Using a TV Show to Speak to Power in Nigeria

With a slight grin forming on her visage, the delectable woman sits still staring at the camera. Then, she turns her head to acknowledge her guest on the TV show with a smile and a glint in her eyeballs. Her mellifluous voice wafts through the studio with grace, as she amicably put her guest on the hot seat. Driven –not by political patronage – but the development of her people and nation, Nigeria, Osasu Igbinedion, has jettisoned any political pedigree she might have been linked with, speaking to the powers that be. With consistency and commitment, she has – in the last four years through her TOS TV Network – been pursuing extraordinary causes that touch the very life of Nigerians.
Bayo Akinloye explores the highlights of the adventures of one woman using the media for sustainable development goals in Nigeria

Tateline was December 2014. The United Nations headquarters was a beehive of activities. That year the Millennium Development Goals had faltered in Africa but the global body was already preparing to launch another project so that “nobody is left behind.” The project, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was billed to take off on January 1, 2015 as the UN Millennium Campaign (UNMC) had figured out that one of the reasons the MDGs’ objectives were not achieved in Africa, especially Nigeria, was because the media did not play a major role in driving them.

This was a mistake never to be made with the SDGs. So, the UN gathered a handful of development journalists from West Africa – who they thought could drive the SDGs if given the right awareness – and one of the select journalists was Osasu Igbinedion, a development journalist and communications expert.

Between 2015 and 2019, Osasu has gone on to build one of the strongest new media brands in Nigeria – not just delivering news but driving conversations, interrogating the rich and the poor, the mighty and the feeble, the president and the petty trader. She has defied the political divides, religious affiliations, and ethnic fault lines, to ensure development in Nigeria – one conversation at a time.

As a media entrepreneur of repute, she kicked off The Osasu Show alongside her dogged drive for the SDGs in 2015, and has now moved from just a journalist to the chief executive officer of TOS TV Network, and a key development driver in the African media space – reaching millions of people on the continent and beyond on a weekly basis.
In the last four years, she has engaged policymakers, lawmakers, ministers, governors, and even the president of the most populous black nation. She takes the questions ordinary Nigerians itch to ask and brings the answers to their doorstep via her flagship The Osasu Show.

When the herder-farmer crisis was ravaging Agatu in Benue State and the media was awash with deaths and destructions, The Osasu show went into the depths of the battlefield, investigating the realities, speaking to the victims, the players, and the governor of the state, Samuel Ortom – who said the herdsmen attack was a grand agenda against the people of Benue. She did not mince words when she called out prominent figures like the Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Kano, and all who have been publicly affiliated with the Miyetti Allah.

“Lawmakers, policy experts, ministers, and core politicians in Nigeria often seen to take actions without recourse to the people who elected them into office,” says Osasu “and this, more often than not leaves Nigerians with tons of questions on why some policy actions or inaction prevail. Many Nigerians do not have the means or place to directly engage these political actors.”

But Osasu fills the void.
The Osasu Show took the findings of the investigations of the Agatu killings to the seat of power, asking Femi Adesina, the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, why President Muhammadu Buhari had not visited the Benue people, “whose blood was shed repeatedly” at the time.

“Adesina’s response that Buhari did not have to visit Agatu led to a heavy online and offline backlash, which eventually forced the president to visit the state,” Osasu recounts.

Relentless and intrepid, Osasu explains that the same measures were taken during the initial resurgence of the now “famous” Southern Kaduna killings, saying, “The Osasu Show visited the state to speak to all the players involved in the crisis and brought out the truth about the ethno-religious crisis.”

In 2016, when there was the raging controversy that a cabal was running the country instead of Buhari, Osasu caught up with the president at the United Nations General Assembly and asked him brave questions about the Northeast Development Fund and the authority of the president – that auspicious encounter, she notes, shaped the national conversations for months in the country.

The inevitability of The Osasu Show dogging the tail of the principal actors in Nigeria’s socio-economic-political-religious crisis was also evident when the TOS TV brought all the players of 2018 Shiite-Nigerian Army clashes in different conversations to tell a balanced and objective story. In her viral interview with John Agim, spokesman for the defence headquarters (DHQ), it was revealed that the army did not “have rubber bullets when we are sent on assignments”.

The same interview was later used by the New York Times in its stinging investigations into the saga.
Similarly, in 2018, Osasu hosted the third series of ‘The Osasu Show Symposium’, which doubled as the first presidential debate in the build-up to the 2019 presidential election.

By 2019, Osasu had a one-on-one interview with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmoud Yakub, during which the latter told Nigerians that he “can’t foresee any possibility of postponement (of the election)”.

About one month later, when the national elections were eventually postponed, The Osasu Show was also the “first news medium to categorically state” that the elections had been postponed.

In driving these conversations, the show has not lost its objectivity and balance – interrogating Shiites and the army; the president and his contenders; the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and his prime political opponent, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; Governor Yahaya Bello and Senator Dino Melaye; among other principal players in Nigeria’s polity, including ordinary compatriots.

Osasu confronted Amaechi about his affiliation with thugs, including Ojukaye Flag-Amachree and his cohorts, and served Wike tough questions about the millions of naira withdrawn from the state government’s account and his alleged criminal case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Over the four years of existence, Osasu has used the TOS TV platform to become the voice of the masses, transmitting their concerns from street interviews to the corridors of influence and power, effecting change in the remotest parts of the nation. From Ogoni to Kaduna, from Agatu to Ogbia, she has run nation-defining investigations, echoing the concerns of the downtrodden in society.

As an astute UNMC-certified media ambassador for the SDGs, Osasu has used the show to reflect the heart of the sustainable development goals, which is to ensure “no one is left behind”.

As host of The Weekend Show, media ambassador for SDGs with UNMC, humanitarian and founder of The Osasu Show Foundation, media entrepreneur and CEO of TOS TV Network, Osasu fills a vacuum that has long existed in the Nigerian media space.

Still waxing stronger and going into the future with more belief, following four years of exhilarating, life-changing and nation-building engagements, Osasu’s TOS TV Network is changing the frontiers of media in Nigeria – from that of harbinger of bad news to one that promotes development, understanding, unity, and gives hope.