Television presenter cum movie producer, Agatha Amata, could be described as a strong-willed personality. Rather than feel dejected and disconsolate after her marriage crashed a few years ago, she decided to accept her fate and move on with her life. Today, Agatha has not only hit the glass ceiling, she has also shattered it.
Here, the boss of Rave TV and Trend FM 100.9 opens up on sundry issues including the challenges of doing business in Nigeria and what it would take to give marriage another look and of course her movie, Disguise. Enjoy it.
Tell us about growing up?
I was not born with a silver spoon. I am the first child of seven. I lost my father when I was in Form 2. I grew up with my mother who was a teacher and she was so strict I used to think she adopted me. Up until when I was in the university my mother always checked on me. My mother will wake you up with ice water at 4am so up till now, once it is 5am, I’m up. If my mum enters the house and she sees dust somewhere, she will use your face to clean it. With the benefit of hindsight, I think this has helped me a lot. My mum would always say ‘do not sleep when the sun is up. In fact, she helped shaped me into who I am today. Dad died early so, maybe if he were here, I would have been a spoilt child. I was his favourite kid and was already becoming a brat, but mum changed all that.
Within a couple of years, you have achieved so much in the Nigerian media space. What is the secret to your success?
It is God. I say it is God because I know that I am nothing without God. I don’t work harder than bricklayers; they work very hard and it is manual labour. I think I have been very blessed. Knowing where I am coming from, I know it is God and not hard work. I work hard, yeah, but there are people who work even harder but are nowhere. So, I have learnt that hard work minus favour is nothing. God has favoured me and I do not take that for granted. So, for me, life is about giving back and I am constantly in a state of gratitude.
You will be 50 next year yet you don’t look your age. What is the secret to your youthful looks?
I am going to be 50. My son is 24 and my daughter is 20. Do I really look youthful? Hmmm… if that is true then I will say I am still trying to figure out what it could be, because I am not into make up or spa. I eat junk food regularly. I don’t do a lot of water and I don’t exercise as regularly as I should. Sometimes I sleep with my make up on. I think God just loves me. When I analyse all these I think I am specially loved. My 90-year-old grand mum was very healthy so, I think it is genetic.
What inspired your television channel, Rave TV?
I think it was the next logical step. I started Inside Out with Agatha in 1993 and five years later, I had about four programmes running on TV. I had always wanted to do this but what I did not know was when it would happen. I was interested in TV and radio, and by the time Inside Out clocked 15, I knew it was the next logical step to take. I had already applied for a license and the government was no longer granting terrestrial licenses, so we got a digital national license. I had also applied for a radio license in Lagos but we were not given, so I traveled to Delta State and realised there was a vacuum there. We moved our application to Delta State and got a radio license. We are the pioneers in Asaba, Delta State. Our radio station, Trend 100.9FM, runs 24 hours broadcast.
What were your challenges when you started Rave TV?
The biggest problem any business has in Nigeria is electricity. Once you start buying diesel to run your business, it is no longer a small business. And when you are doing a 24-hour business, it is even bigger because you have a cost that is unnecessary, in any part of the world. How do I explain that I have an extra bill of N1 million for electrictity every month both in Asaba and Lagos? This is making it difficult for business to thrive. We have inverters, UPS and three generators and yet they are not enough. And because of power fluctuation, we have issues with equipment that were not built for this environment. These equipment are very sensitive and then there is a power surge and you lost them. We had a major issue in November and we lost a lot of equipment. The electricity issue is quite frustrating because other countries have got it right, so it is not rocket science. Electricity is the biggest problem for business in Nigeria. Everything is tied to it.
Have you been so discouraged that you felt like quitting?
Even now, as I am talking to you, I feel like quitting (laughter). It could be quite frustrating. Thank God we are still standing but I found out that when you do what you love, you keep going. Four years down the line, we’ve had some achievements but we still have a very long way to go. Am I proud of what we do? Yes. I am very proud under the circumstances, but I know we could do a lot more. Within one year, Trend FM became the most sought-after station in Asaba.
Long after separating from your husband you never remarried, even as there are lots of suitors around you?
Who told you so? Where will they find me? In my office? (Laughter). Anyway, I have been concentrating on my children because I don’t want any distraction for them. I wanted them to turn out right. I am also very busy. Anywhere there is money I am there (laughter). If you bring something to me, I will ask, ‘is there any money in this thing? Marriage is a serious commitment. I have done one and it didn’t work, even though, Fred and I are besties. But if I am going to do it again, it must succeed. What I mean is that I must be 100 per cent committed. So, if I know I have anything that will cause distraction, there is no need going there.
But your kids are grown now?
Yes, but I still have my businesses. Did you not hear what I said about making money?
But a woman needs companionship?
Do you know how many people I have in this office? I even chase them out of my office (laugher).
We are talking about romantic companionship?
Romantic companionship? You can have that without being married.
So, have you found someone?
I did not say that by the way so don’t put words into my mouth.
I was just asking…
Truth of the matter is that I am in a place where I am happy. I have found me, I know who I am. People make the mistake of saying you need somebody to complete you. Nobody can complete you; they can only complement you. I am complete. When I am ready to find someone who will complement me for the rest of my life, I will open up, but there is no hurry in life.
At what point should a partner quit a relationship because of domestic violence?
Because I have dealt with it so much on my programme, I will say that women can be very funny. Even, the ones we try to help, always go back. I have dealt with this issue for so long and I usually find out that women’s biggest problems are women and not men. Mothers don’t want situations where they will say their daughters are no longer in their husband’s house. I have had a case where a woman ran away from her husband’s house three times and her parents took her back, and begged the husband to take her back, but today she is dead. And when he killed her, he looked the family in the face and told them nothing will happen, and I can tell you nothing happened.
And you keep hearing these cases all over. I have helped a lot of women and their biggest problem is that they don’t have anybody to talk to. Society will judge you – you are a bad woman for leaving your husband. You must have done something very bad. I have seen women go to report to police and police will ask them, ‘wetin you do?’ They are left on their own. Society needs to provide more support for these women. Marriage is not a do or die affair. You need the man and the woman to be happy, that is the way they will raise good children.
I have seen a young girl that has been scared for life, because she says her mother is a fool and she will never ever marry because she will never let any man treat her the way her dad treats her mum, and she has no respect for her dad as well. She is already messed up and that will affect the way she will relate with people especially men tomorrow.
Tell us about your first movie, Disguise, which hits the cinemas soon?
Disguise is my first cinematic movie. Every movie I have done came from my talk show. ‘The Widow’ was a true-life story and it came from my talk show. So also were ‘The Prostitute’ and ‘Addict’. They are all true-life stories. We got the inspiration for ‘Disguise’ on the show when we were discussing what women really want, and it was a very hot discussion. Two women don’t want the same thing. At the end of the day, women couldn’t really tell what they wanted. Even men felt that women were not trying to understand them, so it occurred to me that this would make a very good movie, and here we are today.