Veteran broadcaster and scriptwriter, Gbenga Ariba has found a secure place for his radio plays, in a book titled Radio Plays. Recently, in company of age-long friends and colleagues, some who volunteered to act out a few scenes from one of his plays, Ariba made a public presentation of his new collection of radio plays to sustain the tradition of storytelling and theatre for entertainment and development.
Ariba began his journey in broadcasting at Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in Kaduna over three decades ago and later moved to Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Lagos before veering into advertising. He had written well over 200 plays and most of them had been lost in a fire incident at the Ikoyi-based broadcasting house. His portfolio include plays that had been produced for the ear such as “Gandu Street”, “Have You Heard?’’, “True to Life” and “Adventures of Sunny Sunny”, to mention a few.
As a university lecturer, it became a challenge for him to use existing examples of radio plays to teach the students of mass communication how to write plays because they were not published in readable pieces. Hence, he decided to write and publish radio plays to encourage his contemporaries to document their works and inspire aspiring writers to write for the ear for both intellectual and production purposes.
At the launch of the plays which took place at the Voice of Nigeria, Ikoyi, the Director General, VON, Osita Okechukwu said that such creative initiative of Ariba aligns with the government’s effort at diversifying the nation’s economy.
The book reviewer, Prof. Hygenius Ekwuazi observed that radio drama depends largely on the listeners’ imagination. He remarked that radio plays are powerful in diverting from a problem and reality to serve as a form of entertainment, direct human behaviour, motivate change and influence political choices.
The buttress the point made by the reviewer, another seasoned broadcaster, Mrs. Kehinde Young-Harry, recalled the year in which she and Christopher Kolade were detained at the Kirikiri prisons for a radio play that was broadcast. Still, Nigerian radio drama had been penned by renowned writers such as Eddie Iroh and Cyprian Ekwensi.
The author, Ariba, while highlighting the importance of publishing noted that all the plays that he wrote between 1979 and 1991 had been lost in fire and he couldn’t recreate the same stories anymore. “Most of the plays I write are about man. I write so that you can change ideas, improve and have a better society. Before change comes, I have been writing about change. For example, ‘Tapping from Our Resources’ is about land. Now, some state governments are making laws to protect people. There are so much land lying fallow along the expressway which can be used for farming. But some people say it is their family land. We cannot build houses on the land. There is another play titled, ‘Hanky-Panky’ and it is about relationships.
“In another play, I wrote about a young man who is looking for job whereas, he could farm in his village. But some people think with all the university degree, why should I farm? It takes more than dialogue to fashion out your script. You must have a position as a writer. And it is not easy writing. I enjoy writing. There are some jobs you do because of the interest. With the advent of private radio stations, many people just want to listen to music. They don’t task themselves.
Also, lack of sponsors is affecting radio drama. Still, stations should make effort to put money into programmes. I think NBC should insist that radio stations should have good content programming not just 24-hour music.”