As popular as he is on the air-wave; as a dexterous broadcaster, media savvy and above all, the Ordinary President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, no one can accurately say where Alhaji, Dr. Ahmad Isah comes from. His birth place is Idanre in Ondo State, yes, but he is not an Ondo indigene.
Many people have said that he is Ebira by tribe from Kogi State, while others said that he is Ebira koto in Kotonkarfe local government of Kogi State, even as others said that he is Igala by tribe, in the same Kogi State.
Please, come around often and see things for yourself. What you see should inform what you write about me. I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet or sound like I’m bragging. God is only using me to do what I’m doing. I’m a nobody. I came from a very humble background. I came from a wretched family.
You are from a wretched home, how?
Yes. Because feeding even once in a day was a miracle. Where to sleep was near impossible. Sometimes, when it was in evening time, I will begin to cry. This was because I didn’t know where to sleep. Everybody avoided me.
How then did you overcome these challenges?
God saw me through. And that is why everything I do; I give the credit and the glory to God, for making me something out of nothing.
Despite your claims to be illiterate, it was rumoured that you are well educated, how will you react to this?
Yes, I am educated. I have two PhDs. The reason I said that (I am not educated) is to give hope to those that never had the opportunity to go to school for them not to lose hope in life. If I can say confidently in the public that I’m an illiterate, I never went to school; it means someone somewhere will say oh, there is hope for me.
But because we have been brainwashed over time, people have come to believe that it is only when you go to school that you become successful. I want to change that narrative. I want to change that school of thought.
Don’t you also think that could lead to unintended consequences; people can just say that they don’t have to go to school after all?
Well, you have a choice to decide, but my major concern is the people who never had the opportunity to go to school. You hear me talk about the books I have read or the books I’m reading; this means you can improve yourself. What I am telling my listeners is that it is never too late to learn in life.
Could that also be the philosophy behind ‘lazy man wake up’ and other similar charges you give on air?
A lot of people have been inspired. A lot of people come on air to confess that those words pushed them out of their self-set comfort zones. Originally, they thought they were comfortable. Some thought it has ended for them. But with that talk they got moved and today, it is a different story entirely. Some of the things you do on air are different and they are unusual.
What motivates you?
Well, creativity. I don’t believe there is only one way of doing things in life. Those who have been in broadcasting since and have been doing it the way they were taught in the past have not made any significant improvement. So, I decided to come up with mine.
I believe that even some of those things that those people were taught came up as a result of someone’s ingenuity and it came to bear; so what stops me. So, instead of going by conventionality, I decided to come up with something that concentrates more on human angle.
From being a presenter, you are today a Chief Executive Officer of a radio station. How did the idea of a human rights radio come about?
I have always been futuristic. I conceptualised the idea of owning a radio station about 17 years ago.
The first time I applied for a radio license, my senior colleagues at that time were laughing at me. They were making jest of me. Having known the kind of family I came from, they thought that even if I was given a licence, I don’t have the financial muscle to execute it.
So, how did you do it?
I kept buying the equipment little by little. Today, I have four radio licences. The one in Kaduna has already been allocated a Frequency, the land is there, the mast is up, the structure is about 90 per cent completed and the equipment are here (Human Rights Radio, Abuja).
By the end of this month (January), we are going to start installation. After that, I will move into Mowe in Ogun state for another radio station and then to Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
You seem to have a greater passion for radio, why?
With radio you can reach out to more people. Poor people can afford radio not everyone can afford television or newspaper. You don’t even need to own a radio for you to listen to radio. Once somebody who owns one switches it on, you can stop or stand by to listen and you will get the information you need. But newspaper is not like that, Television is not like that. That is the reason why I choose radio. I have come to revolutionise radio station.
What is the revolution that you have brought so far?
I’m the first person to run a 24-hour online stream on Facebook and YouTube.
Do you mean the first person in Nigeria or you mean in the world?
In the whole world; this is the first terrestrial Human Rights Radio in the whole world. There are other Human Rights radios, but they exist only online not terrestrial.
My app is the first Human Rights Radio app in the whole world. If you go app store for android, search for human rights radio, it is only mine that is there for now.
I know that as time goes on, other people will venture into it but for now, mine is the only one. I have been able to come up with things that have put Nigerian name in the map.
This station has the record of being the radio station with the longest test transmission that has ever been done. We did test transmission for over a year because we were denied approval to commence commercial broadcasting
What do you think could be responsible for that?
I don’t want to talk about it.
How do you source for funding?
You should know that I’m a creative artist. I’m a professional anchor person. I’m a Master of Ceremonies (MC) and I don’t anchor just anyhow event. The minimum fee that I charge to be an MC at an event is N1 million.
People say you live like a common Nigerian, do you agree?
I make my money but I don’t live an affluent life. This shoe I’m wearing (pointing to his pair of shoes when this interview was conducted), I bought it in Garki (Abuja) for only N7, 000 in Lagos Street. The material of my cloth is just N2, 000. I buy my wrist watches in the traffic.
So, when my mates were busy buying cars, socialising, doing other things, I was busy building my future. Because I don’t want my children to suffer what I have suffered or my wife to suffer what my mother suffered in the hands of poverty. So, I have always been futuristic about my life.
How did you create the Hembelembe chant and the other idiosyncrasies that go with it?
Creativity! I just created it. The language (English Language) that you and I are speaking today was created by some people. Someone started it somewhere way back in time. The Ebira, Hausa and French languages were all created.
So what makes you think you and I cannot create something that can be made reference to in the future? That is it. Hembelembe means, he who has nobody, has God and Olololo means, he who has God, has everything. In Brekete language, vanor means to talk, repete means, fine, omonyor is love-making.
Another thing is your personality. Your approach to issues is blunt.
I’m not a pretender. I don’t pretend about my feelings, I’m a realist. My programme is a reality radio and television magazine programme. Broadcasters that believe in conventionalities–these are broadcasters who if you don’t make them up, they will never appear before the camera.
I don’t wear makeup. I have never been made up. Even when I’m invited to TV stations as a guest – like on Channels TV, NTA and therest. When they come with their powders, I will tell them no! If you insist, I will tell you, I’m not doing the interview.
Let me take you back to your childhood and upbringing. Where did you grow up?
I was born In Ondo state – Idanre. My childhood was in former Bendel, Kaduna, Kogi – it was different places, yeah.
Is that why you speak many languages?
Well, maybe but the drive behind that is the push to be a unifying base and to unite people.
Of all the languages you speak, which one is your mother tongue?
I will wish to keep that to myself. I’m a detribalised Nigerian. I want Nigerians to just see me as a Nigerian–as a rallying point. By the time I mention my tribe, my tribal people will begin to personalise me like a property. He is our brother, he is our tribal person. I want every Nigerian, every human being, to see me as his or her brother. Maybe when I die, people will get to know where I come from.
Around 2014, when the man, AbdulRasheed Maina, dominated national discourse, no one knew where he was, let alone speak with him. But you reached him and interviewed him on your programme. How did you do it?
At that time, I believed he was innocent. I felt that someone who did something good for the country was being victimised. So, I started doing my background investigation until I discovered that he was somewhere and I got a functional number. I even thought he was in Nigeria. Until after I called him. That was when I discovered that he was in Dubai while we spoke. Eventually, it was last year – sometime around November or December that they started using the interview I did in 2014/15.
But I have a different belief about him now. At that time, I had believed that he was innocent. When I asked him to come back to Nigeria for him to expose and confirm those things he said over the phone, he never showed up. That was when I began to doubt his story. But he used that interview to whip sentiments and create sympathy.
What challenges do you usually face while doing such things?
Government is always on the other side. They see me as a threat. I don’t know the right words to use, but no government has ever given me any support.
What kind of support?
Any kind of support, but I work with some government agencies like the Nigeria Police, and all other government established agencies. I’m not an authority. I collaborate with them and even they don’t like me because I’m making them work. They see me as a nuisance.
What is the wisdom behind the title of Ordinary President that you bear?
It is for me to be constantly be reminded that I’m a no body.
You think you’re nobody?
Yes, I am. I’m a no body. God is only using me to do extraordinary things in ordinary people’s lives and that makes me an ordinary person.
Again, by having the title Ordinary, I’m kept focused. That way, it is for me not to ever get carried away by fame, acceptance and popularity which can intoxicate the human being. In all of my recent certifications, both local and international, I bear Ordinary Ahmad.
So, has it become part of your formal identity?
Yes. It is even on my International Passport.
Source: Blueprint Newspaper.