“Would you like to listen to the radio,” he asks, his right hand stroking the mouse, his face fixed on the flat screen. Listen to the radio? You are still exploring how best to courteously reject his offer when you are suddenly jolted by a familiar Islamic chant, the type that proceeds from Lagos mosques at about dinner time. A male voice then summons the faithful, in undiluted Yoruba, to the evening prayer. Then without warning, a burst of Yinka Ayefele’s music suddenly blasts into the room, spewing forth from somewhere around the computer, forcing your head to commence an unwitting but rhythmic nod, agama-style, to the clattering percussion. And then, that familiar refrain: Radio Lagos-i, tiwantiwa amitiiti, rings out as the World Wide Web brings Radio Lagos, loud and clear, live into this office deep inside America’s Midwest.
Olusesan Ekisola. Remember the name? Of course you do. Who wouldn’t remember the veteran broadcaster whose scintillating voice once resonated through the airwaves, dazzling millions of ears from the studios of Radio Nigeria Ibadan, OGBC 2, Abeokuta and Ray Power F.M. in Lagos? How could you forget the pioneer boss of Ray Power FM, whose voice boomed out of your radio, announcing the birth of Nigeria’s first independent radio station, ending government’s long monopoly of the airwaves?
It’s been a decade and a year now since Ekisola’s voice ceased to captivate radio listeners. In late 1995, he had quit his job as the first General Manager of Ray Power 100.5 F.M., and the following year, relocated to the United States. And since then, the rumour mill has been up and busy, spinning various tales, from the probable to the implausible, casting the Ijebu-Ode-born born communicator in a tinted garb of motley hues.
After months of futile search, this reporter had early in July stumbled upon Ekisola’s phone number. A quick call would later earn him an invitation to the broadcaster’s house in the city of Rogers, a serene, sleepy suburb of Minneapolis in Minnesota
The meeting was set for midday. But at 12.30, you are still navigating the roads, lost in the confusing labyrinth of streets and side roads dotting the whole neighbourhood. A particularly winding county road suddenly curves into an intersection, metamorphoses into a narrow, forlorn lane, and after a long drive, swerves abruptly into a dead end in the middle of nowhere. Flanked on every side by thick bushes and a somber silence only interrupted occasionally by the sad chirrup of a lonesome bird, you suddenly realize that you might be getting lost. A little petrified, you frantically fish out your phone and listen as you are led back to civilization by your broadcaster-host.
This sunny summer Tuesday in Rogers, a placid air pervades the atmosphere. On both sides of the road, newly built houses with luxuriant lawns bewitch your eyes. In front of one such house on Jasmine Way, the broadcaster waits, sporting a sporty white vest and shorts, a black, Menards-branded baseball cap sitting on his clean-shaven head. He’s on the phone, a black Motorola V Razr snuggling against his left ear while the right hand gesticulates, swaying up and down, left and right. As you step out of the car, he hangs up, embraces you like a long-sought sibling and leads you into his home and then into his home office, while his young daughter, Feyintoluwa, watches with some amusement.
You can hardly wear a frown in the presence of this vivacious gentleman. “I hope you don’t mind that this office looks rough,” he says jocularly, his right hand making one wide sweep across the room. “That is deliberate. They say if your office is neat and tidy, it is the sign of a sick mind! So I try to keep these papers scattered around. It is just to show you how hard-working I am!”
Ekisola’s office is compact, yet cute, tucked somewhere in the left corner of the exquisite living room. A little white fridge sits by the corner to your right. Behind the crowded table, a huge shelf sheltering an assorted collection of books stands imposingly.
From the walls, several frames shielding sundry pictures gaze at you. There are dozens more beside the computer, inside a big album. You see those featuring him and his family, one of him in a handshake with King Sunny Ade, another with his former boss, Dr Raymond Dokpesi. There are photographs of him with then Lagos State military administrator, (now Osun State governor), Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. There are others showing him with Fuji star, Adewale Ayuba, with the late Toba Opaleye and Gbenga Adeboye, with Dr Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. There’s a large photograph of him and Miliki megastar turned man of God, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey. And dozens more in this big black album loaded with various images of the past and the present.
The broadcaster surveys Obey’s picture and sighs. “When I am feeling very low, and I listen to any of Obey’s albums, I become transformed immediately. That man is not just a musician. He’s a prophet.”