Dotun Saseyi… On-air-personality who would have been a soldier
His is one voice most radio audience around the world, especially in the South West of Nigeria can’t resist listening to. Not only for its booming quality that reminds you of Don Cornelius, the famous anchor of the popular American musical show, Soul Train of the 70s and 80s, but also the enlightenment proffered by its highly cerebral and witty owner.
An hour or more with Dotun Saseyi on air whether on his breakfast shows- From The Dailies, The Polity, The Republic, or the Yoruba programme, Igbesi Aye, featured on Ibadan popular radio station, Petals FM…., is always a mesmerizing seminar wherein Saseyi, popularly known as Maestro, keeps the listeners glued to their sets with his incisive and deep dissection of issues as well as frank, bold and critical views and portraiture of national political actors and events sometimes laced with satire and wit.
As a seasoned journalist and broadcaster, Saseyi has traversed reputable media houses including Nigerian Tribune, Galaxy Television and TV Continental (TVC) where he was Head of Programmes before pitching as the General Manager of Petals FM 102.3, one of the foremost radio stations in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Although responsible for the administration and business aspects of the radio station, Saseyi is fully involved in the broadcasting station’s operations including producing, presenting and featuring as an in-house resource personality on some of the programmes. Nothing, he says, gives him greater fulfilment than engaging the public on-air, because according to him, it “allows me to engage my quality and capacity to tackle issues in the country…When you are used to certain things, it becomes less tedious. When I go on air, I do not see that as a job, when I leave the studio then I am back to my (desk) job.”
But only a few of his numerous fans, probably know this tall, dark, gangling On-Air-Personality by his real name. To many he is simply Maestro, an appellation that makes of him an enigma with a whiff of controversy woven around him, particularly in view of the positions he so often took on current affairs that had on few occasions seen him accused of being too partisan and critical of the government by few callers on the shows.
But Saseyi disabused cynics’ minds of any attempt to hide under a veil. “I would not say there is a huge distance between Maestro and Dotun Saseyi. I think I just simply walk my talk. That is what I have aspired to do all my life, to walk my talk. I do not want to be someone who says something on-air and is found out to be doing something rather different in his life. My upbringing, my training stands me in good stead to be able to take my stride very easily. I do not see a huge distance. Of course, I might be relaxed off-camera. Off-microphone I tend to be relaxed. I tend to laugh a little and all that, which, however, you do not really want to translate to your on-air environment, because most of the time you are talking about serious issues,” he says.
The nickname, Maestro, Saseyi explains, is only adopted to describe his hands-on portfolio of duties as Petals FM’s chief executive officer. “I thought I was coming here to spray a lot of passes and co-ordinate things and I was going to be in the field myself. So, I thought I would just assume that because it fits what a maestro does in the musical setting. I think it is about the same thing that we are doing now, we are in the field we are spraying passes to our team; we are co-coordinating all stuff, we’re creating some kind of harmony and all that, leading the procedure.”
He adds that in projecting the pseudonym, “What we really wanted to achieve is to have this unbiased consciousness of the person projecting views and doing a lot of breakdown analysis. You are not picturing somebody to be ‘oh, he is from this side, he is leaning towards that side, no wonder, because he is from…and so on and so forth.’ This essentially would have done a lot of damage if you did that from the foundational stage. It was a well-thought-out thing. I did not want to come with a name and a face and everything.”
But does that not support his allegedly wearing a mask to wage a partisan proxy war against authorities? You wanted to know.
The Petals FM boss quips: “I do hear that as well, but let me lay it out like this. First is the question of serving the interest of opposition, that is a useless idea. It is out of the question for me. It’s the figment of someone’s imagination. You know, our people quickly profile you. There is nowhere in the world, something would be coming from your mind that you’re presenting your own view. That is just silly for anyone not to see beyond umbrellas and brooms. It irritates me even…Well, that is one of the things that you have to contend within this country.
The problem again is that many of them do not even understand the issues. So, they feel that you should not see anything more than they could see and not be able to go farther in your analysis than they could. So, that is also another reason, but the great part of it is that if you have about 50 calls during the programmes, you would probably have two or three people talking of that. So, they are seriously feeling bad. They feel you should be like them if you are getting crumbs and you are assigned the role to pitch on radio against any programme that they find critical, then they see themselves in you and they are wondering and assuming you should be taking from one place too. (Laughs). So, these are things you have to take in your stride.
“You know, I have never seen President Muhammadu Buhari before in my life, I mean physically and I am the kind of person who would not be able to hate you if I have not interacted with you. It is not going to happen. So, when we begin to discuss these things, we are discussing them based on the office you occupy and I have told people that I’m most likely to instead like Muhammadu Buhari because he is handsome even at his old age. He has a good body structure; he is not bent and he looks good. And he looks better since he has been able to go for this medicare and all that. So, he kept on looking better. You would like his person, but I do not like what he does in office. I do not like that he is planning a very powerful radio exclusively for people from his ethnic stock. I do not like the fact he wants to gain large swaths of land from 36 states for this same people. I do not like the fact that we borrowed N12 trillion in just four years, while we borrowed another 12 in about 16 years.
In just four years, you have borrowed another… I cannot point at where the money went on the streets of Nigeria. I do not like the fact that people are infiltrating my forest and killing my people. I do not like the fact that an election was militarized under him. I do not like the fact that he selected the judicial organ of government without setting foot at the Senate according to what the constitution puts on the ground. You see, I do not like all these things, you see I do not like the fact that he came in and Naira against the dollar jumped under N200 to more than N300, I do not like that.
Also, I do not like a lot of things about his handling of things in the office. There is a controversy surrounding his school certificate! But you see, I do not also want to engage people who are about frivolities who are going to be twisting that out of context because they want to make it seem that you are attacking the president, that’s how they feed when they step out as defenders of the president, something comes to them and so they have to say it is not true, you are attacking the president, the truth here is that you are attacking his performance in office.”
With futile attempts at running a private business and botched effort to enlist in the Nigerian Army, Saseyi believes he’s living his destiny and calling practising broadcasting. Like many young idealists, he had tried to join the military and plan a coup d’etat as a platform for ridding the country of bad leadership and redress mismanagement of its vast resources it was plagued with while growing up. He regretted, however, that he was dropped during recruitment, while his two friends with whom he attended the exercise, one Sesan and Bode Bright ended up in the military.
But he sees his failure to become a soldier as divinely fated. “I might have joined people who planned the unsuccessful coups and get executed, or I might have strayed the other side and also make a lot of money because the successful ones often turned out wayward… One thing I have found out all my life is that I constantly get led away from that filthy look of things.
In this industry, you know more as I do that our guys go maybe to interview a very important personality and then hook upon them or return to maybe depending on them for favours… I have in the course of my career talked to some of these VIPs – General Abdulsalam Abubakar here, I don’t know if you were here when he came and lodged at the Presidential Lodge inside the Governor’s Lodge. I mean when he visited U.I and I covered the fracas that broke out. I had an interview with him then. I had had an exclusive session with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on the eve of his election as the president. I spoke with IBB in Minna with one of my friends at Galaxy. So, we have spoken to them among many others that we did not hook to milk. So, I think mine has been one that my steps would be led away from going into that arena. I do not know if I am making conjectures, but that is how it has always worked.”