Posted by By Celestine Okafor on
Chairman of Daar Communications, owners of Ray Power 1 and 2 fm Radio and African Independent Television (AIT), Chief Raymond Dokpesi is certainly not a man you can describe as having sartorial elegance.
Chairman of Daar Communications, owners of Ray Power 1 and 2 fm Radio and African Independent Television (AIT), Chief Raymond Dokpesi is certainly not a man you can describe as having sartorial elegance. But his style is not bad either. He says in this encounter in his office at Alagbado glass house of Daar Communication that he dresses more to suit his traditional position as an Edo chief. He talks about his other past times including his recent involvement in the South South Peoples Assembly campaign for presidency in 2007.
On recent AIT closure over report on Bellview plane crash
Well, I think the important thing is that our stations (AIT and Raypower FM radio) have been re-opened almost immediately because we actually did not contravene any NBC law to warrant the closure in the first place. However, we thank God for everything.
Difficult times passed by Daar Communications
Ray Power 100 fm radio actually celebrated eleven years of broadcasting recently on the September 1, 2005. As a station, we started in December 2003, at the threshold of the deregulation of broadcasting in Nigeria.
In the Lagos area, the dominant station at that time was the Ogun state Broadcasting Corporation (OGBC) that was coming out from Abeokuta. At that time also, the FRCN was not quite performing. They had obsolete technological equipment. Ray Power visited USA at that time and I saw the radio station being run by Steve Wonder in Los Angeles and I was very impressed. I also went round to see other stations that were operated at the very top level. I was very much impressed but the cost of the radio equipment at that time took me aback since I wanted to set up the kind of stations I saw in America. So I came back to Nigeria, got the radio licence and because I had the faith in Nigeria, I decided to invest in the industry.
We later added the television station AIT which was the first TV station in this country to run a 24 - hour broadcasting. Then a few years ago, we had our major problem. The problem was with the consortium of banks which suddenly asked for a repayment of the loans that were taken. There are various versions to that. But I tell you there were political undertones to that and the issues were not only economic because we had asset base that were by far higher than what we owed. The banks opened up letters of credit, and they all came through clear cut inspection. They knew what the company Daar Communication was worth but the powers that be said the loans should be called because they felt that Raymond Dokpesi cannot be controlled. It is like who is he (Dokpesi)? that this country is bigger than anybody. We were accused of giving air time to those who were opponents of government and therefore we needed to be cut to seize and so on. So, in actual fact, we did no wrong. It was all politics. But it was a painful period.
Reward and Glory of AIT / Raypower boss
I think it has been investment all the way these past eleven years. We have been putting in money because running this industry is not an easy venture. I've been away on sabbatical from Daar Communications for some time now and the stations are being run by the executive director operations and finance. But whenever I observe something on air which is at variance with my original vision, I run back to this place to put things right. The financial returns, the gain in ten years have not come my way yet. There is no part of the world where you have a break-through in running a television station for ten years. Usually, it is an average of fifteen to twenty years that you begin to break even. So it is a long time investment. It is not for the purposes of making over night money. But you enjoy visibility, you enjoy popularity and you get appreciation and so on in abundance. But the money you have to sink in is enormous. You can ask any of my colleagues at whatever level of private broadcasting and they will definitely tell you how painful and challenging it is to continue to invest none stop.
Secrets of Daar as second best network television
Essentially, it is perseverance; we tend to keep up with the global trend. We have moved away far into the digital broadcast system while some others are still trying to catch up. You see, the world cup next year in 2006 will be transmitted in Germany in complete digital standard. So for those of us in Nigeria, we have to move from analogue to digital transmission for our people to watch that world cup live. We believe that Nigeria should compete. But the promise I am making here is that by the special grace of God, come October next year, Daar Communication group will pioneer, with the assistance of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), a digital channel in Abuja. We have to keep ahead. We have faith and commitment to it. We will continue to develop. The financial reward will take time to come but we shall get there.
AIT and Independent producers
AIT would always charge independent producers of programmes higher at time rates because it is expensive to run the station. But we do not intend to discourage independent producers. AIT, unfortunately, is not subsidized. And Satellite placement alone cost AIT about two million US dollars per annum. That's roughly about three-hundred million naira. When you were coming into this premisses, you saw us running the station purely on generator; we paid NEPA over N45 million to provide two lines of two kilometer, yet we do not have power regular supply. We still run on generator. We solely depend on borehole for our source of water supply. We acquired international programmes at very high cost to make AIT the station to you want to watch. You have to invest a lot. These independent producers themselves are collecting quite a substantial amount of money. We are not even charging economic rates. So we spend so much and that probably was why our rate are a bit on the high side.
Me and south south presidential campaign
Way back in 1992 or 1994, I made up my mind that I was never going to have anything to do with politics. I thought I was comfortable and satisfied by contributing my quota through broadcasting reportage of events and building a media empire. I was sure and I tried my very best to keep within that. But I encouraged, Senator Mike Ajegbo (chairman of MBI television) when he said he was going into politics in 1999. I told him that it will be good for us to have people in the National Assembly who understands the pains of the broadcast industry within the executive and legislature. Ajegbo did his best in the senate as far as broadcasting is concern. So also, I was able to see the pains, the suffering and the yearnings of the people of the south south zone where I come from. I have seen the squalour, underdevelopment as against the economic contribution of the zone to this nation. The treatment our people get for the fact that we are a minority race made me to get involved in the campaign for presidency in 2007 by the South South People Assembly, (SSPA). What it means is that as a minority person, you have to have a Godfather adopted from the majority tribe and you have to endure all sorts of indignities to be tolerated and that may not even given you what you desired. So the frustrations, the pains in the youths of the south south is enough to make political and economic somebody to identify with the struggle of the south south zone.
Me and style
Well, when it comes to style, I don't think I have any. That's true! I wear what is available. As a matter of fact, I am a bush man, when it comes to style. I am a proper local village man. But I want to say that I wear what fits. I don't go out of my way to create a particular style of dressing for myself.
Dislike for suits
I think I wore suit last many years back when I was younger. These days, I don't wear suits. The picture behind me can tell the story. (Pointing to a framed photograph hung on the wall) I like to appear in native wears only more because it makes me comfortable. But that doesn't mean I can't wear suits. I have good ties that I can wear even now, but I don't wear them. Don't forget that I am a chief now, an Agenebode high chief and I am required to reflect that position in my dressing. That is why I said earlier that I am a local man when it comes to all these things (suits and dressing). Infact, I have so many native wears that I wear all the time. The other day, my wife made about forty-five pieces of native wears for me at a time so that I can change the ones that are getting old. I have those guinea brocade materials here in Lagos and Abuja. So I wear any of them when I like and wherever I am.
Do I really wear perfumes? Well, I use one when it is available. The ones I get as gift from any of my wives or friends and when that finishes, I rest. I don't think I can remember any particular designer perfume that I have used because I don't pay much attention to things like that. I am a very busy person really.
I don't have a particular relaxation routine. But I know quite well that I relax by reading good books, self developmental journals and books and ofcourse, books on broadcasting just to improve myself in my line of business. And ofcourse, I buy a lot of these books books when I travel abroad.
Jeep. Just jeep. I have a few of those jeeps. I like jeeps because of the height, and it is very suitable, very good for our kind of bad roads here. I just like jeeps. But I have one or two other cars in my garage. But my favourite is jeep.