The idea was not to interview just any On Air Personality from among the many Radio Stations in Ibadan but to interview someone unique and versatile in the art air play business, l had to do one full week of seriously listening to many of the Radio Stations and I found out obvious similarities but not variances in programming. Some OAPs are also fond of copycatting other presenters’ styles of presentation, common among the indigenous language (Yoruba) presenters then my search for the unique and versatile OAPs took another turn when I decided to check social media pages of some OAPs in Ibadan and I came across Mr Hakeem Lawal, the OAP and Programe Director of Naija FM Ibadan. Having read through briefly I fell in love with his short profile Bio and I sent him a DM for a chat but I got more than what I bargained for.
INTERVIEW by Omojaro Oluwaseyi and Pictures by Olawale Awe for IbadanCity Announcer.
IbCityAnnouncer: Can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
HKL: I am Hakeem Lawal, a native of Offa in Kwara state. I was born late Seventies in Lagos, grew up in Lagos, I did my Nursery and Primary School in Lagos somewhere in Surulere, Lagos and when I finished primary school I went back to Offa in Kwara state for my secondary school education. I attend Offa Grammar School. I studied Financial Studies and Accounting, Insurance and a bit of Banking and Finance at Federal Polytechnic Offa then proceeded to Lagos State Polytechnic Where I obtained my Higher National Diploma in Accounting. I have work experiences from my great establishments, from Photo Lab to Construction Company before I came into Media.
IbCityAnnouncer : Share with our reader some memories from growing up years?
HKL: (Laugh) That is funny really, I won’t say I was born with a sliver spoon but my parent were not poor but average, sort of middle class family. My late dad was a banker and he worked with the Central bank of Nigeria So I hope you understand that we were not poor, we had fun but unfortunately when my dad decided to upgrade our life style that was when he passed away but I didn’t let that put me down and here I am today.
IbCityAnnouncer: How did you become Naija FM’s Programme Director?
HKL: Right from when I was in Secondary school I love football and I was also an athlete, I play football and I do sprint. I was very fast when it comes to 100meters. Right from my Junior Secondary Class One I was out-sprinting people in Senior classes, so I was drafted into the school team. I love football from when I was in the construction firm as an Accountant and I was passionate about the Media especially Sports.I would listen to people doing sports and I will start criticizing them like NO this is not what you should have said, you should have said it this way. I kept on buying magazine, actually, I started buying magazine right from JSS1 then it was Complete Football not Complete Sports, they were not doing newspaper then. Most of my colleagues will come to me for football gist. One day, I was listening to the late Deji Tinubu and Omotoyinbo, they asked for anybody who can talk Sport better than them in pidgin should send CV, they mentioned the address and I was like why not. I got home, updated my CV then I went to the address to drop my CV. I did not know anybody then I waited like they will call me and I was given a call. Someone asked me to come for audition which I did. I was one of the three people that picked after the audtion and to the Glory of God, I was part of the first set of people to do pidgin Sport in Nigeria on a daily basis. After a while, you know human being we are always insatiable, which means, we always want more. I spent like 4-5 years there. A friend of mine we started the pidgin sport show together then got employed at Naija FM in Lagos, he was asking me if I could do pidgin entertainment and I was like why not I love sport and I could also do entertainment, he was like, no problem when there is an opening I will let you know so when the parent company of Naija FM was recruiting people for Ibadan that my friend gave me a call that if am interested I should come for the audition that was how I went and drop my cv and I was called after a series of interview. when we got to Ibadan the license was not forth coming, I came to Ibadan around January 2013, we could not get our license for Naija FM, so I have to join Beat FM, while I was with Beat FM, I was the news editor for Beat FM later I was made Head of news and later Naija FM license was given, I think 2015. I helped the company to get some people for audition and after shortlisting the names the company was like who is the most experienced that they could give the Program Director job to, my name came up and the rest they say is history.
IbCityAnnouncer: Looking at the Ibadan environment, what does it take to be a programme Director?
HKL: It takes a lot in managing people, it not easy but I believe God has been training me because I believe everything you want to become in life God must have a hand. I have started dealing with people right from my childhood. I have always been given leadership roles to play. I came from a family of six, four children and I am the first of the four, so, at every stage of my life, I have been dealing with people from the point of a leader. I believe God has actually prepared my steps, so coming to the role of Programme Director, I believe life has prepared me for this role. But it is quite challenging.
IbCityAnnouncer: Aside from been a programme Director what else do you do?
HKL: Yeah, I present programmes (laugh) I am the co-host of WORKSHOP with Folakemi Mighty. I analyse and anchor Football Paparazzi with some guys, Femi Gherman, Demmo, Toba and Femi Farawe. I go to The Beat FM to do Sport Extra that is another Sports Show, when I am through with that, I move back to Naija FM to analyse the English Premier League.
IbCityAnnouncer: How have you been able to balance Work and family?
HKL: It has been tough but God has been seeing me through,. I have a wife who understands my Job very well, she knows the challenges I face and she is not the vocal type, so she allows me be but at times it get a bit complicated but I just have to balance it because, I cannot allow my family suffer because of my job likewise I cannot allow my Job suffer because of my family, I have found a comfortable balance between both.
IbCityAnnouncer: Where is your favourite colour, foods and hang out spot in Ibadan ?
HKL: My favourite Colour is BLUE, I love Blue a lot, I don’t just know why. My favourite food is Pounded Yam and Egusi soup. Funny enough I have not gotten any place yet to hangout in Ibadan. I have been in this City for 5 years. I love hanging out at the Cinema especially when I go there unnoticed, I have my popcorn, drink and I can sneak in and out unnoticed.
IbCityAnnouncer: (Cut-in: You must be a Chelsea fan)
HKL: Funny enough I am an Arsenal fan but I love blue as a colour
IbCityAnnouncer: (cut-in: but we have no trophy )
HKL: Yeah, it does not matter, we are the only club that has won the league unbeaten, the first English team to beat Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu, I am talking about the galacticos not these fake Real Madrid players we have now. We are the first English team to beat Inter Milan at the San Siro Stadium.
IbCityAnnouncer: We have about 20 Radio Stations in Oyo state; do you have any favourite among them apart from Naija FM?
HKL: Yes, I love listening to The Beat FM but apart from that No other for obvious reasons. I have to protect my brand, even if am not a staff a Naija FM. I will still listen to them cos I love their style of presentation. I am a pidgin person but am a Yoruba man, then I love The Beat FM because of the songs they play.
IbCityAnnouncer: What are the Differences between Naija FM and other Radio FM stations?
HKL: Of course there are, when we started out Naija FM .we started with 70% pidgin and 30% Yoruba because our strength in Naija FM is actually the pidgin, we are known for our pidgin style if you go too Port Harcourt and Lagos Naija FM,it pidgin, that is our identity but because we are in Ibadan we have to inculcate more Yoruba programme on board. You can go around, listen to other radio stations we know some of them and area their strength is Yoruba but there has been no radio stations that has been able to match the Yoruba and pidgin as well as Naija FM. The way we back it up with our effect and of course our OAPs have their individual personality and they are extremely good blending with one another. No Radio station in Ibadan has a mixture of Talents we parade at Naija FM, I challenge them.
IbCityAnnouncer: How is Naija FM Promoting the upcoming artistes from Ibadan?
HKL: We do promote young musicians, there is a segment on Naija FM especially on Workshop , we call it Naija Fresh. The segment is for us to give Opportunity to everyone who has talent in music. What you do is bring your songs to our station, we listen to it and we do a form of competition, we do not do it every day because of the logistics, we only do it once a week, we take the best three songs play it and ask our listeners to vote. The challenge we face is that every young singer want sing like Olamide but we are radio station we are careful of what we put out there because children listen to us but some upcoming artist will just come and started sing something like “mo na iya ee” (I beat your mother). Those artists will now go out and start blackmailing us that we don’t want to help them. Talking about promoting young artist let them help us by giving us clean song then we can help them, do more and they must also realise we cannot do it alone.
IbCityAnnouncer: How did you think Presenters in Ibadan Can Compete with Presenters outside the state, most especial the Lagos OAPs?
HKL: I won’t lie it quite different when we talk about Ibadan and Lagos, we can’t even compare Oyo state with Lagos because the type of revenue been generated by Oyo state, and we cannot even put it side by side with Lagos state. What I am saying is that Lagos is more entertainment friendly compare to Oyo state. Ibadan is gradually getting it but Lagos is already established when it comes to entertainment, talking about the OAPs, we are trying in Ibadan but because there are more opportunity in Lagos. It not that the Lagos OAPs are better than us but talking about the opportunity
IbCityAnnouncer: Tell us about Naija FM
HKL: Naija FM is a Pidgin and Yoruba station, we have different Naija FM in Nigeria we have in Lagos, Port Harcourt but talking about Naija FM in Ibadan we went on air commercially on the 1st of October 2015 but Officially we went on air on the 10th of August 2015 that was the first day that anything came out of Naija FM
IbCityAnnouncer: Who are your favourite radios Presenters in and outside Naija FM?
HKL: I have so many friends who are Presenters in Oyo state, but apart from the one am working with I like Rolake of Fresh FM and Kolade Dominate that works for RayPower I like his presentation style I can only get those two right now.
IbCityAnnouncer: Did you think Communication is a big problem between the Government and the people?
HKL: Of course it is, there was a time I was opportuned to be at a meeting with the Executive Governor of Oyo State that is Senator Abiola Ajimobi and they were actually advising then that he needs to carry along the people because there is a communication gaps between the government and the people and we as the media we are supposed to bridge that gap but when you are not getting enough information from the source there is nothing that you can actually give out to the listeners and I think he actually took it on board and I think it getting better.
IbCityAnnouncer Did you have any long term goal concerning your career?
HKL: Yeah, everybody has a plan and goal, right now am the Programme Director of Naija FM and I hope and pray that someday maybe I could be the General Manager and even if possible own my Radio station.
IbCityAnnouncer: What career advice can you give to youth hoping to be an OAP?
HKL: I would advise Youth that if you want to become a stand out On Air Personality ,it is like the journey of a thousand mile, it begins with one step, I would not like them hoping to becoming an OAP just because they want to be famous. They are two different things, there is a saying that talent is no enough, to become a successful OAP you need to be talented but you need to balance it with hard work, dedication and of course you need to be humble. If you are not humble and not ready to learn, you can never improve. My advice is that, be passionate about this Job, money will not come immediately, it will eventually come when you start getting the endorsement. Be focus on what you are doing, read so you can improve yourself and always remember the son and daughter of whom you are.