Is Okey Bakassi’s “The Other News” on Channels TV too political?

Okey Bakassi

On July 20, 2017, The Other News made its debut on Channels Television, introducing the concept of late-night comedy to independent TV, and fashioned after archetypes like Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show and The Late Late Show with James Corden. Since then, and hosted by veteran stand-up comedian Okey Bakassi, The Other News has defused the gravitas of political events with satire and humour, and riffing on topical issues with general frivolity.

At a glance, the show operates as an appendage to Channels TV’s political high ground. But it has, occasionally, overlapped with entertainment and pop culture. Two weeks ago, iconic singer 2face was a guest on the The Other News, and trust Okey Bakassi to ask him about music and politics, the latter which has now become the singer’s new found religion.

For the early part of 2017, the planned One Voice Nigeria protest gained momentum and dominated the news cycle, a movement pushing against toxic political culture and failed leadership under Buhari. With 2face as the strategic face of the group, it seemed like a sure way to get public participation and interest. “Nigerians are angry, Nigerians are fed up,” 2face laments to Okey Bakassi.

That said, The Other News hasn’t digressed from churning political material. In the first episode of the show’s second season, former governor of Anambra Peter Obi explained why he was prudent in managing public funds during his tenure. “It’s not Peter Obi’s money. It is money meant to rebuild the schools, it is money meant to construct roads, it is money meant to provide health facilities, and it is money meant to support small business.”

Other politics-leaning guests that have made an appearance on the late-night show are Tonye Churchill, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, and Toyosi Akerele. “Our political system is designed to make sure the best of us don’t rule us.” says Ayisha Osori on the show in February. Ayisha Osori is a lawyer and journalist, and her book Love Does Not Win Elections published last year is an instructional guide for rookie political candidates. Legislator and sponsor of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill Tony Nwulu has also been interviewed by Okey Bakassi. In January, the lawmaker who currently represents Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency 11 of Lagos in the National Assembly, declared his intentions to contest the 2019 governorship elections in Imo state.

Technically, The Other News can’t be accurately regarded as late-night television, since it shows at 7:30pm on Channels TV. But as satire, requisite monologues, and as mild evisceration of politicians, the show manages to work its way into a familiar format. But what’s the responsibility of a late-night host? And how much politics must be incorporated into this kind of television? I don’t think Okey Bakassi is great on celebrity interviews. Granted, he is not Ellen DeGeneres, but his approach, most times, has a hard-wired seriousness and while he’s articulate and seemingly capable of handling this type of TV work, he hasn’t been able to transcend the show beyond the political confines of its creation.

Perhaps the show’s writing team should watch more international late-night television for inspiration. The other day, James Corden had Steve Harvey on The Late Late Show and while both comedians are different with their creative impulses, they ended up complementing each other with compelling spontaneity. Segments like Honest Headlines (my favourite side-show), trolls the media by spoofing headlines from Fox News, Mirror and the rest. Late-night shows, as we have come to know them, are equipped with live entertainment to soften its political air. And, also, it isn’t written anywhere that things must be done in a specific format.

Last year November, actress Jennifer Lawrence guest-hosted for Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and her guest was reality TV star Kim Kardashian. It was Lawrence on screen, sure, but that hosting responsibility unearthed more of her humour and wit and self-laceration. As the 2019 elections in Nigeria approaches, The Other News will of course deepen in political tone, and I can foretell that the show will function as a platform for political candidates to advance their pursuits. You never know, but the show might just host the next governor, or senator, or even the next president.


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