Sunday 6 June 2010

Nigeria: Storyville: The New Kings of Nigeria

This blog was first published at NigeriansTalk.Org, please leave your views and comments there.
About Nigeria with a pinch of salt
When documentaries are advertised about some aspect of Nigerian life one now tends to take everything with a pinch of salt.
If anything, the titles count for nothing, the expectations the titles invite are usually never anywhere near the reality of what gets shown – in the end, one has to stretch ones imagination to match the intentions with the purpose; objective scrutiny usually ends up as a parody.
This was the feeling that greeted the showing by BBC Four of Storyville: The New Kings of Nigeria [1], which was apparently about the brain gain of Nigerian returnees from the West with the ability to make a difference back home.
Media generation not royalty
At the beginning of the programme, it became clear from the narrator that this was really about “the changing face of Nigeria’s media generation.”
The protagonist was Walter, a great grandson of King Jaja of Opobo [2], a slave in the 19th Century who became king of his people in Niger Delta area of Nigeria, was captured and exiled by the British, never to return alive to his land because of how powerful he had become.
One can suppose the idea of king came from this relationship rather than king in any real sense of the word. Walter, a public-school educated man from England with a passable English accent had returned to Nigeria after what could not be termed a sterling career in England but with the braggadocio of some foreign expertise to command attention and meet up with opportunities more easily.
The voice of a chancer
He lived with his sister in a fortress-like barricaded building and offered all sorts of platitudes about the hustle of life and livelihood in Nigeria, in many ways meeting up with the sharp ends of skulduggery and people trying to take advantage of so-called newcomers.
He landed his first job as the voice of “Big Brother Nigeria” and then moved into producing and directing reality shows and music videos – at every point, he appeared to pull it off but he never really had the gravitas of being king of his entire in terms of what he did, even though he had lots of words to describe any situation he found himself in.
What this documentary revealed was not so much the resourcefulness and acumen that belied the Welcome to Lagos documentaries but a way of life of the privileged who took things for granted and were ready to mete punishment or retribution out to those who dared challenge the status quo.
No mass opportunity in reality shows
There was no royal aspect to this show, no people being lead or vision being conveyed, rather, cut-outs to The Apprentice Nigeria, Koko Mansion, the popular musician D’Banj and a football talent hunt brought the prospect of great opportunity to the few rather than the many – all these reality shows just plucked individuals from obscurity into stardom and the cachet that it meant in Nigeria.
At the end of the hour, this was a simple favour to Walter, résumé fodder accompanied with references from different people who in one way were burnishing Walter’s ancestral claim with a contemporaneous inclination of expecting Walter to become the “King Jaja” of the 21st Century; he did not present any such innate ability.
In fact, the classroom references to the story of King Jaja of Opobo was a distraction from the goal of Walter being able to say he appeared on the BBC and you can only wonder how many doors that might open in Nigeria, West Africa and Africa at large.
Public school favours
No, I was not impressed at all, this is not one would expect of kings or of people who really have been successful in the West and have returned to Nigeria to make a difference. If any watcher were persuaded of the opportunities to boss around people as one would not be able to do in the West, it is not entirely that easy and humble-pie is coming fast to your face.
Walter has Elizabeth Stopford the director of this show to thank for this chicanery masquerading as enlightenment, but never say a public school education does not give you undue access to opportunities hard to get by merit.
For a title, it would have been better advertised as “Walter needs a job” and wants VIP access to the big parties and social circles in Nigeria; ambition which does not depict the reserve and comportment of public school progeny, he needs to hear the clink of many kobos before he can cling to being any kind of king .
This was not about Nigeria, it was about an individual many of us in Diaspora would be quite loath to imitate in an fashion, view or mind-set.
As usual Nigeria Curiosity has obtained access to the YouTube version of the show [3], watch and well, make up your mind about it. Thank you Solomon Sydelle.
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