Insideoyo.com’s duo of Sikiru Akinola and Gabriel Ogunjobi write about the grass to grace story of 37-year Old Fresh FM’s Babatunde Saheed.
Not many know his real name. But he is arguably number one Yoruba sports presenter in Oyo State. They call him ‘Mr. Sport’, the nickname he got from his many years as sports broadcaster. Everyday, at 12 noon, many radio listeners in Ibadan and beyond tune their radio frequency to Fresh FM 105.9 FM to listen to his sports programme.
I grew up in the normal average man’s setting until I completed my secodary school education. It was not rosy. I failed the West African Secondary School Examination (WASSCE) and had to retake the exams in 1999. One year after, in 2000, I lost my father and that marked the beginning of my hard times. I enrolled as an apprentice raw beans sellers in Bodija market but for few months. My passion for football would not allow me. I was a football player. I was nicknamed ‘Kanu’. One day, my football club- Unity, had a friendly match at the University of Ibadan and I was the team captain. I couldn’t miss the match and left the shop for the match that Sunday evening. My boss had became angry and aggrieved that he sent me away for abandoning his shop.
Few months after, I enrolled as an apprentice plank seller at Sawmill, Bodija, Ibadan. It was with one of my fans who had watched me at UI field. As I had no one to cater for my daily needs, especially at work, I would do some manual labour just to make ends meet. I later joined the gangsters – smoking and drinking alcohol. I was there, at the plank market, for four years. All through my struggling times at the plank market, music especially fuji songs from Pasuma, lateSikiru Ayinde Barrister and K1, were my favourite and names of this Fuji maestros featured in my latter career.
I didn’t practice as a plank seller. I roamed the streets of Ajah, Epe and Ibadan for about one year, doing all sorts of work, before fortune brought me to Alhaja Kafilat Olajide aka Kaola. She had observed me reading minuutes of meetings in our compound. She later handed me over to AbdulGaneey AbdulRazaq aka GRA where my career as an On Air Personality for Sport was sharpened.
How Late Aare Arisekola Alao Rescued Him
God used the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Chief Imam Arisekola Alao to change me before his death. My benefactor, Alhaja Kaola was an in-law to Aare and we went on a visitation to the house of the Muslim leader during a fasting season sometimes in 2005. He saw my bloodshot eyes, rough look and fierce-looking face. He first prevented me from entering the house, saying that I look like a tout. Alhaji Kaola later told him. He advised and we departed his house after giving me a sum of twenty thousand naira. Since that day, I had a change of mind. I stopped smoking and drinking.
Journey To Stardom
There was a sports section on Eyi Ara titled Gbedemuke aired on Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, BCOS, Mapo FM, now Oluyole FM, which I co-anchored alongside my boss, AbdulGaneey AbduRazaq. Apart from this, I became the first sports commentator on Amuludun FM when the radio was established in 2006. I introduced a lot of branding and packaging into the radio station in spite of the experiences I have amassed on from Gateway FM in Abeokuta and Mapo FM with AbdulGaneey AbduRazaq.
I worked without being paid at Amuludun FM and I decided not to go there again on May 3, 2007. This was apart from the perpetual lost of lives to accidents on the rickety Ojoo-Oyo road. Kola Omotosho and Sola Ayegbajeje stayed back with the station after my departure.
Alhaji Allah’s Will later bought airtime for me on BCOS FM until he decided to stop over a little complaint about my studio voice. He didn’t stop assisting me financially afterward. In fact, he pays me monthly till date. I soon became a wanderer for the second time, between 2008 and 2009 but I was fortunate. There was a day we were watching a match between Eyinni Grammar School and Asegun Comprehensive High School. The then governor, Otunba Alao Akala was there, at Adamasigba stadium. He was uncomfortable with the English commentary ran by Femi Okenla. He then asked that a Yoruba commentator be sought. I was dressed casually. An anonymous person recommended me for the job and the Governor was full of smile after the match. In turn, when I explained things to him, he gave me a letter of recommendation back to BCOS and I started the Saturday Sports for the second time. Although, I wasn’t a paid staff, I enjoyed the influence of the Alao-Akala. It was not until some people gteamed up against me, at BCOS, because I built my house and bought a car. The envy was obvious that I had to leave. It was a tough decision; I thought nobody would listen to me on any other radio station.
From BCOS to Fresh FM
That is an interesting story! After I was unable to surmount the challenges at BCOS, I contacted Dr. Yinka Ayefele, who had always been my top fan from BCOS. That was in in 2015. Meanwhile I had rejected offer to join him when told me that I would be moving to his radio station after completion. He asked me to come immediately. And that was how it began. When I asked him to get another sports person should I travel, he said he prefers to listen to music than for any other person to present sports programme on his radio. He gave me monopoly for sports commentary. Before then, I had been freelancing for his Internet radio based in America so it was quite easy to work as his staff after I left BCOS. At Fresh FM, my brand ‘Mr. Sport’ became the talk of the town. Over 80% of Yoruba sport commentators in the South West Nigeria undergone my tutelage. Abass Ishola, my ‘first born’ in mentorship. Ademola Atanda, the favorite commentator on Rave FM in Osogbo; Olawale Hamzat; Adekunle Alubarika to mention but a few were all my protégés. My dream to have a radio station after working for Ayefele is materialising; Perfect Sport FM is now available on Google Play store and will soon be launched on air too. Ayefele was the brain behind the radio station. He masterminded radio stations for notable people like Edmund Obilo, Bayo Faleke of Kakaki as well. To add to his credit, he sponsored an upfront payment of six months for my radio station on Play store – a renewal due of 50 dollars per month.
When I look back at my life sometimes, tears roll down my cheeks. A man who once slept under bridges in Lagos now having connection here and beyond. I have travelled to Saudi Arabia and some other European countries. Not less than ten European countries including Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Holland, USA, France will be hosting me before then end of 2017. I am also an HND holder planning to run my Master’s Degree in a matter of time from now.
Advice For Upcoming Sport Commentators
Humility and respect for their predecessors is very key. I observed that many of our youngsters are in the habit of not respecting senior ones, an action that hinders them from learning from their masters. It’s really sad. Our mentor, Oga Kola Olootu gave me a platform to grow and widely opened his studio for me to brush up my skills for three weeks. This wouldn’t have happened if I was arrongant and unwilling to learn. Another instance is the relationship between Abolade Salami and Yinka Ayefele. There’s such a mutual respect because Ayefele gave a magnanimous respect to Salami when he was under him at BCOS. The chain continues like that. You can only grow when you subject yourself to learning. Similar to it is endurance. Young ones should never relent until they succeed. There will be failures before you hit the stardom. Thank you!
Pasuma, His Source of Millions
I remember few years ago when I wanted to launch my sports newspaper which was written in Yoruba. I invited Pasuma and he promised to be there. Pasuma didn’t come and he couldn’t be reached. People, who had paid to be at the programme, were disappointed; some even destroyed musical instruments. I couldn’t reach Pasuma until many weeks after. He had travelled for a tour of US. He told he would repay my money in folds. I said I won’t collect it. He now asked what he can do for me and I told him I want him to come play in Ibadan. That was the first time he would play in Ibadan on a Thursday. After the much, I handed him the money we made. It was more than N2m. He laughed and told me to go away with it, advising that I make good use of it. He later connected me to many influential and rich Nigerians.