‘The Amazons’ is an evening chat-fest on AIT, anchored by a team of three dynamic women of different ages, experiences and backgrounds; discussing family issues and the most exciting events of the day. Aisha Falode, veteran broadcaster, along with light hearted and recognisable actress, Bimbo Akintola and Dolapo Awosika, a lawyer, make up the trio. They take on issues that people generally don’t like to discuss in our society. ‘The Amazons’ is a platform to talk about anything and everything.
In each show, they are joined by experts in the field of discourse and celebrity guests who share their views on different topics. With comedy in bits by Bimbo, the show also comes as one of the funniest, freshest talk show on TV today.
Famously known as the only female voice and presenter of ‘Sports File’, the Saturday sports show on AIT during which issues on sports are discussed intelligently, ace sports broadcaster, Aisha Falode, currently serves as host and executive producer of ‘The Amazons’.
What happened to ‘Sports File’?
‘Sports File’ is still on but we have younger people presenting it now. We are giving the younger generation opportunity to express themselves and the platform to also be heard and do what we were doing with ‘Sports File’. It was aired every Saturday and ‘Sports File’ was a reference point for sports. Issues were discussed very intelligently and professionally. We proffered solutions and also pointed out the way forward for sports. It was good while it lasted. How did you begin to report sports? Where did it all start?
It started while I was in school. I was very active in my younger days. I had to channel that energy into positive goals. After primary school, I attended the Teachers Training College for five years. We were taught how to be teachers from the basics. It was not like those who had done their school certificate exams coming to get a one-year course to get the certificate to be teachers.
Right from the foundation, I knew I wasn’t going to be a teacher anyway. I knew I was going to end up doing what I am doing now but I didn’t know I was going to be a professional athlete at the same time. I knew I was going to be within the sporting family. After the teachers training college, I also had three years’ training for the National Certificate in Education in Abraka, Delta State. So, I was really trained to be a teacher.
Since I knew that I wasn’t going to be a teacher after the training college programme, I had to refocus my direction towards sports but not as a professional athlete. Through the University of Lagos, I got a first degree in Physical Education and also a post-graduate diploma in Mass Communication; knowing that I would be within the sporting family, not as a professional athlete but with background knowledge of an athlete and here I am. After my first degree, I worked as a graduate telephone operator in the defunct NITEL; the first set of graduates they had in the then NITEL. Then, I was schooling and working. I was doing my post-graduate programme and working.
After my post-graduate diploma, I worked at Ray Power FM until they established AIT’s 24-hour broadcast, the first in the nation. That was when I moved to AIT. Then, we were referred to as green horns in the field of knowledge and I quite enjoyed going to cover sports events on the sports desk.
You have a special interest in football. Why is that? Football is a game that is enjoyed by all. It has mass appeal. Also because I loved hockey. Football has the same rules with hockey. So, I transferred that love to football. I was very good in hockey and I enjoyed it a lot.
Talking about football, what is the state of female football in the country now? How come it’s not supported like men’s football?
We have always dominated Africa in women’s football; except for the past two years when we were not able to retain the women’s championship title which is like Africa’s Nations Cup for men.
We have a very strong pedigree in women’s football. It is for us to support women’s football like we support men’s football. Our female team has gone to the World Cup since 1991 when they started but the Super Eagles never got to the World Cup until 1994 while the women have always been to every World Cup.
But why have we never won the World Cup? What would you say is wrong? Is it a coaching problem?
It is the problem of support that I talked about; given the exposure and support we give the men. Give them a level playing field like we give the men. Give them the motivation. Let them go on a playing tour; let them enjoy what the men are enjoying.
But in the midst of all these things not being available, they still play from their hearts. And I know, once they start getting the same support, reward, motivation and recognition that the men have, the sky will not just be the beginning for the women.
Is the NFF presidency exclusively for men? Why haven’t we had a female NFF president?
It is not exclusively for men but it is about numbers. It is like what is happening in the political terrain of Nigeria today. You will ask why we haven’t had a female president or governor. It is all in the numbers. I know that we have the competence, we have the wherewithal. We just need to also begin to play the politics. Without the numbers, we really cannot play the politics but one day, we will get there.
Whose idea was ‘The Amazons’?
It was basically my idea. We know, as women, there are so many things we don’t want to talk about. We are too secretive. We are not open. We hold back a lot. We have things that we really want to discuss.
We can sit down as a group of friends and begin to talk about these issues. But we do not want to talk about them outside, where other women can draw strength and inspiration and also deal with the issues they are dealing with from the open discussions.
I also got the idea from the fact we have shows in England where women can talk about anything; they are not restricted.
So I thought about it. We have so many issues that we are dealing with as women; in relationships, in dealing with children, with parenting, dealing with adolescent children. We have problems that we deal with on daily basis. And, it is also a responsibility for us, women, to proffer solutions to these issues. At least, if we cannot proffer solutions, we should talk about them and people can begin to get different ideas from whatever it is that we talked about.
It is not about one woman and a guest discussing. These three women have different experiences. We also have professionals in the fields that we engage in discussion. We also go outside to get the thoughts of others. So, it is a robust discussion. It is not limited. It is not fragile. It is animated on set, if you have watched an edition before. And, that is also where we got the name from. They are women. They do not hold back anything. They are warriors. They are the amazons. That is how we started and, thank God, we are here today.
How did you get together with Bimbo and Dolapo?
I discussed it with somebody. Because I have always been in the field of sports, I wanted those in the entertainment industry. And, they said they had someone who would fit into the character that I wanted. Bimbo Akintola, we all know her.
Bimbo could be crazy but she is highly intelligent and she is also very, very professional. And we have Dolapo who believes in the rights of women because of her Law background. She has worked back stage for television abroad. So, she is bringing the experience from abroad to Nigeria and on set, we have educative discussions. What is the reception like for ‘The Amazon’ show?
The response has been tremendous. People don’t criticize when we discuss. They only ask us to relate the issue in a particular way. There are issues that raise lot of feedback.
When we talked about violence against women, when we had to bring women NGOs to the programme, you can’t imagine the number of emails that we received and people who visited our Facebook page; sharing their different experiences with violence.
When we talked about how to complete the marriage, the response from that too was immense. It was a very busy period for our Facebook page. We are encouraged from the feedback and responses we get.
So, would you say that the show has met the purpose for which it was created?
I would say so. The only thing that we are not doing right now is really talking politics. The time is coming when we will really take on the politicians. For now, we want to take a back seat and look at women who are championing the cause of women. Elections are coming, we are watching. We are gathering our own information. By the time we let loose, we will have our facts. But for now, the issues that are really affecting us are the issues that we are looking at.
What has been your most memorable time in your career?
Every day I went out was memorable. I can’t really say this was the particular time that was memorable for me. I have had so many memorable times covering sports, meeting a lot of interesting people. I cannot really say; except the World Cup of 2002 when all the African teams were out of the World Cup in Korea/Japan and it was only Senegal that was left.
The entire world press was after Senegal because they were hot. They had beaten the world champions and were on the verge of qualifying as the first African team that will do that in the history of the World Cup. So, the world press was after them like bees after honey. In the midst of all that, for them to pick me out as an African to go with them, ride on the same bus with them, training with them – when the others were really not allowed to, it was really great. And, that is still in my memory till tomorrow.
Tell me about growing up as a child?
Growing up was interesting in a very limited way. Most of us were from humble backgrounds so, growing up was not easy. I told you that I went to a teachers’ training college for five years. That was because it was free. You call it Universal Primary Education (UPE) by the then Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo. Perhaps, without UPE, I might not have gone to school because my parents couldn’t afford it. And you know, those days, they had so many children. I am not sure that with their economic capacity, that they would have been able to send every one of us to school then. But in the midst of all that, there was bonding, there were values. My mother instilled the wisdom of hard work in all of us; that nothing comes on a platter of gold. That keeps me going.
What is the best decision you made in life?
The best decision I made in life is what I am doing now. If I had been a teacher, perhaps, I would have been a very bad one because I am impatient to start with. I am very, very impatient. And you know, teachers must have a lot of patience. I knew that from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be a teacher. From the very beginning, I knew that I would end up in the field of sports but not as a professional athlete. I didn’t know what it was but when it came, I knew this was it.
What is the worst mistake you made in life?
In everything, I have made mistakes but the beauty of it all is that I have learnt from them all and I have become a better person.
What is family life like for you? How do you cope with work and family?
Nobody can do it all but the good thing about an African is that we have a lot of support, a lot of help from the family. My children are all grown up now. But when I was building my career, they were still in their formative years and I had my mother. I had sisters and cousins who were looking after them while I was building my career. That is the very good thing that goes within the African setting. If you must be successful, without the support of your family, it is going to be really, really tedious. I was very privileged to have the support of my family.
Are you married?
I am not married to anyone but I am very happy.
Are we going to hear something soon? Maybe. Every woman looks forward to it. To be honest, every woman looks forward to being married. I have been married before but it was not successful so to speak. You learn your lessons like I said. Given the opportunity to be married today, like I said, there are some things that I did in my first marriage that I wouldn’t do now because I am more experienced now. I am older and I have learnt more.
How do you take care of yourself when it comes to fashion?
I am not really into fashion. To be honest with you, I am not into it. I wear what I am comfortable in and just go. I am not after labels. I am not after designers. For me, just look good in what you wear. You could be wearing your millions on you and I wear this and that and I look great. I am not a fashion person.
How do you take care of your skin?
I really don’t do much. I don’t go to bed with make-up on my face and I have my bath twice a day; before I go out and before I go to bed. That is just the secret.
With ‘The Amazons’, are you still in sports?
Yes, I am still in sports. It is all about versatility. Very soon, you will be seeing me on television and we will be talking about the World Cup.
What is your advice for young girls who look up to you?
I am very happy that a lot of young girls and women are taking to sports reporting and they are doing amazingly well. The privilege they have now is the fact that their source of information is versatile; it is wide. When we started, it was only one source of information. It is either you go and get it yourself or you are hooked to AFP. But now, it is just all over the place and they enjoy what they do. They are very informed. I am very, very glad about that. But nothing good comes easy. You need to have passion for it. You need to be ready to work hard at it. You need to enjoy what you do.
Nollywood star Bimbo Akintola shot to limelight years back with her naughty but perfectly interpreted role in ‘Out of Bounds’. Having starred in a number of movies thereafter, Bimbo remains one of the strongest and most talented actresses in Nigeria.
From acting to presenting, how did you get on the programme?
Actually, I was contacted by one of the producers and I said I would meet with the others. If I like the concept, then we’ll see how it goes. I met with the team and I liked the idea. Again, I felt Nigeria needed something like this; seeing women saying it exactly as it is.
So, how has being an actress helped you on set?
It helps a lot because I am easy with the camera. I know how to talk to the camera. I understand my camera angles and all that so it makes it pretty easier. It is like a familiar companion.
What is the focus of the programme?
We do talk about all kinds of issues: marriage, the other woman… Well, a lot of issues. People think that we talk about women alone. But as a developing country, there is so much more that women can be doing. So, if we tend to focus on women issues, it is because we need women to understand who and what we are in the society.
We are not only companions, we are also intelligent. And a lot of women, nowadays, are bread winners and they are taking care of their families. They are doing so much. So, I think women really need to be respected and also congratulated in all the things that we are doing. We do talk a lot about women. And issues that affect women.
In your opinion, what is the difference between ‘The Amazons’ and other talk shows?
I would like to say that ‘The Amazons’ has three perspectives; three women from different backgrounds.
Aisha is a sports person and she has lived her life as a sports person. Dolapo is a lawyer. I am an actress. We all come from different areas, different parts, and different upbringings. Our educational backgrounds are similar but went to different schools. Dolapo schooled in England. I schooled here.
And, our different experiences; Aisha is a mother. She has two children, Dolapo has two children. I am a single girl. All these experiences come to play, because we are a colour of our experiences. What we are, whatever we show anyone, at any point in time is from all the experiences that we have had and been through over the years. That is what shapes us.
We are three women coming to talk about the same issues. That makes it totally different.
What is the relationship with your co-hosts like?
You know women. Now, we can be very charming, we can be very distant; depending on what period of the month it is. But we do get along and I think we are all professional enough to understand that it is also not about us as a people but also what we are trying to do. The changes that we are trying to make, the topics that we are trying to talk about; to bring some sort of light on those things. It is not just about us, it is about what we are doing.
Tell me about growing up.
I grew up in a very happy family. My mom is an amazing mother. She was there for us. My father, he was a customs officer and he was in and out, in and out. But my mother was around all the time. My mom closed from work at the time that we closed from school. And, that was it for the day. She spent all the time with us. One of her qualities is that she is a disciplinarian. She is playing with you this minute and the next minute, you could get a beating if you deserve it.
Tell us a bit about your educational background?
I started from Maryland Private School, went to Command Day Secondary School and finished at the University of Ibadan, where I studied Theatre Arts, majoring in Acting, Miming and Speech.
How would you describe the movie industry in Nigeria now?
I think when I started it was easier for talents, easier for actors. You could just walk in and become somebody immediately. I didn’t have to kill myself. All I did was audition and I got roles. But now, it is not as easy maybe, because the standards are higher.
What were the standards like then?
You must be able to act. Maybe, there wasn’t as much talent as we have now. I am wondering. Because, a lot of people are not exposed to the fact that acting is not commercial sex work. It is a profession and people can now make money off it. So, more parents are open to allowing their children into it. You don’t have to sneak to act.
Now, you just tell your mother or father that you needed to be an actor and they allow you so, I think that is what has changed. Back then, a lot of people didn’t have the courage to tell their parents they wanted to be an actor. Now, we have so many talents out there.
We have heard that there are issues of sexual harassment in the industry. How true is it?
I don’t have an idea what that means. I have never been sexually harassed. Honestly, if it is happening, I am not making light of it, it has never happened to me. Never! I will like to see the person who will try that.
What movie would you say actually brought you to limelight?
My second movie, ‘Out of Bounds’ brought me to limelight because my first movie wasn’t released until ‘Out of Bounds’ was released. People thought it was the first movie that I shot but it was really the second.
How has it been over the years?
I have had my ups and downs but what I find now, that is my greatest challenge, is that I read certain stories and I am like I don’t want to do this. I understand that certain things sell but I don’t think that every story must be about only those things. We are creative and innovative people and I am sure that we can do better. I believe totally that every story that I am part of should affect someone’s life. It should address an issue; it should talk about something that is important. For me, movies that I do now are movies that say something.
For some people, it is just about wanting to act, I guess. But for me, I think I have done enough. I have worked hard enough over the years. I have a fan base. I have been recognized. It should be about the things that I think are important. I have paid my dues. So, for me, any movie that I am going to be part of, no matter how silly the story line or the plot is, there must be someone that it will affect.
What are the disadvantages of being an actor?
There are many disadvantages of being an actress and one of them is that you get recognized wherever you go. I don’t understand it. Also, I don’t know if it is the economic situation in Nigeria, but everybody just assumes that you have money. Everybody wants money; people don’t just want to say hi to you. Once they try and get close to you, it is because they want something. It almost gets to the point where you are paranoid about everything because everybody is coming for one thing or the other. It makes it difficult to understand those who are real to you.
You can’t go out and be yourself. You can’t decide that you hae a headache and would rather do a certain thing because, first and foremost you are a human being before being a celebrity. I am an actor; that is my work. There is Bimbo first. The fact that people expect you to be who you are not is some of the disadvantage. It is tiring. If we live like that, we will lose ourselves and we won’t know who we are after some time.
There are however, advantages as well. When people like you so much, they tend to want to see every movie that you feature in. I have amazing fans that have been there.
Are you under any pressure to dress well, look good as a celebrity?
I rarely go out because that is not me. Honestly, that is not who I am. I am not a designer person. I barely know names. I am a hair girl. I love hair. I am a shoe girl. I love shoes. But, it doesn’t have to be a name. It just has to be amazing; what I think is amazing.
I don’t mind buying one dress and not wearing it again because, I have seen them doing that ‘Oh, she wore it last year. She wore it again this year’. I have seen that happen to certain people and I am like that is not fair. If it was a doctor, nobody will say anything. If it was a lawyer, nobody will say anything.
What if the person couldn’t afford a new dress at that point in time; they are human beings. It never happened to me; thank you Lord! And, it will never happen. I saw it in one paper and I felt that was so unfair because you are not thinking about this person’s situation.
We are a developing country. Actors are not multimillionaires. We are struggling people, like every other middle class person.
So, when it comes to beauty therapy what do you do?
I am horrible at these things. I just get up and go but now I scrub. That is one thing I really do like. I scrub at least once a week; maximum three times a week. Men should scrub too.
What is make-up like for you?
I am not an amazing make-up person. I think what I do most of the time will always be my eyes. I am a big hair chic. I say it all the time. I don’t make-up when I am not going for a function; except when I have a function that I am going to and I am forced to. If not, I go around my business and I think I am pretty enough.
What is your word to young people?
When you believe in something, go for it. Work hard and you will get it. I believed in acting. I worked hard and see where I am. Everybody thinks that I have something important to say. People want to hear what I have to say and people recognize me on the street and that is just because I believed in my dreams and strived to make it come through.
A London-based lawyer who returned to the country a few years ago, Dolapo Awosika is currently making waves as a co-presenter of ‘The Amazons’. Bringing on her wealth of experience as a lawyer on the show, she tackles issues from the legal perspective while proffering realistic recommendations.
When did you decide to return to the country and why?
I got to a point where I realised that I could do much more back in Nigeria by bringing the experiences I had gathered through my line of work, exposure and association with notable organisations.
What were you doing before ‘The Amazons’?
Before ‘The Amazons’, I worked in a few organizations (in their legal department). On my return, I started a business development company which provides a number of services for new and existing organisations. I also handle a production company that is into television content and production coverage.
As a lawyer, what do you bring to bear on the show?
I’ll say the ability to objectively analyse issues from a legal point of view helps me make realistic recommendations.
In your opinion, what stands ‘The Amazons’ out from other talk shows on TV?
The fact that we are three confident women, from different backgrounds, with different personalities, in different vocations and at different stages in our lives. The combination of the three of us on set makes the show unique.
How well do you get along with your co-hosts?
Having three confident women on one show, of course, had its challenges at first. However, we’ve found our groove and being on set is something we all look forward to. We get along well.
Describe your typical day on set?
Depending on how many episodes we are shooting, moods range from relaxed to high strung, excitement and extreme fatigue but always with manic laughter throughout.
What is your greatest passion?
Nurturing. Aside from the fact that I’m a very creative person, I derive joy from supporting people to achieve their full potential; to redecorate a run-down abandoned shackle. I’m a fixer!
What would you consider as your greatest achievement so far?
I believe I am just starting out but so far, I would say being where I am today.
What are some of the challenges you encounter as host of ‘The Amazons’?
I won’t say it’s a challenge. Rather, I will call it an adjustment and that is having to manage the interests people have in me and having to carry them along. I am naturally a very private person.
What would you say is the best lesson life has taught you?
Keep the past in the past, embrace the future and stay focused.
What is fashion like for you?
Anything that makes me look and feel elegant. I would read the label of a pair of trousers, not because of the designer but because of the composition of the material.
What is your best beauty secret?
Being a self confessed beauty junkie, I would say for me, sleep is truly my best beauty secret; literally, a good night’s rest.
What is your eventual dream for ‘The Amazons’?
To be able to pass the baton onto the next generation of ‘The Amazons’ so they can continue what we started.
How do you cope with being a mother, wife and career woman?
Aside from the three you mentioned, I am also a daughter, a sister, an aunty, a niece and a friend. So, it’s a juggling act and, at times, it takes its toll but my love and passion for all, keeps me right on top of it all. I believe it’s what I was born to be.