“I have influence on the younger ones, I intend to use it well” —Max FM popular presenter, EllaTheFourth

Emmanuella Isioma Odiatu better known as Ella The Fourth, hosts of one of the most listened to radio shows in Nigeria, an evening belt show on Max 102.3, tagged Max Drive.

The brains and beauty, a graduate of University of Benin who hails from Delta state, spoke with Wole Adepoju. Interviewer’s delight and humorous Ella, discussed a number of issues that include her career, motivation and future projection. The radio rave also opened up her style, her kind of man and why she’s not actively in search of a husband

For how long have you been on radio?

I have been on radio since 2016. I am one of the New School people. Straight from school, I started doing internship at Hot Fm, Asaba. After leaving University of Benin, I went to Hot Fm, Asaba, to become an intern there and that was how my journey in radio started. But when I was younger, I had always wanted to be in the media space, I had always wanted to be a newscaster. But newscaster is not the way to go right now, but yeah I’m in the media space and I am grateful for that.

Some of the young ones who love to be news casters are attracted by the glamour, is that your story also?

It wasn’t the glamour that got me attracted. Growing up, I really hated Mathematics, what I love the most was English. I can’t explain how I find it easy to write, to speak. I just find it easy to do things in that creative direction, so I was naturally drawn towards that path of watching people on TV. Like I said, I wanted to be a news caster, so it’s not the glam. There is this lady on NTA I used to love, Joy Osuagwu. She is a newscaster. I always loved the way she looked, the carriage, the charisma. Sometimes, I just picked a newspaper and start to read, pretending I am reading news. So, it wasn’t the glam. I didn’t even know there was glam attached to it. I just knew I want to be this person.   

What course did you study?

I studied English. I was supposed to study Mass Communication in the University of Benin but the story behind why I didn’t study Mass Com is quite interesting. My senior in Secondary School, like a year or two ahead of me, her Mum and my Mum were friends. So when she got into University of Benin to study Mass Com, the campus is at a different place from where the main campus is, that is Ekenwa, while the main campus is at Ugbowo. But she came back telling this scary story of witchcraft, how she lost weight and all the things she had seen and she basically ran back to Lagos. So, with that experience, I was like I am not going to Ekenwa for anything (Laughs) and I decided I would just do English language that is on main campus and that was how I studied English and Literature in University of Benin.

Parents used to be bothered about what one can actually do with English. Did your parents not feel a mere story of witchcraft should not be enough to stop you from doing Mass Communication?

Like I said, my love for speaking, reading, writing along English and Literature was known by the whole family, and when eventually it was time to get into the University, they were not surprised when I said I wanted to study Mass Com but my Mum and Dad agreed with me that, as long as she said she is not going to Ekenwa because I don’t want to catch witchcraft. They don’t want me to catch witchcraft either, so the next on the line is English Language, then, do English Language, no problem. When she comes out, we will figure it out. But my elder sister used to tell me that, with all your brain, it’s English Language you want to do. What happened to Medicine? Nursing?  and I would go like, leave it, when I finish school, we will figure it out and we are here now.

What does it entail to be a New School on radio?

New School on radio basically, it is the 21st century so things are different from old times. Now, we have a lot of more music stations, we have urban stations, unlike the old times, where we had lots of talk. Well, everything has its pros and cons. At the old times when older generation did radio and still doing radio, it was a little bit difficult. I would doff my Hart for them because they had to do proper hard research, there was nothing like internet or anything you will just tap and you will have information at your finger tips. It was a little bit more tedious. They were the ones that really understand what research is. We still do researches in this time but let’s understand that blogs have come out and have done a lot of harm. I am not going to lie, most of New School presenters rely on blogs for gist and that’s not safe. New School on radio, we do more of music and entertainment. That is the hub right now, entertainment. Unlike the older generation that do more of talk, politics and the rest. So, that’s basically the difference.

Radio has become an all-comers affair because of the entertainment, and some people feel it is taking toll on the professionalism. What do you think?

Because you just realized or somebody said your voice is really nice, you should be on radio. You should not.  First of all, you should go for media training, basic journalism training if you know this is what you really want to do. Aside of the fact that your voice is sweet, what do you have inside? As much as you turn on the microphone, as much as you entertain, you must also educate. Even if it’s one thing that you say that people take home every day, you must educate every single time. So, it’s not enough to just say I can speak well; you come to radio, speak well and speak beautiful nonsense. So, you must learn the basics about journalism. It is just couple of months to do that. You hear people say what the heck is OAP?(Laughs) That there is no such thing as OAP. People are drawn to the glam like you said and the glitz and they don’t know that there is actually work. Most people that I know that are seasoned broadcasters didn’t even study Mass Com. I don’t think you need to be a Mass Com. person or an English person in order to do radio. You just have to have broad knowledge, you have to be intelligent and you need to have the ability to capture your audience when you open your mouth to speak. So, it doesn’t matter what you study. You can study, French, Yoruba or anything, but in order for you to know the rules, because in every profession, there are rules. Some people don’t know you should not use the “F” word on radio. There are certain things you can’t say on the radio, that is why it is important to get basic journalism degree. You will know the NBC rules, what to do and what not to do, it does not matter what you study.

How would you sum up your experiences on radio?

(Laughs) My experiences on radio! I have been through it but I would say that overall, everyday is a lesson for me. I came to the radio not with the mind that I will get paid because I have heard stories so I removed that from my head long time ago. I would say there are users, there are companies that bring up stations and they don’t know how they would pay their staff, they don’t have plans. And the most interesting thing about creating a radio station is, don’t even think about profit in the next five years. So, for you to have a radio station, keep fund somewhere that your staff can survive with while you are still trying to make a name and all that. So, in the beginning of my career, though I am still in the beginning but talking about the early stage of my career, I was broke a lot but I put my head down and learn from different people. People like Lady E Umokoro of Mega Fm, Warri. At a time she was at Hot Fm, Asaba, she gave me a chance. If I start telling the list of people who brought me to where I am, it is a long list but big shout out to Lady E of Mega Fm. All she needed to do was listen to me speak. She asked me a couple of questions and I was able not just to answer well, but the way I spoke, she say that’s enough and she put me under somebody to intern. I intern for the longest time (Laughs). I kept interning and interning until I left the station. But it helped me. I was broke a lot but it helped me. I moved to Lagos and somebody hooked me up with Murphy Jemba and Sean Amadi of the popular Murphy Jemba Show. I was with them as an extra for about two years until the station that I am now said that there is something they see in me, and they would like to have me as staff and then, I was staffed and I am still here at Max 102.3 Fm and it has been an amazing journey. I don’t know how every other people started their journey but my journey here at Max Fm has been nothing short of beautiful.

What has been on air added to you, as well as taken away from you?

Let’s start with what it has added. People like to hear what I have to say. People always like to seek for my opinion based on the fact that I am on radio and I should know. Well, to the best of my knowledge, I have not disappointed over time (Laughs). People think that, it’s your job then, you have to be a repertoire of information.  That is one of it. People like to hear my opinion and when I say people, the people that matter most are my parents. They like to hear what I have to say. That’s a big honor for me. The love and respect I get from the younger people, that’s what really amazes me because I looked up to certain people in my teen age, so when I see people who are younger than me look up to me, it really humbles me. I am not a millionaire, I know, but I get level small. It really humbles me. I go by the name, Ella The Fourth, on the radio and I when I check my Instagram following, I see young people changing their names to Dapo The Fourth, Tope The Fourth. That is influence and I intend to use my influence right. So, that’s the pros for me. What it takes away. I am the type who is outgoing and I love my space so much. I am not a celebrity but I will still go back to Instagram, where we have our constant interaction with our listeners. When it comes to making friends, it is a little bit very difficult for me because I really don’t know how to do it. Sometimes out of love, people who listen to you send you messages and sometimes, I am so skeptical to reply because the fact that we follow each other on Instgram don’t mean we are friends. It is just respect. Because you listen to my show and I have to accord you respect. But some people, once you just reply and say “Hi” they believe that you are friends and they start talking to you every day and I can’t even talk to you every day, because I have other things to do. Basically, it’s not deep but that’s one of it. It has taken away my privacy.

Your looks and status will sure attract men to you. How you do manage the attraction?

There is no special way to handle all that, because, it is not like they are coming in droves (Laughs) to say I want to date you or anything. I still see myself as the basic girl next door. I don’t know what celebrity is, basic girl next door is who I am. My carriage, how I see myself or how I want people to see me is how I want people to see me. Even without radio, I believe I have the carriage that, when I walk into a place, people will still notice me. So, it is what it is, I am just me.

(Spotting short and top) Are you dressed to portray you are into entertainment?

My style has actually evolved over time. There was a point in my life I was strictly Tom-boy, and that Tom-Boy face came from a place of insecurity. When I walk on the street and people do that cat crawl thingy “Hey fine girl”, it makes me super embarrassed. As a shy person, even at this point, if I have to walk, I can’t walk without my headset, pods or earpiece, because I don’t want to hear what anybody has to say. My face of Tom boyishness, something in my little mind told me, if you dress like them, they wouldn’t notice you, so dress like them. So, I wear boot, I wear big shirt or big trouser and its all black. I feel like when I enter into a place, I should dissolve, like nobody should see me. That was my mentality and my fashion statement, black, black, black. But as time went on, I began to embrace my feminine side, I felt it was nothing to be ashamed of, I should not hide anything. Not that I will walk on the street naked, but I slowly ditched the wearing of big shirts and the rest. Yeah, I flaunt what I have, I have nice legs. I don’t hide it (Laugh).

How soon are you quitting spinsterhood?

Well, God’s time is the best. Not that I am actively searching for husband on the street or anywhere. Right now, what I am actively doing is doing what I love to do and I am a staunch believer in the fact that, if you are pursuing your destiny on the right path, the people God has put on your path, inclusive of your husband or your wife to be, will be on that paths, so I am actively chasing my destiny and I believe the man is on that road.

What are the specifications you look out for in a man?

This question I don’t know how to answer it but let me just say, he should be funny, he should be creative, he should be patient because I could be a baby sometimes. He should know how to take care of a home. He should be domestic and at the same time, he should be that kind of guy that when he steps out, people would be like, who is this man? But e dey sweep house (Laughs), wash plate, dey cook. A man that was well brought up, a kind person, with a little bit of craze (Laughs). And I like dark men.

You are humorous. Where did you get that from?

My dad is a very humorous person. My Mum is a clown as well. I said that before on radio (Laughs). Some people think I am funny, I think I could be at the right time and at the wrong time, too, (Laughs)

Do you have a plan to go on Television?

Eventually yes. I am not rushing things.  I am still on radio now. I would not lie to you, I have this terrible shyness that I am trying to conquer. We will get there soon but I am very much comfortable behind the Microphone and all that, but TV, of course, yes.

How do you prepare for your show?

How I prepare for my show is very spontaneous. There are already laid down things that have to be done and not changed. My show is quite spontaneous in a way that anything could inspire me. We have segments on the show. We have a segment where we have real life conversation, not in serious way. It is very unserious. Then we have the games. What we do on the Max Drive is just banter. We know that there is Covid, we know that there is madness everywhere, so we are not here to remind you and expatiate and still, tomorrow, there is no solution. So, what we are doing is this, while you are in traffic, while you have had a hard day, while your boss has pissed you off. While you’re thinking of the soup to cook for your children and husband, while you are in transit, just forget about everything and laugh while we are still making sense and educating. Basically, how I prepare for my show is, I could be in transit coming to work and I look left hand side of the road, I see this nice eatery where the picture on the wall, you see properly folded pounded yam, the soup is beautiful, plenty lumps of meat inside it and then, I am like, me and you, we know if we go into this restaurant, we would never see something like this, and then, I write down. Or I bought meat pie and then, I take a bite and there is nothing inside but carrot and onions. I write that down and then, I get on air and ask that, is it fair that I am hungry, bought meat pie and I see just carrot and onions? And how do we say Buhari is our problem when the problem is you and I? So, my inspiration is everything around me.

Are there people you look up to in your industry?

Yes, of course. The people I grew up listening to, because my siblings were always blasting radio in the morning when we are getting ready for school. By the way, I was the unexpected child, that’s why I am Ella the Fourth. My number is very specific to me.  My other ones are quite older than me, so most of them were done with school. So, in the morning they will turn on the radio loud, cleaning the house while I am getting ready for school, listening to the radio, listening to Dan Foster of blessed memory. His energy was infectious. I didn’t even know what he was talking about but I just love the “Good morning Nigeria” … I loved it. I would surprise you Dan Foster is the only person. There are lots of beautiful and amazing people, but Dan Foster is the guy I found so relatable. He’s just like the guy next door and that is the girl next door I want to be.

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