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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Friday, September 19, 2008

The End Of The Dawn

So I was sitting on my red host chair, the New Dawn set envelops me in a comfortingly familiar cocoon, the area around my set is a jumble of wood, props and grime but the set from which I present New Dawn is serene, clean and orderly in the way I anally ensure that it should be.


I am doing my 8 year ritual, allowing the spirit of New Dawn infuse me as I centre my soul and spirit for the day’s show. It is an important ritual because I need calm and equanimity in case something goes wrong, usually a lot goes hilariously, painfully, frustratingly wrong. The one thing I swore to early on and a guiding principle of mine is that whatever the situation I am in, that part of the equation, which is in my control, will be done to my absolute brilliant best.

Thus when the set falls down, the generators pack up, the guests come late, storm off, get uncooperative or the whole days episode is lost in some idiotic production error I know that when that light blinks on my lead camera you will not see a sign of it on my face. For someone with my deeply felt, even deeper expressed emotions, this is a tough call but I do have my lights on war cry in my head which switches me back on. So you have times when I am so angry I could tear someone apart limb by limb or in so much pain I can barely stand or so hurt my spine shakes, I would swallow the tears, bite down the anger and stiffen my core to deliver a great performance. I have broken down and cried, I have spoken in deep anger and I have danced maniacally on TV but all in response to what is happening before the audience, never for any of the behind the scene drama (weeeell there was the bloody newsmagazine false story saga but that is another story) of which there were too numerous to mention.

I am very fond of my NTA years and I do admire, respect and love many of the people I worked with from management to crew but as an institution, NTA ..(trying to find a polite word here)… lets just say I have a future book to write called How Not To Do Television, My NTA years. I was warned of course, some of the best hands in the industry from Tunde Kelani to John Momoh, Abike Dabiri and Dejumo Lewis can write similar books.


I fear that I am beginning to bore you as you can sense there is some “beta gist” which I do not want to talk about for now, so quickly to what I can talk about.

I sat in the studio that morning in April, as usual, there is no electricity, the generator is not working, my guests are getting restless and my director is getting her pants in a twist because she fancies she can see a hint of a nipple through my NTA approved dress (no knees, no shoulders, no arms, no breasts) for the show. I keep supplies of body tape, shawls, legging, body suits and sewing kit for all such “emergencies” as we have had shot and approved (3 levels of censor verification) shows rejected at the network because of so called non complaint dress. Agatha Amata’s beautiful interview, the only one in which she spoke about her painful marriage break-up was rejected because the strap of her long dress was not wide enough. Agatha is a respected TV entrepreneur and host and a conservative dresser.

So I had gone backstage, taped my nipple into compliance and checked that I will not be leading any pious viewer astray when someone raised the issue of what we are allowed to talk to the guest about and not, this after getting approval to bring said guest on at all.

Usually I take it all in my stride, I did not win my success Digest award for tenacity and innovation for nothing. The whole of New Dawn’s experience with NTA, the frankly fraudulent advert agencies and clueless media owners has been one of the need to continually adapt, evolve and fight back. We were of course also guilty of naivety, poor negotiating skills and poverty although it is easy to forget that at the time we started there were no big sponsors (MTN’s second interview in Nigeria was on NEW DAWN) MNET had no Africa magic or interest in Nigerian content, no Silverbird, no independent productions on channels and so on.

Part of my love hate relationship with NTA, especially NTA 10 is a deep loyalty to the station for trusting a red haired, hot headed, quick tempered 29 year old to independently produce their flagship show, they gave me my voice. For that I will always love NTA 10. One of my driving desires is a need to get big enough to help some of the old retired hangs.

As the debate about whether we can have the guest or not died down and I am left alone in the studio, I sit in the darkness listening to one of my pep up songs on my ipod and suddenly I had clarity. The past 8 years slowly rolled along my minds eye, the first converted studio space, the years living in a guest house and driving from Festac at 5am, the wait for a proper studio, the battle to remain on air, the pregnancy, the birth, the people, the shows, the battles, the causes. I also saw the emerging media environment and how the challenges we keep battling with diminish the quality of work we do, I know I operate at 20% of my full talent capacity, I know the finished product has technical flaws but even its strength is watered down by the poor airing. I clearly saw that my warrior nature had fought so long, she did not realize the battle is won, the war is unimportant and it was time to let her creative medicine woman loose. Up until that moment I had failed to understand fully what people meant when they say, Funmi you can do so much more, you must do more. The truth was that somehow I had become afraid of success, I continued to fight a meaningless but familiar battle when there is a brand new territory to conquer.

Right there and then in that darkened studio and in that moment of clarity, I jumped, I shut down New Dawn and I stepped into my daytime. So when the studio light came on and that familiar red light on the camera, l winked conspiratorially at an old friend and announced to the shock of all that this will be the last quarter of New Dawn and I had eight more show to shoot.

When I made that announcement, we still had adverts running, we had opening for potential sponsor for the first time in eight years and our older shows were having a second life online plus I was getting a lot of recognition and accolades outside Nigeria in fields as diverse as gender, gaming, media and agriculture. There was the temptation to stick with the safe and fairly comfortable. However, I knew deep down it was time to grow, how it will happen, I didn’t know but I knew it was time to cut the bridge and face a new world.

The ongoing, sometimes painful, sometimes miraculous story of our transformation is something I may or not tell you in bits as we go on.


What I’d like to say though is this: I was done on the dawn, done with inspiring people (which I never set out to but honoured to have achieved), I am set now to ignite those who would like to come along with me to exciting new possibilities the beginning of which will be a brand new show.

The beauty of it all is that I am discovering that when your intentions are clear and unselfish and you are true to your DNA and journey, it is true that the universe does conspire to give to you that which you most deeply desire and richly deserve.

Hopefully, someone out there may recognise themselves in a situation similar to mine and jump but don’t worry, by Monday, I’ll stop this cloying internal haemorrhage on virtual paper and join you and the rest of the world in minding other people’s business.

Have a great weekend.

15 comments:

AlooFar said...

Funmi,

It's the beginning of another dawn.

I love the show. I love you.

All the best in your next pursuits.

toks adetuyi said...

first the fridays left. . .and now, no mondays, no wednesdays.Everything's wilted or wilting till 11 days, and Sept.'ll be over.

Em, remember the Afrika Salute: let the spirit of New Dawn live on. But Funmi someday you'll agree it has to berth, somewhere. . .it'd get tired of roaming, skirting round the waters of Babylon,in our minds.

dScR?Be said...

it MUST be the beginning of something even MORE beautiful!!

Kudos Aunty Funmi... i admire ur courage.. God speed

Anonymous said...

you're a true manifestation of life's beauty!!!Thank you so for being such an inspiration. I was just fooling around on youtube when i came across your show and your show confirmed the hope that i have for our nation... as you mentioned in one of the shows, that we should be the change that we want in our country if not the "next generation of Nigerians will sit in a beer parlor" and still complain about how bad things are in Nigeria...there's so much truth in the words & the stories you've shared in your show. I know that the universe will grant you your deepest desire!!!
Much luv!!!
Afy ( Student at the University of Ottawa)

chi9ja said...

dear funmi,
i am quite saddened by the fact that u r shutting down the show, i must confess i never even watched or heard of your show until i came to england.all i get to watch is little snippets on you tube, u cannot imagine how hunger i am for true unbiased and hopeful news of my gr8 country in your undiluted fashion lol.
what ever happens i am certain that the legacy of new dawn will live on, a brilliant light like yours will never be diminished no matter what these people of darkness and backwardness try, they do not and could not understand the stranglehold an imminent desire to push oneself beyond the minds conceived boundaries has on the likes of u and i, lol.the desire to do better even if we continuously SEEM to fail or we even die doing(baba God forbid o) lol.

i wish you even more better things that you could wish for yourself in the future. my only wish( if however selfish, lol) is that you still represent 9ja in the manner that you have done these past years.

anyhoo enuff wit the serious talk, gist me who is going to take over your show or is it closing down entirely?
and u kw wat come to think of it i remember the 1st time i saw u although i didn't kw ur name n most certainly not ur show, was when u did a piece on 9ja for i think it was channel o or something like that, my fav bit was when u took them to the local eatery( y do we even refer to it as local jor)
and tried to explain the mama putt concept to them, i thot that was lovely.
anyhoo m gonna leave now as m even beginning to bore myself lol.
plssssssss don't shut down ur blog.

Anonymous said...

It takes so much bravery to do what you have done. I have the utmost respect for you. It is time for you to fly now...your wings may soar. And you know what, the nigerian public will likely appreciate it more. I think less restricted and censored truths will be able to come out of you now. It is like Oprah when she was reborn...and began her new shows...what do we hav eto look forward to now? Have any other stations expressed interest in launching this new promising show you are thinking about? where else can we expect to see you in media?
You should also post info on your awards. I would love to read more about htat too. Sending you all hte support. Wish we could have met when I was in Nigeria. Ronke, friend of wole's 2. Toronto, CAN

Tolu Ogunlesi said...

There is nothing else I have to say beyond this quote copied out of a book I came across in a bookstore yesterday night: "Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid." It was the title of a chapter in the book, written by an American doctor as a kind of collection of the wisdom he had learned in decades of practice).
Another chapter was titled thus: "Not all who wander are lost".
They all sound cliched, but then, the greatest gifts often come in the commonest wrappings.
After every New Dawn, there must be a New Day, methinks...

oyelakin Tosin said...

Hello, Well perhaps my knowledge of English is not so sound or im missing something.

Tosin is my name and trust me I'm so addicted to your program "newdawn" that even when I had to live Nigeria for my graduate studies here in the United states,I still follow up "New dawn" via youtube, and as a visionary young man so proud of my genealogy, I really wish I'll be on your show one day,as Uites and as a voice for a new Nigeria.

Whats going on please,trust me Newdawn must not die,but remodeling or repackaging could be considered.

I love the program so much and little did you how much you educate and inspired young Nigerians especially the ones abroad about "The need to be proud of who we are and our genealogy".

Tosin oyelakin is name, a Uites and currently a graduate student of Environmental Engineering in Oklahoma state University,US.

Hair Azara said...

Funmi Words can't explain what u mean to others. I came across ur show on youtube and will forever be changed by the strength and courage u possess. I can't wait to see whats next.

Nonesuch said...

Needless to say that the next show will mos def be successful. Well done .

Vera Ezimora said...

Congrats Funmi,

I know you will do great. I totall understand where you're coming from (in terms of being afraid of success). You want it, but will you be able to handle it when it comes?

Goodluck. I know God will see you thru. He's seeing me thru.

atunnise said...

Gifted hands or minds like yours will always find a way, whatever you choose to do.....the universe hath no choice!!!!

When you feel it, even without knowing what is in store, this is the time to move on. People will think you're crazy but when things come into perspective, you'll know you've been told by a greater one.

pam said...

Its hard to leave a comfort zone even to pursue ones dreams.

Well done. Im looking forward to seeing the actualization of all thats cooking in your crazy talented head of yours.

In truth you out grew that platform a long time ago.

Fly high...

Anonymous said...

whateva makes u happy baby!

Anu H. said...

FI, you are simply phenomenal.

I can't help but admire you so much. I admire your struggles and I respect your decision. I KNOW that you will make it!

-Anu H