Sacked former Sanyu FM talkshow host, James Onen alias Fat Boy, has accused Rajiv Ruparelia, the son of Indian businessman Sudhir Ruparelia of throwing him out of the city radio station as a “dog.”
A visibly disturbed Onen told KFM in an interview on Friday that Rajiv’s style of management left a lot to be desired.
“The running of the company has been taken over by the son of the owner… Rajiv… he is the guy in charge,” said Fat Boy, arguably Uganda’s finest radio talk show host.
“I’ve heard stories about his management style… I hear some good things, I hear some not good things… and I feel as though he just acted so erratically and just so carelessly,” he added.
Fat Boy was among Sanyu FM’s staff fired for reportedly refusing a pay cut during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Fat Boy said management simply told them, “don’t come to work for a couple of days. And then you get a letter to tell you that you guys missed work so you are fired.”
Fat Boy’s statement punches holes in Sudhir Ruparelia‘s narrative that the staff laid down tools hence terminating their own jobs.
Sudhir was quoted this week as saying management made a business decision to cost-cut so as to make the business sustainable and protect jobs.
“We offered to talk and negotiate a solution but they instead chose to lay down their tools. They terminated themselves,” he said.
“When you lay down the tools, you have broken contract and terminated yourself. The company has contracts on advertising and is actually making losses. If you have a contract and you stop doing that which you promised to do in the contract and you are absconding from work, in essence, you have terminated your own contract of employment,” he told CEO Magazine.
However, Fat Boy, who commands a huge following in Uganda and overseas, said this was false.
“If your boss told you don’t go to work tomorrow, what do you gonna do?” wondered Fat Boy.
Several staff who talked to ChimpReports said Sanyu forced them out without listening to their concerns.
Asked on Tweets fired off Sanyu Fm’s official Twitter handle urging lawyers to represent the troubled staff in a legal suit against Sudhir, Fat Boy said they were “baffled” as to who was tweeting.
“We don’t know who tweeted. We never hacked the page. Presenters had nothing to with the tweets,” he said, urging Sanyu fm management to “contact Twitter to find out who was behind it.”
On taking on Sudhir, Rajiv and Sanyu management in court, Fat Boy, a son of departed former Trade Ministry Permanent Secretary, Amb Julius Onen, said his “phone has not stopped ringing” as lawyers ask to provide the much-needed legal support.
He said lawyers are urging staff to “Come we help, come we do something. A lot of people are rallying behind us. If action is taken, we will see what happens.”
Asked if he would work for Sanyu Fm in future, Fat Boy responded: “Absolutely not. Never. Why would you want to work in a place that treats you like that? I’ve been loyal to this station. How many years of my life have I given to it. And then … he (Rajiv) kicks me out like a dog.”
He also wondered why he was not given a chance to make his case “or a fair hearing like I am trash.”
Fat Boy seemed to attribute the turbulence at Sanyu to Rajiv, who a few years ago sacked the entire management of Victoria University – sparking a huge public outrage and legal suit.
One of the former Victoria University dons threatened to “bring down the entire Ruparelia company if I am not paid my salary arrears.”
Fearing his deep connections to the state, the don, who later served with the Ministry of Energy, was promptly paid his money.
Rajiv under Fire
Fat Boy said the “reigns of the company (Sanyu) have been taken over by Sudhir’s son, Rajiv. I wish he was more willing to listen to views of moderation.”
On social media, Sanyu FM fans said the radio station was walking a tightrope by kicking out its main asset – Fat Boy.
Founded in 1993 by the Katto family, Sanyu Fm was acquired by Sudhir in 1999.
It’s the oldest surviving privately owned radio station.
Fat Boy said the manner in which they were kicked out of the station has “potential legal problems. There is so much that is actionable here.”
Speaking about Rajiv’s conduct, Fat Boy blasted the chubby-cheeked businessman: “It’s unfortunate there was no one to reign him (Rajiv) in, to check his excesses. This story is gonna go down, it’s gonna be taught in schools as what not to do as a company when dealing with staff.”
Fat Boy’s said he would use his free time to work on his private projects but didn’t rule out returning to the airwaves.