB a number of times and my score, even though high was not enough to give me medicine, I decided to settle for whatever course the university offered me. Eventually with a JAMB score of 253, I was offered Zoology at the University of Lagos.
Immediately, we started, for some curious reason, I just lost interest in sciences but I managed to finish the zoology. I actually wanted a change of course but it just didn’t happen. I ended up having an extra year in school, but my dad would always encourage me by saying ‘don’t worry you are going to finish and you will be great’. I remember very well because I was so unhappy that my mates had finished and were doing their NYSC.
By the time I was through with Unilag and had my Bsc Zoology, just before I went for my national youth service, I met one of my friends, Toun Okewale, now Toun Sonaiya, who was then working in Ray Power. We met in an office where I went to visit someone, I told her I wouldn’t mind working in Ray Power. Before then, while still in school, I had presented a programme that ran on NTA then, TeleMart, as a freelancer.
So when I told Toun I wanted to work at Ray Power, she told me they were about to start the television station and promised to assist me get interviewed.
When the interview letter came, it was like the employment letter, it came through DHL, I was so excited. I went for the interview while waiting for my call-up for NYSC. When the panel asked whether I had served and I said no, I was told the policy is you must do your NYSC before you can be employed. When I asked whether I could do my NYSC with the station or come back after I had served, they said why not that I did well during the interview.
My letter came and I was posted to Abia State. I went to Abia and you know, when you join the fellowship they would tell you God has a reason for bringing you here don’t pray to go back, but I prayed for redeployment. I prayed God you have given me a job already in Lagos, I don’t want to miss it. I was determined to redeploy but I wasn’t sure how to do that because I didn’t have any money. I was very independent, my dad worked with Lagos state government, but I wanted to do things and prove that I could do it.
So I came back to Lagos went to the NYSC office, as God would have it, I saw one of my friends who told me he had an uncle in Abuja through him, I got linked with the Director General of NYSC then, I think Sofoluwe and I ended up having two redeployment letters.
I went back to Lagos and the next hurdle was how to get myself posted to DAAR communications. God also did it and I found myself there and I’m still there today that was in 95/96. So I did my NYSC and then got my letter of employment February 96.
I studied zoology, but I had always loved English and watching television. My dad used to be a good critic of broadcasters, but they didn’t object at all when I said it was what I wanted to do. My dad was a lawyer, my mum is an educationist and social worker. They encouraged me.
I was used to television but I started with radio because AIT had not started then. It was a bit different but I had good bosses, they were all there to help, Ambrose Somide, Kenny Ogungbe, Dayo Adeneye, Toun too, she was a presenter but also heading the marketing team, then Yemi Adenuga. We were all there everyone was ready to help. It was such a family setup everyone was ready to help any knew staff coming in. the encouragement was there. So my challenge was just at the beginning standing behind the microphone and not the camera. It was a bit shaky but I learnt on the job. I enjoyed the job, I loved what I was doing it was just fun for me.
Then when television started, another challenge, I wasn’t used to reading news. I wasn’t a news person and suddenly I was told to present KAKAKI. I think then it was Good morning Africa. I was like how would I cope and you know I had to put myself into it and started the journey.
I started with Jika Attoh, he was a very good teacher who encouraged me, taught me a lot, I learnt a lot while working with him and I didn’t have a choice but to learn. Career wise I’m grateful and happy, it was what I wanted and God just made it possible
I was mentored well and I mentioned Jika and a few of them and yes I am mentoring a lot. I have them and I am glad they are all doing well. I still have those who come and I do the best I can to make sure that whatever challenge(s) they are going through, I encourage them by saying look at where I came from. I didn’t give up, I had that faith and with hard work God will bless your work. Let people be able to see the gap when you are not there.
Yes, I am but I don’t like making noise. I go to orphanages where I do what I can. I also take my daughter there when it is her birthday so she can see and learn to appreciate God. This I always remind her when she is eating and wants to throw food away. We also put most of her used things together and take on such visits to the orphanages. I also have those I help through school.
Aside from God, my husband has always been there from the beginning of my career. He wasn’t my husband then, he was my boss. He doesn’t believe there is anything you can’t get done. Then my mom, anytime I see her I don’t want to disappoint her especially after I lost my dad in year 2000. My siblings they always inspire and encourage me. And my daughter (she laughs) Catherine Anuoluwapo Dokpesi, she is a bundle of joy. She was 10 on April 27. Even when she isn’t with me and I just remember her, I feel so much joy I call her Oluwapamileriayo meaning (God has made me laugh with joy) she is my miracle baby because she came after 7 years. It’s just been wonderful watching her grow.
I want to be remembered as Tosin, a woman who loved God, and also feared God, because you can love and not fear God. What carries me each day is the fear of God. I also want to be remembered as one who loved and cared for others.
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