The 117th episode of Keeping It Real with Adeola, which has been described as the Nigerian version of The Daily Show, starts out as it usually does. The host, Adeola Fayehun, is onscreen, wearing a caftan in front of her typical graphics, reporting on African news. There had been a Boko Haram attack near the residence of the Nigerian president at the time, Goodluck Jonathan. His administration was powerless to stop Boko Haram and had serious corruption issues, plus Jonathan was a gaffe machine. He dismissed a missing $20 billion as "common stealing," and a few months after stepping down after losing his reelection bid in 2015, Jonathan tweeted about how tempting it was to not give up power.
In the episode, Fayehun is using what she calls her "villager persona" and talking about the attack rapidly and colloquially. Some of it will go over the viewer's head if they aren't Nigerian, but the sarcastic concern for Jonathan's safety is clear. In rapid succession, she pretends to call a friend in Abuja (Nigeria's capital) to beseech him to go check on the president, compares Jonathan's outfit to hers, and speaks in such a shrill voice she works herself into a coughing fit, which she doesn't edit out.
But just before the two-minute mark, she cuts to footage of herself on a street in New York, sticking a microphone in Jonathan's face, repeatedly asking what he is doing about Boko Haram. This was about a week before the group abducted 200 schoolgirls in Northern Nigeria, but Boko Haram was already a huge concern in the country. When he gives a non-answer of "We are working very hard on that," she doesn't let him off, instead asking, "Yes, how exactly, sir?" It is courageous journalism.
Fayehun, a Nigerian woman working in New York, started the show in 2011 for SaharaTV, an independent African news organization. She was working as a producer at the organization when a host left and they needed a new show to fill the gap. I discovered the show in 2015 when I helped judge work by alumni at our shared alma mater, CUNY's Graduate School of Journalism. When the judges got a glimpse of her show and found out that for the first 150 episodes, Fayehun researched, wrote, shot, and edited each one by herself, we gave her the "Best One Woman Show" award, a special category created just for her.
Fayehun said she agreed to do the show if she could do it her way — covering the stories she was interested in and doing so with humor and sarcasm. She says her show audience is largely the African diaspora, a group spread across the world that still want to hear stories from home. More important, working from New York allows Fayehun to expose stories that can't always be covered from Africa. Every country in Africa besides Ghana has only a partly free or not-free-at-all press, according to Freedom House's "Freedom of the Press 2015" report. Fayehun also makes sure Keeping It Real is inclusive to viewers who might not be following the news closely every day, explaining the background and providing context to stories. It's a perfect show for a Western millennial audience raised on Jon Stewart but wanting more African news.
So far, the tactic is working. Earlier this month, Fayehun put out her 200th episode, and she recently got an editor to help with the show. And she needs the extra time — she and her husband have started a foundation providing school and hospital supplies to rural West Africa, paying hospital bills, and awarding scholarships for African students to study abroad. I talked to Fayehun recently about her biggest story, dealing with threats, being a woman in the media, and, of course, Goodluck Jonathan.