Petit but packed with enormous intelligence, creativity, and warmth, Aneta Felix is one of Nigeria’s renowned broadcasting stars. She currently works as a reporter and presenter on Gist Nigeria, a co-production of the BBC and Channels TV. The programme is broadcast four times a week to an audience of over 1.2 million. Aneta shares deep insights into how she stayed through to her dream from her teenage years, and how she has emerged today as an irrepressible broadcast star.
Aneta, your career has followed an upward trajectory in recent times, culminating in your joining the BBC. How did it all start? Let’s get to know more about you.
I am a journalist, voice-over artist, and documentary filmmaker based in Lagos, Nigeria. My media career began when I was only 11 years old. I attended an audition for teenage radio presenters at Ray Power FM in Lagos, Nigeria, and I was selected for the role. This made me the youngest employee at the radio station. I was paid N500 weekly and I had free lunch at the station’s cafeteria. Still, in secondary school, my essay on Nigeria’s lingua franca was published in The Guardian newspaper. I also participated as a newsreader on the show “Healthy Moments” on AIT. I used to write a lot of poetry which I performed in church as a teenager. Those experiences made me pick up skills in creative writing, voice acting, news reading, and radio and TV presentations, and I got the opportunity of a head start on my media journey.
I love philanthropy and journalism mentorship. I launched a programme called the Aneta Poetry and Prose Prize in 2018. It was a literary competition that involved 23 secondary schools in Lagos and over 90 students. Students received donations of books and tuition-fee payments. I also received a grant from a US-based NGO, ConnectHer, to train female students in mobile journalism. Naturally, I took the training to my alma Mata, Command Day Secondary School, Ikeja, in 2022. I am enthusiastic, positive, and passionate, and l love to connect with people.
That’s awesome. In what way did your family and educational backgrounds contribute to whom and what, and where you are today?
I attended secondary school at Command Day Secondary School, Ikeja, and graduated at 15. Then I studied International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of Benin, where I graduated at 19, in the top 10% of my class with over 250 students. I have taken professional courses including Essential Broadcast Journalism (EBJ) by the BBC Academy; Documentary Filmmaking by Ladima Foundation’ Fact-Checking by First Draft in April 2020; Covid-19 Crisis Reporting by Thomson Reuters Foundation, among others. My family is a close-knit one. My parents have supported me in my journalism career since I was a child, and they keep nudging me to reach the highest heights in all spheres of life. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, but my parents did their best to provide for the family.
Core values and life’s philosophy
My core values are excellence, honesty, and creativity. I am driven to do everything thoroughly in a way that makes me fulfilled. My integrity has faced several tests, but I am guided to do and say what is true. I have a mind that looks at the status quo and sees new ways of doing things. These values have shaped who I am. My life philosophy is that I am on a divinely-ordained path and that I will be all God wants me to be.
How did you climb the ladder of success?
I have progressed in my career through the help of mentors who recognized my potential and helped nurture my talents. They gave me the opportunity to work at their media organizations, learn on the job, mentored me, and shared job and training opportunities that helped me grow. I have also grown by being committed to my development. I read books, articles, and journals, watch videos, take courses, and ask questions from my mentors. I am resourceful, so I find ways to help my colleagues within and outside my organization. I pick up new skills along the way and broaden my network. Most of all, experience has been my best teacher.
In all of these, how have you coped with your career and life’s challenges?
By the grace of God, and my support system. As a Christian, I believe that “sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning” This means that challenges would come but would pass. Challenges give you lessons and give life meaning. So, when I’m facing a challenge, I pray about it, and share my burdens with friends and family who provide emotional support and advice.
Can you share some of your success principles with us?
The first principle I’ll like to share is confidence. I never disqualify myself from anything. If I’m interested in it, I apply for it or try it first, and let the panel or fate decide. This confidence spurs me to take on big tasks, take risks, and just try. I tell myself “Even if I don’t get it, I want them to know a girl called Aneta Felix”. Try to approach everything with the mindset that you would succeed and you most likely will. If you fail, you would have learnt something in the process. The second principle is network. Most opportunities are shared among close contacts only, so try to engage with people. I once engaged cheerfully with a lady, Azeezat Olaoluwa, who was attending the same interview as I was. She got the job and I stayed in touch. Years later, she informed me of the vacancy at the BBC which I applied for and got. You never know where a simple smile and a “hello” might lead.
Advice for aspiring journalists
My advice to young Nigerians aspiring to be broadcasters would be, to get media experience or create your own. If you can’t get internships or jobs in the media, social media is your playground. Create content you love and publish them. You never know who might be watching or reading. I’ve got two jobs from social media and many speaking engagements from simply putting my work online. You can get those too by simply being visible online.
Secondly, follow broadcast organizations online, check their websites regularly, subscribe to their newsletters, and engage with the staff in those organizations. You could be the first to know when they post vacancies or internships, and you can give it a shot.
Thirdly, the media is really about appearances. Keep creating content, and keep networking with people in roles you would like to be in. Even if you get rejected from a job, keep engaging with the recruiters. That will put you top of mind if projects open. Also, constantly develop yourself by learning from professionals in the field. Mentorship is easier these days because of technology, but it could also be harder because people are busy. So don’t be offended when you reach out to people, and they decline or don’t respond. You can learn from them by studying their work. The internet is about the best resource there is and you can learn anything if you search for it. Finally, be strict about boundaries with bosses and mentors. Keep professional relationships professional.
My pleasant and unpleasant unforgettable moments
I won’t forget trekking in the rain to work while I was on the radio and TV, getting to the office drenched, changing my jacket, and reading the news with a smiling face regardless. I won’t forget waking up around 4 am and riding to the office on a motorbike to present a breakfast show that broadcasts to over 40 million across Africa. I won’t forget the pains of being broke because I had been owed salaries for months. I won’t forget leaving my law class every Monday at the Ugbowo Campus at the University of Benin to the Ekenwan Campus to present “Inspiration Monday” on UNIBEN FM.
I won’t forget my experience in Yola, Adamawa state where I was posted for my National youth service. I am grateful I didn’t redeploy to Lagos as was the norm, but I stayed back and was posted to TV Gotel. That was my first TV experience since my teenage years. I won’t forget my first multiple job experience at 19; I got my first job after graduation at Vibes FM in Benin City, Edo State. At the same time, I was working as a writer at Tush Magazine and a Karaoke host at Metro Lounge. I won’t forget getting a job at TV360 Nigeria, through the recommendation of Fortune Omotoso, a follower on Instagram.
I won’t forget winning my first journalism award, the SME Journalist of the year 2019 by Fate Foundation, including other awards by the British Council in January 2022, the Prevent Epidemics Award by Nigeria Health Watch in 2021, the Stay At Home (COVID-19 Reporting) Award by Merck Foundation, Germany in 2020, receiving a congratulatory letter by Aisha Buhari, the first lady of Nigeria, winning an award at the Connect Her Film Festival by ConnectHer, the USA in 2020, among other nominations for journalist of the year 2020 by Future Awards Africa, the Media Foundation for West Africa in Ghana, and the APO Group in South Africa. I won’t forget getting my dream job at the BBC when I was 25. I won’t forget winning a full MasterCard Foundation Scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, the USA in 2022. And I won’t forget the lessons and beautiful memories I am yet to make.
How I socialize
I unwind with movies, hang out with friends, and have good food. I am currently trying new things including chess-playing, bead making, and watercolour painting.
My assessment of the Nigerian Media and tips for improvement
In 2020, the creative industry accounted for $1.8 billion dollars of Nigeria’s GDP. A Jobberman report also found that the industry has the potential to create 2.7 million jobs by 2025, and it is Nigeria’s second-largest employer of labour. This shows that there is a huge untapped opportunity in the creative media space. But how can we get there? Stakeholders need to invest in appropriate media management and media financing. Many media businesses have folded up in Nigeria because they did not have the management and finance to sustain them. Players in the industry also need to invest in new technology that simplifies work. They need to train journalists to improve their reportorial capacity. The media industry in Nigeria must restructure the payment scale for journalists and pay them better and more timely. This would reduce ‘brown envelope journalism’ and encourage accurate reporting. The government also has a role to play by creating media-friendly policies, not repressive ones. All these would create a supportive environment for journalism to thrive.
An eye on the future
Simply put, my plans are to establish a media corporation with divisions in media production, journalism education, and literary philanthropy for underserved communities.
My perspectives on a better Nigeria
Nigeria is like a man who was born into wealth but is visually impaired and hard of hearing, so he doesn’t realize it. We are blessed with resources other nations lack and Nigerians are some of the most educated, creative, and innovative people in the world. We thrive everywhere we go. But back home, our natural and human endowments waste away. We need service-driven leadership for Nigeria to change for the better.