Nothing Induces Fear More than Dead Bodies
“I went to Korle Bu (Teaching Hospital), and I saw dead bodies, and it scared me out of reading medicine.”
– Skyy Power Chief Executive, Wilson Arthur on why he changed his mind about pursuing a noble profession in medicine to the near ignoble profession in entertainment and broadcastingGet Your Copy
Wilson tells me this in an interview I had with him on Skyy TV in late 2004. He built Skyy TV after the overwhelming success of his private radio enterprise.
“You see, Phillip,” he tells me, “I wanted to become a medical doctor.”
“You?” I interject, visibly shocked that the man sitting opposite me had once wanted to nurse people back to health.
I have only recently reviewed the video and cringed at my youthful skepticism. My obvious disbelief was expressed with a firm tone of ridicule. Wilson, to his credit, overlooked it and related his story.
According to him, before the dream of becoming a doctor took any recognisable shape, it disintegrated.
“I went to Korle Bu (Teaching Hospital),” he says, “I saw dead bodies, and it scared me out of reading medicine.”
Just like the corpse he saw, his dream of becoming a doctor died.
I had worked closely with Wilson on a daily basis for years. He employed me as a journalist when he set up Skyy Power FM. Given the speed with which Wilson developed his radio station and nurtured dozens of presenters into celebrities, the idea of owning and operating a TV station seemed like a natural progression for him.
Wilson is an indecipherable genius in making enterprising dreams come true. My colleagues and I saw this everyday, but the more we knew him, the less we understood how he made things happen to achieve lasting impact.
Wilson was all the more impressive because rather than being known as a boss, he was very much like an employee, mixing with the rest of us on the job every hour in a way that hardly distinguished him from the workforce.
“I am an average guy,” says Wilson in the interview. It was a point he sought to emphasise. He also adds that “maybe the difference is that I am focused, I know what I want and I try to go for what I want.”
He reveals in the interview that the closed door to becoming a medical doctor made him find drive and purpose in the entertainment industry.
A Change of Direction
Wilson’s spine-chilling experience of gazing at dead bodies in the hospital caused him to change his course. “I decided that I would go into a profession that will bring out the best in me,” he says, adding, “I love entertainment.”
Years later, he would add that “music is my first love.”
His love of music and entertainment is one of the final motivators for seeking to build a profitable radio station in a part of Ghana that was written off as a possible location for a successful broadcasting business.
Roots from Ateiku
Wilson grew up as one of ten children in his family. His father, a retired army captain, died when he was only eight years old. His widowed mother managed the slim family budget with the combined skills of an entrepreneur and an economist. He enjoyed learning valuable entrepreneurial skills from his mother in Ateiku, a village not far from Takoradi. He observed intently as she bought and sold for profit anything she could lay her hands on.
“When we were young, we thought our mum was very rich because she could afford anything, to the extent of sending my older brother overseas to study,” recalls Wilson.
“When someone comes to our home and the person gives us money, she would take the money and tell you she is going to help you make money out of this money. She invests the money in one of the things she is selling; so you see your money growing – and that was a big lesson I had when I was a child,” says Wilson in the 2005 interview.
“I realised that if you put money into something, it grows and you can get money out of it and you can have whatever you want from the profit.”
So, Wilson learned to become a creative entrepreneur at a young age from his illiterate mother, in a village not far from the Twin City.