Elizabeth Aina-Scott retired as the Zonal Director, Lagos, Nigerian Television Authority where she supervised all NTA stations in Lagos.During a chat with Ademola Olonilua, she shares her experience as a career journalist and as a wife and mother
Since you retired how have you been spending your time?
Funnily enough, it has been fun but busy for me. In 2014, I made sure that I did not do anything other than to rest and by 2015, I went back into school administration. I also have a ministry, Hebron Love and Care. I have been able to put my journalism into practice even after retirement by writing daily devotionals under the auspice of my Christian ministry. That has taken a lot of my time.
Most people believe that journalists are restless people. Do you miss being on the field?
To be honest, I think I am busier at the moment compared to when I was still working at NTA. The only difference is that I now have a good night rest. When I was at NTA, it was not possible for you to have a good night rest because we operated 24hours and my job meant that I had to be monitoring everything that happened. I only had the luxury of sleeping with one eye closed because anything could happen in the middle of the night. For instance, I had always been at the public relations arm of NTA but when I got to level 15 as a civil servant, I was moved to NTA properties and I started the company for NTA. After spending seven years there, I was moved to the broadcasting department as the general manager of NTA Channel 10. I had barely spent a month when I got a call from my boss at about 1:30 am one day. When I picked the call, my boss informed me that the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, was arriving at Lagos by 9 am that day and we would broadcast live in four locations and my station was hosting. That information alone wiped the sleep from my eyes. In fact, at that point, I was still grieving because an hour before my boss had called, a relative called to inform me that my aunt, the only person left for me as a mother figure had died. I was still trying to process the information when my boss called me. Although I studied mass communication in school, having been away from the field, it was not easy for me. Throughout the night, I was calling different people and because I was new in the department; I did not have the phone numbers of a lot of people. I had to wake people up to give me the numbers I needed. It was a lot of stress for me and by 6 am, I was already on the road. It was at the time of election and President Obasanjo came to Lagos to campaign at four different locations. Outside broadcast service is a lot of trouble on its own, not to talk of four different locations. Meanwhile, we had only one outside broadcasting van to do the job. You can only imagine the kind of stress that I went through during that period. Somehow, God did it and everything went very well. Having gone through that kind of stress, there is really no more stress in my everyday life except I want to give myself stress.
I did not have control over my time when I was on the field and I always made sure I watched the news just in case news broke. The other instance I cannot forget is the Dana Air crash. I was at a salon when it happened. My head was in a hair dryer when the news broke and immediately I jumped to my feet, removed the rollers and left the salon like that. While I was rushing out of the salon, I was making calls to be sure that my people were on the ground to cover the news. I always worked under vigilance and stress but now, that stress is gone.
While you were on the field and you were called at odd hours, how did your husband cope with that lifestyle?
My husband was also into broadcasting, so the understanding was there. Once I told him what was happening, he already knew the implication and would sometimes advise me on how to go about it. Although he had left broadcasting for publishing by the time I was made the general manager of NTA 10, he still understood what the job entailed.
Did you plan to get married to someone in your field?
I would say that it was a mere coincidence because my husband and I had the same name; my maiden name is the same with my husband’s surname. When we were planning our wedding and sent our wedding invitations out, friends and family began to call us that there was a mistake on the wedding invitations but it was funny to my husband and me and we started laughing and making jokes about it. We actually met at the mass communication department, University of Lagos, while I was doing my first degree.
How were you able to maintain a relationship from school till you got married?
I honestly do not know. All I can say is that when God proposes something, there is little you can do other than to sit back and watch. In fact, I was based in Ibadan but somehow, we were able to cope and nurse the relationship till it blossomed into marriage. The first time he approached me was the first time I knew that there were people other than my family members that bear my surname because we were not in the same class.
Did you not think that you were related to him when he first introduced himself?
I was puzzled when he first introduced himself to me but I know that people hardly lie about their name. I always wanted to change my name even though that was not a priority then but my husband kept on pushing and eventually trial became permanent.
Being that journalism is a male-dominated industry, how were you able to cope with your male counterparts and subordinates?
I started at NTA from the beginning of my career and that helped a lot because I rose through the ranks with my colleagues, so no one could disrespect me. To be honest, it was quite challenging but one thing that I have always known is that if you have God on your side, no one can be against you. I know that I am very hardworking, focused, principled and I achieve results. So if you are a man and cannot achieve results, I would beat you hands down. These qualities helped me a lot because even though people lobbied for positions, I never lobbied for anything all through my years at NTA. I thank God because I was never found wanting and my time on the job was interesting. People in the broadcasting sector are very nice people to work with especially when they are not under pressure because they like to enjoy themselves.
How did you cope with the pressures that came with the job?
The first thing I always did was to pray so that I did not call the wrong shots and every other thing followed. I went through a lot of pressure but nothing boomeranged. Whenever we had challenges especially with politicians who belonged to the party in power, I always consulted my bosses. Funnily, my boss always told me to use my professional judgment and if the person wanted to make an issue out of it, I was always there to defend my judgment.
How were you able to raise a family considering the fact that you and your husband were in the same line of business?
Before I was transferred to become the general manager of NTA channel 10, I was into public relations and it was intentional. While I was in PR, my life was 80 per cent stable and if I was to travel, I was informed early so I could plan my life. It only happened once that I travelled at very short notice when I was at that department and when I mean short notice, they gave me 21 hours to plan for the trip and I had to travel round Nigeria.
While I was in PR, there were some challenges because I was the head of the department when we hosted Nigeria 99. Knowing the fact that the job was demanding and fraught with hazards, the best you can do with your partner is to be understanding and open with the person. That is what my husband showed all through. Our children never suffered because my mother-in-law had to watch over them when we went to work. I was always home after working hours and during weekends.
How would you describe your early years in Ibadan?
It was very nice. I did not attend nursery school; I went straight to what we called ‘Je kile o simi’ before I went to the primary school. In those days, before you went to primary school, they would have to test you by asking you to place your arm above your head to the other ear. If the hand did not touch the other ear, then you were not eligible for school. I remember that I would walk from our house to school and that took about an hour. It was fun for us because we would sing as we went to school and the mischievous ones among us would abuse people as they passed by them. Ibadan was a relatively peaceful area and on some occasions, we attended parties but that was after our school certificate examination.
My early days were fun even though I was not the outgoing type of girl and you could count the number of friends that I had. I think they were just three and we were living very close to each other, so we easily visited ourselves.
Looking at the stress you went through just to go to school, how come you found education appealing?
I loved going to school and I remember that my mother would always give me some arithmetic problems to solve before she left the house. Most time it was the multiplication table, so, I had to learn mathematics before I could play. I remember that we had just one home help all through the time I was growing up. I was exposed to rudiments of raising a home right from childhood which entailed cooking, tidying the house, etc. However, education was very key, you just had to do it. Also, I had encouragement from everywhere because everyone around me went to school even though we were living in our family house. Every child there went to school.
Did any of your parents flog you as a child?
I was not naughty as a child but I was very playful. I remember an instance when my mother flogged me because of a broken bangle. She thought I was the one that spoilt the jewellery because we were the only two people that occupied the room at the time. Eventually, she had a revelation that said she had to come and beg me because I was not guilty of the crime. Ever since that day, she stopped beating me. I was not really beaten as a child, so it was very difficult for me to beat my child simply because I was not brought up that way. The only time my mother beat me, I was only like 11 years old and that was the last time she beat me. I lost my father when I was very young.
How was your childhood without a father figure around?
I was raised at our family house and there was a father figure in the house. Also, during our days, you looked after everyone’s child as if they were yours. Somehow I did not miss him because my father was a pastor when he was alive and he was very busy with his ministry. I was too young to miss him; it had always been my mother and me all along.
Since you claim not to have beaten your children, how did you scold them?
I cannot remember a time I picked a cane to beat my children. I am grateful to God for my children because none of them was wayward or stubborn. It is the grace of God. We studied the bible and that drove some fear into their lives. You would not believe that there was never a time my children came to meet me that they wanted to attend an all-night party. They only did that when they were about to get married and they did not seek permission to go to a party instead, it was for work.
My last child was working at the marketing department of a telecommunication firm during her National Youth Service. When she was working with them, there were times that she had to attend late night events and she would inform me. That was the only time anyone would come to say that they would not spend the night at home, it was never because of a party. It just never happened. I do not know whether they had a party and they never told me but I cannot recall a time any of my four children slept outside the house except when they were in school. My husband actually beat them when they erred but it is not my style.