By Joe Iniodu
Whoever said we should not judge a book by the cover was on point. That maxim applies in every strict sense to “Rockyfella” Essiet Nsudoh, a broadcaster with Akwa Ibom State Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC), who anchors a pulsating programme called AFTERNOON RIDE, from 2pm every Tuesday. Nsudoh is vertically challenged, lacking the grace of being easily identified as a tall man. But what he has lost by way of height has been fully compensated with daring, creativity, adventurous spirit, the tenacity of purpose and a prodigious intellect that outsizes his size.
I did not live in Akwa Ibom to witness his incipient days. My first broach with him was at Ibom Hall, during a wedding that he was a compere. When he was announced with the name Rockyfella and he sauntered to the platform in a pair of trousers held up with suspenders, I wrote him off as a comedian who fitted the comical image of his enterprise. With that mindset, I did not expect much from him. My position was also buoyed by the fact that public communication in lingua franca is increasingly becoming problematic in our clime. This is largely because students/ people take the English Language for granted and hardly would give attention to the diligent study of it even for the purpose of examination in school. The thinking is always that English is an everyday thing which one can always manoeuvre. The result is that the students sometimes manage to pass the English Language in the examination as a requirement but turn out poorly in the daily application of English as a medium of communication. But Nsudoh stunned me at that event with a difference. He mustered a strong stage presence, showed confidence, demonstrated a good command of English Language, employed the right diction, put his imagination into effective use and successfully enthralled the audience. As one who has also moderated several events, I was elated and impressed. Rockefeller had given a good account of himself and risen above my poorly preconceived views.
Many years later, a chance meeting with him in someone’s house in Uyo provided a platform for acquaintanceship. We were formally introduced by the host who adorned both of us ornamentally with lavish embellishments of what we variously do and how successful we are in them. It was a kind of introduction that could put one’s head in a swirl. We both smiled shyly at the rounds of encomiums as if we planned it and proceeded to exchange numbers. He later told me of his radio programmes and requested me to indulge him a listening. I made a casual promise to do so. Two days later, he gave me a call with the intent to prompt me to listen to the programme that day. Unfortunately, I had left town and since I was not aware that the programme was broadcast on the internet, I could not avail a listen or a watch.
But one Tuesday afternoon, I was just fiddling with the knob of my radio for a programme to listen to, when I stumbled on an ongoing one called AFTERNOON RIDE. The voice sounded slightly familiar and the diction had clarity and elevation. Then came the introduction, “This is “Rockyfella” Essiet Nsudoh on AFTERNOON RIDE with Radio Akwa Ibom, the radio’s radio”. The introduction was quickly followed with the voices of iconic artistes of global acclaim that the anchor had interviewed and who in promotional messages were endorsing the programme with their own voices. Voices like those of Jeffrey Daniels of SHALAMAR, Larry London of VOICE OF AMERICA, Ron Kennoly resonated with the mentioning of an array of names of international artistes and literary giants whom they said shared something in common with them as guests on AFTERNOON RIDE show by Essiet “Rockyfella” Nsudoh. In one of the jingles, Jeffrey Daniels described Nsudoh as the man “who talks to who is who around the world” How Essiet Nsudoh pulls this extraordinary feat remains a guarded trade secret he may never wish to share or disclose. How he also convinced such celebrities to promote his radio show speaks volumes of him as a go-getter, adroit in negotiation with extraordinary skills in persuasion. But most importantly, the endorsements acquit the programme as meeting the international benchmark, meaning that such celebrities would not have lent their credibility and integrity to it if the programme was not good enough.
“Rockefeller” Essiet Nsudoh may not be too different from the erstwhile legendary Larry King Live programme of CNN which Larry was reputed to have interviewed more celebrities and personalities in his broadcast career than any other broadcaster. Nsudoh, in a relatively unknown precinct of Africa, appears set to give that record a jolt. He has interviewed people across the spectrum; from celebrated entertainers to athletes to academics, all on Akwa Ibom Radio, 90.5. Some of them include Cece Winans, a 12 time Grammy Award winner, Usain Bolt, the renowned world sprinter, Eddy Grant, King Sunny Ade, late Hugh Masekela, the distinguished Professor Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, writer of many books including PETALS OF BLOOD, Yvonne Chaka Chaka of South Africa, Ron Kennelly and Professor Vivien Goldman who was Bob Marley’s first publicist. Others on record that Nsudoh has interviewed are Morgan Heritage, 2 Baba, Cobhams Asuquo, Yemi Alade, Omotola Jalade, Omawumi, Ziggy Marley, Marcia Barret of BONEY M band, notable DJ, JAJ, Jeffrey Daniels of SHALAMAR, Bob Fitts and our own Pete Edochie. Others who have also made the long list of his interviewees are Small Fire, the 2017 Best Female Comedienne in USA, Olu Jacobs, Jackie Gouache, D. Smoke, Sonny Irabor, Max Romeo, Ebenezer Obey, Professor Pat Utomi, Von Spar, Eric Donaldson, T-Mac and Jimmy Cliff. The list which is endless gives me a reason to aver that Larry King’s record faces an imminent threat from Africa.
But who is Essiet “Rockyfella” Nsudoh and what are the motivating impulses that have set him on this flight to stardom? The diminutive achiever who hails from Eket describes himself as a natural for what he does. He said that from his conscious years, he had always aimed at being an On-Air Personality (OAP) and the opportunity beckoned for him in 1990 at the age of 21. And since then, he has not looked back. He has invested passion, zeal, determination and hard work, and the result is, according to him, the modest achievement he has recorded. “Rockefeller” Esiet Nsudoh named those who have influenced his career in broadcasting to include Brighton Sorgwe of Port Harcourt FM of yore, Victor Burubo, Eddy Ekpenyong, Rieume Efeti, Mac Coles and Ray Mac Donaldson.
Nsudoh recently shared an intriguing story of a distant memory with yours truly. He said, one day as a little boy, he listened to the song “The Harder They Come” by Jimmy Cliff. He was so enthused by the lyrics and rhythm of the song that he began to wish for himself when he would have the song to himself to play at will. For “Rockyfella” Nsudoh, that wish has been realized in double or multiple folds. About one month ago, he did not only play the song, “They Harder They Come”, but he also interviewed Jimmy Cliff, the spirit and sensation behind the song, on Akwa Ibom Radio, 90.5. Nsudoh describes the day of that interview as the most fulfilling experience for him yet in his broadcast career.
“Rockefeller” Essiet Nsudoh, who is currently studying History and International Studies, is a dreamer who works hard to translate his dreams. A globetrotter, Nsudoh is always breaking new frontiers to build his programme into a unique brand and scale it in scope and content. AFTERNOON RIDE has exposed Akwa Ibom to an international audience through the cream of persons he has interviewed. There is the need to deliberately publicise the site to access AKBC programmes live on the internet as a further way of marketing the radio station. For the benefit of the readers of this piece, it is: www.akbconline.com. Most importantly, the anchor of the programme, AFTERNOON RIDE should be encouraged through support by government and public-spirited people so as to continue to provide inspiration for those with a similar drive for daring and creativity.
Joe Iniodu is a public affairs commentator.