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Adegbola… 60 cheers for pioneer ICT, digital engineer


ADEGBOLAAfter graduating with a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in 1978, Dr. Tunde Adegbola worked in electricity distribution for a short while and then moved into broadcast engineering career in OGBC and subsequently OGTV.

In 1984, he returned to UNILAG to study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Science. Adegbola started his broadcast engineering career in 1979 when he took the job of Engineer Grade II at the Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation (OGBC) in Abeokuta.

His first assignment was to provide local engineering support to the American and British engineers of Harris Corporation who then had the contract to build a network of seven microwave link stations around Ogun State, designed to cover the entire state with radio signals, with minimum spillage into neighboring states.

Adegbola’s knowledge and skills as a broadcast engineer have also benefited other African countries. In 2003, he was commissioned by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to conceptualize, design and supervise the installation of West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) in Dakar Senegal. The station was declared open by the distinguished Prof. Wole Soyinka in 2005 and Adegbola subsequently served on the board of the station for nine years from 2005 to  2014. 

As it turned out, it was a baptism of fire of sorts, which produced long lasting values in the then young engineer. The project provided him valuable experience in broadcast engineering project management.

He acquired knowledge and skills which still stand him out amongst many of his peers today. His performance at this job was so outstanding that he was doubly promoted to the position of Senior Engineer (on trial Acting basis) in 1981, jumping the position of Engineer Gade I.

By this token, Adegbola achieved in two years what should have normally taken about 5 years.  Some of his equally distinguished contemporaries in OGBC then were Kayode Klaso, Willie Thomas, Deji Osibogun, Yomi Bolarinwa and Lekan Ajia, to mention a just few.

Adegbola later moved to Ogun State Television as a pioneer substantive Senior Engineer, later Principal Engineer and subsequently Acting Controller of Engineering before leaving public service in 1985 to start a new career in the then infant ICT industry in Nigeria.

In OGTV, apart from many other aspects of his distinguished service, Adegbola took particular interest in one equipment in the station; the Chyron4, which is a rather basic character generator with elementary capacities for animating written captions was a mini computer, as it was ‘only’ about the size of a full height combined fridge/freezer and it took substantial space in the rather large central control room of the station.

With Chyron 4 Adegbola turned OGTV in Abeokuta into a Mecca for Lagos-based advertising agencies and video production facilities who came to Abeokuta to animate characters as this was the then state of the art in visual razzmatazz.

With the Chyron4 and Tunde’s own personal Atari computer, OGTV’s reporting of the 1983 general election results was spiced with characters in motion.

This innovation surely attracted many viewers away from the rival NTA’s ‘Veridict 83’ programme which still relied on ink marks on paper cardboards for captions.

Adegbola maintained a backup TV studio in the then Governor Onabanjo’s study in government house in anticipation of a rumored invasion of the OGTV premises by security operatives perceived to be loyal to the federal government run by a rival political party.

Whilst working as a broadcast engineer in Abeokuta, he also took on part-time lecturing appointments at the then Ogun State (now Moshood Abiola) Polytechnic, Abeokuta, where he taught courses in Telecommunications and Broadcast Engineering.

By the time broadcasting was deregulated in the mid 90’s, Adegbola had become recognized in the industry as one of the few Nigerian broadcast engineers that had deep understanding and great skills in computing.

This easily earned him design and construction contracts with many of the pioneering private TV broadcasters such as Channels TV, Murhi International Television (MITV) and Africa Independent Television (AIT), where he designed, supplied and installed the station with partners, Kola Ogunsolu and Lemi Olalemi between 1995 and 1997.

Adegbola’s knowledge and skills as a broadcast engineer have also benefited other African countries. In 2003, he was commissioned by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to conceptualize, design and supervise the installation of West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) in Dakar Senegal.

The station was declared open by the distinguished Prof. Wole Soyinka in 2005 and Adegbola subsequently served on the board of the station for nine years from 2005 to  2014.

He was also commissioned by UNICEF in 2006 to evaluate the National Radio and Television of São Tomé and Principe towards building it up to a modern broadcast. He was subsequently commissioned by a consortium of International Alert, UNICEF and UNDP to build two community Radio stations in two major communities (Angolaris and Neves respectively) in the country as a complement to the national radio.

Adegbola has been at the forefront of the advocacy for Community Radio broadcasting in Nigeria, serving as a member of the Steering Committee of the Nigeria Community Radio Coalition since its inception in 2003.

The 12-year advocacy activities finally came to fruition in April 2015 when the then President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan graciously approved radio licenses for 17 communities around the country.

As part of his efforts as a community radio enthusiast, Adegbola raised the sum of $120,000.00 from OSIWA for the University of Lagos to enhance the facilities of Radio UNILAG, as a teaching laboratory for mass communication students.

In addition, as a consultant to the Institute for Media and Society, the sum of N60,000 was raised from OSIWA towards the digitization of the studio operations of several Nigerian campus radio stations.

Some of the campuses that benefited from this project are UNIUYO, ABU Zaria, OAU Ife, Auchi Polytechnic, UNIZIK Awka, Babckock University and UNN Nsuka. ADEGBOLA was first introduced to computing in 1975 in a few classes of FORTRAN programming taught to his first year Engineering class by the then Dr. Ogunye, later Prof. Ogunye at the University of Lagos.

He did not make much of this knowledge until 1977, when he had to manually calculate the frequency response of a Bridged-T circuit for 100s of frequencies as part of his final year project.

His deep hatred for laborious arithmetic propelled him to purchase a book on FORTRAN IV from the University Bookshop, modify some of the examples in the book to write a computer programme to solve the problem, by submitting a set of punched cards to the computer center.

After a few days of syntax errors, he was handed a pile of computer printouts containing the frequency response of his Bridged-T circuit for 1000s rather than 100s of frequencies.

The rapidity with which he responded to demands for the exploration of certain frequency ranges must have contributed to the bond between him and one of his early mentors – Prof. R.I. Salawu, who supervised his final year project.

Two years later after that experience, Dr. Adegbola came face to face with a microcomputer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and after trying his hands on the little wonder he determined he would own one vey soon.

His ambition was fulfilled barely three years later when he spent his leave bonus to purchase a Spectrum ZX81 microcomputer with 1kb of memory. He had to depend on his Sanyo TV set for monitor and his Sony audio-cassette recorder for auxiliary memory storage.

His ownership of the Spectrum ZX81 coincided with the purchase by OGTV, his then employers of a mini computer, the Chyron IV which was then the state of the art in TV graphics.

He virtually took over the Chyron IV and used it to attract a lot of attention to OGTV. His experiences with his ZX81, the Chyron IV and other personal computers that he bought later on continued to fire his interest in computing until he enrolled for a Post-Graduate Diploma in Computer Science in the University of Lagos in 1984.

He later resigned his appointment with OGTV in 1985 to start Tiwa Systems Limited as one of the pioneering microcomputer companies in Nigeria and certainly one of only three in Ibadan at that time.

Through his activities at Tiwa Systems, he computerized the accounting operations of many Ibadan-based companies such as Spectrum Books and Evans Brothers.

He later introduced Desk-Top Publishing in 1986 by replacing the traditional photochemical typesetters then used by Nigerian publishing houses with desktop computers and laser-jet printers.

Such companies as Onibonoje Press, Spectrum Books, Advanced Technology Typesetters and many other commercial typesetters benefitted immensely from this disruptive innovation.

Under Adegbola, Tiwa Systems undertook many data processing projects between 1985 and 1995, primary among which was the computation of results and production of certificates for all secondary school students in the old Ondo State.

Tiwa Systems takes the credit of being the first general computing training facility in Ibadan, providing a wide range of training programmes for young boys and girls, professionals as well as university students and professors.

Apart from introducing DTP to Nigerian Type Setters, Tiwa also introduced time-line computer controlled AB-Roll video editing and later on Non-linear video editing in 1993 when Adegbola installed these systems in Mainframe Film and Video Productions and Klink Studios. Later, computer animation facilities were installed in Klink Studios in 1994 and virtual set at AIT in 1998.

Adegbola currently chairs the Presidential task force charged with the responsibility of piloting analog to digital transition of Television Broadcasting in Nigeria, Technical Sub-Commitee of Digiteam.

This string of firsts confirms Dr. Tunde Adegbola as a major contributor in bringing the benefits of the information age to Nigeria by introducing digital technology at various levels.

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