Many online platforms have emerged due to improved Internet penetration in the last three years in Nigeria. Online radio stations are one of the beneficiaries of huge population of internet users in the country. However, when the Internet radio was unpopular, a young man dared to venture into the ‘unknown’ terrain on divine instruction. In this interview with DAYO EMMANUEL, Chief Executive Officer of popular WigRadio, Olawale Perfect explains how he started off on the project which today is a success. Perfect, who bagged a First Class in Biochemistry from the University of Lagos shares his experience in the media way off his initial discipline. Excerpts:
How did the idea of WigRadio come to you?
The idea of WigRadio is something that has been my passion for a long time that was immediately after I left the secondary school. I never knew how it was going to happen I just knew I was passionate about the media and I knew I have an assignment there. Eventually I found myself reading Biochemistry at the University of Lagos. I put my best into it and I graduated with a good grade, a First Class. During my NYSC I was praying and asking God what is my next level and He told me you have an assignment in the media. So for me the definition of having an assignment in the media was probably to have a program on the radio. I wrote the UNILAG FM but I got no reply. While praying I said within myself even if I have assignment in the media, let me go and develop myself. Then I went to take a Post Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication in the University of Lagos. One of those days one of my classmates asked if I would come to UNILAG FM to talk. I said why not? I told him that is the opportunity I have been asking for. I was on that program for nine months and after the nine months my PGD was over so I asked God what next and He said it is time to start a radio station. I said to start a radio station in Nigeria costs a lot of money and I don’t have any money so I checked my account, all I found was N200. I said God it is either you don’t know what it costs to start a radio station or someone else is deceiving me. I took the first step which was to do a research to know what is the way forward and before you know it doors began to open. People began to call me, they began to give me access to money; not loan, but they were giving me money. To cut a long story short we started WigRadio in 2013 and between then and now we have been able to do several things including having studios in the UK, Malaysia and we are also broadcasting in Romania. We are also having responses from over a 126 countries in the last four years. So it is not a matter of having it in the mind or that what one likes to do, but it was God that instructed it. I see WigRadio as a ministry just like a pastor would say God has called him to start a Church. I know God has not called me to start a Church but God is calling me to an assignment in the media. We are all workers in the vineyard of God. The pastors are playing their role and I am playing my role and what is my role? It is to amplify the voice of these pastors. While the pastors are busy on the pulpit, teaching the people, my own is to take what they are saying and propagating it to many people using the media and online radio is that thing and WigRadio is that channel through which God is doing what He is doing.
There must be challenges within these few years you have compressed in few minutes. What are those challenges?
There have been so many challenges like most people would say finance is the challenge. To me I do not see it as a challenge. Whenever there was a challenge I would go to God and tell Him I didn’t decide to do this thing. I could have got a job, in fact there was a particular time I got a job interview at NNPC, I didn’t tell my parents and people close to me. I knew there was more to my life so I didn’t go. I would have taken the job, a very good paying job and be driving latest cars like some of my friends but would I be happy would I be fulfilling’s God’s purpose? The answer was no. I told myself No so I decided to stay in the place of my primary assignment which is media until God decides to take me to another place. Finance has been a challenge so each time there is a challenge I go back to God. There were time I would feel discouraged but I would go back to God. Before you know it someone would just call me and send the particular amount we need. My faith rose to a very high point because I realised God knows what we need to the very last point. Another challenge was acceptance. Online radio was no popular when we started and not many people were online like today. Online radio was not popular like today. When we started we were barely three or five online radio stations in Nigeria. When we started we needed to educate a lot of people. So far God has been faithful. We were the first to start educating people about online radio, I used my social media contact so well and today WigRadio is a house hold name.
I think the first acceptance should be from your immediate family, what was your parent’s response?
I remember when I came back from my NYSC in the east, they would have expected I would get a very good job in an oil company or in a pharmaceutical or food manufacturing company or even in a bank. I served in Ebonyi State and there was where my spiritual life grew to another level. It was while I was wrapping up my youth service that the Spirit of God was laying on my mind that the media was the next tool for evangelism. So when I was returning I decided to pick up a form for a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Mass Communication.
I’m sure some of your friends would not understand you going to pick a PGD form after a first class. How did it go?
You are right, a lot didn’t understand me. It was like a demotion because someone with a first class is supposed to do something higher. With a first class you are to skip master’s program and you are expected to get an automatic employment as a graduate assistant. As one of the best brains in the hole set, you are expected to contribute back to the university community. But I left all that to go and take a PGD form. I did not tell anybody. My dad woke me up in the middle of the night one day and asked me what the correlation between Biochemistry and Mass Communication is? I was jittery. It was obvious I was talking nonsense while trying to explain. So there was no point. What it meant was that I didn’t get any response from my parents. I went to get a job at a British school. I started working and I paid my acceptance fees. They realized I was dogged and serious they were able to support. The media brought me an opportunity and it brought them an opportunity too because when they were marking their 40th wedding anniversary they were interviewed on national paper. It was as a result of what I did. I posted something on Facebook and someone saw it and called me. The person came down to the house to interview them for their 40th anniversary. They were on the centre spread of a national newspaper. At that point they realized they have to give this guy all the support. It is not all about the money but about fulfilling purpose. I completed my PGD and I started WigRadio in my room. My parents would just look and say what is this guy doing? He would just carry mixer and microphone, he is not talking with anybody speaking alone into a microphone. Later I told my dad I like to get a small container and start doing the station from it then he said I could come and be using his office. I got excited. We renovated the office and we started using it. We would sweat profusely there because it was conducive enough to be a studio but we were there and that was the greatest support they could give and I appreciate that. I usually joke that my dad is my landlord who has not collected any rent from me since inception. I also gathered some of my friends and share the vision and a number of them supported me with their time and resources. I always tell people we have the strongest team on the planet. Psalms 110:3 says in the days of His power His people shall be willing. I have always found people who are willing who are always coming to support us.
Have you ever got to a junction where you thought of closing WigRadio?
Yes. There were time when I didn’t have so many people around me. I come to the studio and resume and start talking alone. I would think there is no one even listening to me, it was as if I was talking to myself and God would keep saying my son continue. May be this is a secret there were times I would kneel down on studio chair and cry to God that God is this what I should be doing? Especially when I go on Facebook and see some of my friends doing exploits because they have the money and this guy is in the media and saying God has called him but God kept encouraging me. There were times I would want to give up there were times I would like to relax. It is like a mother complaining about a child only eating but not growing. She may dump the child but later she would go back and pick up the child again and continue hoping. There were times I would say let me go and pick up a paid employment, I would find myself coming back to the work. There was a pastor who said God told him he was going to have a radio program. He went to all the radio stations and they discouraged him. He got to the point he came to WigRadio and we accepted him. He later told me if we had given up the radio vision his own vision wouldn’t have seen the light of the day. That to me was a decision moment because the destiny of other people is depending on what I do or refuse to do.
What is your salvation experience like?
I was one of those people that grew up in the church so I never really knew what salvation was. I was a choir member in the preteenagers’ church. It was on my 12th birthday and there was a program. I heard the message and God told me stop deceiving yourself the fact that you are always in church doesn’t mean you are born again. Then I gave my life to Christ. Sometime I missed it and went back because there was no one to guide me. I was so young and somehow God would bring me back if I went astray. Then in recent times again I begin to discover new dimension about the things of God and it has been a wonderful experience. My passion is helping other people especially young people to discover what salvation really is. Unfortunately a lot of people do not know what salvation is all about. Some gave their lives to Christ because they wanted to escape hell, that is good but there is more to salvation than escaping hell or passing exams. Those were parts of the things I discovered. So salvation simply means understanding the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You have invested so much time and resources in the online radio you are running, what can you say is the future of the online radio?
Online radio is the future of the media. When I started online radio, there were only terrestrial radio stations. The terrestrial radios are now wise by having online radio because they realised if they don’t go online there is no future for them because that is actually the future. Now we have more young people with android phones and they can connect. When we started, data was very expensive but now data is not as expensive, with your N100 you can buy data and the cost of data will keep decreasing. So any wise media personality will know that the future of radio is online. By the grace of God I have been a consultant to no fewer than 12 online radio stations. People tell me you started WigRadio when online radio was not popular and there are things you must have learnt and truly there are things I have learnt in a hard way. Today when people just call they are having one issue or the other on their online radio platform, I just tell them on phone what to do and that would be all. This is because I have been on this business for over four years. I have come to understand the rudiments. A lot of people come to me to set up their online radio. But when I’m training them on operations, I always emphasise they must not use the medium to destroy the unity of the nation. That is why I tell people the importance of learning and that was the reason I had to go and learn the media despite my biochemistry background.
Is there a regulation for online radio stations?
For now there is no special regulation for online radio but I tell the operators to be prepared because in few year to come it will be regulated. I tell them to start operating the way it should be done when it is eventually regulated so that they don’t fall victim. I have trained our presenters and they now know even when I am not there, I have trained them there are things you cannot say on air there are music you cannot play on air not only because it is a gospel online radio but also because there is the need to be responsible. When it is time for us to set up a terrestrial radio it is what we have been doing online that we would still be doing.