KWENU: Our Culture, Our Future
HOT 99.5FM Radio Reality Show: Outcome spoke for Women in Nigeria
Monday, July 11, 2011
The clamour for gender equality by Nigerian women got a tremendous lift recently when a radio station devised an ingenious way to recruit from an army of unemployed graduates in Nigeria three presenters to enhance its operations. The radio station, HOT 99.5FM Owerri, an offshoot of HOT 98.3FM Abuja, operated by Spectrum Broadcasting (Nig) Ltd. founded by Senator Chris Anyanwu has within a short time it was planted in Owerri become the rave of the moment in the Southeast states and many of the states in the South-South Nigeria. This, I believe, is because of its agenda-driven programmes, and more importantly, because of the strategic role it played in deciding the electoral fortune and misfortune of many an aspirant in Imo State in the last elections in Nigeria.
Therefore, it was not surprising that when they went on air a couple of months back to ask that those who think they have got what it takes to work in their station should apply, they were deluged by applicants. Although they asked applicants to submit demos, which in itself ought to have limited the number of applicants as not every potential applicant will have the money to do one; they were still overwhelmed, receiving over one thousand demos according to them.
Ordinarily, any firm or organization in Nigeria today, which advertises an opening and fixes a date for test or interview, is asking for invasion. This, unfortunately, is the reality of the job market in Nigeria where most of those who in their time were recruited straight from their campuses have been unable to provide such opportunities for the present generation in spite of the country’s enormous resources. One can only imagine the task that confronted an organization like HOT 99.5FM whose popularity is soaring daily when it went on air to make that announcement that it has some openings for Presenters. I guess faced with the prospect of being saddled with the responsibility of crowd control and elaborate logistics, the management of the station wisely decided to painstakingly listen to the demos and select the best ten applicants for whom they organized a contest they termed the ‘first ever, HOT 99.5FM Radio Reality Show.’ It was from this show that three Presenters were picked. The outcome of this unique show, which ran from Monday, June 27th – Monday, July 4th, 2011, provoked this piece.
As already stated, the show had ten contestants, which was equally distributed between the genders; five young men and five young ladies. Every day a task was assigned to the contestants. Based on their performance of the task, the listening public voted. The votes in which individuals were allowed to vote once accounted for 60% of the score while an in-house assessment by the organizers accounted for the remaining 40% of the score. Every day the contestant with the least score was evicted. Starting from Tuesday, June 28th, one person was evicted each day. The interesting thing about this show was that by Saturday, July 2nd when five finalists emerged, only one of the young ladies had been evicted. Earlier, a lady withdrew on her own volition on securing employment elsewhere. So, three of the five young men who originally were in the contest had been evicted, while the remaining two were to face the same fate when the winner was declared on Monday, July 4th even though the last man standing, Michael Onumonu, was later absorbed by the authorities of the radio station after the three remaining ladies, Cindy Oshieze, Felicity Ezewuike and Vivian Chima earned their place.
What is quite edifying about it is that this was through a transparent and highly competitive process in which those evicted actually admitted in post-eviction interviews that they were not at their best in the preceding task. Perhaps, nothing validates this transparency and competitiveness than the response of the winner, Miss Cindy Oshieze, a brain gain from Texas, and a daughter of an Owerri town indigene. On being asked if she felt she was going to lose to anyone in the contest, she appropriately recognised the immense talents of her co-contestants, especially the talents and voice of the 1st runner-up, Miss Felicity Ezewuike.
This may well be a small show, but it deserves the accolades of discerning Nigerians in a country where young ladies are usually accused of selling their bodies to grab few available spaces in the job market. This is a classical case of competence rather than contact being the overriding factor in deciding who got hired. It is a case of merit taking its proper place over mediocrity that is usually associated with some state owned electronic media houses where a complimentary card of a Board member can fetch one a place. And we do see the consequences of this in low quality programming and poor presentation. I am pretty sure that if the Management of HOT 99.5FM had invited ten applicants comprising five young men and five young ladies and ended up hiring three ladies after interview sessions, the charges of the young ladies compromising themselves to get hired would have been made, and some of the male managers of the station would surely have been unjustly vilified by male chauvinists in the society.
Obviously, this kind of development is a potent armour in the arsenals of Nigerian women whose strident calls for gender equity is quaking our land since the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan launched her ‘Women for Change Development Initiative’ to help address the visible gender imbalance in the decision making process and education of the girl child in Nigeria. Should they latch on the brilliant performance of these young ladies no matter how infinitesimal it may seem, to up the tempo of their demand for more respect and equal opportunity in conduct of public affairs, we must not begrudge them. We must not, because they have the likes of Professor Dora Akunyili, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Ms. Funke Opeke to show that they are eminently qualified and ready to compete on equal footing.
Nkem Ekeopara is a Nigerian-based engineer and poet
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