In the 1980s and 1990s the broadcast media landscape in Nigeria was dominated by government-owned radio and television houses. Even after the space was liberalised in 1992 for private media houses to come in, it still took a while before that dominance by government stations gave way to what is now private media dominance. Back then, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was the federal government television station which most people relied on for information, education and entertainment. The station had very interesting and intriguing national programmes, particularly drama series that kept people glued to their sets. Here is a list of top 10 drama series aired on NTA in the 1980s and 1990s.
At number 10 is Ripples, a popular soap opera produced by Zeb Ejiro. This programme ran for 5 years interrupted (1988-1993) and became a big hit during this period, with several viewers getting addicted to it. Patrick Doyle who played the role of Melvin Dehinde-Phillips reportedly left the show controversially, but this did not stop the momentum of the show. Ripples was the programme that provided Genvieve Nnaji her first TV platform to launch her talent to the World.
9) Basi and Company
At number nine is Basi and Company. The programme became a household name between 1986 to 1990 when it aired on NTA. It was written and produced by late activist, Ken Saro Wiwa. Filmed in Enugu state, the TV series touched on corruption and African folklore. The comedy series starred Albert Egbe, Zulu Adigwe, Aso Douglas, Lasa Amoro and was rested after 150 episodes. Basi and Company is still remembered by many Nigerian viewers who watched NTA in the 80s.
Samanja was one very popular, hilarious comedy show which started off regionally in 1973 on NTA Kaduna. It was also on Radio Kaduna. It eventually became a national programme due to its unpopularity and increasing audience base, leading to a change in its format to accommodate a larger audience. The language of the show changed from Hausa to pidgin. Set in a military barracks, veteran actor Usman Baba Pategi played the role of Sgt Samanja- a funny soldier with several rib-cracking antics. Samanja was among the very programmes that captivated viewers across ethnic spread in the 1970s and 1980s.
Icheoku was one comedy programme that enjoyed monopoly in the 1980’s in terms of format and rib-cracking humour. It featured a translator wrongly interpreting the words of a white British magistrate during a court session, to an audience that did not understand English. The format of Icheoku is still used by many Nigerian comedians till today. This programme was among the most popular comedy drama series of all time aired on NTA.
6. The Village Headmaster
At number six is The Village Headmaster, one of the most iconic Nigerian TV series of all time. It ran for 2 decades (1968-1988), making it the longest-running series aired on the NTA.
The Village Headmaster which featured greats such as the late Justis Esiri, Dejumo Lewis, Funsho Adeolu, and Enebeli Elebuwa. The plot of this classic drama series was woven around inter-ethnic harmony, problem-solving and intervention in public affairs, health education and fun in the family. It was one of the programmes loved by Nigerian viewers across geographic spread.
At number five is Checkmate, another classic aired on NTA in the 80’s. This captivating programme was described as one of the best and earliest television series exports during the famed “golden age of Television”. Staring famous faces such as Richard Mofe Damijo as Şegun Kadiri, Bob-Manuel Udokwu as Richard Haastrup, Kunle Bamtefa as Chief Fuji, a polygamous chief, Francis Agu as Benibo ‘Benny’ Haastrup, Mildred Iweka as Ada, Nduka’s wife and Norbert Young as Professor Okon, a UNILAG academic. Checkmate was one of the programmes that many viewers in the early 1990s could not do without. It kept viewers spellbound on Sunday nights, specifically from 1991 to 1994.
4) Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart is the fourth on this list. This classic drama series began airing in NTA in 1987. It was an adaptation of the vintage novel written by Chinua Achebe. The programme kept audience glued to their TV sets watching lead character of Okonkwo being played by Pete Edochie who eventually became one of the greatest actors in the Nollywood industry. Other acts in the TV series were the late Sam Loco Efe and Nkem Owoh. Things Fall Apart is arguably the greatest fictional story to come out of Nigeria. It was released in 1987 and aired into the early 90’s.
The scenes in this programme are still fresh in the minds of some viewers even several years after it stopped airing.
3. The New Masquerades
At number 3 is The New Masquerades. This was another immensely popular television drama series aired on NTA in the 80s. The drama began initially as a radio programme in the East Central Broadcast Corporation Enugu before it was transformed into a television programme aired on NTA. New Masquerade was created by James Iroha as a comic to relieve the tension and stress faced by the Civil war. It turned out to become the longest-running sitcom in Nigeria Broadcasting history. The programme had impressively thrilling cast including the late James Iroha (Gringory Akabogu), late Claude Eke (Jegede Shokoya); Chika Okpalla (Chief Zebrudaya); Tony Akposheri (Zakky); Lizzy Eveome (Ovuleria); late Christy Essien-Igbokwe (Akpena); Davis Offor (Clarus); and Nati. The New Masquerade was aired every Wednesday at 8.30pm, keeping audience glued to their TV sets, enjoying remarkable humour for offered viewers 30 minutes.
2. Mirror In The Sun
At number two is Mirror In The Sun. This was a fascinating programme that aired between 1984 to 1986. Within that short period the programme became a household delight among many Nigerians that watched televion in that era. Mirror In The Sun had about 52 episodes which captivated viewers becoming one of the best soap operas in the country.
The programme was written and produced by Lola Fani-Kayode in conjunction with Cinekraft Ltd. It aired every Sunday on NTA. Mirror In The Sun reflected the life of middle-class Nigerians and the satire of upper-class in the country. Among highactors which like Larry Williams, Barbara Soky, Clarion Chukwura and Enebeli Elebuwa. Mirror In The Sun is one of the classics NTA aired in the 80s.
1. Cock Crow At Dawn
At number one is Cock Crow At Dawn. This is one of the programmes that will ever remain in the memories of Nigerians who watched television in 1980s. Cock Crow At Dawn was initially launched in 1980 as an agriculture promotional drama co-sponsored by UBA and produced by Peter Igho for the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). Shot in Jos, the series captivated the Nigerian viewers, with the performances by Sadiq Daba starring as Bitrus, Ene Oloja as mama Bitrus, Tola Awobode as Lare and Karimu Yero as uncle Gaga. In the early 80’s, people kept a date with their TV sets and this was a programme no one considered after time. It aired at 6pm every Friday, and viewers always expected fun from the programme especially while watching Sadiq Daba (Bitrus) play the role of a mischievous child in a Nigerian Family that struggles to adapt to city life but eventually goes back to the rural area to engage in farming, a decision that finally helps the family rebuild its economy. Sadiq Daba showed class while acting as Bitrus in Cock Crow At Dawn, endearing himself to many viewerrs. He is regarded today as one of the oldest and biggest actors if all time in Nigeria. The theme song was written by Bongos Ikwe. Cock Crow At Dawn was a product of NTA Jos and it aired for 104 episodes before going off the air.