Get Inspired – True Life Story of Onyinyechi Ngozi Ekumankama

Get Inspired – True Life Story of Onyinyechi Ngozi Ekumankama

Get Inspired – True Life Story of Onyinyechi Ngozi Ekumankama

Aisha woke up on the hospital bed about an hour later. Titi was beside her crying bitterly. “Aisha, Felicia is gone! She is no more and it is all my fault.” Aisha’s denial stage had been interrupted when she fainted after the doctor spilled news about Felicia’s demise, so she still couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “You mean Felicia is dead? Ina lilahi wa ina ilehi Raj’un.”(Islamic exclamation at the news of demise.) She bursted out crying. The two ladies were

Growing up, I displayed tendencies of a performer. I love to sing, dance, act, play sports, play musical instruments, anything that had to do with the arts. I was someone who had an undying flair for creativity and all things entertainment. I sang in church, in primary school I would be called upon for impromptu speeches, I represented the school at MUSON singing competitions, I was in the school band where I played the recorder and the drums, and oh, I will never forget playing the lead role of Annie in our Primary 6 Graduation Play titled, “Annie, The Classical Musical”. I remember clearly, it was in primary school that I discovered my love for sports, basketball in particular.

Fast forward to 2008, when I graduated from Corona Primary School, Gbagada and went ahead to Corona Secondary School, Agbara. My love for the arts continued and boy was I active ! My parents got me a violin, I sang, I danced, acted, I was very active in sports, representing my house and school in various sports competitions and joining the senior basketball and athletics teams when I was still in junior school. I was also very active in our school chapel activities as I was and still am a spiritual person. In 2011, after our Junior NECO Examinations, we the Year 9 students had a break. Instead of whiling away time, the school management decided to put us all in different groups with tasks. Each group had to visit specific places and people in order to gather resources for their research. My group got to go to the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, where we met with the ambassador at the time. It was a really interesting visit and I got talking with the ambassador who offered me an opportunity to intern at the NIIA if I was interested. Of course I was interested! As a matter of fact, at the time I wanted to become a Diplomat or an Ambassador and as God would have it, this offer came at the time when my school initiated a program where the students were to take up internships and industrial trainings in the industries and organizations of our choice during the summer holidays.

As you can imagine, I had already made up my mind to intern with the NIIA and my parents were on board. When the time came, I called the ambassador and my mum and I went to the institute to make enquiries and accept the offer I was given. At the time, the ambassador was out of the country and we did not know when he would return. My mum then had an AMAZING idea. She suggested we speak with Uncle Victor Olaotan who is a very close family friend. He played Fred Ade Williams on Mnet’s hit television series, Tinsel. We spoke with him about me getting an internship with them and thankfully it happened. I resumed work with the cast and crew of Tinsel and it was an unforgettable experience. I was told that because I was an intern, I didn’t have to resume at 6 am which was the resumption time, but I could resume later in the morning. But no, I wanted the full experience, after all I had been a media junkie since I was a kid. You can imagine how bright my eyes shone very early in the morning waking up to go to work. I remember my first day, I was so excited that I was banging doors at home and moving around like the day had broken, and it was only like 5 in the morning. My sister had to remind me to keep it down.

I spent most of my time there on set, rehearsing scripts with some of the actors and actresses, learning how to use the cameras to shoot, learning the tricks of the Master Control Room (MCR) and the likes. At the time they shared a building with Jara, Studio 53 Extra and Supersport. Thankfully, I got a private tour of all three sets and you can imagine how that felt. Seeing and sitting in the seats of the people we loved to see on television. I still have the pictures from that time. I met and worked with some of the most amazing people and I even celebrated my 13th birthday while working with them. One birthday I will never forget. This was definitely a great way to start my working experience and my teen years. After a few weeks, I had to say my goodbyes and ensure my photo collection was ready, as you can imagine I had to capture a lot of moments and get sufficient pictures with the celebrities. (Selfies weren’t a thing then)

I resumed school and went back to my student life (which was also AMAZING). At this time I was in Year 10, also known as SS1 and I was a Social Science student. I also had prefect position on my mind because I wanted to be the female sports prefect, and in Year 11 when the new prefects were selected, I was the female sports prefect! I was overjoyed! This is one of the things I can confidently say I worked for in my life.

I remember one particular assembly, where I did a presentation with my group members. It was a TV Show setting and I was the presenter. Let’s just say we got a resounding round of applause and cheers from the students and teachers, as well as hugs and lots of complements for a job well done. Now at this point, I was very sure I wanted to be a media personality. One of our head’s of school at the time Mr. Obah said that he wants to see me on TV in the future and our school director at the time, Mrs. Adefisayo said she wants to switch on her TV when she’s old and retired, and see that I have a show on CNN. These words really touched my heart and till tomorrow, I will never forget them.

After graduating in 2014, I decided to take a gap year before moving on to tertiary education. A gap year is a year free of “traditional” academic activities. Yup! Sounds like the dream right? Well it is….but only for a while. I mean not waking up early to go to school, not studying for exams, it was a breeze. I absolutely loved the idea. However, I started getting bored. Not just bored, I was frustrated, upset, grumpy, angry with everyone for no reason, all because I was bored of doing nothing 24/7. I wasn’t being productive, and so this was a problem that needed to be fixed. Thank God for my ever supportive and understanding parents. My mum had some contacts with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as she too has some background in broadcasting. We had a meeting with them and I started working there as an intern. There, I honed my camera skills, broadcasting and presenting skills and I also presented a kids show called, Sparkles. After a few months, I left NTA and I was back to being bored at home. This
was late 2014.

Around this time, Cool TV and Wazobia TV were being set up i.e the television stations of Cool FM and Wazobia FM (they have since been merged and is known as WAZOBIA TV and WAZOBIA MAX). A friend of mine told me about them and I was interested, however I didn’t pursue it. Months went by and this time it was an acquaintance of one of my sisters who coincidentally knew someone who presented with Cool TV at the time and so he linked us up. I gave her my CV and she handed it over to the Human Resource Department. As God will have it, the Operations Manager of Cool FM, Wazobia FM and Nigeria Info FM at the time wanted an intern. He made his request known to HR and they shortlisted a couple of CVs and mine was one of them. He called a few of us in for a “chat” and I was hired. He mentioned that he was impressed with what I had done at my young age and he hired me because he likes working with people who are “green.”

I was excited. These were and still are three top stations in the nation and I was just hired to work with and for them! Boy this would look good on my CV, not to talk about how much fun work would be. Funny enough, at first I wasn’t so excited because I wanted to work with TV but I was hired by radio. I mean, I didn’t have any radio experience. I never even thought about it. Thank God for my family and the people around me. They all gave me good advice and encouraged me to go ahead with radio. I already had one foot in the door. Little did I know that radio was about to become my love. At the age of 17, I began work with the CoolWazobiaInfo Team and on my very first day, my boss, Onimisi Adaba, fondly known as OJ said to me that there was something about my voice. He asked if I had heard of
voiceovers and I said no. He asked me to read something and afterwards took me to the production studio and handed me over to the team for training. My love for radio had begun brewing.

I started doing voiceovers little by little and I also started picking up the skill of audio production. Mind you, it
wasn’t an easy process. I fumbled at first. In fact at some point I was terrible at it, but that’s where consistency and not giving up comes in. I was determined to learn it and the people around me where
patient and encouraging.

Not too long after, I was approached by one of the producers from World Entertainment Television LTD (WETV), our television stations. She asked me if I would love to present some segments of the kid’s show she produced for the station. Of course I said yes. TV was my first love. I was super excited. I told my boss about it and he approved. Before I knew it, I was on radio and television. AMAZING ! My job description included running errands (as I am an intern), voicing, producing, scripting, presenting, social media management. The list increased as time passed. A year went by, what was supposed to be a gap year became three gap years…for different reasons. Let’s just say life happened, but it happened in a good way because given the opportunity again, I would make the same choice.

My career began to take off. I began mastering the skill of voiceovers and my voice was all over the air waves. People would tell me how they heard my voice in places as far as the Federal Capital Territory, in the north and all around the country. I have heard my voiceovers on YouTube in between videos, CNN, different local and international television stations. I get jobs from different clients. Some of which include Stanbic IBTC Bank. I am the current voice of their Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Wizitup, an online educative kids content creation company.

Along the line, I was on attachment to different on air personalities and their shows so I was learning first hand. After two years of interning with CoolWazobiaInfo, an extraordinary thing happened. One day, the Head of OAP Nigeria Info in the person of Tolulope Adeleru-Balogun sent for me. She asked me what I had planned for the coming Saturday. She asked me to fill in for the presenter as he would not be available that weekend. At first, I thought she wanted me to play a repeat broadcast or documentaries…something to pass time. I didn’t know she actually wanted me to speak on air and present the show. I was so happy when she asked. I said to her that I would check with my parents and get back to her. She told me to get my content ready and run it by her before taking it on air. My parents being the amazing people they are approved. I got back to her as agreed and we were good to go.
Presenting a two hour radio show for the first time was a bit nerve wrecking as you can imagine but ultimately it was enjoyable. The general feedback was positive and so they decided to make it a frequent show. That was how The GX Show with Onyinyechi Ekumankama was born. From 2 hours every other Saturday, we went to 1 hour and then 1 hour every Saturday. Consequently, if any presenter was not available, I was asked to fill in for the person. I was growing. Eventually, I was asked to anchor the Saturday morning show called The Saturday Morning Café, which I’m still on till date. It runs from 5am – 12 noon.

In February 2018, #TheGXShow celebrated 1 year. This was a milestone for me as #TheGXShow had quickly become my “baby” and it also marked 1 year of presenting on radio for me. I give God ALL the glory.

Our first outing with #TheGXShow was in November, 2017, when we partnered with the Youth Development and Rights Initiative (YDRI) for an outing with The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Paul Arkwright and The Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Deputy Ambassador Laure Beaufils which took place at the British High Commission. This I will count as one of the highlights of my career. It was tagged, “An Interactive Session with Young People on Politics with The British High Commissioner to Nigeria.”

Another highlight of my career was when I interviewed the Rwandan High Commissioner to Nigeria and an added plus is that I did all this before I turned 20.

I am a voiceover artist, an audio producer, an on air personality, a television presenter and an emcee/compere.

I am 20 years old going on 21 in a few months and I love where I’m at. I work and school at the same time. It’s not easy, but because I absolutely love my job, it honestly doesn’t feel like work. Also, the importance of prioritizing makes juggling school and work easier for me, so no area is suffering. We have this saying that goes, “My job is to play but I don’t play with my job.” Ultimately, I thank God for His grace because without Him, none of this would be possible.

This write up will not be complete if I do not appreciate all the people who have been a part of this journey. So I’m dedicating this whole paragraph to them. To my ever so amazing parents and siblings, for giving me the go ahead to pursue my dreams at such a young age. Most parents would hesitate, especially with the industry that I have chosen, and honestly I can say first hand that I see their reasons why. Yes, my parents had their worries and concerns, but they didn’t let that cage me. From the moment they recognized my talents and skills, they did everything they could to help me develop it, hone it, harness it and they have let me shine. They as well as my siblings listen to my radio shows, watch my television shows, give me honest feedback both negative and positive, give me constructive criticism and the necessary encouragement and pep talks I need. The simple things, like always  being there when I need them is one of the most comforting feelings. I love you. THANK YOU for trusting me. To my friends turned family, you know yourselves. THANK YOU for everything that you do. To my schools, Corona Primary School, Gbagada and Corona Secondary School, Agbara, both the teaching and non-teaching staff, I say a very big thank you, for a world class education, for impacting the way that I speak, my diction, for giving me platforms to grow, not just academically but otherwise as well, for pushing and encouraging me, THANK YOU. My story would not be complete if I don’t mention you. Of course a big shout out to my parents for sending me and my siblings to amazing schools. God bless you.

To the CoolWazobiaInfo and Wazobia TV Team. I would forever be grateful for all of you. I will not mention names because the list is loooong and I really wouldn’t want to leave anyone out. You’ve given me a platform and allowed me to grow and own my growth. You’ve corrected me when necessary, loved me, encouraged me, celebrated me, scolded me, made me laugh, made me cry, appreciated me, all in love. You literally took me in as the baby of Aim and you all have watched me grow. I am immensely grateful for all of you. From the presenters to the management staff, the production crew, the maintenance staff, the cleaners, the security guards every single one of you. THANK YOU. God bless you.

To every client and organization that has been a part of my career, THANK YOU. Thank you for trusting me. Last but most certainly not the least. To my Abba Father, THANK YOU.

For all you “youngys” out there dreaming of big futures, my advice to you is dream BIG ! Don’t just dream, but believe you can live this dream and work towards living it. Do not let your age be your cage. It doesn’t matter if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth or not. Dreams don’t discriminate, so you shouldn’t too. Above all, make sure you have God on your side. If you do, trust me, you will be UNSTOPPABLE.

Finally, I am still on my life’s journey. I am still growing. I am still discovering who I am and I am sure there is more to come. For instance, I know I still want to work in the diplomatic space, how that will pan out? I don’t know, but I am sure of this…I am just getting started and it only gets better from here!

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Doctor Nosa, who had barely met the ladies a little over an hour prior, came in to the ward. “I am terribly sorry for your loss, ladies. I’ve been able to contact the family and they will be here this evening, or first thing tomorrow morning. I’ll run a quick check on you, Aisha because you passed out. Titi, could you kindly excuse us?” asked the doctor. Titi slowly got up and left the room sobbing. Aisha couldn’t utter a word because she was completely devastated.

After the routine checks on her, Aisha was certified fit to be discharged.

The chaos back at the campus was epic, as the news about Felicia’s death had spread like wildfire. Aisha was bombarded with so many calls and questions she could not answer; that she switched her phone off.

She ran to her room immediately she returned to the campus, laid down on Felicia’s bed and cried herself to sleep. The following days and weeks were a blur to Aisha. She attended lectures occasionally, because sometimes she would blank out during the class; so she attended only if she could.

Felicia was buried a week later in her native Edo state. Aisha had to attend to pay her final respects to her beloved friend.

It was really hard for Aisha the rest of the semester; so hard, she had to move off campus a few days after returning from Felicia’s burial. She felt lonely, afraid, confused about the meaning of life and wanted so badly to speak to her best friend again, but alas, she couldn’t. That was her only friend; how was she going to forge ahead? How could life treat her so rudely and unfairly? But, she kept living, a day at a time.

Bayo had made it a point of duty to check in on her every other day. But Aisha couldn’t be bothered; he had tried several times to get her phone number, but she wouldn’t budge; her bereavement seemed to have gotten the best of her and made her live a life of a hermit.

When the first semester was over, Aisha travelled back home immediately after her last exam was over. It was the holiday season she was not looking forward to, because, apart from how the homefront was, she had just lost her new best friend and she didn’t know how to deal with it.

The tension at home as a result of her parents’ incessant bickering; was something she didn’t look forward to. Sometimes she wondered if it was because her mother was from a different ethnicity from her father. Her father was from Kano state and her mother from Lagos, though, she had learnt to speak fluent hausa over the course of her marriage, thanks to her flair for languages. During some of their arguments Alhaji Idris, Aisha’s  father often remarked that her mother’s problem was that she felt she was too educated and thought she knew more than he did. Despite her mother’s intelligence and resourcefulness, Aisha’s father would not allow her work, he would say he can provide all that she needed and so she didn’t need to work. As a result, Mrs. Idris did a lot of reading and self-development at home, she sometimes would attend life coaching classes.

Her brother, Kabiru (in her opinion) was a total recluse when he was at home; isolating himself in his room except for his friends’ occasional visits to the house. Aisha and Kabiru didn’t have much of a relationship; they knew they were siblings and had very basic conversations. Aisha didn’t understand why her brother was such an oddball; his life revolved around his school, video games, friends and parties.

On the other hand, her brother often told her that she was the odd one, she didn’t have friends nor any boyfriend. She was a bookworm, like her mother and in his opinion she could ‘read for the world’. He would tell her that her life was too boring and that he couldn’t live it.

When they were much younger, the two would get into arguments and end up fighting. However, since a fight they had when she was in Senior secondary 2(SS2); which resulted in Aisha getting a red eye, her brother resolved never to lay his hands on her again. Their parents would wade in every now and again to settle their incessant quarrels, but they were not the role models they should be and Kabiru would lash out at his parents; reminding them that they did the same thing.

“Why can’t life be less complicated?” Aisha thought to herself one day. “At home, no peace, in school no friend, in the country too much chaos. When will all these end up in the ‘happily ever after’ I always dreamed of and so often watch in the movies? Does that kind of life even exist? Or is it all make-belief?” Different questions kept ringing in her head, when she heard a knock on her door “Salam Alaikum” (translated “Peace be unto you”) It was her mother’s voice. “Yes mama, come in” she responded. Aisha’s tall mother walked into the room in one of her usual hijabs; which she wore around the house. It was odd for her to come into her room that early. It was 6.16 am, they had their usual family As’abar morning prayers together, earlier that morning and their mum didn’t mention wanting to see her.

“Aisha, I would like to have a word with you.” Her mother said as she sat down on the carpet beside her daughter’s bed. “You are no longer a child and as you know and can see, things have not been going well between your father and I. I have really been trying to bear with him all these years, and it seems we might never be on the same page.” She heaved a heavy sigh and continued “The life coaching classes I have been attending have kept me going, so it has kind of become my ‘drug of choice’ if you like. I had to find a way of escape, but thankfully I found one that has been very helpful psychologically.” She looked intently at her daughter and said “I am contemplating leaving your father for good.” As if she didn’t hear her mother, Aisha looked back and thought “as if life hasn’t been tough enough.” Her mother wondered at the silence that greeted her very serious discussion and tapped her daughter “Aisha, did you hear what I just said?” She asked. “Yes I did mama.” Aisha stood up from the bed and sat beside her mum.

“Why divorce, mama? You’ve already borne most of the weight of it. Please be patient. I know it’s hard mama, but what about us?” Aisha asked. “I must say that you and your brother are the primary reasons I kept holding on, but now I am just tired and feel like I am a burden to your father and there is no need pretending. I need to do me, for once.” Her mother explained. Aisha hugged her mother.

Aisha suddenly blurted “Life coaching class! Yes! That reminds me; there’s this guy in school who invited me for one sometime ago, coincidentally, I was to attend one the same day my Felicia died.” she remarked with a sad grin as she remembered that fateful day. “When is the next one, mum? I think we should attend together before you make the decision.” Her mother was wondering how Aisha just snapped from the hug and got all hyped about attending her class. “We were having a serious moment Aisha, what’s with this conditional request?” asked her mum. “Well, you said it was a ‘ good drug of choice’ and I thought maybe we could ‘take it together’?” Aisha suggested, in a rather mischievous tone. She was trying to take her mother’s mind off of her decision to leave baba and wanted to create a happy atmosphere; since a sad one wasn’t doing anyone, any good.

“Well, that would be nice and I think you would learn a lot from what will be discussed. It’s always very interesting.” Her mother said. “Deal then” replied Aisha. “But,” interrupted her mother “I have already decided to leave Baba and I do not agree to any ‘deal’.” her mother said matter-of-factly. “Could you at least not take any action, till we attend it together?” Aisha pleaded. “Hmm” her mother sighed. “Alright then, we have a deal” she added. “You’re the best mum in the world” Aisha said as she threw her arms around her mum. “And you the best daughter in the world. I love you” her mama said.

Two weeks later….

“Aisha, hurry up; we’re going to be late!” Called out her mum, as they began to head out for the life coaching event. “Today, we will be having a special guest from Lagos and I do not want to sit behind.” she added. Aisha hurriedly walked to the car park to join her mother and they drove off.

“I hope I enjoy this life coaching thing, I think I am just curious about what happens during the sessions. Also how come it’s always scheduled so early in the morning?” Aisha asked as they headed out. “Well, you’ll find out and I am sure you will learn a thing or two. Being early is just something they prefer. Besides, learning when you’re fresh in the morning helps, I guess” her mother added. “Abuja has changed, mama.” Aisha noted. Her mother smiled and continued driving.

The two-hour session started and ended in record time. “Wow, it’s so rare to have a program in Nigeria, where African-time isn’t observed” Aisha remarked to her mother on their way back home. “Well, let’s just say things are beginning to change around here. Did you have a nice time?” her mother asked. “Yes I did, the session was so practical, even a 5-year old would have understood what was taught. I guess I’ll attend the next one if I am still in town or ….. Yes, I remember, if there are any one that would be holding in school.” Aisha said with a smile. “Is that smile for the guy who invited you, or for the program?” Her mother asked with a mischievous grin. “Guy? Me? Please mama, I do not have time for any guy, especially not Bayo.” Aisha said sternly. “Uh, so that’s his name; Bayo.” Teased her mum. “Mama please that’s not his name; I mean there is no ‘he’ anywhere. Could we just drop the subject?” Aisha requested, irritated at even the thought of what her mother was insinuating. “Not before I know his surname, because I have a friend whose son is in your school and his name coincidentally, is Adebayo Tilorunfe” her mother responded. By this time, Aisha was speechless and looked at her mother as if she didn’t believe her. They both laughed.

“I am serious Ai” emphasised her mum. “And I am serious about ending this conversation mum. I do not know his surname. Besides, why should I? Men do nothing but hurt women; so let’s just change the subject.” Aisha said in a rather upset tone. “I am sorry you feel that strongly about men Ai, is it because of the problems your father and I are having?” Her mother asked. “Well, that and so any other stories I’ve heard over and over again. I remember Felicia’s sad tale about her dad and another man who married her mother afterwards. It just always ‘goes south’ with men, doesn’t it mum? Even the topic today had to do with them again. But lucky for the ‘one’ lady who got ‘a good man’ if that even exists. Talk about one-in-a-million.” Aisha said rolling her eyes as she turned to face the car window.

The trip back home was a quiet one from then on. Aisha’s mother realised how her relationship with her husband had affected their children. Thoughts of Kabiru’s outbursts when addressing his father and now Aisha’s anger and hatred for men was beginning to make Mrs. Idris rethink her decision to leave the marriage. It also made her think about her conduct and her husband’s, at home in the presence of their children. She realised that it had taken a negative toll on them.

“Sannu da zuwa mama” (Translated:  “Welcome back, mum”) said Kabiru. He was on his way to see a friend when the duo returned. “And where exactly are you going, young man?” Asked his mum. “To see Zakari next door. I won’t be long.” He responded. “Alright then”, his mother responded in consent. “Sai ka dawo”, (Translated: See you when you get back”), Aisha said. Kabiru went to their neighbour’s and Aisha and her mother went into the house.

“Salamu Alaikum, good morning baba” Aisha greeted her father; who was in the living room when they got back. “How are you and how was the program?” He asked. “It was fine.” Aisha replied as she walked passed him, down the hallway to her room. She wasn’t ready for any arguments that might ensue between her parents so she hurried to her room and locked the door behind her.

An hour later, she came out and started towards the kitchen; beside the living room. She could hear her parents’ distinct voices from afar. She was surprised; first that they were having a conversation and secondly, their tones were very low. Her parents hardly ever conversed except when they had guests and whenever they did in the absence of any visitors, it almost always did not end well.

Aisha was curious so she peered into the keyhole to be sure that it was just the two of them having a conversation. When she confirmed it was so, she thought “Wonders shall never end” as she went into the kitchen to get something to eat.

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