My husband feels proud whenever men admire me –Adesuwa Onyenokwe

Adesuwa Onyenokwe

Ace broadcaster, Adesuwa Onyenokwe, speaks on her life, career, and family in this interview with Ademola Olonilua

How did you become a broadcaster?

I wanted to do advertising and public relations but I accidentally ended up in television. When I was doing my youth service, I was posted to Sokoto and worked with NTA because my father knew someone in NTA Benin who then called someone in NTA Sokoto. I went there and I was following them around carrying tapes because as a youth corps member, I was not doing much. I was always praying to finish my service and head back to Lagos and work at Lintas. One day, while at work, I was asked to anchor a youth programme because the presenter did not come. I agreed to help but that was when I realised that I could present on television. I did that all through my youth service and when I was done, I went home to Benin because that was where I was raised. At first, I got a teaching job because there was no broadcast job available and when I eventually got one, it was as a newscaster. I later met my husband, and we moved to Lagos. In the course of that, I had obtained a master’s degree in Language Arts from the University of Ibadan because I wanted to learn more about communication since that is what I wanted to do.

NTA allowed me to transfer to Lagos but the only opening was at the editorial desk, so I was back to writing. I was enjoying my job communicating and helping people to understand events. It was fun. However, in the course of doing my job as a reporter, I realised that there was a gap in the information about women because I met a lot of great women on the job while doing interviews. I noticed that they were reluctant to talk about their achievements while some even said that they did not want to be seen on television. I felt that we had to see more female role models because the ones we saw were not many. Then I began to have kids and working was not as easy as it was before I became a mother, so I decided to quit my job and do my own thing.

I needed to communicate with women for them to grow, so I decided to do so in print on a newsletter. Then, I had more control of my time and was more at home with my kids. I did that to become my own boss. I was about 35 years old at the time. In the course of quitting, I got a call from NTA Channel 5 because at a point when they had shortage of presenters, I was asked to fill and I did the job well. So less than a month after I had resigned, they called me and asked me if I could come and present that same show and I agreed. I asked how much they were going to pay me and it was twice the amount I was being paid before. I later found out that it was because the programme was being sponsored. That was an eye opener for me and my husband advised that I could use the television as a platform to showcase my idea and get sponsors. That was how Today’s Woman came to life and it took me about two years to make my dream a reality. I did that for about seven years before I realised that even though I was doing it out of passion and I was pulling my weight, the cost was not friendly. I felt it was time to revisit my original idea which was the magazine. Before I started Today’s Woman, I already had a template for it and the name I had in mind was Flare but sometime in 1999, I saw a magazine with the same name. That was when my husband said I should call it Today’s Woman. After seven years, it was not financially profitable and I did not have control because it was on NTA’s platform. For instance, my programme could be scheduled to air by 8pm but if the president had something to say, they would yank it off even though advertisers had paid. I felt if you do not have control over your platform, there is not much you can do. That is how Today’s Woman went on print.

How did you meet your husband?

It was in the course of the job but he would tell you that he had seen me on television before we met. He was living in Warri and I was in Benin and there was a graduation party in Benin; that was where we met. When we met at the party, we greeted each other but the difference between him and any other person I had ever dated was that he knew from the beginning that he wanted to marry me and I thought that was crazy. My husband is a mechanical engineer and he is a very practical person who already had a mental image of whom he wanted to be with and he was in search of that.

Does it mean that he had fallen in love with you from the moment he saw you on the television?

He saw me for the first time on the television screen and he probably did not know who I was but he liked what I looked like. That is what he said anyway; that he liked what I looked like. It was when he met me that he could tell certain things about me. We just clicked from the moment we met. We became friends and I always tell him that he is a closet comedian and all his children know that. He is very supportive.

How was it building a career and a home all at once?

Well, for the benefit of those who are in the media industry and men who have wives in this industry, I would answer this question. If my husband was not supportive, I would not have gone this far. My husband is supportive in the sense that he recognises my talent and he knows I have to use it. He calls me to order if I am doing something wrong. For example, I travelled a lot as a reporter especially when I was on Newsline. I went to different parts of Nigeria and the world. It was important to my husband that I tell him wherever I was or whatever I was doing. He did not want to be guessing. If I went out to do a job and there were a lot of guys there or I had to be with a male friend, he would rather hear it from me first than from someone else.

So whatever I was working on, I always ensured that I made him aware. It was tough at the beginning and even after 29 years of marriage, he is still the type of person that needs to know where I am at all times. That is how trust is built. He told me what he wanted but most men would not tell their wives what they want. You have to respect each other’s wishes and that is what we have been able to build. My husband has really built me and he chose the name Today’s Woman. He advised me to register the name and because he is a management consultant, he teaches me about strategy and other things I need to run my business.

You are a pretty woman who appears on the television. How does your husband handle it?

That is what I was saying about being open and honest with each other and always informing each other about our location. For example, if in the course of the job I end up having dinner with a man I want to interview and we are alone somewhere, it is important that my husband knows because if a man is having dinner with a woman that is not his wife, people would raise an eyebrow. Assuming I did that and did not tell my husband and someone informs him, I can imagine how he would feel. If it were me, I would doubt him and feel that there is something hidden. Both parties need to be open and clear. Even if he is upset at something like that, it only makes sense that I calm down and apologise because I was wrong. It is a matter of us trusting each other and sharing information while we are as open as possible with each other. No matter what it is, even if you think your partner would not believe you, explain to the person what happened.

On occasions when you step out with your husband, you are the one in the limelight. Does it ever make him uncomfortable?

That is probably a question you should ask him but he always tells me that it makes him proud that his wife is succeeding and it does not diminish him. I think it is a function of how confident you are. I don’t know why men don’t understand that if anyone is admiring your wife, it is a plus for you, a big plus except you don’t trust your wife. What he does when we go to events together is that he quietly goes to sit down. He is not the kind of person that likes going out because his weekends are sacrosanct, he would rather be at home resting and spending time with his children or golfing. Those are the things that matter to him; he is not one to sit at parties like I would. I am the social one but it does not mean he is anti-social. He just does not talk with everybody. When people see my husband, they are shocked. They assume that I would be with one fat, big man.

How do you relax since you attend parties and events most weekends?

I know how to shut down and the beauty about working for yourself is that I can choose to shut down on a Wednesday. Typically, I rarely do anything on Sundays. I attend early morning mass and I spend the rest of the day watching television. I love watching movies.

What kind of movies appeal to you?

To be honest, nonsensical movies. I love comedy because I love to laugh. I also like highly entertaining movies that have music and dance. I also love movies that have memorable lines. But whenever I really want to relax, I watch movies that make me laugh a lot.

You have frequently spoken about dance…

I love to dance.

Did you learn to dance in school or it is a God given talent?

I did not learn dance in school because that is a serious business. However, I love to move and I think it is an African thing. I particularly like music and dance, these two things get me any day. Dancing helps you to forget about yourself and it is good exercise as well.

What is that song that gets you in the mood?

I think what we should be talking about is what rhythm gets me. I would say afro-pop gets me any day. I don’t know anything about music but I say afro-pop because all the Nigerian songs I hear now fall under that category. I like the songs from the likes of Mavins, D’banj and Davido. I do not like most of their lyrics because some things they say don’t make sense but I dance to their songs. One person’s music I really like right now is Falz simply because he is creative. He has merged comedy with dance and his songs have real messages.

How have you been able to maintain your chic physique after six children?

It may seem ridiculous if I say it is God given because He can give you something and you could mess it up. He gave me six children even though I did not want the six but I am glad he gave them to me. It is my nature. I have adopted a healthier lifestyle; I know the things that do not work for me like carbohydrate and meat, so I am careful when I eat them. Since I started having children, I also hit the gym for a few months. I walk and also watch what I eat.

One would have thought you gave birth to six children because you were also born into a large family?

It is a spiritual thing. In the course of praying for a relative to have a child, God told me that I was praying for a child when I was also blocking a life. I am a Catholic by marriage but I chose the faith. The church opened my eyes to be pro-life. I mean why have sex if it would not end up with a baby. At a point, I was on contraceptives and I had read a lot about its side effects but I still did not stop until God arrested me by making me pray for my sister because I told God that if he could give that my sister a child, I would not block life by using contraceptives. It took my sister about eight years before she gave birth to a set of twins. I had three other children after that covenant. It was not easy because there were repercussions taking a decision like that. Some people were saying things like how would an educated woman like me have children like that. They were of the opinion that I would grow fat. My husband at a point had to ask whether he was not the one that took me to the Catholic church. He said that it was not right but nobody knew that I was praying along at the same time. I felt that if people would laugh at me because I was having kids, then they were laughing at God. Fast forward till today, many people that see me today are still surprised that I have six children. It is now God’s way of showing that if we leave anything to him, he would take care of it.

What is the whole idea behind your movie, ‘The chatroom?

Well, I would like to start from the beginning which is that someone called me and said since I studied theatre arts, I should be in a movie. I replied that studying theatre arts does not mandate me to be an actress. I later asked what the movie was about and when she told me, I took interest in the movie because of the issues it addresses. It focuses primarily on sexual abuse and domestic violence. It is the story of a young girl who overcame abuse as a child. At the end of the day, she became successful despite of the travails in between.

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