Many Nigerians are held spell-bound by her TV programme, The Osasu Show (TOS). The programme will be two years this month. Osasu, who did not study Journalism, has within the short period, become the current television rave in Nigeria. She returned to the country after studying abroad but the daughter of Chief Lucky Igbinedion, former Governor of Edo State, is inspired to become a bridge and pillar for the poor and underprivileged. She argues passionately that society is increasingly unfair to the less opportune. Osasu spoke extensively with IGHO AKEREGHA, Abuja Bureau Chief on why she ventured into television content production, her involvement with IDPs, her future plans and her personality as her brand. Enjoy.
Most Nigerians are getting to know you through your TV programme, The Osasu Show (TOS), at what point did you start thinking of this dream of carving a niche for yourself ?
After my graduation from Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts where I majored in Communication Studies, I decided to work for the prestigious Metro Goldwyn Meyer (MGM) at their Television Marketing department. Still at that point in time, I wasn’t exactly sure what my future held. A friend of mine, I remember vividly, said to me, “You can be the next Oprah Winfrey!” But I brushed it aside because it was never my intention to venture into TV presenting. Anyway, fast forward few years down the line, I decided to further my education by pursuing a Masters degree from Northeastern University in Corporate and Organisational Communication. Yet, after all these, I still felt unfulfilled. The big question, what is my purpose and what am I passionate about was still left unanswered.
One morning, after watching Mad Men series, I decided I too would pursue advertising as a career and make tons of money off it. This was the motivation that led to me obtaining a certificate in TV and Film production from New York Film Academy. After that, I decided to put my educational sojourn on hold and return to Nigeria to test what I’ve learned. I moved to Nigeria during the heat of the political campaign in 2014, I was doing television ad, billboard ad, creating content for political parties, at a point, I was making more money than I thought possible and believe you me, I’m a big dreamer.
But something interesting happened that shaped the course of my career and led me to where I am today. Every weekend since my return home, I’ll buy food items and take to the less privileged, I was quickly awakened by the widened socio- economic divide Nigerians faced; I noticed that the state of the nation now was even more deplorable than it was when I left almost a decade prior. I was not impressed that other countries are making progress but we are regressing, why is that? I asked myself. It didn’t take long to attribute it to bad leadership.
I noticed that the government had not only abandoned the less privileged to their fate, but didn’t even provide the basics such as shelter as you’ll see in other war torn countries.
On my part as an intervention, I built shack houses and schools for them and gave the children clothes, toys and the little I could. I tried to figure out what more I can do to help in my own little capacity and that’s honestly how The Osasu Show came about.
By becoming the bridge between the elites and masses or politicians and their constituents, I’m able to advocate a better deal on the their behalf because it is very obvious that there is a communication deficit and also, there is a lack of accountability that allows leaders to make promises they never fulfill and yet want to be voted again after every four years.
So my programme is focused on holding leaders accountable by taking words directly from the mouth of the masses to the ears of the leaders and vice versa and believe me, our success stories are mind blowing!
How would you evaluate your success in the media so far?
By giving a voice to the voiceless, we’ve been able to drive development to communities that were long forgotten and abandoned. It’s been truly impactful because we have also been able to start a Foundation. So far, The Osasu Show Foundation has given over 200 women start-up capital to begin small to medium scale businesses and we have sent about 40 girls mostly in northern Nigeria to school, so we’ve been very impactful.
In the past three years, we’ve also expanded into an online TV network, namely TOS TV Network. Basically, we report news from Africa by Africans because I want to change the narrative about Africa via the lenses of the international community.
Our journey thus far has been truly amazing. God has been so faithful to us. We had trying times because I didn’t realise that most corporate businesses don’t sponsor political shows, so a year down into the show, we were so broke that we said how are we going to sustain this, but God kept ministering to me that my daughter, I kept you on this part for a reason and I will make provision for you and that is how we kept going. UBA came in and sponsored some episodes. Heritage Bank and a list of others, too.
One fun fact I wish I knew when I ventured into entrepreneurship is the importance of diversification. That comes with the understanding that your business doesn’t make you money, your brand does. What do I mean by that? It takes any new business at least three years to break even not to talk of making profit, so if I knew that in 2015, I would have focused more of my energy into building my brand than making profit. But anyway, I learnt the hard way during the economic recession.
For example, at TOS TV network, we do commercial documentaries, which are completely independent of The Osasu Show. As a fairly new film producer, I was able to get clients to patronize TOS TV because of the brand I built with The Osasu Show. For example, a bank called us that their MD is leaving and they need us to do a documentary for them. Governors also call to say I would like you to do a documentary on my state because of the brand we’ve been able to build for ourselves which is quality, transparency and integrity.
You are from Edo State that is often in the news for the wrong reasons. Aren’t you concerned?
I am very concerned, I actually sit on the Board of Idia Renaissance an NGO founded by my mum when she was first lady in 1999. I sit on the Board as Secretary. She was one of the first persons to speak out against human trafficking in Nigeria because most of these women who leave the country are from Edo State. Back then when she was campaigning against it, many people were against her because that was their source of livelihood, they sell their children, they sell their daughters at young ages but she stood her ground and made sure she fought the crime to a standstill from 1999 to 2007.
So when this issue about Nigerians being sold as sex slaves in Libya came up in 2017, we met to devise a strategy to tackle the issue head on.
We haven’t told anybody this yet but I’m happy to give The Guardian the lead on this. Later this year, The Osasu Show Foundation will officially announce the kick-start of our multimillion-dollar fundraiser for Osasu Social Enterprise Centre (OSEC) in Edo State. OSEC is a project dear to my heart because it is what the people have been yearning for, for decades on end. Most of these individuals willingly migrating via illegal routes are simply frustrated and bugged down by their defeated mentality that there’s no hope for them here.
OSEC will provide recreational, mentorship, technical skills, and much more for youth and women. I really look forward to sharing more details about this project in the near future. My message to the youth is, there is no dream too big for you to dream, the output of your dreams simply depends on the effort and hard work you put in. I tell my mentees frequently that education is 10 per cent of the needed tools for success. Training, what you teach yourself, makes up the remaining 90 per cent.
Do have any plan for Politics now or in future?
Que sera sera, what will be, will be. God’s Will would always prevail in my life. You know my name Osasumwen means ‘God guides me’, so if he guides me to that path I cannot refuse.
You appear to be spiritually inclined. Are you a religious person?
I am a Christian, I was brought up as a Baptist, but when I went to the US I became non-denominational. There is a church I went to called Jubilee church, we don’t call ourselves Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal or what not, we just say we are non- denominational, we love God, worship God, we just pray and praise, we read the word. I realised without a tag, without a set rule, we’re able to worship more in spirit and in truth. However, since my return to Nigeria, I haven’t found a church like Jubilee so I’m back to worshiping in my family Baptist church.
I will really love to help churches and build the kind of church that I love to worship in. I know God will provide the finance for that someday soon.
Why have you decided to struggle despite your affluent background?
Hard work is what drives me and, honestly, I feel I have a point to prove and lives to impact, so I can’t afford to be lazy.
Single for the time being. I believe attributes other young women like myself should look out for are God-fearing, hardworking, intelligent, family oriented, just the basics, you know? Then build the other stuff with him.
Who are the target audience of your programme?
Our targeted audience is between the ages of 18 and 65, but from our research, we noticed that people between the ages of 30 and 65 are those who are actually watching. TOS is a political and development inclined show. We have interviewed high profile politicians such as President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Bukola Saraki Governors Nyesome Wike, Samuel Ortom, Okezie Ikpeazu, Ayodele Fayose and former governors Kwankwaso, Wada, Amaechi and a plethora of other high profile public office holders including ministers, parliamentarians and development partners.
Who are your role models?
My role models are Christian Amanpour, Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Kimmel, but my mentor has remained constant since childhood. She gives the best advise; some even call her a soothsayer, she is my dear mother, Mrs. Eki Igbinedion.