ALISTAIR Soyode, Chief Executive of BEN TV came to England when he was only 21 to become a world renown footballer. But no sooner than he got there that his dream went to pieces. He tells the story of how he branched into so many areas to make ends meet before finally starting the ist black oriented TV station in UK and Europe which has been changing the erroneous impression many people nave of blacks in that part of theworld.
BEN TV-Bright Entertainment Network Te/evisfon-situated at an imposing highrise on 25, Ashley RoadT Tottenham, London, made history 10 years ago as the first ethnic- oriented media television station to operate in the United Kingdom, ((UK) and Europe. BEN disseminates positive information on Nigerians and Africans in Diaspora to the world, tnus demystifying the notion that the tjlack race often shamelessly engages in nefarious activities and is hardly noted for positive endeavours. Alistair Soyode, Chief Executive Officer of BEN TV and former member of the Afr ican Business Roundtable, (headed by Dr. Bamanga Tukur), says he took the bold step to establish the television station when all seemed lost, with a view to positively projecting Africa’s image and “telling her stories from the right perspectives.”
Alistair was undaunted by the myriad of challenges he had to contend with, in the vastly competitive media world in the UK , where his idea was viewed as novel.
“The motivation to establish BEN TV came with the bastardization of the Nigerians’ image in the UKT I was not happy with this development, and while on holiday in Nigeria, the negative publicity was rife and I told myself that I would develop a programme for television stations, to educate the world about Nigerians living a positive life in England, he said.
Alistair says his quest to produce this innovative programme, opened a door of opportunity for him to secure a television licence in the UK-a feat deemed as unachievable by a black man-and he frabbed it with both ands.
“The fond to set up a bona fide TV station in England is enormous and this factor made it virtually impossible for black people to venture into it. I decided to give it a try and my passion to represent Nigeria positively spurred me on,” he pointed out.
Alistair, who grew up in Katsina State, Nigeria, came to England at the age of 21 with ” a very big plan” to pursue a career in Footballing. His plan however went awry as the extremely cold weather did not agree with him, and he had to jettison his dream job, only to resort to managing renowned footballers, in a bid to make ends meet.
He had a stint with Benny Iroha, a notable Nigerian footballer, before venturing into telecommunications industry, and subsequently becoming a media entrepreneur of international repute.
After securing the licence for BEN TV in 1999, Alistair had the herculean task of fond generation to grapple with, and this hindered his progress as the television station could not commence operation until 2002.
“I had to start the TV station with non-Africans as directors because of funding, and this posed a threat to the vision of the organisation. However, as time went on, we phased out these peopfe and replaced them with Africans who share our vision. This development has given us the room to promote Nigeria as a united country peculiar in its diversity,” he said.
Alistair however berated the act of sharp practices by unscrupulous elements in government, just as he advised that the Nigerian media should play a vital role in the ‘on-going transformation process, by educating the masses on the giant strides of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration”.
He noted that the people need to speak out when public office holders are exhibiting acts of corruption, without caring whose oz isgored.
The Freedom of Information, (FOiB), Act must be explored to the fullest. The media and masses should not desist from asking questions and holding public office holders accountable for their actions. When our voices ring out loud in their ears, they will do the right thing, ” he explained.He pointed out that the blatant display of ill-gotten wealth by a few Nigerians, in the midst of obvious poverty and wretchedness experienced by a vast majority, paves way for embarrassing criticism by the fo reign media.”Sometimes, the Western media feels justified with what they disseminate to the world.
Nobody can understand how Nigerians can have 145 registered private jets, when millions are suffering in abject poverty. We make billions of dollars from oil annually, yet Nigeria ranks among the poorest countries in the world. How can you correlate that?”I would like Jonathan to take decisive actions on vital issues in the country and change the fortunes of the common man for good by bringing sanity to the system. Anybody looting public funds should be swiftly prosecuted without the usual bottleneck associated with judicial process in the country,” he said.
He gosited that the National Orientation Agency, which advocates that Nigerians should always do the right thing, should take it a step further by recognising those with sterling qualities, for younger generations to emulate; while submitting that the cost of governance in the country is too enormous. ‘I honestly believe that there are too many redundant people feeding fat on government funds in public offices in Nigeria and I agree with people like Governors Akpabio and Obi of Akwa Ibom and Anambra states respectively, who are condemning this.
We urgently need to address this anomaly to preserve Nigeria’s entity as a nation, ” he said.Alistair says BEN TV would continue to maintain the status quo of being a representative of the black race, and further improve itself as a platform for greater change in Nigena.”I am proud of my country and I would like President Jonathan to put things in Elace to change things for etter, ” he said.He advised the federal government to prioritise security, education, health and youth empowerment, to fast track massive development. “Some people say they want Nigeria to be better for their children, but I want it to be better for me and my generation now.
This is the time to effect that change and I am ready to contribute my quota for positive result,” he stressed.According to him, his Non-Governmental Organisation, ((NGO), Nigeria Arise, is into mentoring of thousands of Nigerians annually, and it has plans to reward ordinary Nigerians doing extra-ordinary things in the near foture.He called on the National Assembly to make history by enacting a law that would enable Nigerians in Diaspora to vote in the 201^ general elections. “President Jonathan and Professor Atahiru Jega have said that it is feasible to conduct elections for Nigerians in Diaspora.
The National Assembly should enact the law that can facilitate this. Some countries in Africa are doing it and I just can’t fathom why Nigeria, as the giant of Africa, cannot do same. I would like to appeal to the National Assembly to give us this privilege in the next elections, “he said.Alistair disclosed that BEN TV is compiling a list of 100 influential Nigerians and tourist destinations, to celebrate Nigeria’s centenary age, (after the amalgamation of 1914), in 2014. We already have plans to celebrate Nigeria in a fashion that would go down in the anal of history as memorable, and we hope it would be a very peaceful celebration for the country, ” he added.