Thursday, 8 July 2010

The New Kings of Nigeria

...I beg to differ.

I caught a program on BBC iplayer titled 'The New Kings of Nigeria' and I couldn't help but marvel at how the BBC gets so much wrong. Anyway my grouse with the BBC aside, this is my take on the documentary. I cant even begin to say that I know what the intention of the BBC was but somehow they managed to trace a descendant of King Jaja of Opobo and attempted to tell the story of his mission to 'give back' or finish what king Jaja started some 140 years ago. This descendant happened to be King Jaja's grandson or great grandson and he kept going on about his inheritance. Where?

He'd spent the last 25 years in the UK and after loosing his steam as a 'hair conditioner' or was it 'air conditioner' Salesman (don't know now...sometimes I suffer from the 'H' factor palaver that seems to plague most Nigerians =D), he decided it was time to throw in the towel and try his luck is his motherland. So off to Nigeria he went and like so many he got his big break being the voice of Big Brother Nigeria. Nice voice I must say.

I should be happy for him right? Oh yea I am except I see beyond that. This guy apart from parading himself as some modern day messiah in this documentary, he was supposed to represent the nouveau rich Nigerian i.e. young Western educated Nigerians who speak with atypical Nigerian accent. He has clearly bought into the wider Nigerian mentality that because he lived and studied in the UK he's supposed to be something special. There’s still a lot of colonial mentality going on in terms of trying to be a cut above all others in this way.

He was shown flaunting his wealth which to be honest doesn't seem like a lot since he didn't live in one of them big houses you see in Nollywood movies. He spoke so disrespectfully to his Printer and houseboy as if he owned them and kept stressing his speech to display that janded twang. In my opinion he was trying too flipping hard! I didn’t get the documentary for a number of reasons. First, I failed to see how appropriate the title was, but that’s hardly a surprise. After spending time and money filming only the ghettos of Lagos and its inhabitants, the BBC felt the appropriate title for the documentary should be 'Welcome to Lagos". Very apt. NOT! And that's exactly what they have done with this documentary.

I see it to be about a guy who after spending the early part of his adult life in the United Kingdom decides to go back home. He like many others go back home with their 'jandedness' and all the works knowing full well that the average Nigerian will worship them for that. However, the big question is 'what exactly has he brought back with him to offer? In my opinion, zilch! Instead he got home and by virtue of the people he knew as well as his janded characteristics, he landed what is arguably one of the most coveted roles in the upcoming Nigerian reality TV culture. An opportunity that should have been reserved for a home grown talent and not a hair conditioner Salesman from the UK who just happened to have the ‘right’ accent.

What happened to the young men and women who struggled through incessant school closures to finish a four year degree in 7 years and are still out of jobs? Those who are still fighting tooth and nail to get into good jobs in order to lift themselves out of poverty. The group who have little formal education but are tapping into inner talents just to get their feet into the booming entertainment, beauty and fashion industries but are constantly being kicked down by the high and mighty. I will not fail to also mention people who are languishing in obscurity and all they ask for is an opportunity to find their way into prosperity. These are people who are choosing to do the right thing rather than resorting to yahoo yahoo (acronym for fraud) yet they get little or nothing back for their effort. However, the rich continue to re-distribute the wealth and opportunities amongst themselves so that the downtrodden continues to be oppressed.

While I recognise that the recent assault of reality programs on TV in Nigeria have helped a few more people to gain limelight and hence make a decent living, there's still much more that needs to be done. Nigeria is a country of 150 million people or more yet 70% of it's population live below poverty line (CIA World Fact Book). Therefore, the people that are helped through these programs are only a drop in the ocean. Do not get me wrong I have every admiration for this guy and I recognise that it takes bravery to abandon familiar terrains to venture into what’s largely a volatile state in Nigeria. Whether you were King Jaja of Opobo’s descendant or not. Also he must have done something right at least to have his documentary commissioned by the BBC (I'm assuming it's his work).

However, I would have preferred if the documentary really focused on Nigerians, who after acquiring foreign education and cultivating western culture move back to Nigeria to see how they fit in. Their battles and an exposure of the unnecessary adulation that is accorded to them if any and why. This guy was latching on to his affiliation to King Jaja of Opobo, and is that what makes him worthy of good TV? A man he never met let alone have a picture of and yet he’s this important person because he comes from that lineage. One of the factors that deters Nigeria from achieving true greatness is that we are a country of name dropping and power hungry people and somehow we feel that’s far important than what value we actually have as individuals. People go around believing that knowing one important person makes them important too. They fail to think of how to become important people in their own right.