Larry Omodia is the CEO of African Television, a broadcast outfit passionately established to showcase the beauty and values of the African Continent. He spoke with NKASIOBI OLUIKPE on why it is necessary for Africa to have a channel that projects its virtues to the world. Excerpts:
What is African Television About?
African Television is about promoting Africa.
So, why do you need to promote Africa?
If somebody says he is promoting Africa, then you would want to ask, why are you promoting Africa? Then I will take you back to history. When we were kids we saw TV shows like Bonanza, John Wayne and Bill Cosby, these are what I call European and foreign influence.
We used to line up in the windows to watch all these foreign movies like Space 1999; what they did to us was to Westernise, colonise and brainwash us from the African idea of life. They sold us the suits and the ties; they sold our women fake hair and frying of hair.
We neglected what is real and true for what is fake. The real African concept of life was taken from us by virtue of we being exposed so into this foreign ideology.
What is wrong with foreign ideology?
There is nothing wrong with foreign ideology except when it becomes your way of life and you begin to despise what is your own way of life.
Our own African traditional values are being replaced every second of the day with Western or foreign influence.
Our children want to travel abroad because they think abroad is the best place to be. They don’t even care where abroad is. If I want to run for the presidency of this country, and I stand on the premise that everybody that votes for me will get a visa to travel abroad. Believe you me, I will win that election, even if I don’t have money, if I can just get that into their heads, ‘vote for Larry Omodia, you will get a visa to America, UK, Britain and India’, I will win.
Why will I win? Because people think what is outside is better than what is inside. I am speaking for Africa, not just Nigeria. So African Television was created because of a case of the African mind forgetting the African values and African beauty.
Our logo is ‘Beautiful Africa’. I am a salesman for Africa, I sell Africa, I am an advertising agency, selling Africa. How do I do that? I partner with the African Union (AU) and African Embassies abroad, to promote what is good about Africa.
When we step out of this building, there will be 19 women to one (19:1) wearing human skin, fake skin, and Brazilian hair, compared to natural African braid. We are sold to what is foreign. You know we are always looking for greener pastures.
Well, I have lived abroad for 33 years, lived in America, Canada, UK, Netherland and Belgium and I can tell you there is no place like home.
So, we came up with African Television to rebrand the minds of Africans; for people to see what is good in Africa. I am talking South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana, Uganda, Namibia, Nigeria; I am not a Nigerian TV Station, I am an African TV station.
So, who are your competitors?
Who are my competitors, BenTV; AIT; Voice Africa; these guys are doing good; but they are only showing national contents.
We show continental contents. We have our 24 hour African Cooking channel where you learn what your colleagues are cooking and eating in Tanzania, South Africa or other African countries.
On our African Tourism channel, if you want to travel to South Africa, Morocco and other places in Africa, you will know which spots to go through; on African Sports channel, we cover all the nations of Africa. So, we have 14 African channels existing now in Europe since 2010. We are actually selling Africa to Europeans to bring them to Africa.
You know the average European think we are barbarians that we live on trees. How are they going to know who we are if we don’t sell ourselves to? You know Chimamanda Adichie said that if you don’t tell your story, who is going to tell it for you?
I have my Directors here with me. But if these men show up in Europe today with all their degrees and experiences, they best they can get is washing toilets or doing some kind of menial jobs.
The White man is not ready to acknowledge your talent or creativity; he only wants you to be a slave to build their nation. They did it in America, using the Slaves to build America; and today they are killing the Black people like animals.
All of us want to run abroad thinking its better when we actually have the best back home. So, African Television is designed to motivate, encourage, inspire, educate and expose the beauty of Africa.
For how long have you been into this now?
Since 2010. In March, 2010, we launched the Ambassador of Nigeria to the Netherlands with other Ambassadors from South Africa and Uganda, they launched African Television in The Hague.
So, what’s your coverage capacity like?
We started with Astral 23.5, a Satellite broadband in the sky and people were watching us from Afghanistan, Poland, Netherland and all of Europe with about 20.5million viewers all over Europe and the footprints runs like into North Africa; with footprints of 23.5 from Astral, people were watching us globally, but we were not getting back what we were paying in revenue because it has been self-funded by me, so we stopped the Satellite.
Now, we have developed our own Apps, which called IPTV (Internet Protocol) Box, just like the GoTV or Star Times box.
When those in Europe purchase this box from us, all they do is connect it to the internet, and straight to our Server, you can watch all 14 African TV channels with original African contents.
Presently, we have close to about 4.2million viewers in Europe and Africa.
Are you here in Nigeria?
Yes, I am trying to come to Nigeria; I am talking to DSTv and Star Times to carry at least the parent channel, African Television. From African Television, you have the African Sports TV, African Shopping channel just like the Jiji online sales channel on TV, we have the Cooking channel, Sports Tourism, African Gospel channel, African Kids channel with Black cartoon. When you get to Europe, you won’t see anything African on the so called TV stations; from America, UK, Belgium to Netherlands except you have a satellite dish.
These European people don’t care about you. In Belgium, you have like 300,000 African community and they are subjected to only European contents.
So here, you have an African man living in Europe for the past 10 to 15 years and he doesn’t get news or content about his continent unless he watches CNN where they give you Inside Africa for like 30 minutes a week.
So you live in Europe and your brain is locked into foreign contents; so you don’t know what is happening in your continent. That is where we come in. If they are doing things in Ghana, you are going to watch it in African Television.
On June 1 every year, we organise what we call Beautiful African Day, it is gotten from our logo – Beautiful Africa – where we feature Africans, doctors, lawyers, models, musicians, and let people know that we are not barbarians, which is what the Europeans think we are.
If I had stayed in Nigeria since 1986 till date, with all the experiences that God has given me, believe you me I would be one of your Senators or Commissioners. But all these guys you hear about today stayed home to harness the opportunities at home.
A lot of people are dying abroad in the name of greener pastures.
So, based on my personal life experience with foreigners, I took it upon myself that because the Europeans were successful in marketing tie and suits to us, we always run to them. Now, let us return the favour by marketing our Danshiki and other traditions to them.
Television is a dangerous weapon; with the media, Kings have been made and Kings have been brought down. We have decided with African TV to bring Africa up. Let us profile and sell Africa to the rest of the world.
We motivate each other if we see the good that is coming from us; and then those outsiders can say Whao, these guys actually have good bridges, they have good governments, they have good land, let me go to Nigeria and buy 20 acres of land and start business. This is what we do, we are sales people for Africa and we use TV.
How do you reconcile these sales strategies with realities on Ground?
I know some White people who own lands in Africa and they are feeding Africans in Europe and Africans in Africa.
Some White people understand what I am talking about. White people are really investing in Africa and in Nigeria. Europeans know and harness what we have.
It is we who don’t know what we have; we are running out there, dying and suffering as slaves.
So, the reality on ground is that Africa has a lot of things that White and the world need. Remember, we Africans are the cradle of civilization. That will never change. The problem is, we stopped being civilised and started being enslaved.
Operating a TV channel is not a child’s play. How do you intend to sustain it?
By the grace of God, I am a salesman; we have major television companies who advertise and sponsor us. We work for our money, and though we are not where I expect us to be, but I think by the grace of the Almighty creator, in the next five years, African Television will be a household name like CNN. That’s my dream, if it happens in my life’s time, Glory be to God. And if happens after me, Glory be to God. But, I know that with what we have, as long as there is a continent called Africa, there will always be a TV station that projects the continent.
You remember what they call American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Do you have African Broadcasting Corporation? We don’t have African Broadcasting Corporation, we have African media; they push out a propaganda about Africa. America has CNN that pushes out everything about America; these people push out propaganda about Europe to the outside world. Now check in the past 30 years who followed them, Aljazeera. Aljazeera pushes out propaganda about Middle East, you see them promoting them and saying, ‘come to Dubai’ and I see Nigerians and other Africans being used as models to promote Dubai. Who is doing that for Africa? That is why African TV was created.
We are a media outlet talking about the good things in Africa. CNN is good at making us look bad. BBC is good at making us look bad, who is making us look good. We don’t have anybody promoting and branding us. We are not that bad, we are not barbarians. In America, they kill Black people every day like chickens. Every country, every nation has its own problem but when it comes to Africa they put you down. Africans just need to stand up and start selling the good things in them. Nobody is going to do it for them.
So, where in particular are you transmitting from?
We broadcast from The Hague and Belgium right now. Part of my visit here with the two directors you see right here, is talking to Star Times and DSTv to see if they can carry our signals into Nigeria.
By the grace of God, hopefully this 2019, you will turn one channel in Nigeria and you will see African Television. If you don’t see all the 14 channels, you will at least see one in your home.
One would have expected that with this strong passion for Africa, you would have been operating from here?
Good question! They say God’s time is the best. Remember I left the country in 1986. Why I created African Television is because of the experiences I had abroad. Now I am able to take my Nigerian experience, couple it with my realistic day to day experience in Europe. Now why are we not in Nigeria yet? We are now in Nigeria; I have two Directors that are going to be functioning in full capacity.
Why did it take you this long to come to Nigeria?
I tried earlier, but for lack of finding the right partners, which I have now found. But most importantly, I approached the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) for licence and these guys were saying they needed a hundred million naira (N100,000,000) to get a bloody licence.
African Television is registered in the UK, we only registered with fifteen Pounds while in the Netherlands we registered with eight hundred Euros and in Belgium, with a hundred and fifty Euros. I don’t have N100,000,000 to buy just a licence and later be talking about the structure and the building.
Do you now see the reality I am talking about?
It’s okay, but there is a solution to that. We only operate as an agency of a European based company. We operate on our European licence; we don’t need to be registered here. I can use that hundred million naira to feed the whole town. We have a European licence for which we didn’t pay a dime. They only needed some requirements which were met and that was it.
By next week, hopefully we will meet with DSTv and we are even expected now in Abuja. Between the three content providers, we should be in at least one of them this year.
Which other African country have you tried to reach out to?
I have Directors in South Africa, Uganda, Cameroon and Ghana; these are countries where I have signed agreement with Directors to broadcast and publish African Television. We have actually started in Uganda, South Africa, and Ghana; we will soon start with Cameroon.
How do you get your contents?
The world is flooded with contents. People beg me with content every day. We have producers who send quality content videos on various salient issues that revolve around Africa.
We have like 600 hours of contents and I can bring fresh contents, every day, 24 hours. People are producing musical videos every day; they need an outlet and in African Music Video which is one of our outlets, they have an outlet.
Besides broadcasting, we also do production; we do drama and movies where we showcase actors and actresses with talents. The problem that we have is good managers.
Have you tried getting people to key into this passion?
We have had people on low level with good intentions but the Bible says ‘money answereth all things’. We need people with money that can invest to reach where we are going. We have not really been there to ask for money or partnership. You need to run this operation to a comfort zone so that when investors come, they can see that everything is laid out for them so that they can put down their money.
What are the bottlenecks you have encountered since 2010?
The bottleneck has to do with Africans sabotaging Africans.
People think that I am a millionaire and that I owe them something, so they want to be paid for knowing or being around me and they don’t deliver. The very first producer I employed worked for me for about three months with nothing to show for it, not one single clip. Every week I ask for report and nothing comes. When I fired him, he went about blackmailing me.
Meanwhile, I trained my personal assistant to be a camerawoman, a producer and an actress. Today, she is one of the best and probably the first camera lady in Holland. Her name is Funke Fatoba.
But the point is, here I employed a cinematographer, who went to a film school, worked as a production manager and could not produce a second of video. So, the challenge is Africans wanting to take advantage. I am the employer but I end up working for my staff. At one point I had about 200 people working for me in The Hague and everybody wanting my blood.
So, besides me not having the right money to do it the right way, I have the right idea and I know what to do, having greedy uncaring Africans wanting to scatter is the major issue.
You cited instances of Blacks working for you, is it because it’s an African thing that you employ Blacks?
No, I have also had White working for me as cameramen, producers and editors.