Is The Nigerian Love For Satire Causing A Wave In New Media?
Late night television in America evolved from interviews with famous celebrities to unserious discourse about the state of the country and the politics of it. Today, this space is populated by satirical hosts like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah. But in Nigeria, that evolution did not happen and the space is unoccupied.
The Nigerian millennial generation has shown a great love for late-night television and satire. However, Nigeria’s irrational fixation on what the ever-shifting boundaries of respect are and the amount of power government officials wield means that satire on TV might not become mainstream. Gag orders on media houses and the unpopular Decree 4 that led journalists to jail have made sure of that. This is especially because leadership in Nigeria involves just the position and the prestige it brings and is not exactly about how the people feel.
Because satire goes a lot deeper than having an opposing view to the government– poking fun at the people in government is quite risky– a lot of media houses might be unwilling to take up such projects.
Nigerian novelist Elnathan John regularly uses Amsterdam-based ZAM Magazine and other literary journals to challenge the Nigerian government in its actions and inactions. Rotimi Fawole’s Tex The Law is also a great source of funny material criticising the government and its shortcomings, but they only cater to a select Nigerian audience – the audience that is afforded the luxury of access to the internet while maintaining an interest in satire.
In the last few years, Justin Irabor, a cartoonist and internet marketer, has joined this space with his publication Obaranda, which makes fun of the Nigerian situation. The light-hearted material present on Obaranda makes for great laughs while dealing with the important issues.
But Channels Television’s The Other News anchored by Okey Bakassi might be opening the door for bold steps in the media and television space. The Other News is the first Nigerian attempt at late night television. While the jury is still out on the performance of Okey Bakassi’s show, it is a step in the right direction. This might be the start of a revitalisation of Nigerian television as the bulk of its millennial generation does not consume television, save for times when the Big Brother franchise is on air.
These days, Nigerians are venturing into new spaces in the media. YouTube shows by Nigerians are growing and thriving; a new generation of writers and cartoonists like Justin Irabor are emerging to dominate a growing space: social media and the internet. This is great news because, until the next election cycle arrives when politicians are begging for votes, an open and unbiased media is the voice of the people and the best opposition party.