Mrs Sola Omotosho is the Chairperson of National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Ondo State chapter. In this interview with EVELYN OMOTOYE andSADE AFE, she spoke on her development as a journalist, the challenges and how she rose to the top.
Let’s meet you
My name is Sola Omotoso. I am the Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, Ondo State.
Where are you from?
I am from Ilara Mokin in Ondo State by marriage and by birth, I am from Ijebu Isonyin town in Ogun State.
What was your growing up like?
My parents were strict, I had loving parents, but I actually loved my dad more than my mum.
I don’t know, and I am the first child, but I took after my dad. The man is late now, he died in 2010. I so much loved the man, very strict but very loving and I looked after him in my house in Akure. When I was growing up, I was like a tomboy. In my bag then instead of normal lipstick, you would see nail, stone and stuffs like that.
Why did you choose to be a journalist?
That is a good question. When I was growing up, right from my tender age, I loved dancing and when I was growing up in my teens I could dance from midnight to morning. When we went to parties or to club I would dance from the time I stepped into that party till the morning and I loved anything Art then. When I was in secondary school in Ijebu there, OGTV was the TV we were watching, and seeing all these guys casting news, and the presenter, oh I loved that, I would even go to the TV station after school.
After I left secondary school, I would go from Isonyin to Abeokuta to see one of the very good male newscasters. I actually wanted to go into that field and I loved acting too. Anything acting, you would just see me there and luckily I met with late Femi Robinson, the former Village Headmaster in the play called Village Headmaster. So, I was with him, I trained as a TV presenter with him. I learnt editing and all that from him. Although, I have forgotten all those things now, I was into the presentation. In school, I went into print and all that so I have been in Art all the while.
I love it. Right now, I am the Vice Chairman of Actors Guild of Nigeria, Ondo State chapter. I love the Art and I am even going into acoustic work and so on. Although the dancing aspect has reduced because of age and all the bones are not what they used to be, anything Art, I’m there.
When I was at the School of Journalism, we were talking under the tree and they said that election was coming up, could you be the president of the students union? I said I could, and then I was tiny. I said I could do it, even though I could be regarded as an introvert. The co-contenstant was more popular than me and I went into the race, but whenever I stood up to talk, people will be bound to listen, and I did it and won. Today, I am still the only female Student Union President of the Nigeria Institute of Journalism ever.
What is your take on females practising Journalism?
A lot of my male friends said, especially when I was in Lagos, that they would never marry a female journalist because they felt that as a female journalist, you would know everybody.
And some of us will take that to be a kind of key, and when somebody is dangling a carrot at you, there is something that he wants from you.
So right from my very tender age, because I actually went into Journalism very young, I knew what I wanted and I realized that if you want to reach the pinnacle very fast, you have to do so many bad things. If you go really deep into Journalism, people will tag you, so if you want to be tagged go ahead, but if you feel you want to be a family person then, you soft pedal.
Are you now saying that there is always a clash between family and your profession as a woman?
There is, my sister. See, when I was growing up, I actually thought within myself that what do I want in life, do I want the fast lane? Where I have to travel all over the world? But I wanted a home. When you want a home, you forfeit the fast lane. Coming from Lagos life, I know, people will be telling you to be independent minded, they will give you ticket to America and to so many places. When you travel with a man to America what do you expect him to do there? Is it to just window shop or to just waste his money? And he will say, “thank you my sweet heart.” Ha ha no. If you want a home, there are so many things you need to understand.
And as I said, my kind of person actually affected me partially. When I was into Journalism, I will leave home very early and come back late. I ate outside but when I got married, I realised that I just had to stop that.
That is why I am saying there is a clash. You will have to choose what you want, because if you want to sit on the fence, you won’t be able to get anywhere.
Are you now saying that to get to the peak of one’s career professionally, one has to let go of the home?
No, it is God and your man, if you are a woman and your man supports you, you get to the pinnacle, but if your man does not support you and you feel you have the guys, you have the men who are at the top there, that would help you, you are just joking. It is only through the blessing of your husband that you can succeed.
You mentioned Femi Robinson, is he your role model?
He is late now, he trained me. He was one of the icons then, and I worked with him and he was into television production. He was a great man, so I trained under him.
Who can you call your role model in the profession?
I love some great women in Journalism who have been able to use the profession to get to great heights in life. Abike Dabiri is one of them. Luckily enough, I was attached to her for my internship at NTA 7. May Helen Ezekiel is the one I can call my role model. I just love her person and her write up. When I began to write, I was tilting towards her style of writing. She was into ‘bare it all’ writing. She could tell you her bra size and all that. When I was writing, I had a column in P.M. News then called Sola Salami’s Wall. I could talk about anything personal, a lot of things that ladies hide, I would just bare it and I had so many fans then reading my column.
As the Ondo NAWOJ’s chairperson, what is your vision for the association?
We are praying that God should help us to work together in unity, to uplift the association and not pull it down. In any group, there are always two or three of the members that may want to pull back and the effect may be massive if God is not on your side. I want to thank every member of NAWOJ, they have been supportive. We have our flaws as individuals, it is only God that is perfect.
When I came as the chairperson, I told them that I wanted team work, so I am in pursuit of that, I am not snobbish, although I love my space, I love people and I love the sisterhood.
I don’t like gossip and backbiting, it irritates me. You know this is common with women, but because I have been a unionist for long, I don’t shun people for whatever they have come to tell me but rather deal with them wisely. I understand that we are from different backgrounds, we can’t rule that out and we all have our flaws. We can only pray that God should help us and grant us wisdom, knowledge and understanding to make our tenure a success, so that our successor can continue from there to take the group to an enviable height. I believe that those that have not believed in NAWOJ will soon join us when they see what we have been able to do. Rome was not built in a day, we will be there someday. The past chairpersons have done their best, it is always like that because no matter how good you have done there will be someone after you that would do better. We want it said that we have done our best.
What is your word of encouragement to women out there who want to get to the pinnacle of their careers professionally or politically?
Using my case as an example, there are lots of experiences I must say. It is not easy, the married ones should soft-pedal. They should respect their men. I’m a very strong-willed person and may not take it easy when it comes to my passion and belief. I’m very lovely and compassionate but tough and firm. So I can’t compare myself with someone else because we are of different make. Know your man, respect him and take him as your confidant that is the key.
You should not take your husband for granted, take him as the king and he will support you. I’m also learning because no man wants a tough woman. So I’m trying to get a re-orientation to stay-put in that marriage but if I don’t want that marriage, the toughness would be full blown and people would call you ‘asa’. Rearrange yourself to fit in with your man and carry him along. Sometimes it is not easy, you might even be unhappy bending your rules but because of your home and the societal dictates, you have to be submissive totally. You see, what I would have done in Lagos State and no one would even talk about it, I can’t try it here, so environment counts. In whatever you do, make sure you make your man a priority.
With your age and health issues, how come you still look this young, beautiful and radiant?
It is all God. God keeps me till now. When I was growing up, I used to keep to myself most times because of my illness. I loved staying alone and when anyone hurts me, I would keep it to myself, but I realised later that it wasn’t doing me any good. There was a time I had an issue with someone and I was so furious that I had to call a male friend, my friend told me to get water and drink right away. I was surprised to hear that but do you know that I began to drink water and have inner peace after drinking water when I’m hurt? Another friend of mine also asked me again; that ‘do you really forgive people?’ I realise I wasn’t forgiving people. So I forgave everyone that have hurt me in the past and I learnt to let go and now I live in peace and I smile effortlessly unlike before, and now I take my health issues seriously. I was with Adaba FM but I realised I might die because I’m asthmatic and I was working in an air conditioned office. My doctor said I don’t need air-conditioner, which is why I cannot go abroad. My two daughters are in London but my doctor warned me not to go. This is why I had to resign from Adaba, but people read funny meanings to this. I have gone through a lot in life because of my health. I don’t say because I don’t want people to talk ill of me and do anything to jeopardise my health, I do whatever is good for my health.
What is your philosophy of life?
My philosophy of life is ‘live and let’s live’. Do your own, let me do mine, why would you interfere into my affair? You don’t need it. God made us differently and that is why I don’t judge people. A lot of people talk about what does not concern them, whereas they don’t know what the person might be going through. The person might be facing issues with his/her spouse or have crises with his/her job. I live for myself, I owe no man apology.
Funny enough I’m not a sociable person. I said I’m into myself. I relate with people though because I have to do it as a unionist after which I go back to my shell and I’m happy doing it. I attend unavoidable parties. I do that as a matter of necessity, otherwise I can be indoor for days if I’m free. I read, watch television and keep to myself, I love my space. I do not want anybody to judge me for doing what I’m doing.
What are your best colour and food?
I love white. The only thing with people is that when I’m dressed in all white, people would say “iya Oosa’ . My best food is eba with egusi Ijebu. I can eat eba all day and the second one is ikokore (water-yam portage).