Adesuwa Onyenokwe is a woman who needs little or no introduction. She is an amazon in the media world where she continues to make impact on the screen and in print media. She started out as a reporter in NTA and from there produced and hosted different shows such as ” Today’s Woman with Adesuwa” and “One on One” where she was able to bring women and development issues to the fore. Under her company TW Media Development Concepts she is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TW, a lifestyle and family magazine. Aunty Adesuwa as she is known by many of her mentees is a motivational speaker with a passion for women , young people and development issues. This beautiful and ageless mother of six is happily married. Let’s get to know more about this media veteran.
Please tell us about your growing up years
I was born in Ibadan Oyo state to civil servants. My parents, Abraham and Alice Osunde worked for the Western Region Civil service hence I was born there, since it was the regional headquarters. However, in the month and year I was born, August 1963, Mid West was created and all government workers from that area, including my parents returned to the regional capital, Benin City. Dad left first and since I was a baby, mum waited till I was 6 months before relocating.
I grew up in a large family made up of biological and non-biological children. Mum had 9 of us, but our place was home to at least 5 other children at every point in time. I attended primary and secondary school in Benin City, but moved to Ile-Ife for my university education. I got my first degree in Dramatic Arts from the university of Ife in 1983. I served in NTA Sokoto then went back home in Benin to start work, first as a literature teacher in a secondary school, then as a reporter cum Newscaster with the state broadcasting service. I went back to University of Ibadan in 1988 for a Masters degree in Language arts. After I got married in same year I relocated to Lagos to join my husband, where I resumed work with the Nigerian Television Authority- Network service as a reporter.
Broadcasting was providential and I always knew from very little that communication would be it. I got called a reporter as a little girl by my older brothers who were always miffed that I was a tell tale, regaling our parents with all their kids had been up to behind their backs. I say broadcasting was providential because I set out to specialize in Film and TV production so I could be a producer of commercials. Also, Advertising and PR was where I was headed before I got employed on television, and when I realized my job as a reporter was basically producing ‘mini’ documentaries, I found home.
Even before you left the NTA you had started your own show. What inspired you to start that?
I actually started my own show after leaving NTA. In 1998 I had four children and the slug of managing work and home was much so I opted out to begin what I thought at that time would be a newsletter communicating inspiring stories and issues to women. At this stage providence took over and I was invited to return to NTA as a part time presenter on a weekly show, and because I then translated that newsletter idea into women’s magazine show on the same channel, everyone thought I still operated as an NTA staff, even though I was an independent producer.
I’m sure starting out on your own would have come with its share of challenges especially when you started Todays Woman, the show and then the magazine. Kindly let us know what some of these challenges were and how you were able to surmount them?
Ideas often hit you and packaging it is not a problem, its in application that we encounter obstacles. For me, all I wanted was to give women a voice, to the extent that the stories I shared would inspire them to be who they were created to be, the ‘completer’ of the human race. Once that was ascertained I planned for a newsletter, but the call to return to NTA gave me the idea of landing it there first, which was like a second home, as I knew the conditions would be favourable. So it was there that Today’s Woman started on TV and the NTA management gave me a 6-week credit for airtime, that was one challenge down. Over time it became getting the right sponsorship to keep the programme alive. Cost of production and airtime remained a continuous battle. With more private stations opening up the space and competition for TV eyes increased, so advertisers were more particular about ratings. When I realized that being on NTA wasn’t that much of an advantage again I shifted concept application and went back down the magazine route. So Today’s woman went on print in 2007, 7 years into the life of the brand. Incidentally, another 7 years after we started the process of putting our magazine on line, in the bid to be truly international. At that time challenges we were experiencing had more to do with distribution.
TW is one of the best magazines to come out of Nigeria. Tell us what inspired it and the journey thus far especially with the online version. What are the testimonies that have come out of it?
Thank you for the compliment. Its comments like yours that is our true testimony. We are designed as a glamorous, yet wholesome, self- improvement magazine for today’s total woman. TW is the magazine of choice for the woman of style and purpose, and her family. Whether on TV or in print all our content seeks to improve women’s lives. You see I am of the opinion that women really make the world go round and balanced women mean balanced families. This is what nature has done. God created Adam and only said this is good after he fashioned him a help-meet out of his ribs. So when women don’t get it right, or we don’t treat them right, the world loses. That’s what inspires my work.
Let’s talk about your family life, Aunty you have 6 children! How were you able to juggle, motherhood and all you do especially when the children were really young and during your childbearing phase.
One sure fire recipe for order in the home when you have to be away from it is getting the right and adequate help. For me it was having a minimum of two helps around the home, paid and family. Also, once I crossed number three I left paid employment to work for myself so I was even busier, but since I had control of my time I could be flexible, and with adequate home support the balancing act is doable. Some balls fall but not too critically. There were the meetings I took a sick child to, or the PTA meeting or concert I missed in the course of the kids lives, but overall, one thing I know is that , in larger families, the older kids learn a sense of responsibility because they have to support in the care of their younger ones. That was my situation.
Now, you actively mentor other women any particular reason why? Any success stories and did you receive any mentoring yourself?
It has been said that success is when you can get others to your level and sometimes beyond. I am one who just can not wait to share any positive information I have and I see mentoring as being available to hold up other women, who are not necessarily younger, but who can benefit from your experience or network.
There are women I look up to but actively some younger ones have been in that position for me. Where I take away something from the knowledge they have. and I call them my mentor aburos*. Tara Fela Durotoye and Nkiru Olumide Ojo are two of such women.
You have remained relevant through the years and look amazing too. How have you been able to keep in shape?
I have always desired to look trim and so I was always on the look out for habits and things I could imbibe to help me be that way. I hear people say, ‘you have good genes’. While I agree with that, I also know that genes can fail you when you have bad habits, It’s all about your lifestyle. We are made for motion, if we eat and don’t move around or exercise, enough, the pounds will pile.
Very true, any beauty secrets to share?
I drink lots of water, I start my day with 1-5 litres of water. I also do a lot of exercise, my stairs have become a perfect gym, and an optimistic mind. I know that my eternity is assured with Christ, so no matter how bad things are here on earth that promise keeps me hopeful.
How do you relax and unwind?
Getting lost in a good movie, series or book whether at home or on holiday, helps me relax.
Awesome thanks for sharing Aunty Adesuwa and keep being inspirational!
*Yoruba word for younger sibling, also used for younger friend.