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CURBING THE MENACE OF IRREGULAR MIGRATION – WAKABOUT RADIO DRAMA SERIES

Migration as a phenomenon takes place for various reasons but it becomes a cause for worry when it takes place in an irregular manner. This is what has become endemic in our modern-day society. Migration is termed irregular when it is prompted by desperation and possibly done through illegitimate means. Many Nigerians and citizens from other developing countries, in the quest for greener pastures, defy all laws to ensure they migrate to countries, especially Europe, where they believe they can have new and improved lease of lives.

Findings have shown that members of human trafficking syndicates lure people, sometimes, relatives and close acquaintances who have some trust in them to pull them out of poor living conditions only for the greener pasture seekers to discover, on arrival at their destinations, that they have been deceived. They therefore, end up in slavery and cheap labour. Thousands of women have been lured into sexual exploitation in Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, while others have been subjected to involuntary domestic servitude.

Even with the massive and strategic efforts being made by the conventional media at reporting cases of the large number of Nigerians in dreadful living conditions abroad, including the narration of personal dehumanizing experiences of rescued victims who are yearning to return home, the phenomenon has been on the increase. This increase, many have attributed to the harsh economic situation and the biting living conditions of Nigerians in their homeland; coupled with the unfounded belief that better living conditions are guaranteed outside the shores of Nigeria.

It thus becomes imperative to create avenues for information sharing and informed debate on migration. This is what informed the initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) with the support of the Italian Agency for Development Corporation, through ‘Fondo Africa’ of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation (MAECI) to reach out to the public, particularly the low class who are the most vulnerable. It is in employing viable and most effective means of getting the public enlightened and informed that a radio drama series tagged WAKABOUT was birthed.

The collaboration of UNESCO and Agate Multimedia Concepts, a media and Theatre Production Company, adopted the medium of radio drama to speak to Nigerians on the dangers of irregular migration. The process started with a 2- day workshop with professional actors on diverse issues relating to migration and how their craft can be effectively used in communicating and effecting an enduring change from the status quo. Facilitated by consultants who are migration and drama for development experts respectively, the workshop equipped the actors with adequate knowledge on migration and on how drama can be used as an eye-opener to prospective victims of irregular migration. 

The contents developed, in the form of radio drama scripts, were aimed at empowering people with the right information, raising awareness on risks associated with irregular migration, creating platforms for discussions on migration issues and for job opportunities for youths and returnees.

We always believe that migrating illegally is a norm, so we are made to know that migration does not have to be illegal. The radio drama is focused on explaining the economic and social conditions necessitating the desperate desire to migrate, sensitize the public on the gimmicks of human traffickers in luring unsuspecting victims, unveil the dangers of traveling abroad in search of better life based on beliefs that foreign countries are havens, sensitize the public on the dangers of illegal trans-border migration and reveal the harrowing condition of Nigerians being subjected to slavery and other dehumanizing conditions abroad
Taiwo Ibikunle, Director of Agate Multimedia Concepts

The 13-week radio drama series, was produced with some of the themes that trigger irregular migration and the resultant effects. Supporting the choice of radio as the medium of dissemination, a popular Nollywood actor also known as John the Genius said “… not all homes have television. It has been discovered that radio is everywhere and easy to penetrate larger audience even more than the screen and the decision to make the drama in Pidgin English is so as not to have a language barrier. A very large percentage of Nigerians understand and can communicate in pidgin English.”

Wakabout Series has been airing on six radio stations across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. These include Bronze 101.5 FM, Benin City, Edo state, every Tuesday at 1:40pm, Caritas 98.7 FM, Enugu at 5:30 pm every Friday, Dala 88.5 FM, Kano at 7:30 am every Saturday, Albarka 99.7FM, Bauchi at 8:30 am every Saturday, SMA 104.7 (Lagos and Ijebu Ode) at 9:15 every Saturday and Armed Forces Radio 107.7, Abuja.

“The broadcast is designed in a way that listeners can air their opinions on the various subjects bordering on migration as treated by each of the episodes. The phone-in segment has helped highlight the issue of migration in our society and the impact of the drama on the public. In fact, the management of Armed Forces radio 107.7 FM, Abuja had to, on its own, increase the broadcast time to 30 minutes to enable the listeners of the station air their views more, as the calls and reactions of the station’s listeners became overwhelming. The management of SMA 104.7 FM, Lagos, after the broadcast of the first episode, began to broadcast the drama on its network, linking with its station in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State on the request of its listeners”, explained the Director of the drama. It is hoped that the drama series will contribute to the needed paradigm shift in the narrative about migration stories in Nigeria.