Social issues and effective drama on Nigerian radio

January 2006 -

Radio soap aficionados in Nigeria can look forward to a new soap opera in 2006 that addresses the problem of the gender gap in Nigerian society. The woman behind the idea is drama producer and screenplay writer Abiodun Rasidat Olufemi-Ogidan in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. "I want to write a soap opera screenplay about this issue because the girl-child suffers in this male-dominated society. She is denied education… and all that is expected of her is that she will eventually marry."

Abiodun Rasidat Olufemi-Ogidan with a Tanzanian colleague doing some audio editing

Olufemi-Ogidan recently attended the 12-week ‘Soaps and Society’ course offered by the Radio Nederland Training Centre in Hilversum, Netherlands . According to her, the course trained participants in editing and doing preliminary research, but also taught them how to meet the needs of many kinds of audiences. “We learnt to map audiences and to tailor story-lines, characters and social messages to appeal to ‘micro-audiences.’ ”

No novice in the field, Olufemi-Ogidan has had ten years of experience producing dramas for the Ibadan National Station, part of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria. Her work has often highlighted social malaises and targeted specific audiences such as women and children.

Particularly important is the medium this producer uses. “Television is not only expensive, it needs electricity, to which not everyone has access. But everyone, even in the remotest villages, has radio. Therefore, using radio soaps to get a message across about HIV or drawing attention to child abuse, for instance, is very important.”  Olufemi-Ogidan says that feedback from listeners demonstrates how effective this medium is.

Although there is no ‘universal’ drama theory and expressive traditions are different everywhere, Olufemi-Ogidan emphasizes that many problems have universal resonance. The fundamental benefit of the course in Hilversum for this and other participants was that it shared new ideas on using drama effectively to persuade audiences about issues of social importace.