Several years after the news and off the scene, Kehinde Young-Harry settles in as a proud grandmother who takes delight in watching her grand children evolve.
You have been out of broadcasting for a long time now. Do you miss broadcasting? What do you miss most?
It was a conscious effort by me to retire. I went into voluntary retirement. I chose to go because there were more things happening in my life which I wanted to devote more of my time to.
How do you spend your days now? What do you do?
I take care of my grand children. I do the school runs, take them to parties, have their friends’ over and they also go over to their friends’. It’s just generally seeing them evolve. It keeps me young and energetic. It also gives my daughter and her husband time for themselves because we live in a society where marriages are like two a penny; people don’t really care about their family. The wife is doing her thing, the husband is doing his thing and they meet when they have to. There is no family time; children are left with the nannies to look after. Nannies and drivers are the
only adult presence in their lives.
I didn’t do that to my two daughters. I am rather opinionated; I want my children to know what their values should be. And I think that I know that after being on this earth for this long, I should know what a child should be like at different stages of his or her life and I want to be a part of that. It is exciting.
What was it like, in your time, coping with motherhood and balancing family life and career?
It was not easy but I had a wonderful mother, so I wasn’t plagued with the feeling that I was ignoring my children while they were growing up. My mother was a gem, a real diamond. I couldn’t have asked for a better support. She made it easy; I could do my job, concentrate on my job and still be with my kids. No matter how much you pay nannies, no matter how good you are to them, the gap is still there; because, they are not a part of your family. What they do is what you asked them to do. A lot of them don’t put that extra effort into it.
Your girls have somehow followed in your footsteps. Did you in anyway influence them?
I don’t think I asked anyone to; neither of them studied Journalism. They studied Law and the older one studied Law up till Masters level. I think that they just saw me over the years and took an interest. There was never anytime I said they should go into broadcasting.
Having said that, I am very proud of what they are doing. They are two very young, savvy ladies. I am proud of them; not just because of the work they are doing now but, how they turned out – the values and all that they imbibed over the years.
If you compare your days in broadcasting and now,would you say there was more professionalism and appeal of the news and newscaster then than now?
Definitely! It has become an all-comers affair now. People are not specifically trained in what they are doing. Everybody thinks they have an idea of what they want to do or they think they have a flair for it. But even when you have an idea and you have flair, you still need the basic things like how to sit in front of a camera and how to speak. You are not supposed to sound like an Englishman. You have to sound Nigerian so that your audiences that are Nigerians can understand and relate to you. You don’t have to put up an accent before you are seen as a professional. In our days, that wasn’t the case. You are proud to be who you are. Now, you hear all kinds of accents and because it is not their real accents, the underlining accent is still there; because, the person cannot pronounce the word correctly. There is a lot of that. I call them the DSTV generation. Everything that they watch on DSTV is right and good; nobody cares about anything.
Again, TV stations have to talk to presenters to play it down. I think people just make fools of themselves faking an accent that is not real and once in a while, they flip and the viewers notice. You can do a very good job, an exemplary job, being who you are; you don’t have to try to be someone else. Why is it that the British man is not trying to be a Nigerian and the American is not trying to be a Nigerian?
What do you think about the ‘Walk the Talk’ show hosted by your daughters?
I think it is lovely, never mind me; it is not because I know them or I am involved with them. Far from it. The programme is educative, entertaining and informative. In one of the episodes, a fitness expert instructed people how to do some martial arts. I watched that particular episode with my son in-law and I noticed he tried to do the same thing the guest was doing because, he was so engrossed in it. When people talk about the programme, they say it touches something in the lives of people. They can relate with it. This first season has been self-sponsored by both of them. They are looking for sponsors. I believe with the way they are going, people are going to come in soon. I see a lot of shows on television; I am not trying to belittle anybody’s effort, but you will have to work extra hard to get to standard or be on the same level. Technically, the editorial content and the substance, generally, can pass anywhere in the world. That is one of the feedbacks. While it is on Channels TV, people abroad can also watch because it is actually streamed on Facebook and YouTube live. The feedback has been great. Nigeria is joining the rest of the world; our children are coming up. Unfortunately in Nigeria, people don’t give young people a chance. But outside the country, they go to the universities to pick up best brains which they nurture.
What was growing up like for you. Can you relive some of your childhood memories?
I was born and raised in Lagos. I went to Holy Child College at Obalande. Usually, on Saturdays, we used to go to either the Military Hospital on Awolowo Road or the General Hospital on Broad Street to perform what we call civic duty’; to generally keep the patients company. It was a norm, because it was a Catholic girls’ school and they taught us how to care for other people, how to show interest in your neighbours. They taught us all of those values that people need while growing up; like volunteering and I wish they could bring that back into our system. This generation of I, I and me alone is worrisome.
Look at the religious groups in the country now. I don’t remember anything like this growing up. We were Christians growing up; nobody made a song and dance out of it. Nobody cared whether you went to church or not; the most important thing was your heart. There was a lot of contentment; people were happy – all the envy and the ‘bad belly’ you see around was not as pronounced as it is now.
Talking about religious issues, nowadays, I hear friends that I grew up with come up with such things like during Sallah, they can’t eat Sallah meat; it is unclean meat. In those days, it didn’t matter because in the same family in Lagos, you had both Christians and Muslims. You celebrate Christmas just as you celebrate Sallah. Suddenly, everything changed. When you go abroad, they treat you in some way because you are Black, they are White. And here, you treat your fellow man wrongly just because he is not from the same religion or tribe. What is going on? We were never like that. I don’t know about other parts of Nigeria. I was born and raised in Lagos and there really wasn’t any discrimination like that; it was a very happy childhood. My father was a broadcaster as well, Sunday Young-Harry.
He worked with Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation which is now FRCN. And that influenced your choice of career?
Yes, it did. Because after school, they dropped us at Broadcasting House and I watched him and his colleagues do their thing. For me, that was where it all started and I couldn’t think of doing anything else.
You must have a sister/friend relationship with your children. Have there been times when you needed to put your foot down and be Mom rather than sister/friend?
We are friends now. We are very good friends; people say unusually so. We are friends first and foremost and the mother thing comes in if I have to.
What is your style now? How much has changed since you became a grandma?
More than anything else, comfort is key. For my fashion, I love kaftans a lot. If I am going to weddings, I tie my gele and I really enjoy that, I have to say. Casually, I still wear my jeans, especially when I am with my grandchildren. For me, first and foremost, comfort is important. I try and go with the flow. I try to keep young at heart which is very important.
How do you spend your ‘me time’?
I read a lot. My mother instilled that in me and my late twin brother; she ensured that we read our books. Books expand your English and take you to places you have never been. They expose your mind to possibilities and, good enough, I did the same thing with my girls. I like to read a lot. Sometimes, I watch television. Most times, we hang out, go to functions, go to parties a lot. All my friends have daughters that are getting married or doing something and we have to show support. I thank God who has been faithful. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
What is your advice to young women who look up to you as a role model?
That word has been abused. My advice to them is to be themselves; don’t pretend to be who you are not. Live the kind of life you will be proud of in your quiet moment. Do not because your colleagues are doing this, wearing that, you want to do the same. All fingers are not equal. First impression counts. Let who you are speak for you. Know what you are after, what you want in life and you go for it. Be the best you can be and nobody else.
You used to wear your hair in braids. Why did you choose dreads now?
I have always done my hair natural, even with the braids; this is twist as opposed to braids. I wanted something that is ready to wear and ready to go without any fuss. Once I wash, I lock it back myself. I am a no-fuss kind of person; I believe in the natural look. I have always done that.