Friday, November 1, 2019 5:18 pm
On Saturday 31 October 1959, 60 years ago, the first television station in tropical Africa, named ‘Western Nigeria Television’, (WNTV), was commissioned by the administration of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, then-Premier of Western Region. That time, the regional Information Minster was the late Chief Anthony Enahoro.
The occasion was attended by Awolowo; Sir James Robertson, Governor General of Nigeria; Enahoro and many other dignitaries.
It was Enahoro who first spoke:
“Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. On behalf of the government of Western region, I welcome you to the opening ceremony of the Western Nigerian Television. Today is a great day in the history of this region and in the history of broadcasting in Nigeria.
I like to thank you all for joining us on this official opening ceremony. May I call the Governor General, Sir James Robertson, to make his opening remarks.”
Sir James Robertson
“Your Excellencies, Hon. Premier, Hon Ministers, Chairman and members of the Board of this television corporation, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure to me to be here at the inaugural ceremony of Western Nigeria Television Service. I very much appreciate the invitation that the board and directors of Western Nigeria Radio Vision Corporation sent to me. I wish to congratulate the Western Region’s government and Overseas Rediffusion Corporation on their enterprise and determination which they have shown in preparing for this ceremony and the opening of the television station in such record time.”
Obafemi Awolowo, Premier, Western Region
“ Your Excellences, Your Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Few events in my life have given me so much pleasure as the opening of the the first television station on Africa. Western Nigeria Television is being emulated by other parts of this nation and many countries in Africa.
I know you will gain more from this great medium of mass information and education. It is a powerful influence for good. And I am confident that in due course, it will Assist our great country, even greater. Very soon, we and our partners will introduce commercial radio to Nigeria.
We have made careful plans that this great medium will be used for your benefit.
With these few remarks, I have great pleasure in formerly launching Western Nigerian Television, First in Africa.
I ask you to rejoice with my colleagues and me on this occasion and to grasp with both hands the full advantages which this modern miracle offers.”
Watch the Youtube video of the ceremony (source of the speeches) here: https://youtu.be/3m_Q60YfVJ8?t=313
Awo appointed Olapade Obisesan, a lawyer trained in the in the United Kingdom and son of Akinpelu Obisesan (1889–1963), a former mercantile clerk and produce buyer, as the first chairman. The chairman’s father was among the first set of averagely educated people at the time, educated in various schools managed by the Church Missionary Society. What stood him out was that he kept records. In other words, the colonialists, missionaries and the Western Regional elite saw him as someone that could be relied upon for information. Awolowo and his team knew that such a project that would store tapes of events that will become ready reference materials for researchers. So, they put a diarist in charge.
“Akinpelu’s records from 1920 to 1960 became an important source for elite activities during the colonial era and is used by a few scholars on predefined topics varying from cultural, political and social history of Ibadan and western Nigeria,” one of his biographers was quoted by Wikipedia.
He went further: “Included in his diaries were stories about Salami Agbaje, one of the wealthiest Ibadan citizens of his time, and socio-political matters of the era. Agbaje was the first individual to own a two-story house built from cement and the first to own a car in Ibadan.
So, the first chairman came from a family of record keepers! So as chairman, he combined this background with his legal knowledge. Thus, archival materials were safe and artistes were protected against intellectual property cheating.
Awolowo’s grandson-in-law, Vice President Osinbajo was in Ibadan on 31 October 2019 to mark the 60th birthday of TV in NIgeria. At the occasion, he said: “It demonstrated the capacity of the Nigerian mind to conceive and achieve anything no matter how complex or difficult. Secondly, it demonstrates how visionary leadership can inspire and lead people from the lowest levels to the high points of human imagination. Every generation has a historic responsibility to reach for the highest peaks that human capacity can achieve. Today we are at the most advanced moment in science, technology and innovation in human history”
Below is his full speech at the occasion:
With vision, hard work and commitment to public good, our country can achieve possibilities
By Yemi Osinbajo
It is a special honour to be here today, to celebrate the pioneers of the first television in Africa. Exactly 60 years ago today, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Premier of the Western Region, then flanked by Governor General, Sir John Rankine, Chief Anthony Enahoro, the region’s Minister of Information, and Chief T.T Solaru, first Board Chair of Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, formally entered the history books by commissioning the Western Nigeria Television, the first in Africa; and ahead of China in 1962, Canada in 1967, New Zealand in 1960, and several European countries, including the Netherlands in 1960, Ireland in 1961, Greece in 1966 and Malta in 1962.
It was not just first in Africa, but first in many parts of Asia and, as you can imagine, even in Europe without even talking about Eastern Europe.
The event was historic for three reasons. Firstly, it demonstrated the capacity of the Nigerian mind to conceive and achieve anything no matter how complex or difficult. Secondly, it demonstrates how visionary leadership can inspire and lead people from the lowest levels to the high points of human imagination.
Thirdly, it exemplifies the use of public resources for the public good. WNTV was built to inform, to educate and entertain. As Papa Awolowo himself said on that day sixty years ago, television is a powerful influence for good.
It would ordinarily have been unimaginable that somehow in a part of the yet to be independent Nigeria, a man and his team would build a television station in three months, the first as we have seen, in many parts of the world. But for the man, it was not so surprising because Papa (Awolowo) had laid out a plan for the rapid development of the Western Region. It included physical infrastructure and human capacity development.
The plan included free and compulsory education. As of the date of the inauguration of WNTV, almost a million children were in school in the Western Region. Forty-one per cent (41%) of the Western Region’s budget was spent on education, the highest proportion anywhere in the free world, the highest proportion at that time anywhere in the world.
In the free world in particular, it was obvious that those who understood the value of education used it as a powerful proponent for the advancement of their people. Papa Awolowo clearly understood that so long ago.
Today, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of WNTV, we also celebrate what is possible in our nation and states, what vision, hardwork and a commitment to the public good can do.
As Ambassador Yemi Faronmbi said, the celebration of the phenomenal achievement in 1959 would be wasted unless we recognize that the achievement represents sturdy shoulders for us to stand on. Today we can do more and the vision of Awolowo was to build a people capable of excelling beyond even his own achievements.
Every generation has a historic responsibility to reach for the highest peaks that human capacity can achieve. Today we are at the most advanced moment in science, technology and innovation in human history.
The smartphones you have in your hands have more computing power than all the computing power that the Apollo spaceship that took men to the moon in 1969 had. All things are possible and we are able! Let us be inspired by Papa’s words, that our only limit is our imagination.
Congratulations to the Foundation for Ibadan Television and to all of us friends, families and admirers of the pioneers.
Thank you very much and God bless you!
– Remarks By His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria, at the 60th Anniversary Of Western Nigeria Television, Ibadan, on The 31 October, 2019.