...AFTER FRED AND A DECADE ON TV, ‘ I HAVE NO REGRETS’---AGATHA-
Ask Agatha Amata a question that seems remotely related to her break-up from Fred Amata and the lines around her eyes tighten. Her lips purse and her hands close tighter around her tea-cup. You would think it is an innocent enough question; does she have any regrets about any decision she has take in the last ten years in any aspect of her life?
“Are you talking about my marriage?” she asks suspiciously.
Actually, you stammer, what you meant was marriage, work and life in general.
Her eyes say she knows where you were heading with that one and she is not amused. Her answer shows she's been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and is now determined to move on.
“This is who I am. Whatever decision I take, I stand by it. I don't have time for regrets. I don't think about what could have happened. Whatever decision I took, I believe that it was in my best interest at the time. If I make a mistake, I simply learn from that mistake.
I don't see anything that I've done that I would have done differently. I don't regret anything. I don't look back and say “oh, maybe I should have done this differently.” Maybe if there's something that I should have done differently, I just learn not to make that mistake again. I'm not going to dwell on that. I've moved on.”
One result of this personal transition, she says, has been her own acceptance of herself, allowing her to reach that threshold many long for; happiness.
“I am very happy, very happy. I am very content. I think the key is actually accepting yourself for who you are. I am very happy with who I am. I am very wonderfully and beautifully made. I don't lack anything. If anything, I would say God is very partial to me. I have two wonderful children who mean the absolute world to me. I'm able to do my own thing in my own small corner of life. I don't look at the negatives, I concentrate on the positive. If I don't have a house yet, it's because it's not God's time yet. That's my attitude. I don't sit and wish for what I don't have, I thank God for what I have. I know that as long as I'm alive and I'm not lazy, there's absolutely nothing that I can't achieve.”
Being on television with her show, Inside Out for a decade has to be a milestone by any standards. Having done it in the unconventional terrain of the Nigerian television industry makes the feat even more remarkable. For Agatha, the remarkable thing is what she has learned from doing the show over the last ten years.
“I didn't realize what a sheltered life I had lived until I started doing the show. There are so many topics that I've talked about on the show which changed my perception 360 degrees. I've heard incredible things. I've heard things that have opened my eyes, that have educated me and now I see life differently. I'm not quick to condemn anymore, I'm not quick to judge until I hear the story behind it. I don't say, how can you do that? I thank God for that, for what I've learnt from doing the show because no school can teach you.
Inside Out has been a school I thank God for having gone to because not many people have the opportunity to do the same. I've become a counsellor to young people, I've had battered women walk into my office and say please, what should I do? It still surprises me that people think I have the answers to their problems. I really don't. But I thank God for the opportunity to be able to help other people.”
She has obviously made many transitions since her separation, some even her show had to go through. But she says for the show, the transition wasn't as difficult as it could have been.
“Basically, even before we were separated, Fred's involvement had become minimal because he was doing more of home video work. While he was still around, there was a young man called Kenny who was working with us, who used to take over the directing when he was away. So he just continued to do the work.”
Some of the stories she has heard over the years from doing the show have stayed with her. One was the conversation she had with the mother of a child hawker.
“I took one of the child hawkers we found on the street home to his mother and I asked her why she would let her child go hawking when the whole tray he was carrying came to around N50. She looked at me, laughed and said, “sister, hunger don ever catch you and your pikin wey una soak garri dey wait make e swell well so that una go fit manage am?”
Those are the kind of things I saw that I could never comprehend before, that now make me have an appreciation for what I have. She said to me, “all those children wey una dey see for party wey dey wait make una finish, na our pikin.” Before then, whenever I saw those children at parties, I used to drive them away. After that, I would pack everything on my table and give it to them. You know how you say no one has an excuse to go into prostitution.
You can say something like that until you know where the shoe pinches. I heard stories of young girls brought from the village and told they were going to school, only to be forced into prostitution when they got to Lagos. I just want to be able to do whatever I can to change certain things and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be able to do them.”
Impacting people seems to be one byproduct of doing the show that she did not expect. But she's more than happy to add it to her list of jobs.
“I'm happy that we've been able to touch lives and deal with somewhat sensitive issues. Sometimes when we have had issues that have to do with government, the government people never want to come on because they are afraid of being asked questions. That gives me a sense that definitely the show has built the kind of reputation that is one where people want to hear the truth. Sometimes I have old people come and say God will bless you because of that episode you did on pensioners. When I get that sort of feedback, it tells me that we are doing something right. It might not be 100 per cent, but it is imaking some impacts on people's lives.”
Ten years is a perfect time for a reevaluation of her goals, achievements and where the next ten years would be leading.
“At ten, we are doing a total re-branding and repackaging of the show, new look, new sound, new montage, a whole new look to the show. One of the things I hoped to have achieved by now which I haven't done is getting my own recording studio, so I don't have to be using halls and auditoriums. That would be a major achievement for me. I thank God all the same for the much that I've done. My top priority is to get my own studio. Every other idea comes from that. We are having a 10th anniversary dinner.
We are going to be having some entertainment from our friends in the industry. Also we will be launching another show on the night, which would be called Inside Out Extra. Inside Out talks about the problems we face in society and how to deal with them. This new show will be taking it a little further. We will be doing one on one, dealing with a more specialized group. Also, we would use Inside Out Extra to recognize excellence.
I've had people on Inside Out who I would have liked to give time to talk but couldn't. This will be an opportunity for them to talk. So the essence of the show is to recognize excellence, create motivators and speak to people in authority and give them an opportunity to respond people's questions and issues.
The last one would be the NGO. I never wanted to do an NGO but there are all these issues that seem to have no other way of dealing with them. FESECA is a media-related NGO, meaning it can partner with other organizations to bring out the media aspects of what they do. For instance, this is something I've seen in other places and always wondered why we never did them here, though now I've seen a couple. Commercials with a message, it could be on battery, child abuse, AIDS, starting from 30 seconds and not exceeding 5 minutes.
I could partner with any NGO. All I need to know is that it is for a good cause. We could have them on television, radio and maybe later on the Internet. This is done everywhere else. If you watch the satellite stations, you find them everywhere. And I thought why don't we have them here? We've come up with a few concepts covering a number of subjects. We'll come up with 60 seconds to 2 minutes docu-dramas with precise messages. So that is basically everything we are working on now. Everything I do right now is interrelated.”
Inside Out, the magazine
One idea that may have to wait for its day would be her magazine.
“We were planning to launch our magazine, Inside Out magazine but it's not ready yet and I don't want to rush it. It is a magazine that will be fashioned after Reader's Digest. I found out that a lot of the magazines that we have don't really promote reading culture. I grew up reading the Reader's Digest, with all the word games in it. I learnt a lot from that. Our young people now don't have things like that. What they have now are things that thrive on gossip.
Also, because of the nature of the show I do, I have one million inspirational stories that I would like to tell but have not been able to take them on the show because that's not the type of show it is. If I decided to do them one on one, I could do a show everyday for one year and I would not have exhausted them. I thought wouldn't it be nice if I could find a way for these people to tell their stories and these people don't necessarily have to be actors or politicians. They could be ordinary people who have done something to impact on their own small corner of the world, stories that would touch your heart. That was what brought about the idea of the magazine.”
“In another ten years, I see myself where God says I will be,” she says, on looking forward to the next decade. “I wake up every morning and pray that God's will for my life be done because I know that His will is bigger than anything I could plan for myself.”
Looking at the trajectory of her life so far, there is no doubt that she more than deserves whatever good is in store for her and will be more than capable of handling it.