Ayefele: My Ordeal, Travails Will End With Victory Songs

Meandering his wheelchair through the rubbles that remain of his N800 million ‘Music House’ housing his Fresh FM station, Yinka Ayefele, the popular gospel musician’s mien drew pity from hundreds of sympathisers that thronged the scene to witness the much-publicised demolition.He shook hands with many and wheeled himself to inspect the damage done to the building by the Oyo State Government for allegedly contravening town-planning laws.

Ayefele in this exclusive interview with The Guardian’s Head South West Bureau Ibadan, Muyiwa Adeyemi, denied contravening any law and narrated genesis of the Fresh FM’s face-off with the government over some policies and actions that led to the demolition of the property.

How will you describe your travails in life so far?

Life has not been easy but with God on my side, I am determined to live and excel no matter the condition.

I am determined to prevail over all circumstances.

And this belief has been keeping me. Since I had the accident that broke my spinal cord, I have determined to live with any condition I found myself.

It has been so challenging but I thank God that I have been coping.

Unknown to many, since December 12, 1997, I have been in pain 24 hours a day.

I hit my chest on the steering when I had the accident, and had five of my ribs broken.

I have been in that severe pain for the past 20 years. But I determined to live and not be discouraged.

Whatever might have happened, I have determined to forge ahead.

When I was in the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, after the accident, we were about six in the ward, I was the only survivor, others died.

It was a lone accident that happened on my way to Abeokuta from Lagos at about 6:30p.m. and I sustained a spinal cord injury.

That was the beginning of a new life and since then I have been in pain. I have decided to live with the pain.

You may not understand what I am talking about, he who feels it knows where the shoe is pinching. Even as I am talking to you, I am in a terrible pain.

So, if you see Ayefele singing or smiling, beneath that face is excruciating pains only few people in this condition can understand.

But you are always seen playing music from one state to another?

I appreciate the grace of God for keeping me going, but the fact is that I enjoy what I am doing.

I love playing music and what keeps me going is that people appreciate what I am doing.

The love people show to me despite my condition sustains me. Seeing people around me from Thursday till Sunday, apart from the fact that they pay me for the service, is a motivation.

Despite my physical challenges, I have determined to live with it and forge ahead, but not to become a beggar.

Why did you start a radio station?

I had for a long time being a broadcaster at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Radio Nigeria, Ibadan Station since 1989.

I had always had a passion to have my own private radio station. I have been pursuing that ambition since then.

Thank God, I got the license four years ago. I applied for it about 14 years ago, it took 10 years before it was finally approved by the Federal Government.

I was thoroughly investigated by men of Department of State Security (DSS).

They investigated my activities in all the countries I have travelled to, they investigated my parents and siblings, my primary, secondary and all the schools I attended.

I was cleared by the security agencies and the application was forwarded to the presidency, because it was the president that approved my license in 2014.

Why is your station too hard on the policies and activities of Oyo State government?

We are not too hard on government at all. In fact, I won’t support that.

We are fair to everybody, we even support government, we don’t do anything against the government rather we promote government activities. We have never done anything against government.

If we have done anything unprofessional, there is a regulator, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) that controls all the radio stations.

That regulatory body has never for once sanctioned us for violating NBC rules. So, we are doing this job professionally.

I don’t see any reason to tag us anti-government, we are the people’s mouthpiece.

This station is an institution that goes beyond Yinka Ayefele. It is the people’s property, it is beyond me.

Who then is after you, is it the governor or some people in government?

Let me say this without any doubt of fact, Governor Abiola Ajimobi is not after me but the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Toye Arulogun, is after our station.

We have thought of what we have done that made Arulogun hate our station with passion, he is not the first Commissioner for Information serving Ajimobi, but some people said, he has complained that I don’t call him, why should I do that when I don’t have anything to tell him.

He said, I don’t caution my boys, if we did anything unprofessional, NBC is there is query us.

We are not operating under the state Ministry of Information, but we operate under the rules and regulations of NBC.

But your station is being alleged of having sympathy for opposition parties in the state?

I am not a politician; I don’t have sympathy for any political party.

I give everybody a level-playing ground, I am a broadcaster cum musician, I don’t intend to go to politics in my life.

I enjoy broadcasting and I enjoy playing music.

If I have offended the governor or anybody in government or the APC, I expected to be called and I will make restitution.

I am not a politician, I have and will continue to play for anybody who seek my service.

All of them do invite me, I have played for them at the Presidential villa in Abuja, Lagos State government, I played for them in Ekiti State, I even did a political jingle for Dr. Kayode Fayemi’s campaign in this last election.

He contracted me to do what I know how to do, and I did it and he paid me. If another politician comes tomorrow, I will render my service to him, Yinka Ayefele is for everybody, I do my job professionally.

How would you describe the demolition of your property?

For anything that happens to me, I always give thanks to God.

I strongly believe that there are reasons I have to pass through this kind of ordeal even from unexpected quarters that I look forward to for protection.

I believe, God wants to bring out something.

Most times, I cried because of the responses of people from all over the world.

This has gone beyond Oyo State, it has become a global issue with calls coming in from various continents.

I have received messages from every part of the world.

I have received messages from chieftains of different political parties, clergies, top government functionaries, monarchs and common people on the street that come here everyday to see what government did to a radio station.

So I believe God wants to bring something out of it.

I have never been on CNN and other international stations if not for this incident.

I think it is a blessing in disguise. I give glory to God and I will encourage anybody facing any challenge just to face it and determine to overcome it.

Life is like going to a football pitch, if you determine to win, you will win.

How much did you lose to this demolition?

I can’t say yet. The new transmitter is my major concern.

I lost one big transmitter and a processor that I have not used. That pained me most.

I got a loan from a bank and few friends supported me to buy it at about N28 million.

It was delivered last week, the bulldozer found its way to destroy it. So painful!

I heard about the conflicting story about the denial of the government concerning the demolition, when people were begging this government on my behalf, we saw a bulldozer on a truck moving into this place, people took the picture and sent it out, and they said that really got the governor angry that why are we doing this.

But it was the same truck that they brought on Sunday morning to demolish this place.

We have all the footage because I monitored whatever that happened here on my phone.

My wife was with the governor till 3:00a.m. on Saturday, pleading on my behalf because I was in the hospital.

And for the governor to show that he has accepted their pleading, he gave my wife and others in the team $1,000 each.

But by Sunday morning bulldozer came to wreak the havoc.

What is the way forward?

The most important thing is that, life goes on, we are back on air with our back-up equipment.

If the state government insists that this place is causing accident or nuisance to the public, we will relocate and do our business elsewhere.

How will you relay this incident in your next album?

Don’t be disappointed if you do not hear anything about this incident in my next album.

My album is mainly for praising God. It is my promise that no matter the condition or circumstances I found myself, I will continue to praise God.

I have been praising God in pains since 1997 when I had the spinal cord injury. The Lord is my shepherd.

When one of your members of staff had accident this year, your radio station alleged poor treatment in the Adeoyo hospital and almost held government responsible for his death, why?

We have been doing our jobs professionally by balancing our stories.

On January 1, this we lost one of our colleagues , Femi Oluwajobi was hit by a vehicle, he was rushed to State Hospital at Adeoyo in Ibadan here.

He was left unattended to, they could not treat him because there was no light, no medical supplies.

Please go to any of the state owned hospitals in Oyo State to do your personal investigation. We are the mouth piece of the people, we talk on their behalf.

If I lost a staff to that terrible condition, I think we have a duty to let the government know the state of hospitals in Oyo State.

If the normal basic things are in place in this hospital, we won’t lose this fine gentleman, it could happen to any other person.

We appealed to government to put things in place to safe lives, we invited the State Commissioner for Health Dr Azeez Adeduntan, he said his own side and explained government efforts, a lot of people said a lot of things about their experiences in state owned hospitals.

This is a radio station, we have different people with different opinions.

We have disclaimer on these opinions. The callers say a lot of things difficult to stop because it is a live broadcast.

I don’t know if you are aware of the abattoir saga, I think that was the beginning of this problem.

We got two letters, one from the Attorney General of the State Barrister Oluwaseun Abimbola and another one from the personal Lawyers of Governor Ajimobi demanding for N500m for libel.

What happened? One of my guest analysts alleged that Oyo State government has a share in the new abattoir built and to be operated by a private person.

Though in that program there was a disclaimer that whatever any guest says in the station, the management cannot be held responsible for those personal opinions.

NBC called for the tape of that program and it was sent to them.

NBC said we should invite the petitioners to say their own side of the story.

Arulogun insisted on coming at a period we don’t host guests, but we obliged. He cleared air on the stand of the government on this matter.

The following Thursday, another one hour was given to the Oyo State Government, Arulogun came on air again on this same station without paying a dime, Arulogun spent another one hour to explain everything about the abattoir. We have everything on tape.

The following Sunday, we invited the Contractor that did this abattoir, he was on air for one hour, he explained everything to clear the government.

I compeled the analyst to do a retraction and apologize to the government of Oyo State for the statement and he did it. What else did they want.

This is an unjustified punishment. If I have offended you , call me I will apologise.

I have not done anything wrong, what happened to us can happen to any media house.

We also called Arulogun on a following Saturday, he didn’t come, he said, he has a social function to attend that he doesn’t joke with his Saturdays.

That program, political circuit is the most popular program in the South West here. Please judge me, what have I done wrongly.