WHEREABOUTS OF FORMER NTA GOLDEN GALS AND WHAT THEY DO NOW UNCOVERED
This is simply the truth. Only a few of us could resist their allure back then. The men, especially the naughty ones, enjoyed ogling at them; the women always watched them with a sheet of paper and pencil in hand, with the intent of stealing one or two designs from them while students of English Language listened with rapt attention for the right pronunciations and so on. Those were the good old days when Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) used to be the all in all. Sheltered from competition and insulated from comparison, missing the network news then was akin to missing a Barca and Man U finals (That’s if you are a soccer fanatic). We are talking about when NTA was the undisputed champion in not only Nigeria but also in Africa; and when its golden gals, the likes of Sienne AllWell Brown, Ruth Benemesia-Opia, Ronke Ayuba, Abike Dabiri and co dominated the tube like colossi. Reigning unchallenged till they decided to veer into something else. Where are these one-time tube queens now? What are they engaged in and how has life been treating them since they quit the kleiglight? YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine has all the answers. So, come with us as we share them with you…
RONKE AYUBA (NEE DARLEY) – Soothingly beautiful. She used to hold us captive with a combination of her beauty and style. Now married to General Tanko Ayuba (retd), the mother of three runs Marra, inside Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, where she sells fabrics. An ex-student of St. Anne’s School, Ibadan, Oyo State, she once worked with WNTV/WNBS in the Pace Setter State before crossing over to NTA Ibadan as a continuity announcer, newscaster and presenter. And much later, ‘NTA proper’. A very good friend of late MKO Abiola’s wife, Adebisi and Simi Onabanjo of Stop Centre, her appearance on the screen then left sweet songs on thousands of mouths. Born an Anglican, her husband, a former military governor and minister, is a Muslim.
ABIKE DABIRI (NOW EREWA) – We will never, never forget Abike. Especially because of the professional way and manner she handled the issue of Mary Obikoya, the miracle baby. Now a member of the Federal House of Representatives in Abuja, the Ikorodu, Lagos born mother of two boys (Dipo and Deji) also used to titillate and tantalize us with her awesome works on Newsline then. Educated at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State and University of Lagos where she bagged her first and second degrees, she started her journalism career with Bendel State Television, from where she crossed over to NTA 7 and ‘NTA Proper’, where her career literally caught fire. A bosom friend of Funmi Ajila – Ladipo, she married Segun Erewa years back and so far her marital and political exploits have been both encouraging and enriching. Hon. Abike Erogbogbo Dabiri – Erewa also at some point worked with late First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Babangida.
SIENNE ALLWELL BROWN – SAB, for short, used to rock on NTA network. A lawyer and television presenter, she pitched her tent with NLNG (Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Company) as GM, External Communications many years ago – and only just rescinded that decision. Married first to Rasaq Lawal and later to Nim Tariah, both of which failed, the fashionista in every sense of the word made her debut on radio on May 1, 1973 at NBC, Ikoyi, Lagos before later being seconded to TV.
Reputed for not repeating attires then, Bimbo Oloyede and Vera Ifudu inspired the alumnus of Elelenwa Girls School, Port-Harcourt, Ahmadiya College, Agege and Middle Essex University, London. At a time the General Manager of Rivers State Television (during the tenure of Lt. Col. Dauda Komo), she grew up in Aba, Abia State, but hails from Rivers State. Her two good pals are Shade Marquis and Ruth Opia, with whom they sometimes wear same attires.
RUTH BENAMESIA – OPIA – Married to former OMPADEC boss, Prof. Eric Opia and blessed with four children, two boys and two girls, Ruth also used to be a darling on air. Born in Lagos to a Bayelsa father and an Ndokwa, Delta mother, the dreadlocks – wearing one time Commissioner for Information in Bayelsa State started out as a radio presenter with Radio Nigeria, Enugu. This was in 1977, and while still fresh from school. Two years later, the first child in a family of six crossed over to TV where fame and fortune enveloped and encircled her. Alleged to be into consultancy at the moment, the born again Christian (yes, she gave her life to Christ in 1992) was lured into it all by her ex-Canadian teacher. She is still being sorely missed by her fans.
JULIE COKER – The queen of the tube and TV presenter par excellence. She began her career as a receptionist, then newscaster, presenter and later, co-ordinator of programmes. Now into private practice, she was crowned Miss Western Region in 1957 and in September 1959 was one of the pioneer staff of Western Nigeria Television (WNTV), alongside Anike Agbaje-Williams.
Twice married and divorced, her first hubby was You da Kolo, a diplomat and the second, Anthony Enahoro, a colleague. The mother of Richard and Michael, she equally oversees things at TAS System (in Abuja) as well as engages in Public Relations. A staunch Catholic, the unique voice and diction of the ex-student of St. Mary’s Convent School and Holy Child College, both in Lagos, stood her out then.
BIMBO OLOYEDE (NEE ROBERTS) – She was born in England. She also grew up there. Which perhaps explains why her English is not only sonorous, but equally sounds like that of the Queen of England. 59 this year, the mother of four who has a distinguishing way she arranges her hair is married to Tunde Oloyede, boss of Media International. Both of them, incidentally, met and fell in love at NTA where they used to work. The arrowhead of WODEF (Women Optimum Development Foundation), which she started in January 1999, she combines it now with her first love – newscasting – at John Momoh’s Channels Television. Bespectacled and beautiful Bimbo trained as a theatre artist.
LOLA ALAKIJA – Eternally remembered for announcing late General Sanni Abacha’s take over from Chief Ernest Shonekan, the 62 year – old tried marriage with Ogunbambi but it didn’t work. Still in love with watching television, the newscaster who was regularly seen then in jeans and T-shirt whenever she wasn’t dressed for the camera now runs a small scale factory – Harvestfield – where they produce fruit drinks, dairy products and bottled water. We learnt she equally has plans to add a bakery to it soon.
NB: First Published May 2014
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