Next Saturday at the Household of God Villa, Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos friends of seasoned broadcaster, master compere, actor and entertainment personality, Patrick Doyle, will roll out the red carpet in celebration of his 50th birthday. It will be the second time in his life that he will be celebrating birthday. In this chat with RICHARD EGHAGHE, Pat, as he is fondly called, revealed that the occasion, rather than making merry, is largely designed to flag off massive media advocacy campaign on sickle cell anaemia, which had ravaged his home over the years, claiming the lives of a close sister-in-law, his first wife and teenage son. Excerpts…
Next Saturday, you will be celebrating your 50th birthday, how does it feel?
You know very well that it is not by power, it is not by might, but the grace of God in operation. So, I feel blessed and I feel privileged because my father died at the age of 44. That I will be 50 in a week’s time means I have done better than my father and I thank God for that.
What would you want to recall as your major achievements so far?
May be the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life is to make a conscious decision to become born again. Nothing is greater than having a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
Is that why you choose to make your 50th birthday a church carnival of sort?
I am sure you know that I do not go to night clubs. I am sure you also know that I do not drink and I do not smoke. The one place you are sure to see me, at least twice a week, is my club and that is the church. That is where my social life revolves around.
Naturally, the church will be the place where I will celebrate. What a lot of people do not know is that this is the second time I will be celebrating my birthday. The first time I celebrated my birthday was when I was 10 years old. So, it is our determination to harness all the goodwill that I have gathered all over the years now. It is our intention to bring people to a place, where their lives can be affected positively and where I can disseminate information to them about something that has affected my life profoundly.
And that is the issue of sickle cell anaemia, which claimed the lives of my first wife, 10 years after our marriage, and that of my teenage son, last year. So, we are using this opportunity of my 50th birthday to draw national attention to sickle cell anemia, which, to me, is a celebration with a purpose and we hope that some good will come out of it at the end of the day.
So are you thinking of starting a Patrick Doyle Foundation for sickle cell anaemia or something like an NGO?
I am very clear in the publications that have gone out. I would want to draw national attention to sickle cell anaemia. I have the skill of a communicator because I am a broadcaster and I intend to utilize that through advocacy for sickle cell anaemia. I don’t know about foundation or NGO. But I know that we are going to go through a robust advocacy media campaign and draw attention to the issue.
What else are we expecting as part of activities marking the day?
My first birthday was done by my mother and I had no hand in that. This is the one I am involved in. So, if between the ages of 11 and 49, I never had a birthday party, it must mean that I am not particularly keen on celebrating birthdays. Celebration, in the sense of bringing people together and making merriment and all that, is not what I am happy to celebrate.
It comes to a point in a man’s life when you resolve to be what you would be. Tragedy struck twice in my house and two people whom I loved dearly passed away on account of sickle cell anemia. I just think that this is a good opportunity to draw national attention to the issue of sickle cell anemia.
What should we be looking out for at the show?
Certainly, the show is going to be an all star show - a first class show being organized by my friends with Chief Tony Okoroji at the helm of affairs. There are others like Eddy Lawani, Gbenga Adeyinka the first, Ali Baba, and so many others. They assured me that we would have the best of comedians led by Ali Baba and Basket Mouth and host of others.
Tony Okoroji assured me that his friend, Maita Fanbulleh of Liberia, who is one of the best singers in Africa, will be coming to grace the show, along with top Nigerian artistes like Onyeka Onwenu and others.
Some of the popular younger generation of Nigerian artistes like Banky W, Obiwon and many others will be there also to pep up the show. It is going to be a beautiful evening, no doubt.
I have had the pleasure of organizing shows like this for other people. So I expect a scintillating event and for once, I will be the guest of honour at an event. I have never been a guest of honour at any event in my life.
How is the church getting ready for the hosting?
You know that if there is any person that ever described himself as the ‘21st Century pastor’, it is my pastor, Chris Okotie. I have known him since the 80s and I would like to believe that we have a friendship and not only friendship; he is also my spiritual mentor.
He is one of the most gifted men of God in this age. So, I am greatly honoured. He has never given the church out for an event like this. This is the first time and I am privileged that my 5oth birthday will be taking place in a place we all described as the ‘chief place of concourse’.
How was your growing up like?
I was born into a middle class family in Ayilara area of Surulere and brought up by a widow. I lost my father four months before I was born. So he had no part in my upbringing. My mother is a fantastic woman. She worked day and night to provide the good things of life for her children. I had a good upbringing, nice neighbourhood and I attended good private schools, before I was admitted into Saint Finbarr’s College.
Is it safe to say you are a Lagosian or a Deltan or a River state indigene?
Recently, I filled a form to open an account with a bank and one of the questions I was asked was: ‘What is your mother’s tongue?’ So, if I want to talk about my state of origin, it is Lagos, Surulere local government council. My aboriginal state is Delta state. I know that is debatable and why it is debatable is because my name is Patrick Rupherford Doyle.
It is difficult to convince anybody that this person is a Nigerian from Delta state. My grand-mother who was married to a gentleman called Patrick Joseph Doyle, an Irish man, is an Itsekiri woman from Delta state.
I claim that I am Deltan because of my grandmother, the lovely Princess Kaka Egbe. My father’s mother is Itsekiri. Her father is Irish so my grandfather is Irish. My mother is the late Angela Bassey, nee Henshaw. I can as well claim I am an Itsekiri man in Diaspora.
As a trained broadcaster, why are you so much involved in entertainment?
Amongst my brothers, there is another gentleman that goes by the name Patrick Doyle. He was the lead singer for the Soul Assembly Band, led by Segun Bucknor in the 60s. Another brother of mine was a bass guitar player for several bands. So I am from an entertainment family and I have entertainment antecedents that exposed me to the world of entertainment at a very young age.
All my brother’s friends and band members used to come to the house to rub minds on entertainment activities and my brother used to take me to rehearsals at my tender age.
How do you differentiate between the two Patrick Doyle in your family?
He goes by the name Patrick Rupherford Doyle and my name is Patrick Randerfell Doyle. The reason why I was named Patrick is simply because in the absence of my father, my mother decided to name me after him. That is how we came to be two Patrick in the family. We call ourselves "Big Pat" and "Small Pat" I am Small Pat, though I am about 10 inches taller than Big Pat. So, it is also debatable who is Big Pat and who is Small Pat. He exposed me to entertainment also.
How did you go into broadcasting?
I would like to give the credit to my mother. She has limited education but she speaks impeccable English. My mother was a voracious reader. She always subscribed to Readers’ Digest, National Geographical and Time Magazine. She taught me how to speak good English language. She is the one I will give credit for my ability to communicate. So, I will credit my mother for my spoken English because she tutored me.
By the time I got to high school, I realized that I was much more enlightened than most of my classmates, so much so that in form four, I became the chief speaker of the school’s debating society at St Finbarr’s College, Igbobi.
In those days, schools’ debates were televised so I got exposed to speaking before television cameras and large audiences at school. Because of that I got the natural instinct that I would become a broadcaster and that was how it turned out.
Did you also train to become master of ceremony?
When we were trained as broadcasters at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), one of the things we were taught was how to compere an event. In fact, the late Zeal Onyia was the one who took that class. So compering an event is part of a broadcaster.
It is not these days where people compere an event and their spoken English is a suspect. If you recall, the greatest comperes in Nigeria, like Ralph Okpara, Ikenna Ndaguba, John Chukwu, Yinka Criag, Bisi Olatilo, Soni Irabor and others, are all excellent broadcasters. That things have changed now, and that they are putting the cart before the horse, is not the norm. The norm is that, for you to be a good compere, you should be a fine broadcaster.
How was your training in broadcasting and why did you choose to go into acting as well?
I went into broadcasting at the age of 20. It was a day after my 20th birthday that I started working with the Voice of Nigeria (VON) and I was recommended to go to the FRCN Training School. If you started doing something very young, it is possible that at some point you would want to do other things. But the environment I found myself was a broadcast environment where they used to do radio-drama.
Then I moved over to television and there was a lot of drama on television in those days. So being in that environment in NTA, I saw people doing rehearsals for drama so I would say let me join you people out of sheer curiosity.
So they are all related. An actor communicates with words and action. I have learnt to communicate with words. Coming to acting, sometimes when you are acting, you have to convey sadness, convey excitement and it was easy for me because they are all inter-related
Tell us something about your love life and marriage. At what point in time did you get married?
Like every normal human being, I got to the point where I said to myself that this life journey cannot be taken alone, there has to be a partner. I met and married a beautiful woman. I was married to my first wife for only 10 years before she passed away. It was even at the point of marrying her; I knew she had what they call sickle cell anaemia or ‘SS’ genotype.
Notwithstanding that, this was a woman that I met and I was convinced that this is a woman to be my wife and we got married. We had three beautiful sons and the cold hands of death snatched her away barely 10 years of marriage.
Right now, I am married to a fantastic woman who has wiped my tears, who has re-ignited my will to live and to succeed and I think I am one of the happiest people in the world today.
Yes, I have had tragedy in my life. I have also had some wonderful experiences. I have some wonderful friends who have been with me all these years. My story appears to be sad but it has not been a solo journey because of my belief in people and the interesting goodness in people.
God has indeed blessed me with wonderful people like Pastor Kris Okotie. He has been there for me time and time again. My wife, Ireti, is like the rock of Gibraltar. I am not materially disposed to life. What is big for me is relationship. I have one of the most eclectic families in the world. My siblings, each one of them, is an enigma. And these are the people whom I love and who loved me and they are great. I can say I have the best family in the world.
Can you describe your most difficult moments in life?
My faith informs me that all things work together for good. That is, the things that are considered to be good, the things that are considered to be bad, the things that are considered to be sadness or joy. I know that in the course of time, God will redeemed the time, and God will turn these things that appeared to be setbacks into stepping stones to greater heights.
I don’t accept anything to be setback because I know that something good is going to come out of it. Otherwise, nothing is more devastating than losing a loved one. Absolutely nothing is. When I lost my wife, I thought that was the end of the world. I was really sad. Thank God for the support structure of family and friends.
Mr. Segun Arewa, who is now married to Honourable Abike Dabiri, he is my cousin, during that time, he stayed with me for over a month. Then my cousin, Gorge Sanusi, Chief Okoroji, Chris Okotie; these are people who saw me through that time.
I will also not forget my wife now who also stood by me all that time. I thought nothing could be worse until last year when my son died. That was like Armageddon. I cried every day. But I know that God will return it for good because that is what he said.
I think that the good that is going to come out of this is what we are going to do in the advocacy for sickle cell anaemia and that I have resolved to do to the best of my ability.
What have you to say about the way broadcasting is practiced today?
I am sad, very sad because the standard has dropped considerably. In those days we had to read: we had to read Readers Digest, National Geographical, Time Magazine, including Newsweek and others. Nowadays, most broadcast stations are hooked to the internet and can get information.
But why do they choose to limit themselves to gossips, I don’t understand. You remember Jones Usen. He gives you some fantastic and authoritative information about different things. Now, all I hear about is the colour of Michael Jackson’s pant. That is what they use the internet to do and apart from that, their language is outrageous. A lot of them don’t know how to speak the English Language
How do you look forward to the years ahead?
I think my work is clearly cut out for me. I have children; some of them are in their teenage now. I have to train them and make them responsible gentlemen. That is a responsibility I have to face. The advocacy for sickle cell anaemia is another responsibility to me to use the skill and the goodwill that I have to bring attention to that. I intend to dedicate the rest of my life to doing that. I think I also have the responsibility to contribute to supporting strong leadership in Nigeria.
I know that the problem that we have in Nigeria is the issue of leadership and how we have constantly entrusted the destiny of Nigeria to the hands of unprepared leaders. It is a shame because right now, there are few people who have indicated their interest in leading Nigeria who are credible, strong and progressive. I intend to seek them out and support them and let them know that I am available to support their quest to serve because, up till now, we have had rulers and not leaders.
I thought the last rulership in Nigeria is Queen Elizabeth. Now they actually use the phrase: "I want to rule Nigeria." You rule conquered people but you serve free people and you lead free people. So Nigeria has never had a leader. We have leaders around us and I can name a few of them - Kris Okotie is a leader. Pat Utomi is a leader, Raji Fashola is a leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is a leader, Donald Duke is a leader, Comrade Adams Oshiomole is a leader.
These are people that I want to work with in the future to see that Nigeria is led by people who want to serve the people.
Don’t you consider yourself as a leader as well?
At this age, I should know who I am. I know my worth. It is not given to me to lead. My role is supportive. I would work better in a supportive capacity. Chief Tony Okoroji is a leader and I have been supporting him for how many years now? I also know that I am not a yes man and I can never be a yes man.
If I am 50 and I am not a yes man, I can never be a yes man in the future. So I intend to support strong leaders and make myself available. If you want somebody who is not going to be a sycophant to support you, you can call on me.
What do you do at the moment?
I am engaged in the business of taking care of my family. I am engaged in commerce -buying and selling. Six months ago, I stopped consulting for Silverbird. So, I am into buying and selling business right now.