Mixed reactions as BBC launches new BBC Igbo Radio station

By Prince Kurupati*

On Monday this week, two new radio stations started broadcasting in Nigeria. The two, BBC Igbo and BBC Yoruba will be providing news specifically for Southeast Nigeria and Southwest Nigeria respectively.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the two new radio stations, the BBC said that this initiative is part of an expansion drive in local-languages that is aimed at more in-depth reporting of news in specific parts of the world.

The two new stations join the BBC Radio Hausa which was launched way back on 13 March 1957.

BBC said BBC Radio Igbo and BBC Radio Yoruba will be digital-only services. Listeners can tune in to the new stations either at BBC Online or on different social media platforms including Facebook.

Peter Okwoye who is in charge of the editorial for the two stations said that the two are the final cogs in the wheel for local language radio in West Africa. Okwoye said that they expect the two stations to be a success as original journalism in a local language travels further than in English.

Okwoye said that the target population of the radio stations is the young generation, those aged 25 and below who contribute 62 percent to the total population of Nigeria. He also said the radio stations will cater to the needs of the business savvy men and women from Igbo and Yoruba communities. He said that these two groups live most of their lives online and as such the BBC will be providing its services on digital platforms only.

He concluded by saying that the regions covered by the two new stations have largely received negative coverage as a result of the Boko Haram. He argued that there are more issues concerning the south that’s not being covered including young entrepreneurs, business, and technology stories among others, it is these that the new stations will aim to expose and cover.

Rising tensions

It has not been all positive when it comes to the new stations more so from the south, the region that’s to be covered by the stations. This is because many see the introduction of the two stations as a ploy by the government to quell down on the rising Biafran wave.

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a revived separatist group led by Nnamdi Kanu, a former estate agent has renewed ethnic tensions between the Hausa North and the Igbo South. The populist rhetoric of the IPOB has already lead to clashes between the military and Kanu’s supporters.

Sometime back, Kanu launched his own Radio Biafra, a station that helps spread Biafra propaganda. In the Southwest, there are already calls by some Yoruba people to launch their own radio station that tells their story.

BBC Igbo is viewed suspiciously by Nigerians in the Southeast as they think the government might have colluded with the BBC to bring a radio station that will counter Radio Biafra. In the Southeast, Britain’s support of Nigeria during the 1967 to 1970 Nigeria Civil War is still fresh in the hearts and minds of many.

Okwoye, however, was diplomatic when asked about how the BBC Radio Igbo will respond to issues of ethnic differences. He said that the young team working at the station have gone to the BBC for a rigorous training to change their mindset so they can tell stories without personal emotions.


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