I ran away with my girlfriend and married her three years after –Bisi Olatilo

Bisi Olatilo
Bisi Olatilo, a former broadcaster with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and the anchor of Bisi Olatilo Show in this interview with ’NONYE BEN-NWANKWO and TUNDE AJAJA, shares his life experiences
You speak the three major Nigerian languages fluently, how were you able to master them?
I grew up in Kano, in Sabon Gari specifically, a place thickly populated by the Igbo. I was born in Kano in 1953. The street where I grew up was called Gold Coast Road; it is called Maitama Road now.  Although it’s supposed to be in the North, it could as well have passed for an Eastern settlement because of the composition of those who lived there. So, the first language I spoke was Igbo. I was able to speak Hausa as a second language because I helped my mum in selling things seasonally – ceramic wares. Most of my friends were Igbo.
Yoruba language is my mother tongue. Incidentally, I learnt to speak the language when I was forced to go to a secondary school in my father’s town, Igbajo, somewhere in Osun State. Thank God my father insisted that I should go to school in my town because that also helped me to get a little closer to my people and understand the nitty gritty of the language itself. Today, I speak impeccable Yoruba. Before I left Kano, I couldn’t speak anything but Igbo and Hausa.
Since you grew up in the North, how do you feel about the crisis there at the moment?
It is most unfortunate especially for those of us who had the rare privilege of growing up in that very special setting when you never bothered whose children you were. It didn’t matter what language you spoke, we were all seen as one. I was brought up by the Igbo and I say it proudly. It was not because my mum didn’t have all it took to bring me up but children were living as one. What is happening now is so saddening. If anybody had predicted that this would happen, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Would you remember what made your father live in the North in the first place?
I only remember that my father was a very successful tailor and my mother was engaged in buying and selling, specifically selling dresses, wares, fabrics and so on. That’s all I remember, we all grew up there. I am the last of my mother’s three children. We just discovered that the North was the place for us; that’s where we grew up.
You said you are the last of your mother’s children, was it that your father had other wives?
In those days, it was a taboo for you not to have many wives as a man. All those things were status symbol. Yes, he had about three wives and mum was one of them.
Since ‘prince’ is attached to your name, does it mean your father was a traditional ruler?
My grandfather was once a traditional ruler. The traditional ruler that reigned before the current one in my town was my uncle. He was of the same mother with my father. So, if I really want to go back, I’m sure that at one point in time, it will also get to us because it’s a rotational thing. But I don’t have that in mind. A lot of my friends and family members call me Obalola (the king that would reign tomorrow) but I will never aspire to become a king, the same way I will never touch politics.
But you are in politics; so many people believe that you support the Peoples Democratic Party
How can you say I’m into politics? Have you ever seen me carrying any card?
But most of your shows tend to support the PDP…
 No. All I do is to help politicians to achieve their ends. I’m a broadcaster. I’m a media entrepreneur. If any of the parties brings business to me, I will wholeheartedly do it. Maybe most people see me more as a PDP person just because I do stuff for them. I go with whoever gives me work to do. Most people think the Bisi Olatilo Show is all about events.
Is it not?
It is more than that. We conceptualise public enlightenment programmes, develop image building ideas for state governments, parastatals and businessmen, that’s all we do here. When (Isa) Yuguda was still a member of the ANPP, we worked for him. We worked for (Rochas) Okorocha in APGA, we worked for Anambra State Government, which is also an APGA state. Even when the Nassarawa State was still being ruled by CPC, we worked for the state too. We are not aligned with anyone in particular. We also worked for Lagos State Government for seven years; we followed  the government everywhere during campaigns, when the state was still ACN. That was the same way we followed President Goodluck Jonathan during his campaign throughout the 36 states before he became President. We are just broadcasters doing our job; we are media entrepreneurs. The party that brings business is our friend; all of them are our friends.

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