• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Raymond Dokpesi: He dared to dream

Raymond Dokpesi: He dared to dream

I was pretty much minding my business those many years ago in Lagos when I received a letter from AIT inviting me to join their broadcast station. Africa Independent Television had just started being one of the first privately ran Television stations in the country. But I was not the only one that Chief Raymond Dokpesi Chairman of Daar communications was headhunting from other TV stations (especially the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA) at the time. Several of my colleagues were being headhunted.

Today many NTA staff are embedded in AIT and have come to call it home. AIT was to go on to give traditional media stations a run for their money by producing Jingles that became household sing alongs and content that held us spellbound. Let’s take a sampler. Who would forget too quickly their signature tune, “AIT AIT Ogbonge Station for this country….Mama Papa oh AIT na we station”

It was iconic, engaging and resonated with the ordinary Nigerian. AIT began to grow in leaps and bounds under Chief Raymond Dokpesi. Talent hunting of the finest in the industry was intentional. Chief Dokpesi took an empty slate and turned it to a multilevel media industry. From Radio to TV to music. It would be recalled that the pair of Kenny (kk) Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye (D1) received their wings and blossomed on AIT platforms and redefined entertainment on Television. From then on they reinvented themselves. Today the AIT brand also has a music label.

Although I chose not to move to AIT, I have come to admire the grit, tenacity and resilience Chief Dokpesi deployed to grow the media behemoth he created. An astute businessman and politician, he learnt quickly what a media conglomerate should be like, what it should feed on and who and who they needed to grow it. He was willing to put in the required investment and the needed human capital and he did. Today sitting on a hilltop in Asokoro in Abuja (with stations across the country) with his house nestled beside it, AIT has become one of Chief Dokpesi’s towering legacies.

High Chief as I fondly referred to him was an umbrella for many a broadcaster. He broke the monopoly of NTA and provided an alternative where there had been none for a long time. In referring to that competition Chief Dokpesi brought to the table, a former DG of NTA was known to famously declare at meetings “We are not the only game in town….not anymore.”

Dokpesi was robust in content growing and with a stellar team in those early days proved that Television can make entertainment a cornerstone. He attracted celebrities and superstars and they flourished on AIT. There was a boom of soap operas and AIT reigned supreme creating opportunities for screenplay writers, Directors, actors, actresses, show runners etc.

For entertainment, you could tell who the go to man was and he lived up to the very lofty standards he set for himself in that direction. He then proceeded to make it a niche channel for all entertainment lovers and for creatives. He gave his platform to many who went on to become and left his door open for many still.

Only 2 weeks ago, I had gone to interview Fr Ehusani, Reverend Father and social Engineer on the 10th anniversary of the Luxe Terra Chapel over which he presides. He had invited me to interview him for a special edition of his values and virtues programme Reflection which airs on AIT and several other channels including Catholic Television. He would often be conducting the interviews in the last nine years but I was privileged to interview him on this special edition.

Our conversation veered into how he became a Televangelist and it rested on the shoulders of this man who has opened his doors and built solid relationships and friendships across the world. He gave many job opportunities and made stars of many broadcasters. Fr Ehusani’s voice was clear when he celebrated Dokpesi’s offer to him not only for the programme but also for covering Catholic masses on Sundays and airing it live from when he was a parish priest in Asokoro.

Chief Raymond Dokpesi had always been a larger than life figure. He had done businesses in shipping and property but his ultimate passion rested in the media empire he created growing it exponentially and giving so much of himself to it to serve others. His larger than life figure did not obliterate his family life. He adored his children and was a good family man.

Read also: A tribute to Raymond Dokpesi

He married a sister, Tosin, herself a broadcaster who went on to become MD of his media empire. When he turned 70, my husband and I were invited to the birthday but once it was 4pm, we were certain we had missed lunch slated for 2pm or thereabout.

We both felt it would be disrespectful to be horribly late. I had assumed it was a dinner event. Much to my chagrin when I started explaining to Tosin later what happened, she said that party ran into 1 a.m. I was of course upset. Now looking back, it was Chief Dokpesi’s goodbye. I was told it was very well attended. I pinch myself knowing I missed it. So that’s goodbye then to my big brother, Chief Raymond Dokpesi. Friend, mentor, husband, uncle, media mogul, unflappable businessman, politician, bridge-builder. You will be missed.

My heart goes out to his family, his friends and the entire Daar communication AIT family. My condolences to the entire Nigerian media collective. This is our collective loss.

Tosin be strong.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all at this time. May God grant you the fortitude to bear the loss. Amen. Chief Dokpesi’s legacy is assured. May his soul rest in peace Amen.