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Adesuwa Onyenokwe

Posted by By Chris Ajaero on 2004/11/26 | Views: 4326 |

Adesuwa Onyenokwe

As a child she had great admiration for television. In her childhood innocence, what attracted her most to the tube was advertisements. It was not surprising that when she was growing up, the choice of broadcasting as a career became alluring.

As a child she had great admiration for television. In her childhood innocence, what attracted her most to the tube was advertisements. It was not surprising that when she was growing up, the choice of broadcasting as a career became alluring.

But Adesuwa Onyenokwe's father, wanted her to be a lawyer. Abraham Osunde, Obadagbonyi of Benin, her father who was then a permanent secretary in the old Mid- Western Region believed she had the qualities to excel in the legal profession. He, however, gave his daughter the freedom to choose a career that appealled to her most. And so Onyenokwe had her way and took to broadcasting.

To sharpen her skills for the challenges of the profession, she read Drama for her first degree at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, and followed it up with a master's degree in Language Arts at the University of Ibadan. At Ife, she was lucky to have been groomed by Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate and her mentor who was then teaching Literature in the university.

Today, Onyenokwe has become a successful broadcaster who is using her talent to make a positive difference in the Nigerian society. Her popular TV show, Today's Woman, has become a source of inspiration to many women. After voluntary retirement from the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, in 1998, she decided to do something for women. Based on her 12 years experience on the job, she realised that women did not have a voice in the scheme of things. She saw a void resulting from lack of adequate understanding of the woman's psyche and created the programme to project her virtues and qualities. According to her, the programme was also meant to convince the viewers of the worth of women as good managers of the home who are intelligent, articulate, and exciting. "The bottom-line is to show that there are many women out there who have such God-given qualities as empathy. And you know that to make a good leader, you have to empathise. We are good managers because by nature we manage two roles: motherhood and wifehood," Onyenokwe said.

Her ideal concept of today's woman is somebody who is in total union with God and with self, to the extent that she is beneficial to humanity. This is why she features on her programme women who should serve as role models to others, especially the younger ones. Since she started presenting Today's Woman on TV in 2000, many women of substance who have made their mark in the society have been featured.

How exactly does Onyenokwe get the funds to sustain this female television magazine? She told Newswatch that it was not quite easy at the beginning as she needed a lot of money to do a set, a montage and about N3million to pay for NTA's airtime for 13 weeks. Although she did not have much money, she had the goodwill and a good working relationship with the management of NTA Channel 5 where she also presents the programme, One-On-One. She exploited that relationship and requested the management of the channel to give her credit and some discount. Her request was granted and that was how the programme was started on NTA Channel 5. Gradually, it became popular and attracted enough advertisements to sustain it.

From that small beginning, Today's Woman has grown from strength to strength both in terms of popularity and quality. Now, it is aired on NTA Network and the African Independent Television, AIT.

The unique style with which Onyenokwe uses her velvet voice to chat up women on the show has made it quite appealing. There is no doubt that through the programme she has touched the lives of many women and impacted positively on the society.

Apart from Today's Woman, Onyenokwe delivers qualitative service to humanity through her presentation of the programme, One-On-One on NTA Channel 5. She told Newswatch that the programme was conceptualised by the television station in September 1999 and they needed a capable female presenter to join Ohi Alegbe in anchoring it. Since she was then at home after quitting her job at NTA, the management of NTA Channel 5 considered her suitable and contacted her. Through the programme, public officers and highly- placed personalities in the private sector enlighten the public on burning national issues and make valuable suggestions towards the advancement of the society. The manner in which Onyenokwe reels out intriguing questions to the personalities who appear on the programme shows clearly that she is a rising star in the profession. Little wonder that in 1994 she won the Nigerian Media Merit Award, NMMA, as Reporter of the Year. It was a crowning glory for her spirit of hardwork, discipline and dedication to duty. She is also a 2002 Lead Fellow under the Rockefeller Foundation.

Born August 8, 1963, in Ibadan, Oyo State, Onyenokwe is the fifth of eleven children. She laid her educational foundation at Emotan Preparatory School, and Idia College, both in Benin City. She cut her teeth in broadcasting at NTA Sokoto where she did her primary assignment as a youth corps member in 1983. Danladi Bako, a seasoned broadcaster who was then heading the presentation unit of the station, saw her as a young lady with good diction and encouraged her to present the kiddies programme on television. Her presentation of the programme throughout the duration of her service year was excellent. She was, however, not retained at NTA Sokoto because she had to return to Benin City where her parents resided.

Although Onyenokwe wanted to work with NTA Benin, there was no room for her because the station did not require additional staff at the time. She taught briefly at Akenzua II Grammar School, Benin. It was while teaching in that school that the Edo Broadcasting Service, EBS, then Bendel Broadcasting Service was reaching for someone with good diction to employ as a newscaster. She grabbed the opportunity with both hands, went for auditioning and secured the job in 1985. That actually marked the beginning of her career in television.

She got married three years later to Ikechukwu Onyenokwe, an engineer and management consultant from Ndokwa East, Delta State. The young man has been a great pillar upon which this boisterous broadcaster had leaned on as she continues to climb the ladder of success.

Onyenokwe applied for and got a transfer of service from EBS to NTA Lagos, in 1988 because her husband was in Lagos. It was also a bigger pool and more challenging than E.B.S. Although she started having kids at that time, she still struggled to maintain the home and the job. Some of the beats she covered as a reporter included social services, environment and health. It was, however, when she was deployed to Newsline, the NTA popular Sunday magazine show, that she proved she was a thorough-bred professional. She worked at odd hours in a bid to bring amazing human angle stories which made the programme to be referred to as "The Sunday Sunday Tonic." Through her reports on Newsline some of the social ills in Nigeria were exposed.

Onyenokwe also covered some landmark assignments for NTA. Indeed, her last major assignment before she quit the NTA in 1998 was the pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Pontiff, to Nigeria. She talks about her report on that assignment in glowing terms. "I was excited about it because that was the last major assignment I did for NTA. I never forget it because covering the visit of the Pope to Nigeria was a pleasant experience. And I did it with a lot of zeal," she said.

But why would a young lady quit her glamorous TV job when she was barely 35? Onyenokwe told Newswatch that she quit the job at the time she did because apart from poor remuneration, the environment was no longer conducive for professional excellence. She added that the glamour expected of a TV presenter was lacking because she was not earning the pay that could keep her glamorous and the home front was suffering since she did not have enough time for the kids.

The mother of six (three boys and three girls) believes that career women can actualise their professional goals without jeopardising their family life.

Onyenokwe's religious background has equally influenced her life style and the realisation of her goal in life. Although she had a Baptist background, she became a Catholic at marriage. She is happier for it because the Catholic Church has made her understand her faith better and the need to be humble while serving humanity. She enjoys reading fiction and watching movies.

Perhaps, one factor that makes Onyenokwe stand out in the glamorous world of television is that she is so fashionable and amiable. She told Newswatch she likes to look good not only because her job demands it but because it is a way of glorifying God. "Anybody who admires you is admiring the handiwork of your creator," she said.

Onyenokwe has no doubt proven that her choice of broadcasting as a career right from her childhood was right. And doubtless she has used broadcasting to create a window for women and humanity.

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