Femi Adefila is a broadcast journalist, the chairman of Rave 91.7 FM based in Osogbo. Also, he’s any interviewer’s delight!
Femi Adefila is a trained mass communicator. He studied Mass communication both at the Polytechnic of Ibadan and the University of Ibadan. He has an MSc in Mass Communication and another in Peace and Conflict Studies. He began his career as a youth corp member in Osogbo in 1992 while serving at the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation. In 1993 he emerged the best corp member in his set so he won automatic employment!
I tell people I’ve never written an application for a job in my entire life. Because passing out was sometime in August or September 1993 and that same month I started work as a full time staff because I was awarded the best corp member and that came with automatic employment.
Meet Femi Adefila
I was with the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation as a newscaster for ten years. In 2003, I left to join the services of the Osun state government as a political appointee in the government of Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola. I was the Special Assistant Media to the then Deputy Governor and I was there for seven years. Afterwards I moved to Abuja when I became Special Adviser Media to then Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada for about three or two years. Then I joined the services of National Television Authority where I was a presenter of a program called Insight.
I pioneered the program and it became a blockbuster within six months. It was rated the best news and current affairs magazine program on NTA International because of the review and the responses that we got. The program is still on today. I’ve always had the desire to be a media entrepreneur so all this while I was looking at stepping out of the space of an employee into the space of an employer of labour. I told myself that I’d rather deploy my energy into an industry that I’m a master of/have a fair knowledge of and all I’ve done all my life has always been broadcasting and I felt that if I wanted to make a success of any business venture it must be this industry. I started to request for a license to own a private radio station.
Earlier, I met an uncle of mine who owns Space FM in Ibadan, Otunba Osibogun. He asked me jokingly, “Femi, what are your plans after government? Will you be contesting in an election?” And I told him emphatically that there was no leading in my spirit to throw my hat in the ring of any electoral contest then that I was confused. Then he said “Femi but you’re a national broadcaster why don’t you toy with the idea of owning a radio station” and I thought that sounded good. So he actually planted the seed in my heart and I followed up. He actually paid for the form! Yeah he paid fifty thousand naira! So I went to Abuja to purchase the form but as God would have it, it didn’t materialise for five years. I waited from 2010 till 2015.
In 2015 fate brought me again in contact with General Chris Olukolade. He was the spokesperson for defence headquarters. He came on my program; Insight, we got talking and became friends. I met him when working in the Ministry of Defence so we got really acquainted, he’s a pastor. I shared my vision with him and he was like “wow, that’s good. You’re a natural broadcaster, you can make it happen”. But to get a license to own a private radio station you need to be able to navigate the political terrain well. You must be connected. They don’t just give it out, that’s the truth.
General Chris Olukolade who I shared the vision to be a media entrepreneur with became my destiny helper. He took it upon himself to help me navigate the turbulence of getting a license which is highly political. After making an application at the National Broadcasting Corporation – the constitution has empowered just the president to sign a license, that tells you you need someone to help you navigate that turbulence. He threw his weight behind me and he saw it through.
We were given a licence on April 24th, 2015. I returned from the US that day and met him at night, we drove to the villa and lo and behold I was told my license was ready. It was like a dream come true after five years. I thank God that I waited, because the waiting period enabled me to strategise quite well.
I saw broadcasting from another perspective. And I swung into action on the 25th of November that same year, Rave Radio was born. The governor came here to commission it and we’ve been on air since then. We came with a definite philosophy and orientation to change the broadcast landscape, to do something spicy, something they are not used to, something that they thought was exclusive to those who live in Lagos or Abuja. I thought why not rebrand the landscape, give them something spicy, something crispy, something good. We are actually youth oriented and we discovered that the youth demography was not entirely taken care of by the existing radio stations.
This demography is actually the largest, the most mobile, the most vibrant, so we chose them as our own preferred audience and we crafted our program philosophy to suit their taste. Don’t forget that Osun state has about ten universities, and they were not taken care of. So we decided our broadcast content will be designed to suit their taste and of course I think we took the right decision.
How did you come up with the name Rave?
Adefila – Rave! The name came to me in church. I was in church and was thinking of the name Rave. So I thought why not name the station Rave? Like something happening, the rave of the moment. Something ever trending, the trend setter and the name stuck.
Was it always in the plan to own a radio station?
Adefila – No. But I’ve always known that I’d be an entrepreneur. Honestly when I was growing up, I wanted to be the owner of a big printing press. That was my desire for a very long time. When I was in secondary school, I wrote my name as Chairman, Managing director, Adefila Printing Press (general laughter). That was my desire and the desire was fired up by the fact that my brother worked in a publishing firm, Macmillan Nigeria publishers and God used the man to play a pivotal role in my life. You know everybody needs a role model. I loved him all my life. My parents were not educated, they lived in the village, so he was the one that I lived with who mentored me.
I saw myself in his shadow and I saw myself doing what he did. That was my dream. Though he didn’t want me to study Mass Communication he wanted me to study Law I rebelled, I don’t know why I did that till date but I remember a friend of mine who is the registrar of Federal Polytechnic Ado Ekiti, Shola Owoniyi was my classmate in Christ school Ado-Ekiti introduced me to Mass Communication. You know children have impressionable mind and we became intrigued by newscasters and broadcasters. As fate would have it, he eventually didn’t study Mass Comm but I did. I think he studied English or something close.
Obtaining a license is tough no doubt but besides that how lucrative is owning a radio station?
Adefila – These days, broadcast business is very good business. Let me say if money is your motive, you want to be a billionaire, it is. Channels is a success. I think John Momoh is a billionaire (general laughter). John Momoh started 20 years ago. He said at a forum that people remember the last ten years of Channels they don’t remember the first ten.
The man laid the foundation for ten years. He pulled out of NTA with his wife. And those were trying years when he started in Ikeja GRA. He moved to Maryland and now he has his own edifice, beautiful and lovely and that tells me that everything has a gestation period. You don’t just hit the ground running. You need to learn how to sit, you need to learn how to crawl before you can learn how to walk. You must learn that life comes in stages and phases. One phase energises the next and the next energises the next and so on that’s how life works.
You must be known for the right content before you can attract patronage. So I knew that I needed to prove a point, and to carve a niche for myself as a station with the right content. And I must be on the same page with my audience. Once they find a station they can trust, that is reliable and they get the kind of vibes that they desire, of course you’re home and dry and in business. It is the number of listeners that you have that would determine the patronage you get from the advertising sector. That’s how it works.
You have a background in Communication – that’s all you’ve done all your life. So morphing into your present role as owner how did that help?
Adefila – It helped in the sense that studying Mass Communication at the Polytechnic of Ibadan and at the University of Ibadan gives me the foundation. The communication industry is not a linear industry, I mean, Journalism is a non linear industry. Social sciences and even Sciences can all excel in the journalism world. You don’t have to study Mass communication to be a journalist. But for instance If you’re not a doctor you can’t be a doctor. You can invest in the medical practice but you can’t be a surgeon! But a doctor can cut into the field of journalism. I have doctors who come here to speak to people. So journalism is not a linear profession.
We have people from all manner of fields who are making contributions to the profession. But it has assisted me in the sense that I’ve been very consistent in the practise of journalism from the beginning as a youth corp member, after youth corp, I became reporter. I love to be a reporter. I love to be a newscaster. That tells me, whatever you don’t enjoy, you cannot excel in it. If you want to be a street cleaner you must learn to clean with pride. That’s where you can brace the tape and excel. But I love it. I didn’t see it as a job that I was doing for now. No. It’s a profession that is honourable and I believed that why not? I love it so very much. So, the passion and love for it assisted me to go for gold, and keep moving.
What interesting things have happened since launching Rave?
Adefila – So many! Winning the best radio station consistently in the last three years, meeting new people. I love people, I love to meet new faces and it has opened the door to meeting people for me. Everyday I sit down here, people from diverse backgrounds, doctors, lawyers, engineers, people with dreams, people with content, with concepts, with ideas all come here. I meet young vibrant Nigerians and even the very very poor come to solicit for money. I meet pensioners who have not been paid salaries, I meet employers who are dying under the yoke of unpaid and unsettled wages and salaries. So I meet people from both ends of the divide.
The very rich and the extremely poor. So it makes me very rich in the sense that I meet people. There’s no dull moment. My daughter told me something a long time ago. I wanted her to study medicine and I made a mistake of sending her to shadow her mum for a week. After that, she came to work with me and she said to me “dad, I actually prefer your work”. She said that “there is so much fun being around your office. Mummy’s work is about complaints, somebody has headaches, sickness, blood, I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life”. So the mum lost her and she studied Economics eventually plus Advertising and Marketing.
Journalism is a fun job. It’s fun and I love to have fun. I have a light spirit, I love to have fun. I want to get somewhere and light up the place.
Your station is raved about in the Southwest (pun intended). How did you achieve this growth in such a short period?
Adefila – I love to celebrate God and because we have taken the dynamics very seriously. There are no magic words anywhere. Just get the dynamics right. Broadcast is a content driven business. In Osun I met ten radio stations when I came on stream. I’m actually the youngest of them all. When I got my licence, I did a study of all the radio stations. I listened to all of them, I dedicated a day or two days in a week to a particular show. I listened to their programs and their style of presentation, and I told myself I would dwarf and eclipse them within a year. And I told myself that was a challenge. If I want to be the market leader in this industry what are they doing right, what are they doing wrong. What they are doing right I improve on them, what they are doing wrong, how do I make it happen? So I decided to sharpen my content.
And I studied the people. Also, I would not be politically aligned, I would not be the megaphone of any political party. If you listen to Rave now you have all political parties coming on board for an interview. I want to make my platform free for every political party regardless of who you are. I don’t care about your political affiliation. Your religious conviction is of no importance to me but what is the content you’re coming to the table with? So, the fact that pluralism is what we have encouraged has really assisted us.
There is a mistake that broadcasters make, I tell my OAPs, no matter the topic under discussion, there is somebody out there that is a master of that topic. Because when you say “Good morning, today I want to touch on diabetes”, there is a medical doctor whose area of study is diabetes, so if you’re not well read, if you’ve not done your research well and you fumble, you would look like an idiot. And as someone who is listening for the very first time, I would not listen again. So, you’re as good as your last production in broadcasting. I tell my staff, whenever you’re on air, know that somebody is listening to you for the very first time and for the very last time and they walk away with an impression. So you must be on point and at your best every time. I tell them that broadcasting is a stage performance. You might not be a master but be very knowledgeable about the topic you want to discuss. So, we have gotten that right and God has assisted with the best of guys. I call them my dream helpers because I took time while selecting my staff. I didn’t employ anybody based on sentiment.
Everybody was subjected to the rigorous audition and test because it’s business. If you’re not bringing anything to the table, you’re not adding value to me, why am I going to be paying you every month? It isn’t worth my while and definitely not yours. If you’re not a good broadcaster or newscaster and I put you on air, I’m killing your destiny and your future. It’s better you’re a good one who is doing well. I’m so happy that some of them joined me as struggling broadcasters but are stars now in their own right. Because I saw something in them. In the beginning they found me very difficult to deal with but today they are happy, they are MCs everywhere, they go everywhere and are well paid.
What’s the dream for Rave say in a few years?
Adefila – To the glory of God I think we’ve been very lucky and God has been with us. We have a foothold already in the broadcast industry in this hemisphere in the Southwest. Rave has become a reference point. I want it to actually be a voice that would be respected. I want to be a reference point and I want to be a source of news for newspapers, for bloggers by the quality of my content. That’s what I want to become. I want when they are searching for news they’d want to listen to Rave. Even newspaper houses I want them to listen to Rave. Because radio has immediacy power which you guys will retweet or report.
What’s the secret to your success as a CEO?
Adefila – I’ll share a brief story. I come from a very humble background and I was chatting with my mum a couple of decades ago about this; I didn’t live with her, I was the only one that was singled out, living with people. I started living with my paternal grandma at the age of four. From there I moved to my father’s immediate junior sister’s, she had no child of her own, I was her child and she was a Muslim so I had a Muslim background. The plural nature of me comes from that. After I left her, I went on to another aunty of mine who was a teacher where I learnt to make puff puff at the age of seven. Before I go to school I must sell puff puff. I was not being discriminated against, I was doing it with her children.
And that helped build me to be a people’s person. In my life, I’ve had courses to rely on friends, to sharpen my life, or people that were not my direct siblings to be of assistance to me. So that sharpened my focus and my appreciation of the friendship of people. So that has been my life. And I’ve always taken God very seriously. I’ve always believed that what happens in the physical is determined in the spiritual. When I was very young I snuck to church to do night vigil. I loved to pray/ seek the face of the Lord and to work hard. My mother is a hard worker, she is 82 but then I can be very restless. I am not satisfied with anything, I love to break new grounds.
Everyday when I retire to my room, after my game of tennis, I ask myself “what did I do today? Did I add value to myself today? Did I call those who I wanted to call? Have I started a new chapter, a new phase? That is how I live my life. And I thank God because I tell people at times it’s good not to be born with a silver spoon because it allows you to have a wider horizon. Necessity is the mother of invention! When you’re content with your world there’s no need to think but when you want to break through the yoke of poverty and the limitation around you, you struggle. So that has been the spirit.
I tell my children that you need to be a people’s person. You need people. All I can do for you is to give you good education. I was told a long time ago, prepare your children for the wind, don’t prepare the wind for your children because the dynamics of the wind could change. So as you go on in life you need to be a people’s person. Have friends you can discern. If you’re too shielded you’re not going to be streetwise. So God, number one, then dedication and I desire the good things of life. I love beautiful things of life. I love beautiful environments and I discovered that the only way to get good things is to work good. If you work well, you’ll get good money (laughs)
If you weren’t a journalist or a communication entrepreneur what would you have been?
Adefila – I would have been a businessman. Selling stuff somewhere in Oyingbo or hawking clothes or something like that. I would have been a trader. I’ve always had a flair for business. I can’t imagine me being a doctor or a nurse or a lawyer, I find it a bit boring. My own law would have come with a lot of entrepreneurship.
What do you think has helped you over the years?
Adefila – I have a positive attitude to life. Honestly speaking, if you offend me today, before I react I’d remember those things you have done for me before. And I would put it on a scale of balance, use it as a parameter to judge. By nature, I am a very positive person. I like to see positivity. And if we are all positive, the world would be a very good place. So I cherish positivity and I pursue it.
What do you do for fun?
Adefila – I play tennis. I love playing lawn tennis or table tennis. I play with my gate man, my friends come around. Then I love to party. I’m not a party freak but when I’m at a party I have fun. If a friend is having a birthday I throw myself into it and enjoy it to the fullest. I don’t hold back.
What’s your everyday style to work like?
Adefila – I’m comfortable in traditional wear because it is easy to slip into. If you want to be be in suit, you think of your cufflinks, think of your tie, your shirt, your belt, your socks, so many things. Europeans who designed suit did in consonance with their weather and the environment. These ones designed by our forefathers suit our purpose. All I need to do after my bath is get into boxers, get into a singlet and I’m good to go. If you like you can put on a cap and you’re good. Someone told me once “you’re not well dressed as a Yoruba man if you don’t have a cap”. I do suits some Mondays if I have corporate appointments. I like my blazers, I love to fly my shirt without tie but never really looking all that suited up.