Retelling SHS Stories: Television in Nigeria First Established in Largest City

On this very same day in 1968…

Shortridge Daily Echo — Friday, January 5th, 1968


By Lila Reese Osili

Television came to Nigeria in 1961. Oddly enough, the first television station was not situated in Lagos, the capital city, but in Ibadan, the largest populated city in all of Africa. Ibadan is 89 miles from Lagos and reception to Lagos from Ibadan was, initially, extremely poor.

Television came to Lagos in April, 1962. What an exciting day it was. All of the local talent, good and bad as well as mediocre, participated on the first program. All well-known personalities were invited to speak for a limited time. Most of them exceeded the time limit. We persevered the speeches because of the filmed programs to follow.

American Serves As Program Director

The director of television services was an American. Many of the programs were American. Many of the programs we are currently enjoying in Indianapolis were also enjoyed in Lagos. Among these were Beverly Hillbillies, Candid Camera, Perry Mason, Burke’s Law, Bonanza, Lassie, Superman, Mission Impossible, Dick Powell Theatre, Gunsmoke, Ben Casey, The Nurses, Alfred Hitchcock, The Fugitive, Adventures in Paradise, I Love Lucy, Dick Van Dyke Show, Donna Reed Show, and Leave it to Beaver. In addition to these, we also enjoyed many of the well known television programs from England.

Education Program Televised in Morning

Educational television programs began every weekday morning at 11:00. These were in vernacular and I could not understand a single word. This program lasted for one hour. Television for entertainment began at 5:30 p.m. and concluded at 11:30 p.m. except on Saturday nights when there was the late show.

Many prominent visitors were filmed by the television units and frequently presented to the viewers. Among these were Odetta, the late Phillipa Schuyler, Brock Peters, Lionel Hampton, and various politicians on fact-finding tours.

Every Saturday afternoon the Saturday Square was presented live for the teenagers . Here all of the latest dances, Nigerian, American, British, Indian, West Indian, and Latin American were demonstrated by high school pupils who were invited to participate.

Special Programs Keyed to Groups

Local programs included the newscast four times during the evening, a program just for the women where dished were demonstrated, clothes modeled and prominent women visitors from all over the world interviewed. There were several quiz programs similar in content to many here. The main difference was in the type of prizes awarded. No fabulous prizes were offered. Religious services were presented live every Sunday night. Each denomination was asked to participate. Debates, discussion and traditional music and dancing occupied the remainder of the time.

The color television craze has not reached Nigeria. It is just as well, because the cost of television sets prohibits the general public from watching.

In Nigeria, there are only five television channels. Only two were available to the Lagos audience. We were pleased to turn to either of these channels as we felt that we, in Lagos, were getting the best of two worlds, American and English, in television.

This story is a part of the series Retelling SHS Stories produced by the Shortridge Archives. Shortridge Archives meets on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays weekly. For more information email Mr. Durrett at Stay tuned for more stories like this one!