Alhaji Sheu Aliyu Oniguguru is a foremost Master of Ceremony, Orator and Compere within Ilorin ,Kwara state and beyond, a respected veteran of his craft.
In this interview with Jimoh Sulyman of NATIONAL PILOT, Oniguguru shares his journey in the world of oratory, his ups and downs, his meeting with the former Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and how he met all the Presidents in the current fourth republic. Excerpts
Can you tell us about yourself and your journey over the years?
Alhaji Sheu was born to the family of Ibrahim khalilullah and Hajia Nana Aisha Ibrahim Khalilullah on 3rd of November in 1964 at No,11 Akapo street, Isale Eko, Lagos,
My grandfather was an Islamic cleric and he was one of the first set of ten students that graduated from Sheikh Kamaldeen Al Adabbiy Islamic school, in 1940 at Isale Eko.
I was taken back to Ilorin to live with my maternal grandparents because my mother was the only child of her parents, my maternal grandfather was a notable cleric in Ilorin, his name is Sheikh Ishaq AbdulSalam Olokonla.
And you know in Ilorin of yesteryears there are two vocation we’re known for, that is Islamic knowledge and cloth (Aso Oke) weavers, so for the fact that my grandfather was an Islamic studies teacher, I have nothing else to do but be at the ‘Ile Kewu’.
At that time also, the time a child will be admitted into primary school was usually determined by the child’s height, so I was admitted into primary school in 1970 as one of the pioneer pupils of Ikhwanul Nasirudeen at Kuntu area of Ilorin, one of my contemporaries is Alhaji Mas’ud Adebimpe, fFormer CPS to the former Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki.
After we graduated from the school, I was offered an admission at Bishop Smith Memorial School, but being a Christian Mission school, my Cleric grandpa wouldn’t allow me to go there, so I went to Ansarul Islam secondary school, in 1979, I gained admission into Ilorin Teachers College where I graduated from in 1982/83.
I started the Compere work on October 2, 1982, which will be exactly 40 years this year.
When we started the MC hustle, many people were calling us the lazy and unserious fellows, but I already had the vision that future of this job is bright if we remain prayerful and steadfast.
It got to a time, we were advised by someone that instead of doing it individually we should rather form a society or a club and that people will come to invite us to programmes and pay us, we were not convinced at the start because of the perception of some people about us and all we were charging then was #20 per gig, our locals were reluctant to pay us because they felt we shouldn’t be paid for just talking but after the influence of some people from Lagos who understand the value of our skill things started to change.
In my quest for more knowledge, I proceeded to College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies, CAILS, Ilorin where I bagged my diploma certificate and from there I went to National Open University, where I graduated with a Bsc in Mass Communication, the main reason for furthering my education was because of the uncertainties in the future whereby a need might arise for me to present my certificates.
Later on year 2003 I went to Lagos, where someone assisted me to get a job at AIT but due to the distance from where I was residing then at No 11, Beecroft at Lagos Island to my place of work at Alagbado area was quite long, it often affect some programmes I was anchoring then and I do not have anywhere I could be staying around that area.
Afterwards I had to leave the job, things were really tough then to extend that it got to a stage where I set out to start working as a load carrier at a Rice store, it was one of my friends that took me to the load carriers Union.
The union people were skeptical about my ability and physical appearance for such a menial job but they asked me to go to a particular woman shop to help her to load rice, when I got to the shop, she wasn’t there so I had to wait for her.
After a while she arrived at the shop to open for business, we both greeted ourselves, afterwards I introduced myself as the person that will assist her to load the rice into her shop, she looked at me strangely, she asked me to sit down.
She called the people that sent me to inquire if I was truly the one they sent and they said yes, she refused to allow me to carry the rice, she asked them to send another person and they did, I was really confused by what was going on.
After the person was done packing the rice, she came to sit down with me, she asked if I have eaten, I said I haven’t, she immediately ordered someone to get me a plate of rice, almost immediately after eating the food, I slept off.
After I woke up, she asked of my name and where I came from, I told her my name and that I’m from Ilorin, she asked how much was the transport fare from Lagos to Ilorin, I told her and she gave me the double of that amount.
She said I should go back to Ilorin immediately, at that time there was nothing like mobile phone, there was only Telephone, and she gave me her telephone number and that was how I came back to Ilorin.
Upon getting back to Ilorin, many people were telling that they have been looking for me that they had events that they Wanted me to anchor but I was nowhere to be found ,that was how I resumed the MC job I have abandoned when I left Ilorin.
That made me understand that my odyssey to Lagos was just to learn a lesson and now I am back to where I belong.
And that was how the journey started fully, at that time there was only a single radio station in Kwara state then and that was the Radio Kwara AM station, there was no FM station then, if you’re not moving with the people working at the AM station nobody will reckon with you, so I followed the likes of Kabir Ibrahim and rest.
Who are the dignitaries and personalities that you have met or worked for?
Let me put it like this, ever since our country returned to Democratic rule in 1999, there is no President that I have not handed microphone to. It was Obasanjo that first came to the Ilorin township stadium for campaign and I was the MC of the program.
When Yar’adua came for the same reason, I did the same to him and I met all the dignitaries including his running mate then, Goodluck Jonathan and when Jonathan himself wanted to become president, I handed microphone to him by hand as well.
I’m mentioning just the presidents I’m not even talking about all the creme de la creme that came with them.
When our present president came to Ilorin for his first term, I was on stage with almost all the present stock of APC and PDP stalwarts and handed mic to him and many dignitaries as well.
So I have meet with many political leaders in this country, I have once met with Dangote and Otedola, that was during the launching of the Ilorin central Mosque that was organized by Dr Bukola Saraki, the event hosted many Governors and senators then, so I can say specifically the number of dignitaries I have had encounter with.
Who were the people you were looking up to when you started?
In that regard, when we started, we meet some people that were into the MC profession in Ilorin, they were usually referred to as ‘Bótò’ and they usually follow musicians but I didn’t follow any musician.
Some of the names were, Kehinde Ogunjenmi, Oraisa and others, some of our generation that tried to take the profession to another level and make it more appealing to the coming generation to pursue.
The likes of late Gbenga Adeboye, Ali Baba, Basket Mouth, those are the well known names when it comes to Compere and stand up comedy, because they’re both intertwined because there is no way that you will be a compere without being a stand up comedian because you how to make people laugh.
If you are not a compere, Master of Ceremony or On Air personality, what other profession would you have been doing?
I would have loved to be a teacher, because it is a very beneficial profession, remember I told you my parents are teachers but not in western education but in Arabic and Islamic education.
Can you recall any unforgettable experience you’ve had in your line of work?
One experience I couldn’t forget was when I wanted to Marry my wife, I had many antagonists then who stood in the way of our union, they were saying people in my line of work are lazy people, I said our future will be bright.
But thanks to God many those who stood against me then have Now come to apologize, saying that they didn’t know this is how things will turnout in the end for me, so because of that I give thanks to almighty Allah.
Another thing that makes me happy about this job is that, I have had many opportunities that some Professors are not at privy to ,this profession have brought me many honour and fame ,I usually thank God for the opportunity to do what I do.
Yes I have had moments that I almost regretted going into this profession, there are some moments that people that are far younger than us, it is not like they’re wealthier or educated than us but because we’re MC they often try to slight us.
Many people that we accord respect to but do not reciprocate that respect we gave to them, some of them mostly think we’re trying to beg for money from them , which might lead to them insulting us systematically.
So, that make me rethink my decision to pursue this line of work and I may be thinking why didn’t I rather go to the Academic field, because I have some contemporaries that have become Professors today.
Some people are always amazed by some of the things I have achieved through my profession because they always think people that are into this line of work are bunch of unserious people, but we try to make them understand that this profession has taken us beyond the shore of this country, places they themselves have never been to.
Whenever we go other places, they always give us massive respect, my first time of going to Cotonou, I was given like a celebrity, it was that moment that made me so proud of this profession.
What are your personal achievements through this profession?
I have built a house of my own, I have a car, in fact my first Hajj in 1999 was through this profession, and as a Muslim, one would pray to have children, which I have and also one would aspire to make pilgrimage to Makkah, which I have done several times.
What set you apart from the rest people in your line of work?
What set me apart from others is the way I was raised, you know the way we were raised often determine the way we act.
The people that raised me often teach how to be a good person and a good ambassador of Islam, so basically what made me unique is my attitude towards other people.
How do you think this profession can be taken to greater height and what are the things that you felt should be changed about it?
I felt someone like myself should have a radio station of my own, so that we would be able to employ more people, but we don’t really get assistance from the government and other wealthy people in the society.
They think the only thing we’re good for is just to do our MC gig and once we’re done with that, it means we have outlived our usefulness, it is only few people who appreciate what we do that add money to our charges.
If there is a government that can call people like me to ask us what can be done to improve our profession, we will share all our ideas with him. We have a lot of proposals that we can put forward, but we haven’t.
Who are the people you’ve trained?
I have trained a lot of people in this profession, too numerous to mention, the likes of Bolaji Gobir and others .
What is your relationship with Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki?
I have a solid bond with our political leader, I have known Baba Saraki since 1982 but I wasn’t really active in politics then ,but by 1999 that Civil rule returned, I have become a household name, I have made an acquaintance of Baba Saraki himself.
I have been a well known MC then, I was even part of the campaign that brought late Governor Muhammad Lawal into the government ,in all the 16 local government areas and since then I have noticed that the Saraki family is one that is worthy of emulation.
When Senator Gbemisola Saraki became a Senator, I was her first liaison officer to Ilorin West, that shows that I have been with the family for a long time now.
When I finally get to work with Senator Bukola Saraki, I understand that this is where I am destined to be, up till date I am still with him.
I told people that politics is about interest, I have told people that if I can’t be part of Saraki politics, I would rather quit politics altogether and I pray that my relationship with Senator Bukola Saraki not turn sour.
During the tenure of Bukola Saraki as the Governor, I was appointed as a Board member of the Kwara State broadcasting cooperation, from 2007 to 2011.
Your message to the youth especially those in the field of communication?
My advice to the youth is that they should be prayerful and they should be patient, I have said the good part of the journey, if I decide to share some of my bad experiences, some of the coming ones would be discouraged to venture into our line of work.
I have had some phase whereby I had only three clothes, I had one jeans and three tops, so I have to wash the top before going out the following morning.
There were times that I went to bed hungry and before I could see anything to eat would be in the afternoon of the following day, also there are times that we made Eba but there was no soup to eat it with, so we go to buy cooked beans to eat it with.
Those were the easy ones, but after everything, with prayer and patience, we have gotten to where we wanted to be, and also we should be contented with the little we have, we shouldn’t Lust after what other people have, but all in all, I believe by God’s grace things will turn out good for them.
If you remember back in the days, we had only one Radio station in Ilorin but now Radio stations we have in Ilorin are more than ten and the number keeps growing.
What are vision and aspiration for the future?
I wish I could have my own Radio station, because that is the aspiration of all Comperes and On air personalities, I pray that comes into reality very soon.