Out from the great morass of chat shows, On The Couch looks like it might have a political slant, more concerned with aspirants contesting in the 2019 elections. Co-hosted by radio/TV personality Laila Johnson and now-problematic rap artiste Falz, the show is Nigeria’s version of the Australian television series of the same name, wherein a candid group of men and women debate all things love, intimacy and relationships.
Premiering its first episode recently, presidential aspirant Fela Durotoye and scion from the Alliance for New Nigeria party was brought on as a guest, and hence christening the titular couch. Durotoye, whose presidential ambitions became known in February this year, is many things but he’s arguably regarded as one of the modern purveyors of motivational speaking in Nigeria.
Watching the show, I had to repeatedly pause and replay the moment where Johnson asks Durotoye on his views on homophobia and Nigeria’s anti-gay laws. It’s the episode’s inflection point, direct and briefly suspenseful. “Do you think homosexuality was rightly criminalised?” Falz rephrases the question and this sets Durotoye on a meandering path.
Diplomatically, he centres his personal values that men and women should be together, which he draws from his Christian faith. This is old, familiar heteronormativity but let’s move on. Subscribing to the law of the state, Durotoye occasionally insists that he has no problem with the 14 years imprisonment sentence for LGBTQ Nigerians. What’s more disturbing is Durotoye putting the onus on them to change the dehumanising law, if they want, given his newly-hatched proximity to political power.
The installing of the Not Too Young To Run Bill into law flooded the Nigerian political landscape with young aspirants vying for different political offices. As a direct beneficiary, or rather, as an avatar of Nigeria’s shifting terrain to accommodate youth in politics, it’s pathetic that Durotoye doesn’t see how he’s in a prime position to interrogate the system that violates the human rights of sexual minorities.
The mass consensus about homosexuality in Nigeria is that it is unnatural and unAfrican, and, as far as the 2019 elections are concerned, Durotoye’s Christian-sanctioned homophobia is a recipe for mass likeability. In all these, Falz indicates that he doesn’t like prostitution. This isn’t surprising from an artiste whose entire discography consists of slut-shaming songs stemming from patriarchal misogyny and sexism.
Aside the problematic aspects, it’s relatively difficult to critique the episode because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this is largely due to its Falzian flair. Johnson does a commendable job in pulling her own weight, but it’s already frustrating that the show is dedicating its first season to political aspirants. Recently, female presidential aspirant Eunice Atuejide denounced feminism on social media and caused a controversy. She’s 39. Ultimately, young people are not as progressive as we thought. If anything, On The Couch is designed to expose who they really are.