Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The New Kings of Nigeria

The Storyville documentary "The New Kings of Nigeria" on BBC 4 last night was a sore disappointment. It was hard to know what the thing was about. As the minutes ticked by, any hopes that a theme would emerge drained away. The focus was most of the time on the great grandson of King Jaja of Opobo, a young chap called Walter. Walter had just returned from an expensive education and a stint selling electrical appliances in Jand which he seemed proud of. He was now being shoed in to a role producing reality tv shows and music videos. He seemed to know little more than anyone else about his ancestor, resorting to the internet to find out pictures. It might have been nice to have had him return to Bonny and be greeted by the locals or provide some kind of context beyond interviewing his sister at the Boat Club.

However, the title of the doc suggested that there were other Kings who were going to be featured and that the story would extend beyond Lagos. Walter's story, as a repat living with his sister on the mainland, is hardly the typical elite case. The New Kings of Nigeria might then have focused on Nigerians returning to live in Lekki and working in either banking, telecoms or starting their own business. It might have dwelled on places such as Ikoyi Club and the Polo Club and their new members. It might then have asked the question of whether the diaspora was/is helping to develop Nigeria, at the same time as looking at the contrasts between lives back in the UK and new generator driven lives in Lagos. It might even have asked into the backgrounds of the elite and how many generations the privilege extends back. The theme might have developed into whether there is a two tier class system that has developed thanks to returnees lording it over the natives and to get perspectives from both sides.

We had none of this. Instead, we had endless headshots of Walter lolling about in the back of a chauffered car or in his room, extolling his undeveloped views in his public schoolboy brogue. We were treated to Walter's adolescent analysis of polygamy and poverty. The lighting was terrible; much of the time you couldn't really see his face. Clearly, the crew hadn't brought any basic lighting equipment with them. The lack of a narrator added to the general sense of helpless drift (you have to be bloody good to avoid a narratorial voice).

One was left thinking two thoughts in parallel: what kind of public schoolboy network ties to the Storyville's Series editor Nick Fraser had allowed this piece of amateurish tosh to get on the usually excellent BBC4? And: the film about the new colonialism of the Lagos elite has yet to be made. It was not a patch on Welcome to Lagos.


Anonymous,  9:37 am  

Thanks Jeremy, I came to the end knowing I had wasted one hour of my life. I certainly left emptier than when I started watching. Parts of it just felt repetitive e.g. him lolling about and same shots of his house over and over again; and some of the other bits felt like an afterthought. E.g. what was the point of dBanj? He had no links to the Walter chap (whom the producers had chosen to make the main character). Ok bourgeoning media so let's (fleetingly) include him and koko mansion, if so then you bloody well spend time developing (e.g. him and) other characters. They should have asked for help from 'some' in nollywood.

Abimars 10:54 am  

I couldn't have said it better myself Jeremy, absolute crap.

Anonymous,  11:46 am  

It was a BIG disappointment, perhaps reflective of the fact that Western media is never interested in any thing African that isn't about poverty and corruption.

Anonymous,  11:48 am  

UFOs? Seeing things again, are we? Better go easy on the weed!

ijebuman 12:24 pm  

"...the great grandson of King Jaja of Opobo, a young chap called Victor."

His name was Walter.. and you're right the whole programme was a joke

Anonymous,  12:35 pm  

You should correct your post - his name is Walter.

Anonymous,  2:19 pm  

I got a call from my friend to watch this and after reading the introduction / summary, I sent a text to almost everyone I knew to tune in and watch.
To say it was a waste of time, is an understatement, my phone kept ringing with everyone wanting to find out if BBC 4 had lost the plot....Did anyone actually have a preview before putting it on air?
It was so disjointed that I thought it was a project by a group of 12 year old kids.
Very misleading title!!!!

Jeremy 3:51 pm  

Ijebuman: thanks, my bad. Have changed it from Victor to Walter now...

Anonymous,  7:00 pm  

For once i agree completely with you Jeremy. I had been waiting anxiously for this documentary. But after the first 15 mins, I began to despair. If anything it just exposed how shallow Walter's thinking was.

Anonymous,  8:46 pm  

Couldn't Have said it better Jeremy. I was completely bewildered....I just couldn't figure out the whole point of the programme. I was sooooo looking forward to it...what a let down!What a waste of time!

miss b 8:58 pm  

how can u get iplayer to work in naija?

Anonymous,  1:54 am  

@ Miss B

By using a proxy server. Try FoxyProxy using firefox. There are many videos on youtube to help you do it.

ademide,  3:41 pm  

Was there not enough grinding poverty for your liberal tastes?

Dapxin 10:46 pm  

at least, I got smart enough to check this before I pressed the PLAY button on the download.

Now, Its gonna be DELETE :) Hurray.

One thing this blog did for me. pat unasef 4 back, boy.

Obi-talker 10:51 am  

I am probaly teh only person on blogsphere to think opposite from you all. Its just a good old storyville production. It follows the life of a middleclass or upperclass returnee dude. Why is everyone breaking their heads on this film. there was nothing wrong with it. I just saw it yesterday and even did my own post on all this online debate. na wa o!

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