As the youth television drama series MTV Shuga Naija returned to the screens for the fifth season, the cast and crew, and the media were gathered at Filmhouse Cinemas IMAX, Lekki for an exclusive press briefing on 27th April 2023. Anchored by Ilooise Omohinmin, the event consisted of two sessions, and the overall discussion centered around the background of the show and elements of the new season.
In attendance were Anita Aiyudu Adesiyan (Country Manager, MTV Staying Alive Foundation), Bada Akintunde-Johnson (Country Manager, Paramount Africa), Oyedija Temitope (representing Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi of Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency), Yeside Olayinka-Agboola (representing Dr Monsurat Adeleke of Lagos State AIDS Control Agency), all of whom made the panel for the first session.
The second-panel session comprised MTV Shuga Naija stars Genoveva Umeh, Kanaga Jnr (Big Brother Titans 1st Runner-Up), Gbubemi Ejeye (protagonist of the current season), Tomiwa Tegbe who has appeared in all previous seasons, and showrunner Temidayo Makanjuola.
MTV Shuga Naija is described as an edutainment show that serves the purpose of educating young people about contemporary issues affecting them. The current season focuses specifically on gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and sexual health. It follows the story of a bright young woman who has been forced into an arranged marriage with an older man who is her family’s benefactor. Also part of the cast are Adesua Etomi-Wellington and John Njama, amongst other names who were not at the briefing.
“As you may already know, MTV Shuga Naija tells the stories of young people and their everyday lives while providing vital information and support through our collaborations with different government agencies,” Anita Aiyudu stated.
The MTV Staying Alive Foundation Nigerian manager highlighted why it was necessary to create awareness about the prevalence of gender-based violence, mostly targeted at women, in Nigerian society, noting that “over 31 percent of young women and girls experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner”. HIV/AIDS was also a topical issue worthy of dramatisation because the country has recorded “the second highest epidemic for HIV with over 1.9 million people in Nigeria living with the virus”.
Anita Aiyudu also talked about the importance of the show which transcended the television, and how the showrunners took the campaign of motivating and enlightening young people to rural settlements. According to her, between September 2020 and January 2021, over 50,000 young people from different small communities were reached, made to watch episodes of MTV Shuga and given professional counselling and support.
In an effort to promote gender inclusiveness in the Nigerian creative space, the showrunners had launched a talent accelerator programme by putting out a call for female creatives. Following numerous applications, they selected 11 young women who worked as interns on the current show and have been enrolled in mentorship programmes in different departments where they worked on set. It is no wonder, then, that the entire crew is made up of 80 percent women.
Bada Akintunde-Johnson left no stone unturned as he commented on Paramount Africa’s partnership with the showrunners:
One of the ways we support is to provide the necessary media inventory to get great contents out there. MTV base is the most watched music and lifestyle channel in Nigeria, and that’s by some distance. There’s no better place to put a transformative piece of content like MTV Shuga than on our platform. For this season, for instance, we started by rolling back the previous season just to whet the appetite of the audience and get them anticipating the current one. Also, MTV show is not limited to Nigeria but also distributed across the continent, except South Africa. Having such an incredible platform to amplify the message of this transformative content is one of the biggest support that we provide the Shuga team.
Later, that night, the show premiered.
Here’s the official promo video: