Agatha Amata, CEO of Rave TV and host of the popular talk show, “Inside Out” recently celebrated her 50th birthday. Agatha shares the story of her life with Azuka Ogujiuba, talking about her childhood, how her children have become her best friends, her business, relationship with her ex-husband, how she gives back to society through her charity and her bond with God
Before you got to this stage, were you eager to be 50?
First of all, I used to look at 50 as being very old, ye! 50? I just brought out my photograph when I was 40, and said ‘you need to put this up.’ I won’t say I don’t feel 50; it came very quickly and I feel very privileged. I have been looking at my old photograph when my neck was very long and then looking at how far I have come. I was looking at my children talking about me; I read what they wrote in the notepad for me and I felt very blessed. I look back, I don’t have any regret, it is learning. I have learnt a lot, I have grown a lot. God has been absolutely good to me.
Is there any plan to remarry or to reconcile with your ex-husband?
None of the above to both questions; But let me say this, over this birthday, I had my sister sat me down and we had a good talk and she said if I don’t change my lifestyle, I would end up lonely. That I would end up alone and sad, because my children have grown and they will go and live their lives. For the past 50 years, as far back as I can remember, it has always been my kids, my kids. They don’t need me anymore; my older is 26 and about to start work and life. Stephanie, my youngest has graduated. She is 21, she is going to do her youth service and masters. I have totally become antisocial. I don’t go out and I don’t have friends. My children were my best friends. I actually said to myself after my sister spoke to me that I will try and do things differently. I remember my son took me to dinner. He was the first person to celebrate with me and he took me to the backyard and there was a live band and I was like this is really nice. I used to imagine night life in Lagos will be very dark, there were so many people out, and my son said to me, ‘Mom, you really need to have a life’. That’s the first time in a long while I will do that. That’s what some people don’t understand about me; I don’t keep friends, I really don’t go out and socialise. It is usually work and my kids. Right now, the kids are standing on their own. They don’t need me that much, my children have grown. Where does that leave me? Good question I am going to try and open up to my environment.
Open door for dating?
Not sure for now.
You are still young, you are fifty; don’t you wish to remarry?
Right now the answer to that question is NO. I don’t have the energy for that. I am going to be more social. I need to know what’s going on around me. The kids are back again in the house and there’s a lot of distraction in the house. Dating yes, marriage, I am not sure.
Why? Is it that you are so hurt with your former marriage that you don’t think you want to give it another shot?
I wouldn’t say hurt. I asked myself, at this stage in my life, am I ready for another marriage? I can’t have two failed marriages. As it is in marriages, the woman is the one who sacrifices 90 per cent of time. For a marriage to work, a woman must be willing to let go of a lot of things. I have done that, I have been there; do I want to do it again? I don’t think I want to.
Would you consider a partner or something?
Yea, I could, that’s not a biggie. I now like my space. You know I have been single for a very long time. I am used to doing things the way I want, where I want, how I want, which isn’t much. But once you bring somebody else into your space, you must be ready to be accommodating and ready to give, adjust and adapt. If you know you are not 100 per cent ready, I don’t think you should go into it because you are going to have problems. That’s why I said psychologically, I am not there, but I will never say never.
What’s your relationship with Fred Amata right now?
We are very good friends.
Are you a feminist?
I have been asked about it and I said to myself, what is feminism? It depends on what you define feminism as. For me, anything that allows me be who I am without apologies, any name you call it, it is fine. Anything that allows me to speak for what I believe in and stand up for. I advocate for things that affects women, the nature of what I have done for over 22 years will not allow me keep quiet about certain things. I have seen firsthand violence against women, domestic violence, brutality against children, violence and gender discrimination. I have seen so many. I mean firsthand. For me, that’s a privilege for the fact that I have an advocate and a voice are a blessing. What name all that is called is the person’s problem. I absolutely believe it is a privilege for me to be in that position; to have a voice to make a difference. If men and those that created that word call it feminism, as long as it helps you speak out for what is right and defend proper Ideas; if that makes me a feminist, then I am a proud one.
Give us an insight to your background, career, your formative years?
I am the first girl in family of seven. I was born in Lagos, grew in Lagos, went to Kano for a while then back in Lagos. I was watching a video they did on my fiftieth it was very nostalgic for me. I lost my dad when I was 12 years old. Everybody knew I was the apple of my dad’s eye. For who I am today is from the background I got from him. I hear my brother and aunt say my father must not hear me cry. Anytime I cry, they would have to perform and my mom had to sing song; they had to sing to make me feel alright or make my hair or give me food. Everybody laughed in the hall. It was nice to listen but what I remember the most, my father made me realise I should never apologise over anything I consider right or I want to do and believe in. My father has this mantra, if you ask anything, he would say no. Now when he tells you no, it means prove to me you want to make me change my no to a yes. So, as you are talking, he says no, I don’t even know how much of that I have taken in to with my children. So, as soon as they start, I just say no, they tell me mom calm down. I realise it helped my confidence level, but when I get to change my dad’s mind, he was a big deal that means I am able to convince him; that means you can always get a yes from a no.
So, I grew a very confident child, knowing I could get anything I want. I could do anything I want; I could be anything I want. I was a big of a brag, so when my father died, my mom provided the balance; my mom was really strict, she was with the Airforce. I know how many times I was locked up because I wasn’t used to discipline. I used to have clashes with my mom for a very long time, because for the first time, I didn’t have my dad to support me and just say leave her alone. It took a while for me to understand mom meant well. I thought she hated me. I felt this woman is never my mother. I became rebellious in my teen years; it was very difficult. Today, I look back and I thanked God because the combination of both of them made me the woman I am today. My mom taught me discipline, my mom taught me you can’t always get what you want; she taught me how to cook. A lot of things that have helped me, my mom taught me as a woman, you must have values.
I am finicky about details, a lot of things that I look back and I look at the combination of both of them, and I say thank God for my parents, because the combination of both of them is what I need to carry me through life and all the experience I ever had, I realise that God really prepared me using my parents to help me be what he wanted me to be in life.
Can we say you were born with a Silver Spoon?
No, I don’t think so. I am from average middle class family. We weren’t poor and I wouldn’t say Silver Spoon. I didn’t lack anything I needed.
Tell us more about your parents?
My Mom was with Nigerian Airforce in charge of Education. My dad was chief inspector for taxes for Inland revenue, first he was in charge in Lagos, Kano then back to Lagos. That’s why I said we were not poor. I wouldn’t say Silver Spoon until he retired. I attended St. Mary’s in Lagos, which is not far from his office on Broad Street. After that, I went to Federal Government Girls College, Sagamu, then I went to University of Jos, graduated with a degree in Botany, which I never used because I don’t know any plant.
What was the best gift you received as a child?
I basically got almost anything I wanted, I had a bicycle, let me say this, my mom used to be a caterer. Till tomorrow, I am sweet tooth. Chocolate was given to me to help me eat food. They would put smarties on the table for me eat rice. The price for eating the rice is to take smarties. So, I would just rush the rice to take the smarties or the cake or coke, whatever I was given. I remember a bike on my birthday. I also remember the day I got a proper bike and I was taught how to ride a bike that was in Kano. I so cherished that bike. The compound we lived in Kano was so big that to walk from there to the boys quarters, I will use the bike. It’s a good gift that I got. For me to be able to ride the bike everywhere, I know how many times I fell and that is one of the things I still remember. It was a yellow Raleigh. It was a gift I really love.
What was the most difficult thing that ever happened to you and what did you do to overcome it?
The death of my father. I was in form two, I can’t forget it. I just saw him over the weekend and he told me, obey your mom, she knew me and my mom always have clashes. He told me ‘your mom loves you, obey your mom.’ That was Saturday when I was going back to school. They came to pick me on Monday and said ‘your Dad wants to see you.’ I looked at my older brother’s face; I figure he was wearing dark glasses. I was 12 years old and I still remember it like yesterday. I thought my mom died, it did not occur to me that it would be my dad. I knew somebody died but that it would be my dad never occured to me. Even though I know something did not feel well that day, I was asking why did my dad want to see me? And they said ‘when you get home.’ And It was very quiet all through in the car. We used to live in Shonibare Estate. We had moved from V.I where we used to live. I remember, people were many in the house and they started shouting; you know how people can be very dramatic and everybody started crying. When they parted through many people in the sitting room, seeing my mom, then it occurred to me that something happened to my dad because my mom was sitting there. When my mom saw me, she just opened her hands and I went into and she just held me. I remember asking that what is wrong, some people were wailing and all of that, and she said your dad died. I told her it was a lie. I remember just leaving her immediately and wanting to go into her bedroom and it was locked and I said, they should open it, they said he is not there. I don’t even know I still have all these memory. It was 1984 or 86, some years like that. That has been an experience I will never forget, because I sat down and wonder how and where? For many years, it was difficult for me to accept. I became rebellious and I thank God for my mom. She was strong, truly strong.
What do you consider the biggest mistake you ever made?
Okay, this is my person, I don’t dwell on negatives. This is how I feel about mistakes. There are lessons to learn. Every mistake has helped to make me a better person or take me one step to wherever I am meant to be. As a human being, I regard mistake as essential part of living. I don’t have any ‘biggest mistake’. I will still make bigger one. They will teach me a lesson, some lessons are bigger than another, I will still learn.
What are some of indelible high point in your life?
Turning 50, my children, I am so proud of my children. I can wear them like a badge on my forehead. I have the best children in the whole world. I thank God for them, it makes me to know that the time and sacrifice I made dropping everything to focus on them was not waste. I look at them and I am proud, they are well behaved. Their Guardian in school, one day she called me and said ‘how come your children are so well behaved, we don’t have to supervise them.’ They schooled in London, my older made first class in economics and his master from LSE.
Stephanie made 2.1; she was crying that she didn’t make first class. They have never given me anything to worry about, yet I spent a lot of energy so they can turn out right, but that was no guarantee they will turn out right.
What is your biggest fear in life?
There are two things I fear – one is failure. I fear failing, so sometimes it pushes me to the extreme, it makes me very harsh, my children have really been very tolerant. I don’t like to fail in anything I do but I know that sometimes you will fail but I just don’t want it to be me. That is a major fear I have. No matter what I do, I still believe you can’t fall, you shouldn’t fall and it pushes me. Sometimes, I am a bit extreme. My second fear will be not doing right. It’s not a religious thing. This is what I believe. I believe people come into your life for a reason and you are supposed to help people be the best them they can be, So, I fear that I do not get or give what God has called me to get or give from someone. Missing it, I think that would be the thing. Missing the essence and purpose of my life. So, It makes me seem like I am too serious, that I don’t know how to liven up or live. So if you bring a bag to me and you say the bag is 250, if I buy the bag I will be very sad, I will be very angry with myself but there was someone who asked me for money the other time or this could have paid somebody’s school fees but my children keep telling me that you can’t do everything. I have denied myself a lot of things because of that reason.
What has life taught you?
Majorly, be you! Everybody is not going to like or understand you but even if you lie to the whole world, you mustn’t lie to yourself. The most important lesson is to be you. Don’t live for anybody else, live for yourself, try and do right for yourself, be true to yourself everything will fall into place. In my office, they know whenever I am coming and upset, there’s hurricane in this building, even my children know. They just give me like five minutes, when they come back they just discover that it was fine with me. I also access people, if I see this is negative energy I will avoid you. I am not good in making friends. I don’t do friends. My children are my best friends, then my staff and everybody knows that. So, it reduces my stress, and it has helped to where I am, I had very little distraction, my children are my world.