We need to take responsibility

The recent flooding in Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, had everyone’s tongues wagging.  Everyone had something to say about it.  From those who woke up to find their possessions submerged under a meter of water, to those who showed off their prowess in catching aquatic wildlife, to those who just enjoyed pointing and laughing at ‘arrogant’ Lagosians being taken down a peg or to, everyone had something to say.

Lagos is a mega-city that for the most part has the infrastructure of a much smaller city.  Over the years, as more and more people migrate to the city from all over the country in search of opportunity, the existing creaking infrastructure gets more and more exposed.  For instance, a lot of Lagos’ infamous traffic is caused by the fact that there are too many vehicles and not enough roads for them to ply.  

In the case of the flooding, there are many issues.  Lagos is below sea-level and any rise in the ocean will see a level of flooding.  The dredging and land reclamation efforts for massive projects like the Eko Atlantic project have a deleterious effect on coastal communities.  Dredging at Alfa Beach in 2011 made the usual rainy season ocean surges worse costing the local community there their health centre, mosque, electrical poles and the contamination of their borehole with sea water.  

Climate change is another big issue.  This video is scarier than most horror movies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC1x0It0xzo

According to the video, if emissions continue as usual over the next 40 years, leading to a 5 degrees Celsius rise in global warming, the oceans could rise 60 meters.  That would leave much of Lagos underwater.  However, even a small rise, 0.25 degrees would still be fairly catastrophic.

Amidst all the chatter about the flooding was the usual refrain of Nigerians when things go wrong – “it’s the government’s fault.”  This is only partly true.  The government has often been greedy, only seeing Naira signs instead of environmental impacts.  Some houses are actually built over drainage, and the builders/owners have to have gotten planning permission for this or had someone turn a blind eye.   

Speaking of drainage, the system is old and poorly maintained and is further taxed by the poor waste management habits of Lagosians.  This is where we need to take responsibility.  The drains and canals are filthy, choc-full of garbage.  Granted, there are no receptacles or regular waste disposal services in various parts of Lagos, but on the other hand there needs to be a change in attitudes and behaviours of the people too.  

We have a distrustful attitude to recycling, seeing it as some foreign thing, although this is changing.  There are a few private recycling companies operating in Lagos now.  They collect recyclable waste from the populace and recycle it to sell back to the manufacturers.  They incentivise the population by giving them points for waste that is brought in, which the people can later redeem for various gift items.  

Therein lies a problem, we need to get to the stage where we recycle because it’s good and will improve the environment, not because we can redeem enough points to get a washing machine.

We just seem to be selfish and thoughtless a lot of the time.     One of our staff members reported seeing a passenger in a bus just throw his used plastic soft-drink bottle unto the bridge in traffic one day.  Now mind you, there was no garbage on the bridge, or any indication that it was fine to throw your trash there.  The passenger just did it because they were tired of holding unto the bottle and didn’t think twice about getting rid of it.  

As has been seen, the flooding is caused by more than one or two factors, and it would be disingenuous to say that flooding will stop in Lagos if we just stop littering.  However, we need all the help we can get, and every little helps.  If the drains are clear, then maybe the ocean surges won’t wreak as much havoc.  

ARDA Executive Director Presents Paper at Conference

ARDA Executive Director Alison Data Phido presented a paper at the 2017 African Literature Association Conference. The Conference, which takes place annually at various academic institutions across the world, was this year organised in the United States by the esteemed Yale University.

Mrs Phido’s paper was entitled “Women at War: The Ways that Mothers and Daughters Navigate Chaos and Mayhem during Wartime.” She was part of a panel called Writing Trauma and Violence Against Women which looked at how literature, particuarly African literature, dealt with some of the challenges and threats women face in wartime, peacetime and just the day-to-day experience of being a woman in Africa.

Various traumas were discussed over a wide-range of works including rape, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse and much more. Mrs Phido’s paper looked at the experiences of women in war and the often-horrific things they had to do to survive.

Using her own experiences as a young girl during Nigeria’s Civil War in 1967-70 as a starting point, Mrs Phido discussed the effect of war trauma on the characters, and raised the interesting point it wasn’t until women started to write about war that the effects of these traumas and traumatic events were really explored.

She talked about a character in one of the novels she read- Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (set in Sierra Leone who more recently endured their own brutal Civil War)- who had seemingly moved on but every rainy season would enter a fugue state and wander miles away from her village due to the memories and trauma she faced during the war and was still facing actually, even years after the fact.

She contrasted this with some of the novels written in the aftermath of the Nigerian civil war by some of the literary titans like Wole Soyinka or Elechi Amadi who did not shy away from depicting the trauma that women faced, but did not necessarily explore how they felt and how they dealt with this trauma.

“I think I managed to encapsulate the important points I wanted to make,” Mrs. Phido said after her presentation was over. “I feel very happy about being able to introduce some books that some people might have not heard about,” she continued.

She referenced The Forest Dames by AdaOkere Agbasimalo as one of such books calling it “an important book on the Biafran War experience for women.”

In an interesting coincidence, the aforementioned Aminatta Forna was one of the keynote speakers at the conference and Mrs Phido got to meet with her briefly during one of the official luncheons of the Conference.

The African Literature Association Annual Conference brings scholars, writers, and enthusiasts of African Literature, Studies and Culture from all over the world together to discuss, learn and network together. Mrs Phido had attended a few as an observer before making the jump to a participant this year.

She says she thoroughly enjoyed the experience, stating that she would try to present again next year if she found a topic she was as passionate about like this one.

We congratulate our ED on her successful presentation. Stay tuned for video clips from it both here and on our Facebook page.

ARDA Heads North for Production

Earlier this month, ARDA travelled to two Northern Nigerian cities- Bauchi and Sokoto- to produce content for the Northern Educational Initiative Plus (NEI+) programme.

The initiative seeks to do is strengthen local systems to increase the number of students enrolled in appropriate, relevant and approved educational options, particularly for girls and underserved children in target locations and improve reading outcomes for primary grade learners in the target locations.

If you remember we facilitated the treatment design workshop for this in early April helping the stakeholders script the various radio and interactive skits and content. Now it was time to bring these scripts to life.

Normally, we do recordings at our studio in Lagos, or up in Kaduna, for some of our Hausa programmes. This time though, we really wanted to be authentic. A non-Hausa speaker might not be able to tell the difference between the regional accents but the target audiences certainly would. We all felt that the message would be stronger if it came from voices from the target communities.

Two of our programme staff- Project Coordinator, Rebecca Ojedele and Programme Officer, Ajemina Ogan- were in charge of the production. Ms. Ojedele handled the Bauchi production, while Ms. Ogan was in charge of Sokoto.

It was a whole new experience for our intrepid travellers especially Ms. Ogan who had never been that far north before. It was also her first ARDA trip alone although that wasn’t so bad as “everyone was really friendly,” she said.

“I really gained a lot of experience on the trip,” she said. “For instance, we had to recast a lot of the voice actors, and hold auditions and I was in charge of all of that.” She said she had to be part drill sergeant, part cheerleader. “Sometimes I had to be firm, and other times I had to be very encouraging.”

Ms Ojedele was in charge of the Bauchi production, she said it was a bit different from previous production trips in Kaduna. “Even though I am a veteran of multiple ARDA productions, every production is different- facilities, cast and all that, so you just have to be dynamic and flexible and be ready to use what you find on ground,” she said. It was a mindset that served her well getting things set up.

The productions were also different in what we were producing. We were producing different kinds of radio products, not just radio drama. “We also produced IVR (interactive voice recording), Drama Skits, Jingles,” Ms. Ojedele said. “There are slight differences in the way the voice-actor reads the script for a drama and for an IVR,” she explained.

Ms. Ojedele felt we’d done the right thing by going on-location. “In development, the message you’re passing is always more acceptable, more relatable if it’s coming from your own people.”

All in all, it was a productive trip, and hopefully the audience are enthralled and inspired by it.

ARDA Facilitates Abuja Treatment Workshop

Last week, ARDA facilitated a treatment workshop in Abuja for the Northern Educational Initiative Plus (NEI+) an initiative that seeks to increase literacy and enrolment in Northern Nigeria.  

The Initiative is taking place in two Northern Nigerian states, Sokoto and Bauchi, where single-digit literacy rates amongst school aged children are in the single digits.  In addition, girl children are especially vulnerable.   There are many factors that have caused this alarming situation including structural, community and household factors, as well as school-related factors.


What NEI+ seeks to do is strengthen local systems to increase the number of students enrolled in appropriate, relevant and approved educational options, particularly for girls and underserved children in target locations and improve reading outcomes for primary grade learners in the target locations.

To this effect, the Initiative has designed a multi-channel media campaign aimed at both literate and illiterate parents that will hopefully push parents to send their children and/or wards to school equally, regardless of whether they are male or female.  

NEI+ will be reaching out to these audiences through radio and mobile.  On radio there will be Public Service Announcements (PSAs), jingles and drama skits, while on mobile, Interactive Voice Recordings (IVRs), and Texts (SMS) will be used to disseminate the message.  

ARDA’s role at this workshop was to facilitate the workshop, sharing our vast experience in radio programme design and production with the attendees.  We were represented by our Project Coordinator, Rebecca Ojedele, and Programme Assistant, Ajemina Ogan.  

We did both the design document and treatment at this workshop,” Ms. Ogan said.  She said.  “It wasn’t a full series of 26 episodes like some of our previous workshops but all the various media things- IVR, drama skits- meant it just as busy.

Ms. Ogan who has been with ARDA for about a year now said she really learned how to work faster at this workshop.  “With NURHI, for instance, we work on the clock as well, but here we were really on the clock, it was almost immediate.  We were scripting and sending them for review almost immediately and acting on the feedback, so we really had to work fast.”

Apart from ARDA and NEI+ staff, there were also community leaders and stakeholders from the target communities.  “It was a good opportunity to meet people from other cultures in the country.  Traditional rulers from Sokoto and Bauchi attended the workshop, and they are really passionate about their language and culture, so it was a good opportunity to learn about them,” Ms. Ogan said.  

Since the treatment and script have already been approved, next comes production.  Our intrepid staff members will be flying up North to handle the productions in the coming weeks.  See you then!

ARDA Holds Treatment Workshop

ARDA hosted a 5-day residential workshop this week in Lagos for the National Urban Reproductive Health Initiative Phase 2 project “Get it Together.”  The project, which seeks to increase usage of Modern Family Planning methods amongst men women and couples, takes place in three Nigerian states, Lagos, Kaduna and Oyo.  

You might recall there was a design document workshop a couple of months ago where we created the design document.  The design document was necessary for us to know the messages we would be interweaving into each episode of the programme as well as acting as a general guide and plan for us.  

Each of the three states will have their own original programmes although the structure of each state’s programme- magazine and drama- will be similar.

What is different this time, however, is that each show is actually continuing from the previous season.  This doesn’t often happen in our productions.  Even when we did continue with the stories in NURHI Phase 1, we set it in that universe, but focused on new characters with the old characters in the background for some context.  

This time however, the presence of Transmedia characters changed things a little.  NURHI had, through audience feedback, picked some of the popular characters from the previous season to be the faces of the Transmedia campaign.  Characters like Amaka from Se’rigbo, Ibrahim and Nana from Komai nisan jifa, and Bolatito from Ireti Eda will be appearing on other media channels in the near future.  

This made things quite interesting as most of these characters had finished their story arcs in the previous season and were supposed to be in the happily ever after phase of their lives and had even completed their family planning journeys from non-users to happy and satisfied users.  We had to be creative in coming up with exciting new plots that these legacy characters could be involved in whilst not rendering their previous story arcs meaningless.  

It’s going to be an intense season, these much loved characters really go through the ringer this time, and listeners will be wondering if they will make it by the end.  

As per usual, ARDA split the attendees into three groups- one for each state. Each of the three state teams worked really hard and by the close of the workshop on Friday night, had managed to create three very exciting, must-listen radio dramas if the treatments we’ve seen are anything to go by.  Now comes the review phase, where we will be reviewing the treatments in-house and in conjunction with our partners, NURHI, before finalising them and starting the actual scripting process.

April dawned bright the last day of the conference as we checked out and departed to our various homes; the end of March heralding the end of a busy and very productive workshop. 

Postcard from Atlanta III:  Should Flora Nwapa be on the N100 note?

The recent death of Buchi Emechita got us thinking about Flora Nwapa.  Flora Nwapa’s seminal novel, Efuru, was one of the first novels to be published by an African woman, and probably the first to be written by a Nigerian women.  

At the time, African’s literary environment was a bit of a boys club, which regarded women with suspicion.  While there were quite a few great novels written by men in those early days of the African Writer’s Series, the excellence did not always seem to extend to the female characters who were generally pastiches, victims, or one-dimensional villains.  Efuru was the first novel to actually challenge this literary hegemony.  Not only that, she later became a pioneering publisher, setting up the first woman-run publishing house on the continent, Tana Press.  Although she never claimed to be a feminist, there can be no denying her influence on literature not just for women but in general.

It was therefore quite apt that in the year of the 50th anniversary of the Efuru’s publishing, there were more than a few panels and roundtables dedicated to late Ms. Nwapa and her work at the 2016 African Literature Association Confrerence, which held in Atlanta, USA.  

ARDA attended one of these roundtables.  It was a lively one where the convener, Professor Marie Umeh really knew her subject, having been close to not just Ms. Nwapa when she was alive, but also her children.  In fact there were a few of her children at the roundtable which was really neat to behold.  

The main topic of the roundtable was to discuss the efforts of getting Flora Nwapa on one of the Naira notes, with the aim of getting her on the 100-Naira note.  Professor Umeh noted that there were no women on any of the Naira notes currently in circulation except the nameless woman on the 50-Naira note.  

There were a few women on the back of various notes as farmers, dancers and weavers but none of our female national icons and heroes are represented anywhere.  

There are a few pressure groups for this change and a few politicians with a bit of clout are also behind it like Kema Chikwe, the former Aviation Minister.  

The importance of keeping Flora’s name alive cannot be understated.  In Nigeria, we don’t really pay much heed to history beyond the basics so it could happen that her name could fade into the ether.  Her work is very important in the panoply of African women authors, poets, playwrights and publishers.  Without her there is probably no Buchi Emecheta, no Chimamanda Adichie, no Nnedi Okoroafor or Taiye Selasi.  Getting her on the 100-Naira note is an ambitious but worthy mission.  

Coincidentally enough, the United States, our host country at the Conference, was having its own debate about putting a woman on one of its Dollar bills. As we rode to the airport to head back to Nigeria, the news came over the radio that Harriet Tubman, of Underground Railroad fame, would be the new portrait on the 20-dollar bill!

REPOST: Giving women a voice through radio

There are many issues and problems facing women globally today.  Violence is one of them.  The world is still reeling from the brutal rape and beating of a young female medical student in India a few months ago.  Or Malala Yousufzai teenage girl in Pakistan, shot in the head by the Taliban for championing female education in October last year.

I remember sitting in church and being somewhat horrified as the pastor in her New Years service called on husbands not to beat their wives ‘too much’.  Sadly, she knew exactly what she was talking about.  Domestic violence is sadly all to common.  

Less brutal but no less damaging is inequality.  It can lead from everything from a woman not being considered for a job because she might one day want to start a family, to actual gendercide, where thousands of baby girls are aborted or abandoned to die in places like Northern India or China. Government policies like China’s one-child policy; or socioeconomic reasons like needing physically stronger males for farm-work or not being afford a dowry have made having girl children an unattractive prospect for parents.  

Inequality limits the opportunities that women have.  If a woman is seen as inferior to a man, why spend any money training her, or helping her to better herself.  If all she is seen as is someone to maintain the home and bear children, why does she need to go to school?  It’s a cycle- many women are denied the opportunity and information needed to better themselves, often times information that would allow them to at the very least fend for themselves.  These women then help perpetuate this cycle with their own daughters.  It’s not their fault, they just don’t know or feel that there is any other way.

At ARDA, our radio programmes, no matter how diverse their topic, have always sought to inform women.  Radio is an excellent medium for this.  It is accessible, and unlike television doesn’t require the women to sit down passively to get the message. The women are able to carry out their duties and still receive vital information.

Our partnership with GenARDIS illustrates this best. GenARDIS (Gender, Agriculture and Rural Development in the Information Society) is a small grants fund that supports work on gender-related issues in information and communication technologies (ICTs) for Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) agricultural and rural development

Our project saw us help the women form a cooperative to share ideas and information about farming techniques.  We realised that while the men usually got together after a day on the farm to discuss sharing I formation about farming, and other social and economic issues. Meanwhile women didn’t have that opportunity. They would be busy with chores, getting firewood for dinner and the like when they could be having a meeting of the minds.  We came up with a radio programme that allowed women to have that feeling of connectedness and community. The women of the community (Gwagwada) were also given a mobile phone with which they were able to call in to the show and speak to farm extension workers.  

It was really gratifying to see the change we made in these women’s lives. The community had a low level of mobile phone usage due to poor signal coverage. In fact we had to provide a booster antenna for the phone we gave the women.  The women used the phone to generate a small stream of income by letting people make and receive phone calls on it.

They had more confidence in themselves; we helped establish listener’s clubs where they finally had a chance to speak up and exchange ideas freely.  They were empowered.  By the end of the project, the women had been started paying a local pastor to provide Adult Education to them.

They had broken the cycle.

There is no certainty that empowering women will protect them from violence. What radio can do instead is attempt to change the harmful ideas and attitudes that allow violence against women to be condoned.  

Have a Happy Women’s Day.

ARDA hosts Design Document Workshop

This week, ARDA are hosting a 5-day residential workshop for the National Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI). The objective of the workshop is to develop a design document that will guide the development of season 2 of the NURHI Phase 2 radio programmes.

ARDA and NURHI had already developed a design document for the first season, which is around the halfway mark now. However this new design document will take into consideration listener feedback and observations.

“We’re going to review the previous design document; some things will be removed, some will be added and some things will be worked on,” said ARDA Programme Associate Ayotunde Akisanya.

He said it was necessary to do this to make sure our messages were relevant to the audiences or to approach them from a different angle. “For instance, some of the Family Planning topics we touched on in Season 1 were not issues or challenges that our audiences had dealt with in their experiences with family planning based on research. At the same time, some of the topics brought up a lot of questions and concerns from the listeners, “ said Mr Akisanya.

ARDA will work closely with NURHI to answer these questions and feedback and re-jig the design document before we go into treatment for Season 2. It’s going to be another 26 episodes of high drama and genuinely life-impacting family planning information.

One other interesting takeaway from the workshop is that the project seems to be moving towards a trans-media approach of which radio is just a single part. Trans-media basically means linking the various media channels in a unified media system, so you could have the radio characters appearing in TV spots, or music videos and jingles, or posters to further enhance and spread message reach.

ARDA participates in MADE’s mobile marketing for agricultural input workshop

Last week, ARDA attended a half-day workshop organized by Market Development (MADE) for the Niger Delta.  MADE invited us to the workshop, which sought to explore how mobile technologies can help agricultural input supplies and companies to drive sales through better marketing and engagement with customers.

The event, which held last week in Lagos, Nigeria, brought together agricultural input suppliers and mobile technology companies to brainstorm on ways in which existing technologies can be used to address marketing and farmer engagement needs.  ARDA were grouped as one of the technology companies at the workshop.


Market Development (MADE) for the Niger Delta is a rural and agricultural market development programme for the nine states of the Niger Delta (Delta, Edo, Ondo, Abia, Imo, Cross River, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa state) funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

MADE aims to increase the income of at least 150,000 poor men and women in the Niger Delta by promoting a market development programme that supports the non-oil economy by stimulating sustainable, pro-poor growth in selected rural markets and improving the position of poor men and women in these markets, to make them more inclusive for poor people.

The workshop was very participatory.  Representing ARDA; our Project Coordinator Ms. Rebecca Ojedele and Program Officer, Ms. Priscilla Fiberesima together with an Agronomic Company, came up with a problem statement which says ‘How can we educate farmers on the appropriate use (amount, storage, etc) of products by farmers to prevent such problems as over use which can have detrimental livelihood and cost effects, as well as environmental impacts?’


During course of the workshop, ARDA proffered solutions to the problem ‘How information can be gotten to farmers with illiteracy issues and ensuring they are provided the information that they actually need?

Ms. Ojedele in a presentation proffered the use of a well-planned, Interactive voice response (IVR), hotline with well-informed representative and radio explaining that to advertise the IVR code, jingles and community groups/ associations would be employed.   It is something we have done previously with the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) programme.

It was indeed a very insightful workshop for both Ms. Ojedele and Ms. Fiberesima as once again the importance of the media in driving information was brought to the fore.  The workshop also presented a good platform for ARDA to meet representatives from other organisations thereby creating relationships for future collaborations, especially in the agricultural field, which is one of our areas of interest.  

ARDA attends PANOS Regional Symposium

ARDA was invited to the PANOS Institute West Africa (PIWA) regional symposium, held in Niamey, Niger Republic, earlier this month.  Over 40 participants from across the West African region, South Africa and Tunisia attended the two-day event.  The theme was Human Rights, Radio and Theatre: Bright Prospects.

The PANOS Network is a pancontinental NGO with offices and partnerships in Europe, the Caribbean, South-Asia and across the African continent.  Since 2000, PANOS has sought to ensure that information is effectively used to foster debate, pluralism and democracy across its target regions.   PIWA in addition seeks to build a democratic communication space for change and social justice in Africa.


Our Project Coordinator, Rebecca Ojedele represented ARDA at the symposium.  “PANOS meet fairly regularly, maybe every two years or so, with organisations who use Radio and radio drama as a medium to reach people,” she said.  “It’s a good way to meet and network with other people in our field in West Africa.”  

Ms. Ojedele said that the symposium focused on trends in Radio-based behavioural change communication as well as the future of the medium.  “It was interesting, especially the bits about using the internet as a medium.   It reminded me that we can do more of that ARDA; we can use it to complement our programmes or even use it as a medium on its own like with podcasts and the like.”

The result of the symposium was the Niamey Declaration, which was seen as a ‘marriage certificate’ of sorts for Human Rights, Radio and Theatre.  The declaration reaffirmed the power and reach of radio and radio drama in effecting social and developmental change.


It called on production stakeholders- NGOs, Civil Society Organisations, Defenders of Human Rights, Arts and culture professionals- to understand and adapt to the diverse media landscape with regards to production, distribution and financing.  

The Declaration called on African governments to enact laws that would protect free speech and access to information that would be supportive of human rights.

It also called on donors, institutions and media organisations involved in the production of Behavioural Change Communication Radio Dramas to foster a culture of human rights by supporting and training practitioners to produce and broadcast radio theatre that is sensitive of human rights.  

Ms Ojedele found the symposium both enlightening and inspiring.  “Hearing other people’s success stories shows that the methodology we’ve all chosen to use is effective, and change is being accomplished through that.”