Charismatic Frank Edoho has anchored the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (WWTBAM) TV game show for ten years. As Nigeria celebrates the show’s ten-year landmark, Frank shared his memorable and intriguing moments on the show.
By Benjamin Njoku
Before TV programme, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, who was Frank Edoho?
Frank was an On-Air-Personality. I cut my teeth in Radio Nigeria, Metro FM; they sent me on training in year 2000. I came back to become a radio announcer. I studied every aspect of broadcasting; news, news reading, commentary, documentary and voice over presentation. So, before I started “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, I was into radio broadcasting. I was an announcer on Metro FM. 97.6 and it was a fabulous pedestal that prepared me for upcoming projects in broadcasting. Little did I know that just around the corner, WWTBAM will come calling. So, I was just a lesser known radio announcer, and I enjoyed that anonymity until WWTBAM came on board, and everything changed.
Asides WWTBAM, what other things that occupy your time?
I do everything related to broadcasting; I do program production and I take myself to be more of a producer than a presenter because in broadcasting, presenting is a lazy job. Everybody does it for you. In WWTBAM for instance, we have all the structures in place; we have the studio, the executive producer, we have a director and we even have a sponsor, MTN, which provides the finance. Everything is set and all the presenter has to do is to walk in, sit down and say ‘Good evening Nigeria’. So, I consider myself as a producer, but not on a very large scale, especially on TV. Radio is my first love and I am into lots of radio projects, events, production projects and consultancy.
WWTBAM is already 10 years. Considering the fact that many TV game shows didn’t last this long, how would you describe the game show, with respect to its consistency?
Well, the major factor that has made the show consistent for ten years, are the people behind it; they pay attention to details. The producers always say we should adopt the strategy of continuous improvement, and that’s what we have been doing. Every time a season ends, we do a review. We tell ourselves that we are doing well, but we could be better. So, in which areas do we need to do more work? We do a post mortem of the penultimate season and we use that as a benchmark for the next show. It is very challenging because many people have been watching this show for ten years and the show has become a template. We try to tweak the variables of the show, so that every season turns out to be like a brand new season.
Let’s talk about the values that this show offers: Entertainment, education and empowerment. Which of these would you describe as the strongest point of the show?
I think the show’s strongest point is its underlying philosophy that you have to work for what you earn. There is no free lunch, especially for the Nigerian youth who don’t believe in putting work into any prospect. They want to drive that flashy car but not prepared to put in any effort. It’s okay to dream but you need to work for it. I think they get off the rail towards their destination and toe the dubious direction. It looks like it’s easy to answer fifteen questions and get ten million naira. But when you see the drama and what goes into it, you will know this is work. So, ten million naira doesn’t come easy, no wonder we’ve only had one ten million naira winner. So, I think the philosophy of the show is that we want to entertain, we want to educate but most importantly, we want to pass on the subliminal message that you have to work, to earn the prize.
Could you share some of the memorable moments you have had as the producer of WWTBAM?
I have two memorable moments; the first was when Aruoma Ufodike clinched the ultimate prize of ten million naira. WWTBAM is designed to safeguard fraud. I see the questions for the first time when everyone is seeing it. I don’t have fore knowledge of the questions, for security reasons. Also, my demeanour will show that I am seeing the question for the first time. And when the questions pop up, the answer is not there. So when I see the question and the options, sometimes I am mulling in my head, what the answer is. So the day the ten million naira was won, I knew the answer to the question, but I had to keep my composure because I knew we were on the brink of history.
I had a dead pan expression on my face, a poker face that I had developed for the past ten years. The guy phoned a friend, the friend said he was one hundred percent sure, that was the answer. Aruoma said he trusts his friend, so I locked it in and said you know if you are wrong, you stand to lose N4.75m. The guy said ok. So I locked it in and he won N10m! The episode where I had the other memorable moment was not aired. The contestant was acting like he had mental issues. I will ask him a question; he will stare right into my eyes and ask me the same question, instead of responding with an answer. Initially, I thought he was trying to be funny, but after a while, I knew something was amiss. Those were the two moments.
From your experience anchoring the game show for 10 years, do you subscribe to the general opinion that our youth are not interested in reading as it was the case back in the days?
It is the solution to the problem that has now become the problem. Let me put it this way: those days we didn’t have a lot of technology, we didn’t have social media and we didn’t have many distractions, so one of the ways you could entertain yourself, is to carry a novel by Jeffery Archer and read. The ladies will pick Mills and Boon. I used to read pace setters, when we had writers like Helen Ovbiageli who wrote for Vanguard Newspaper. Since we didn’t have electricity to indulge in a lot of things, all you had to do was pick up a book and read; and we borrowed novels, swapped and read. Then technology came and took over and we now have many distractions. We must have missed it somewhere along the line, because even in the developed societies, they still read and their culture enables it. Someone in the UK is going to work in the train, what does he use to pass time? He opens a book and reads. Now, in Nigeria you are in a hold up, you are driving yourself because you can’t afford a driver. How are you going to read? You get to work at 8 am and you work till 7pm, especially in Lagos. On weekends, you just sleep or maybe you go to the cinema and see a movie and then before you know it, it is Monday again. Our lifestyle doesn’t allow us to read, it’s a deterrent.
Talking about sponsorship, MTN has been the sole sponsor of WWTBAM for quite a considerable length of time. Does part of the credit for its consistency, go to the sponsors?
Yes, let’s give MTN credit, because for a company to realize the potential of a programme, they must have tried it for a period of time. You know they can say, “our job is done here, we have tried on this sponsorship, let’s just leave it, since we are already synonymous with WWTBAM”. But they still insist that even though it’s been on for ten years, there is still potential in it. WWTBAM is the longest airing game show on Nigerian Television, and MTN has made it so. We only hope that other corporate bodies will follow suit in other aspects like entertainment. Whether you like it or not, entertainment is a vehicle for change. A lady approached me sometime back and asked me to talk to her son, I asked her why. She said the boy is very stubborn but she needs me, to come to her house and talk to the boy. He is intelligent but he doesn’t read and he is wayward. But anytime WWTBAM is showing on TV, he is very attentive. So I said alright, and I paid the boy a visit one evening. When the boy saw me, he couldn’t believe it! I started talking to him. The mother called me two weeks ago and told me about the boy’s progress. Maybe I had something to do with it, but the boy changed. So that’s why I said entertainment is a vehicle of change in the society but people haven’t realized it. When we started WWTBAM, it was quite challenging. There were many slots for sponsorship, but very few organizations turned up. When MTN came, all that changed. MTN saw all the potential and said they will take all the slots and they are still taking everything till today. So without MTN, the show wouldn’t have been this massive.