Academic journal article Africa

The Political Freedom of Video Marketing in Ogbomoso, Nigeria

Academic journal article Africa

The Political Freedom of Video Marketing in Ogbomoso, Nigeria

Article excerpt

This article examines the character of Yoruba video viewers, the style of marketing and the politics of choice in Ogbomoso, a Nigerian town located on the northern fringes of Qyo State, and a site in which, as an itinerant trading community, production is not the source of wealth. Rather, big wealth is always repatriated from outside, raising a doubt, stemming from its largely invisible productive base, about human capability and achievements.

Ogbomoso is like many Yoruba communities in its religious mix. It is historically the radiating centre of a successful Baptist mission in southern Nigeria and, as such, the Baptists' work ethic competes strongly with mercantilist aspects of Islam, which also has many adherents in the community. Indeed, Ogbomoso's landscape is a fascinating combination of the monumental structures of the Baptists and the Muslims, who variously contribute to its skyline and contrastive architecture. But they also shape the cultural process as antithesis of each other's position: being responsible for the critique of one another's ambitions, possessions and influence. Between them they have attracted a significant migrant community exploiting their instructional, medical and religious services. The population is thus diverse, not only in religion but also in ethnicity.

However, Ogbomoso's heterogeneity is not a recent development. During the nineteenth-century Yoruba ethnic wars, several Yoruba communities not only found a haven in Ogbomoso, which enjoys a historic reputation for never having been conquered, they also struggled to build a hegemonic order, subsumed under the rubrics of Ogbomoso identity, that is unquestionably superior to its parts. This, of course, is not to suggest that the socio-political strains of a diverse historical consciousness, or roots, do not surface occasionally. However, contrary to the tendency in many traditional Yoruba communities to emphasise the divisive elements as the hegemonic power imposes its order, Ogbomoso identity is a strong centripetal force both within and outside the township.

What ought to be noted, however, primarily because it is a feature shared not only with the rest of the Yoruba but, indeed, also with the rest of Nigeria, is the political visibility and economic power of the 'big men' in Ogbomoso. These men play a role in shaping both historical processes and public discourse, which, more often than not, centres around their activities and thoughts. They shape and notably help to legitimate the extant social order through their wealth, oratorical skill, courage and deviance. They emerge from the intensely competitive market in which individuals struggle to realise themselves in the face of extreme material and ideological dissolution as the embodiment of current values, symbol of success, and determinant of progress. And, as is evident from Cohen's (1969) incisive study of the kola nut trade in Ibadan, Peel's (1983) analysis of Ijesha's entrepreneurial culture, and Peace's (1988) consideration of transporting in Agege, the key factor in the production, reproduction and even destruction of big-manism anywhere in Yorubaland is economic power. The wealth creates an extensive social network of clients, and cultivates political clout in local and national organisations. Sometimes, in the process of self-realisation, some of them engage in sharp practice, become involved in scandalous episodes, and develop a reputation for ruthlessness (Peace, 1988). The frustration and dissolution of values in contemporary Nigeria quite often threatens or thwarts self-realisation and upward mobility, and hence enhances the notion of 'enemies' which all and sundry fear.

The struggles of the big men to attain and sustain a position of eminence is not only a subject of public debate but has itself been captured by numerous video productions. Conservative estimates put the number of locally made videos on the market, as of 1994, at over 2,000. Hardly any, even the religious ones, omit commentary on and analysis of big-manism. …

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