Born on December 20, 1953, Prince Adebisi Joseph Olatilo, fondly referred to as Nigeria’s numero uno multi-lingual broadcaster on account of his mastery of the three major Nigerian languages, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, began his early life in Kano. Prince Bisi Olatilo enchants an audience of 75 million global viewers through TV channels like Ben TV, AIT and NTA. Cerebral, comical and classy, Olatilo has no other ambition than broadcasting.
The polyglot par excellence was enrolled at Kiriji Memorial College, Igbajo where he was a key member of his school’s Literary and Debating Society. This was where he sharpened his oratorical skills and was in awe of broadcasters like Ikenna Ndaguba and Ishola Folorunso.
From Kiriji College he joined Base Ordinance Depot, Nigerian Army, Eleyele, Ibadan as Clerical Officer and was also goal keeper of the Ordinance Football Team. He then moved to the University of Ibadan where he worked also as Clerical Officer at the Library Services Department. He was also a Banker at Cooperative Bank, Ibadan and Member of the football team called the COOP Giants.He was a proud member of the team that won the NUNMBE Cup, the premier competition among all banks at the National Stadium, Surulere in 1974.
His professional broadcasting career, kicked off at the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), he read news and presented a variety of programmes. The programme that shot him into prominence was the WAZOBIA show. From BCOS he moved to Voice of Nigeria (VON) in 1979 and later Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRSCN).
At FRCN, his mastery of the three main Nigerian languages and his dedication to duty did not go unnoticed as he was made the pioneer Head of Radio Nigeria 3, a new station tailored for the mass market that became hugely popular among people of diverse backgrounds. He won many awards as a result of his brilliance.
He left FRCN in 1999 to set up BISCON Communications, a PR/Image Enhancing Consultancy outfit.It was his friend, Eddy Emessiri from Bayelsa State who advised him to capitalize on his fame and contacts to set up the Bisi Olatilo Show.
BOS has since become a leading brand both locally and internationally and it is renowned for its coverage of major events and deep analytical presentation. BOS has metamorphosed into a full 24 hour news and lifestyle channel. Prince Olatilo is married to his sweetheart, Folasade and they are blessed with five lovely children and a number of grand children.
Prince Adebisi Joseph Olatilo Biography and Profile
I grew up in Kano, in Sabon Gari specifically, a place thickly populated by the Igbo. I was born in Kano in 1953. The street where I grew up was called Gold Coast Road; it is called Maitama Road now. Although it’s supposed to be in the North, it could as well have passed for an Eastern settlement because of the composition of those who lived there. So, the first language I spoke was Igbo. I was able to speak Hausa as a second language because I helped my mum in selling things seasonally – ceramic wares. Most of my friends were Igbo.
Yoruba language is my mother tongue. Incidentally, I learnt to speak the language when I was forced to go to a secondary school in my father’s town, Igbajo, somewhere in Osun State. Thank God my father insisted that I should go to school in my town because that also helped me to get a little closer to my people and understand the nitty gritty of the language itself. Today, I speak impeccable Yoruba. Before I left Kano, I couldn’t speak anything but Igbo and Hausa.
My grandfather was once a traditional ruler. The traditional ruler that reigned before the current one in my town was my uncle. He was of the same mother with my father. So, if I really want to go back, I’m sure that at one point in time, it will also get to us because it’s a rotational thing. But I don’t have that in mind. A lot of my friends and family members call me Obalola (the king that would reign tomorrow) but I will never aspire to become a king, the same way I will never touch politics.
Certainly, all the way, I had no other life ambition even from my secondary school days. Those days, we used to have one small television. I would always listen to the news at 7am, 4pm and 10pm and the words I heard would keep resonating. The voice of Ikenna Ndaguba was always reading the network news then. For football, it was Ishola Folorunso. They were the ones that were reigning then. By the time I was in school, I got fascinated and I started doing things like that.
During the school assembly, my principal then, Mr. Olagunju, allowed me and gave me the latitude to gather news around our environment, prepare it and read to the assembly of not less than 1,000 people and they would all listen to me. We also had football matches and I did mock football commentaries at that young age. And so the breakthrough came. After my school, I approached the Broadcasting Corporation Voice, that’s the radio station where I started before I came over to Lagos and the coast became a lot wider.
Bisi Olatilo Show
Bisi Olatilo Show was a child of circumstance. It started between 1999 and 2000. When I was in Radio Nigeria, I was doing some programmes forDBN which was called Straight Talk. It was a magazine show incorporating news, sports, interviews and so on. So, when I disengaged from Radio Nigeria, I asked myself what I would do. I left when I least expected it. I was like a fish out of water. I was very much in demand as a master of ceremonies, especially for high profile events.
A friend of mine suggested I go with a cameraman to events and have a five minutes slot on TV as a social diary. And that was how the concept was conceived and we started it on AIT and NTA. They permitted us to do it without paying a kobo; just to see how it would work but at a point, I started getting memos; they needed money to pay for their own services and their platforms. So, it made sense for them to demand money from us. That was how we started commercialising it.
The question I have been asking myself all the time is when are we going to start our own television station? People have asked this same question on many platforms and they say that our programme is bigger than some television stations. If they give us the go ahead today, we have our mast at the back there and we have the manpower to start. I just hope that very soon, we will get the licence. The excitement is always there. I hope it comes.
The highest point that I had was when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and he came to Nigeria with his estranged wife, Winnie Mandela. Ndaguba and I were Masters of Ceremony at that very big event. It was the most well attended that I know of till date. It happened at the National Stadium. If you threw a pin, it would fall on somebody’s head, it was that populated. The stadium had never witnessed such a crowd. That was the height of my career. And incidentally, that was when I was beginning, you can imagine that. I began at that high octave, that’s about early 1990s.
Family: Bisi Olatilo and His Wife Folashade Tawakalitu Olatilo
It was in my mid-20s and we met by chance through a friend who had a friend who was a friend to my wife. I used to work with BCOS as an announcer and I had a request programme. It was done in three languages, I co-presented with a lady called Gloria Ikubo. I don’t know where she is now. We didn’t know that we had fans scattered all over the world especially in Ibadan. So, when we met I didn’t have to say too much or blow too much grammar, she had known me as a radio presenter and you know radio, unlike TV hide your identity. Anyway, she got to know me, it was like a love at first sight. We took it off from there and the rest is now history. But we had a major stumbling block, both of us belong to different religions.
I am a Christian, she comes from a Muslim background, a deep one and because her sister, who was living with them, the first child of her mother who also comes from a Muslim background got married to a Christian and that problem was still on at the time we came on. You can imagine how it sounds to them, we are trying to see how we can manage this one, now you are bringing another one. That led to a lot of problems. We had to arrange and get away from the public eye. I had to elope with her, abscond with her so to speak to give time for the healing process. By the time we came back, two years later, we were able to convince her people and by December 19, 1981, at Mapo Hall, Ibadan, Oyo State, we got married.
We don’t agree most of the time, but that woman is a pillar that holds the home together. If my children are going to score us in terms of person that cares for them more, they will give me 10 per cent and give her the remaining 90 per cent that I can say for sure. Anything that concerns the family, she is very passionate about it, she will go the extra mile to do it. Some people tell me I don’t know how you do it. I think the greatest strength she has is being able to put the family together. She is passionate about the well being of the family. I remember the first house we built in Alagbado, because of my talent I was regularly invited to come and do voice over on radio. I will also translate languages so I was making some money by the side, she just said to me that money is like a visitor, if you don’t use it well, it goes to another person. Then, what we used to do was to have fun, spend money at parties and she said to me that’s not how to do it and before I knew it, a friend introduced us to a land in Alagbado in 1991, for N18,000 and we bought it. We completed the house within three years. That’s my first house not minding whether it was in a suburb of Lagos. She just advised we build it and have it as our own and today, I thank God for that.
The challenges are there, they will always be there but they are not insurmountable as we have proved. Quite daunting but if you are steadfast, if you are married to somebody who shares your ideals and ideas, it makes it a lot easier. The greatest challenge we had was when we were growing up in marriage. I am talking about the early 80s, that’s when we started procreation as a family because both of us were orphans we didn’t have parents. So, we were at the mercy of all kinds of people, baby care, that parental love must be there for your children. My wife was working then at the Ministry of Education, I was a broadcaster, an announcer at Radio Nigeria. We were able to juggle it. Could you believe, at a point we rotated washing of napkins, that was how committed we were and that was the kind of challenge we had. But we thank God. Looking back now, it was like yesterday, they have all grown up now. One of them is married, others have their own businesses now.
Without being boastful, I think it will be the longest standing celebrity marriage. That’s no mean feat at all. You and I know how much hiccups are in marriage. People get out of marriage as quickly as they go into it. Before we finally start to cement our relationship, it was one hell of a struggle. I think it’s basically the grace of God.
The major lesson I think everybody whether man or woman and those who are contemplating marriage will do well to keep very close to their heart is that as a man, don’t strive to show that you are the leader of the house because if you being to contest who is more stubborn then the marriage is already dying. I say to everybody that I am the fool of the family but I thank God because I am getting the gains of being the fool.