I was privileged to have been born in the late ‘80s and to have grown up during the ‘90s. At the time, there were several local Nigerian television stations springing up with such as LTV, Channels, DBN, and AIT. Most parents, including mine, thought it was a good idea to allow their children to watch TV programmes. TV was a means of learning and acquiring skills for self-development. Viewers of all ages could watch television programmes together, whether cartoons, soaps, educative programmes, music videos or movies.
I loved watching the cartoon versions of my favourite storybooks such as Aladdin and the Forty Thieves, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Muppet Babies and Peter Pan. When I came back from school, I was eager to finish my homework before 4pm so that I could settle down in the living room with my older brothers to watch TV. I’m quite sure that the cartoons helped fine-tune my accent (don’t get me wrong though, I still sound very much like a Nigerian). Friday night was always exciting because I knew I was not going to school the next day and every TV station had a movie of the day aired until midnight when all stations closed for the day with the national anthem. Child-unfriendly scenes were blacked out (although the sound would keep playing!). On Saturday mornings, several stations aired the Cadbury Breakfast Show – then the number one in family entertainment. I spent my mornings caught in between weekend chores and stealing a few minutes to watch my favourite shows. I remember watching Telematch, a German television show which was broadcast on Sunday mornings. It was composed of several competitive games, for which the participants would dress up in elaborate costumes designed to maximise the challenges by making movement awkward. This show had a positive impact on me as the participants’ enthusiasm taught me the best mindset with which to face life’s challenges. Sunday Rendezvous was sponsored by Limca: during the show, competitors showed off their best dance moves until winners were picked. On Sunday night, my whole family settled down to watch the “Sunday Sunday Tonic” as Frank Olize, the famous NTA broadcaster, would say. Newsline - a mix of culture, education, entertainment and politics - was the only news programme worth watching at that time. I can still hear the theme music in my head. Every station in those days aired at least two maths and science schools’ debate competitions every week. I remembered when students from my school appeared on TV and how excited I was to see my senior prefects winning prizes for themselves and for the school. Those seniors, of course, automatically became superstars at school the next day. Speak Out and Kidi Vision 101 were popular segments that served as a standard for Nigerian children’s education and inspired children to strive to be more eloquent, intelligent, and bold. The dramatic performances of ‘80s and ‘90s television were important to the development of Nigeria’s cultural heritage. The storytelling and moral lessons of Tales by Moonlight were hugely popular, while musicians such as Onyeka Nwenu, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Sunny Okosun, and Mike Okri sang songs which inspired the young to lead a good life. Tosin Jegede, a child star who was a colossus of the Nigerian music scene in the ‘80s, made all the youngsters want to be like her. All of these TV series and programmes strove to develop young minds, exposing them to a variety of words and tilting them towards future ambition and achievement. It is quite unfortunate that these days, young people are exposed to less positive programming. Local television stations now carry little or no child-friendly content, choosing instead to screen adult Ghanaian films and semi-nude girls dancing in music videos. Although this sort of content is a reflection of modern worldwide trends, shouldn’t there be more consideration for the future of the Nigerian child? Some satellite cable channels are doing better, with a number of stations dedicated to children (for example, the BBC’s CBeebies) but our local TV content must improve. The earlier we understand that children are the leaders of tomorrow and we start putting into consideration what we feed them with via the media, the better our future. Having benefited from the excellent TV programming of the 90s, I feel that not only should there be an increase in the number of children’s TV programmes shown on local stations, but there should be a local television station dedicated to and hosted by children, but overseen by child development professionals. It is up to programme producers, parents, teachers, and children to convince companies of the benefits of sponsoring children’s shows. The government can also fund such programmes and enforce broadcast quotas in line with the national budget as is common in countries such as the US and the UK. That's one fashion from the '90s era I wouldn't mind bringing back. What shows did you love as a child? What shows are your young ones watching now? How can we improve local TV programming for Nigerian children? Add your thoughts below! Image source