The Golden Days of Nigerian Television Authority

The Golden Days of Nigerian Television Authority
By Douglas Ogbankwa

The Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, is not just an ordinary Television Network, it is the first Television Network in Africa ,as it came out of the Western Nigerian Television, WNTV, Ibadan, which was established in 1959.
So, NTA became a behemoth that controlled the minds and nuisances of Nigerians.
It had many Programmes, Dramas and Sicoms that kept Nigerians glued to their Television, which was even black and white television at that time .A Day on NTA begins with the colour bars ,then the National Item, before you will now see the Duty Continuity Announcer.

It was fun waiting for the TV Station to commence their daily activities. We are lucky now ,that TV is now 24 Hours .
The was this NTA Port Harcourt Blockbuster ,Willie Willie ,which sent fevers down the spine of Young Children and was a most watch those days. Children used to replica the songs of the Drama as a Play Song.
“My name is Frank Olise ,this is News Line, it is 9pm, do you know where your daughters are? With these Lines Frank Olise became one of the foremost Presenters of News Line on NTA .He was a very good programme, who transmitted seamlessly from a report to another with comic and satirical interludes ,which mocked the Nigerian Ruling Class.
Abike Dabiri also Distinguished herself in Newsline, first as a Presenter,who gave a report that exposed a child theft network. She later presented Newsline, before taking a stint in Politics. News Line however lost its verve when Frank Olise Left the Programme.

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There were the golden days of the NTA Network News Anchored by the Likes of Ruth Benemisia -Opia whom Frank Olise called the “Ruthless Ruth.”
The Late Tokunboh Ajayi, who died in mysterious circumstances. The Legend himself Cyril Stober, Ronke Ayuba, Aisha Katung, etc., Jennifer Osigwe, etc. There Super Network News Reporters like Emma Okondo, Ben Orji, Manasara Iloh, etc.

We also had on NTA both local and National Foreign Shows and Films Like the Famous Five ,Big Foot ,the Incredible Hulk ,Blues Brothers ,Police Academy, Space 1999,Night Rider, Bring Him Back Alive, Tarzan, etc.
At the NTA Benin Level, we had the Incredibly highly Successful Programme Hotel De Jordan with names like Chief Ajas,Chief Igho, Casino Manager, Gbedegbedegbehun, Kokori played by David Ariyo who died a mysterious death, Idemudia and the grandiloquent and verbose Bob Allan played by my former Lecturer-Professor Richard Idubor and later the Dean of the Faculty of Law ,University of Benin. In the Programme Kokori and Idemudia who played the Servants of Chief Ajas used to sing a song thus :”I say na lie ,I say biggie biggie lie o,person no dey big ,make im big like Chief Ajas,the thing wey e dey do ,e pass milik o,…..”
At the Sports Department of the NTA Network, who can forget Akinloye Oyebanji, Paul Ogazi, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed and the dramatic commentary given by the NTA Network Sports at the Damman Miracle, the Match between Nigeria and the USSR at the Under 20 World Cup at Saudi-89,when Nigeria equalised 4-4 against USSR, the Commentator said: “This is impossible, this is incredible ,this unbelievable, this is patriotism,4-1,4-2,4-3 and now 4-4″. Nigeria went ahead to win the match on penalties with a last strike by Nduka Ogbade, which sparked unprecedented spontaneous and simultaneous celebrations Nation Wide.
Who will forget the star studded Soap Opera Check Mate, where Richard Mofe -Damijo and Ego Boyo, were engaged in an unending love tango. We can not forget the immortal comic lines of Uche Obi Ositule who played a house girl in the Soap and said, “In Lagos ,Any where you go fry over, any where you go fry over, In short, Lagos is fry over.”
In NTA Benin again, there was a Sunday special movie ,called Super Movie. It had different episodes and titles .In one of them, Mosis Obakpolo played an Armed Robbery Kingpin and played it very well, I Even thought he was an Armed Robber in real life!In that same movie, my own elder sister -then Esther Ogbankwa, now Esther Njoku, played a lead Character. The Late Flavian Okojie was also a Major Character in many of the episodes.
The NTA Indeed produced ever green stars whom are unforgettable.
In an Article published by on March 31, 2019, it captured the Stars of NTA Thus :
“The 80s and 90s were one of the best TV era in the history of Nigeria.
MARCH 31, 2019 This Day (Lagos)
The 80s and 90s were one of the best TV era in the history of Nigeria. The period was marked with riveting and captivating soap operas played by indelible characters. From The New Masquerade to Behind the Clouds, these actors evoked nostalgia whenever their names are mentioned. How many of them.
Do you remember in this list compiled by Vanessa Obioha?

Chika Okpala
The veteran TV actor played the lead character Chief Zebrudaya in ‘The New Masquerade’. His comedic manner of speaking tinged with incorrect grammar made him a lovable actor. That character would later cling to him like a second skin, such that whether he is in character or not the widely held opinion of him is retained as top-of-the-mind.


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Though he has played other roles in different sitcoms, none has been as nostalgic as the 1980s sitcom. He was honoured with the lifetime achievement award by the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) IN 2017. Recently, he made a cameo appearance in Genevieve Nnaji’s Netflix movie, ‘Lion Heart’.

Sadiq Daba
Who could ever forget Bitrus played by the maven actor in the 70s soap opera ‘Cock Crow at Dawn’. The broadcaster and TV producer is renowned for his diverse characters which he brings to life with peerless precision.

He was very prominent in most of the 80s and 90s soap operas such as ‘Behind the Cloud’, ‘A Place Like Home’ and featured in most Nollywood’s early offerings such as ‘Nightmare’. In 2014, Kunle Afolayan cast him as Inspector Danladi Waziri in his award-winning blockbuster ‘October 1’.

The movie fetched Daba an Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actor the following year.
In 2017, Daba announced that he was diagnosed of leukemia and prostate cancer. Through the help of benevolent Nigerians, he was flown out of the country for treatment. He would later be among the crusaders who walk against cancer.

Funmi Adams:
Most people remember her for her patriotic and children’s songs such as ‘Nigeria, My Beloved Country’ and ‘Mama, Thank You For Your Love’. In 2007, a thread on the whereabouts of Adams started on Nairaland but to date, only bits of information about the songstress is available.

Pete Edochie: Okonkwo
That was the character that beamed Pete Edochie to the world. A younger Edochie interpreted the role with so much conviction in the film adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ that when he finally moved on to other productions, he was still referred to as ‘Okonkwo’.

Edochie has taken up many roles in Nollywood, most times that of a villain. His signature proverbial sayings and blinking of eyes endeared him more to more fans. His recent feature was in Genevieve Nnaji’s ‘Lionheart’ where he played Chief Ernest Obiagu, a wealthy owner of a bus transport company.
Franca Brown: No doubt, ‘Behind the Clouds’ boasted of many thespians and one of them was Franka Brown. She played the mother of Nosa, the late MacArthur Fom.

Justice Esiri
The late actor was among those who donned the titular character in the longest TV soap opera in ‘The Village Headmaster’. He took the reins from Ted Mukoro who succeeded Femi Robinson, the first actor to play the role. Esiri was also famous in other TV and film productions.

Douglas Ogbankwa

Albert Egbe
“To be a millionaire, think like a millionaire!” was the catchy phrase of the lead character Basi (also known as Mr. B) in the Nigerian sitcom Basi and Company which ran from 1986 to 1990 on NTA, and was later syndicated across Africa.

Written and produced by Ken Saro-Wiwa and filmed in Enugu, the show derived inspiration from African folklore, and lampooned widespread corruption in oil-rich Nigeria while highlighting its consequences.

Egbe played the role for two years (1985-1987) before another TV and Nollywood personality Zulu Adigwe took over. Other actors who played the titular character in the TV comedy series included Also Douglas, Laso Amaro.

Zack Amata
The oldest of the Amatas, Zack was famous for his role in ‘Behind the Clouds’ where he played alongside Franca Brown and MacArthur Fom as the father of the latter. Known as Mr. Okonzua (also Papa Efe) Zack was a disciplinarian who his fans took a liking to.

As acting is the family’s DNA, it is no surprise that some of his children didn’t toe a different path, namely Jeta Amata. The actor who also wears a producers hat finally tied the knots in 2017.

Taiwo Ajai-Lycett
In 1979, Laolu Ogunniyi’s ‘Wind Against My Soul’ rocked the airwaves. The show also saw the veteran actress play a lead role alongside the late Sam Loco Efe. Ajai-Lycett who is also a journalist and an Officer of the Order of the Niger is mostly revered for her role in the M-Net drama series, Tinsel.
Abiola Atanda(Madam Kofo): To date, when you mention Madam Kofo, the first mental image is that of Abiola Atanda in her dramatic gele styles in the soap opera ‘Second Chance’. Prior to that, Madam Kofo was a performer with the Hubert Ogunde Theatre Company where she learnt to dance ‘Bata’. She also featured in other productions such as ‘Mirror in the Sun’. Atanda can still be seen rocking her signature gele styles at events.


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Sunday Omobolanle (Papi Luwe) Omobolanle was one of the TV actors that delighted Nigerians back in the day. His multirag attire and comic style of speaking endeared him in the Comedy Half Hour series produced by the late Baba Mero theatre company, Ojo Ladipo Theatre Company.

Known for his ability to play diverse characters, Papi Luwe played alongside Adebayo Salami, who was known as Oga Bello. Together they lit up the siliver screen with their comical antics. Jide Kosoko was also featured in the plays.

Ene Oloja: The veteran actress was one of the famous actors of ‘Cock Crow at Dawn’. Playing ‘Zamaye’ in the 80s sitcom earned her several national awards and recognition. She is often referred to as the doyenne of acting. Though living in USA, the actress featured in her first Nollywood flick ‘Zero Hour,’ recently.

Olu Jacobs: That authoritative voice of his cannot be mistaken. Olu Jacobs featured in many of the popular starred in the 80s but he is also remembered for his role in the drama series, ‘Third Eye’ acting which he played alongside his wife, Joke Silva.”

In the Late 90s,there was an interesting Programme on NTA Network called “A.M. Express ” with Yinka Craig, Sadik Daba, Katherine Obiag ,later Katherine Edoko, ololade Obafemi,etc., presenting .
It was a delight to watch. It was Yinka Craig’s last show to the Nation, before he died of a terminal illness. He had a very successful career on TV spanning decades .

The Nigerian Television Authority has lost its vibes and there are little entertainment programmes on TV and if there were any ,they have little entertainment value. The News Programmes are equally drab.

They must attract talents ,allow merit to thrive and stop political employment of staff. This is the bane of the NTA.
NTA can raise again, if we did the right thing.

*Douglas Ogbankwa, lawyer, writer and policy analyst is the Director of Strategic Communications of the African Bar Association and the Founder of the Benin Writers’ Society.

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