Author: Haruna Kakangi, May 19 2016 - On a Thursday morning in the ancient town of Bauchi in north-east Nigeria, I’m sitting with a group of 10 men and seven women by the side of a road in a quiet neighbourhood. The sun is bright and hot, but we’re sitting on mats in the cool shade of a tree, and it seems like the perfect place to discuss a radio programme close to all of our hearts.
I’m a presenter and assistant producer on the Hausa-language radio magazine show Ya Take Ne Arewa (What’s Up in the North). YTNA, as we call it for short, covers a range of mother-and-child health topics: medical care for mothers during pregnancy, diarrhoea and malaria prevention, and other simple measures that can prevent unnecessary deaths and help people live healthier lives. It airs on radio stations across northern Nigeria, where rates of maternal and child mortality are high.
The people I’m with today in Bauchi are members of a listening group devoted to YTNA, organised by a man our team calls ‘the superfan’: Umar Faruk, aka ‘Gambo’.
“I never miss the programme,” he says with pride. “That’s the reason I carry my radio with me everywhere I go.”
Gambo, 35, is married with two children. His wife Shafa’atu is a regular listener too.
“Whenever I come back from work, she has this habit of whispering in my ear whatever she hears on Ya Take Ne Arewa – not because she thinks I didn’t listen to the programme, but because she wants us to discuss it more.”
“I don’t listen to Ya Take Ne Arewa just to practice the things I hear,” he adds. "Ya Take Ne Arewa has become part of me, it is in my blood.”
To help share his enthusiasm for the programme, Gambo formed a listening group.
That week the programme was discussing health during pregnancy. A health expert answered questions on the programme which included a segment for audience feedback.
After the programme had finished, the group discussed some of the issues raised. Many had learned a thing or two. As one listener in the group said,
“I have listened to many health programmes on radio, but I never knew that malaria can actually lead to loss of pregnancy, especially at the early stage.”
Aside from these listening group discussions, Gambo has taken the trouble to visit neighbouring villages to talk to people there about issues that have been discussed on the programme.
“I don’t mind using my limited resources in the course of spreading the messages of Ya Take Ne Arewa because of the passion I have for this show,” he said.
As I sit with the superfan and the group he’s formed, I’m overwhelmed by how hungry they are for information, how much they trust YTNA, and how passionately they speak about it.
For me, Gambo and the others in the listening group are a source of inspiration. They motivate me to push further in order to meet not only their expectations, but the expectation of millions of people like them who tune in to YTNA.
And as the superfan wraps up our meeting under the tree, I think to myself: we simply can’t let this audience down!
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Image credit: BBC Media Action
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