I turned down lecturing job to become a DJ–Omotayo

Ettu Sodiq Omotayo

A visually impaired Disc Jockey,  Mr. Ettu Sodiq Omotayo, tells OLUFEMI ATOYEBI of Punch how he refused to allow the loss of his sight to cut short his quest for greatness.

Were you born blind?

No, I was not blind when I was born. I was already grown up before I lost my sight.  I was born March 30, 1965, in Ijebu-Ode. I attended Muslim Primary School, Isoku, Ijebu-Ode and Ansar Ud deen High School, Isiwo , in the same town.

So how did you lose your sight?

I left secondary school in 1983 and moved to the School of Basic Studies, Ogun State College of Education, Ijebu-Ode.  In 1985, I was admitted to the University of Lagos to study Industrial Chemistry. It was at the school that I realised that I had medical challenges.

One day, I was standing in one of the campus shuttles on my way to the classroom when I suddenly fainted. It occurred again when I was standing in a bus from Oshodi to Iyana-Ipaja and again when I was observing Jumaat prayer in a mosque in Ijebu-Ode. All these happened within a month.

I went to the medical unit at the UNILAG where I was told that I had low blood nutritional level. The doctor asked me if I was eating regularly and really, I had not been eating well.

Were you allergic to some foods?

I was not. My father was a building agent during the Buhari-Idiagbon regime. He was not paid for the jobs he did for the government and it affected us at home and in school. To sustain the stipend I got from home, I had to eat once a day. There was a system called ‘without’ in school at that time. You would go to a cafeteria and order food without meat or fish.

I would wake up in the morning and make for the classroom. By 1 pm when we had lunch breaks, I would proceed to the canteen to order my only meal for the day without meat or fish. So I was eating unbalanced diet because I could not afford good food. Realising the danger to my health, I had to start doing menial jobs to make ends meet and it affected my studies. When I was in second year, I could not continue with the course.

I was out of school for two years until an uncle volunteered to help me with some money. When I wrote the UNILAG management that I wanted to continue my studies, I was told that since I did not officially defer the programme, it meant that I absconded, meaning that I had forfeited the admission. I was not reabsorbed.

Inevitably, I wrote another entrance examination and was admitted to the University of Ibadan to study Industrial Chemistry in 1991. I felt that life would start again so I was ready to piece it together. But then, I noticed that during titration in Chemistry class, I missed the levels. Normally, I was good in the course, so I knew something was wrong.

I also noticed that when I came from a bright environment and entered a dark area, I had to wait for some moments to adjust to that new environment. I went to the school clinic where I was referred to the ophthalmology department, University College Hospital, Ibadan. I met Dr. Jaiyeoba who ran some tests on me and diagnosed glaucoma.

He advised me to have an immediate surgery which would cost N6, 000 for each of the eyes. He said the surgery was to arrest the gradual loss of my eyesight. But I could not come up with the money. Between 1992 and 1996, I had a total loss of sight. It was painful but I had to confront my new life challenge. I had to adapt to the life of a blind man to survive.

How did you adapt to that change in your life?

I was interested in studying so I wrote another entrance examination and got admitted to the Federal College of Education, (Special) Oyo. I was trained in rehabilitation programme to use braille reading and typewriter. I also learnt mobility training skill. Along the line, I expressed interest in computer but I was told it would be difficult.

I told them that since the keyboard on the typewriter and the computer were the same, I should be able to use the computer. I was taken as a case study and they were happy with my performance. Today, I am glad I took up the challenge.

I left the school in 1998 and I was approached to study more to become a lecturer in the school.

Why did you reject the offer?

I wanted to challenge the world with something else. I did not want to be employed; rather, I wanted to be an employer or at least employ myself.

Why did you choose music marketing and sound mixing?

I was waiting on God for inspiration and direction when the idea came. I love music so I contacted a former Secretary to the Oyo State Government, Akin Olajide, for support to get an office. He gave me the money to get a shop at Ososami.

I took the sound system in my sitting room to the shop. It had detachable speakers so I put the speakers outside. Each time I played the music of Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade, Yusuf Olatunji and so on, people would come and purchase the cassettes or the compact discs. That was how I started marketing music.

Later on, people who had social functions like naming ceremony began to approach me. They asked me to bring the sound system to the event and play music for them.

The quest to expand made me approach leaders in the sound industry for advice on what I needed to make my business grow. I bought more speakers, sound mixers and other equipment. But one day, thieves came to the shop and took everything away. While people were sympathising with me, I asked them if my signpost was not taken away.

I wrote Anu Oluwa Music Plaza on it, which means ‘God’s favour’. I was told that the thieves did not take it away so I said that the case was settled since God’s favour was not taken away from me. It meant that I would rise again.

I had to relocate to Anfaani area of Ibadan to start all over again. The people I worked for have really been good to me. When they see me and the effort I am making despite my challenge, they are always ready to patronise me.

How would you describe the journey so far?

My office has been able to provide services to prominent people in the land and institutions around. The late Are Musulumi of Yoruba land, Arisekola Alao, supported me with N500, 000 the day he met me at an event. I have had business interactions with some organisations and religious bodies on how I could provide my service to them during events.

Do you have enough equipment to serve a large crowd in a big venue like a stadium?

I don’t have the capacity yet but I rent the needed ones from bigger companies.

How do you cope with the task of plugging the speakers and other tasking areas of the job?

I have a supporting crew comprising my driver and brother, my sound engineer and others who have been wonderful. I am overwhelmed by their attitude and cooperation. Without the support of people and attention I enjoy from them, I would not be in the position I am today.

God is capable of bringing us to the unique destination we aim at. When I look at the story of Yinka Ayefele and where he is today, I am encouraged to keep doing what I am doing instead of mulling over my condition.

I want to call on our people to always believe that there is a purpose for which God keeps us alive. No matter the condition we find ourselves, we must always strive to come out better or make the best of the situation.

You are in charge of sound mixing at events and you also use modern equipment. How do you know which button to press or slide?

The skill came from God. While I was at UNILAG, I lived with an engineer who worked at Phillips. I used to support him when he had jobs. It endeared me to know more about sound mixing. So, when I lost my sight, the lord made it easy for me to master the skills. The buttons don’t leave their position so I only had to master where they are on the machines and their output from the speaker.

Do you have parents who have a similar eye condition?

None of my parents or close relations suffered or suffer from glaucoma.

How about your children?

None of them has an eye problem and by the grace of God, I am not expecting any of them to have it. I have three children in various universities and the last child had just begun secondary education.

Did you meet your wife after losing your sight?

We actually met before I went blind. We were friends in the university. I must also appreciate the encouragement of her parents to continue with the relationship. Today, we are happy together with our children.

Have you ever felt embarrassed by people trying to help you because of your condition?

I always say that what I need from people is not support based on sympathy but the one based on empathy and understanding that I am a human being trying to do something for myself and people around me. Those who have listened to my story might be willing to help me. The best assistance I need is patronage. The more they do it, the busier and active we are. The other help is the improvement of the tools we use. To cover a stadium, you need so many speakers, generators and so on.

Are you involved in any programme that encourages persons with disabilities?

I am involved in the one organised by the National Museum, Ibadan. I support them with my equipment. I also involve others who support the programme with food and clothing. I am also involved in the one organised by Care People Foundation. We have been working together for over 10 years.

Would you say that you have been financially successful being a DJ?

God has been merciful to me. I have not completed my house but my joy is that I have a good family and being able to train my children is God’s grace. I spend a lot on buying equipment too. Some speakers cost as much as N365, 000. We have equipment that costs N1.2m we thank God for his mercy.