On-air personality, Agatha Amata, speaks on her new projects, separation from her actor husband and sundry issues.
TELL us about your new production, Disguise
I have always dealt with issues, so this is one of those issues that we had a discussion on; there was an argument about what women want. And it was like women don’t even know what they want.
So I thought, won’t it be nice to hear what women think men want and men thinking they know what women want?
Here is what I know: when boys are together, they are open. When girls are together, you hear the truth sometimes. That is the reason we planted the opposite sex in the camp of the other. That is, put a babe in the midst of guys and a guy in the mist of ladies and this way they can tell in the point of view of what they have heard.
So the purpose of Disguise is to put moles in the camp of the other person to gather information as to what that sex want from the other. Is it that confusing?
Now that you’re venturing into movie production, what do you think would stand you out?
First of all, I don’t do movies for doing sake. It has to have a message. You can just imagine IK Ogbonna in a woman’s body and Nancy in a man’s body. It is funny, but it does not remove the message. This is not my first movie. I have done ‘The Addict’, and ‘The Widow’. They have all been issue-based because that is the kind of producer I am. There are certain things that I have experienced and heard and I’m like won’t it be nice for people to have a share? I like to deal with issues, and this particular one was done in a very light-hearted way.
How were you able to fund it?
First of all, it started as a BoI project; I got money from the facility for Nollywood. I didn’t have an idea that the money wasn’t even going to scratch the surface of the money needed to be spent. I had to thank them though, maybe if they hadn’t given me the money, maybe I won’t have thought about going into movie. So when I got the money, I was like it is not my money that I am using to shoot, and two weeks into production, the money was finished and reality set in. It is capital intensive, to be able to deploy what you want to give; with different locations and scenarios. We also had to do the special effects. It is a big budget movie.
How are you dealing with the post Inside-Out life?
(Laughs) What do you mean? I am a pensioner, and I’m retired. I am busier now. When I announced that I was stepping down, people were asking what was going to happen to the programme. The truth of the matter is that if you don’t want to kill something, you should know when it is time to step aside and let someone else take over. I watch it now on Sundays on the various channels it shows on and I smile. It is good when you can let go of something and you look at it and feel proud. I am proud of what the new presenters are doing; the main and sub. Inside-Out is not easy and they are doing a fantastic work. They are treating issues that I have done in the past, but they give it new life and also the new set of audience they are talking to. When I started, I was in my 20s, and today I am 49, so I cannot keep talking because I would not be connecting, and the access of the programme will be lost. That is why I had to step-down. Now I have a TV and radio stations; RaveTV and Trend FM in Asaba. And now I’m doing movies, I am busier.
Did you harbour any fear that the programme would flop after you left?
I was convinced going by the process we went through getting a new person. The search made me have the opportunity to see that I have made impact before I die. At the audition when they asked them why they came, most of them didn’t say ‘I want to be a presenter; they said they wanted to touch lives’. There is a different I want to give back to the society; and the judges kept saying if they wanted that, they should go and have an NGO. But for me, it was very fundamental, because what it told me is that we have made an impact and it was good to hear that.
A young man came and said the first time his father apologised to him was when he watched the show. I heard stories that have touched me, and made me realise that the show is not about me, but beyond me and I knew from the audition that I was taking the right decision.
Has owning a TV and radio stations always been in the plan?
Yes, for a long time. In fact, I have it on my bathroom door: Trend TV, Trend FM. Though I didn’t know how it was going to happen, I just knew it was part of my plans. I had applied for a licence in Lagos for many years and I never got it. Then I went to do some consultation work with Delta State Government, and when I got there I discovered that in Asaba, where I was working, there was no radio station there. And even the ones that filtered in from other states shut down by 10pm.
I thought it was very strange and I had a licence, but they had stopped giving for Lagos, but had other states, which I didn’t want at that time. So I then ask if I could move my application from Lagos to Asaba, and it was approved immediately. But it didn’t kick off immediately until some years later, because it needed residential approval. It was the first I applied for because it was easier to run than a TV station. And while I was waiting, the cable licence came up and I thought to start off with the TV and have it on a platform.
It is still in line with what I have always done with the youths. So we have a different live programme, which makes the TV station different. We have been able to connect with our audiences in an interactive way that we get on the go live reports. It is like Inside-Out, on a larger scale.
Are there challenges that come with running these stations?
The first problem in this country is power. I have a one million naira bill each for both stations. I am a Nigerian and keep hoping that things would change. I have inverter, three generators and solar energy. We provide ourselves with electricity. If this can be solved, development will increase faster.
Because of electricity surge, I lost half of my equipment last year. It was horrible and very frustrating. But because I love what I am doing, we keep praying it does not force one out.
How do you make it as a single-mother?
My children are very important to me. After God, it is my children. I can drop everything if they have a need. I don’t do friends; I am not social. At times, my children beg me to go out. I have so much to do during the week and at weekends, when I have the opportunity to rest, I just sleep. For me, there is no controversy, no confusion; I didn’t have to make choices between what is important. My children are important because the way I see it every day is their birthday. Now they don’t need me, if I hadn’t taken time at the time that was important to be with them, I would not be reaping that now. I am very proud of my kids. My son had first class and has done his masters. My daughter is in her final year at a film school abroad doing very well. They are very confident, because they know who they are. This building has a crèche; that was something that I did not negotiate with anybody. It is very important that mothers are confident that they know what is happening to their children.
All mothers working here are allowed to bring their children until closing hour. So there is crèche downstairs, and that is the most important place in this building. Because I realise that a woman can have everything; you can work and be a good mother. I travelled to get all they used in setting up the place.
How did you handle the separation from your husband at that time?
It’s been a long time. But in life here I believe that whatever life throws at you, deal with it. Good things happen, bad things happen; take the good, take the bad, the most important is what lesson you learnt from it, not the event itself.
My ex-husband, Fred, is my very good friend, and I used to say to people why should we fight? We have two beautiful children who bear his name. It will be stupid of me, because we are linked for life. If I remarry, which I do not plan any time soon, or he remarries, I cannot speak for him, the truth of the matter is that anytime they talk about him, they will call my name and anytime they talk about me, they will call his name. We have two fantastic children we both love and are proud of. And because we cannot live as husband and wife does not mean that we cannot be friends.
If we understand that life is beyond all that because you will not take it into the grave, it dies the very day you are buried. You can actually make up your mind that things that happen to you here on earth do not define you. You learn and you go on. If the good thing happens and you accept them, then when the bad also happens, you should be able to deal with it.
We did not plan on the wedding that we were going to be separated; it just happened. I had the best of intentions as did he; we planned that we would live forever at least until death do us apart. But it didn’t work out that way, so we made the best of the situation.