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Atoke: They Want Us to Tell Our Stories… But Only In the Way They Want to Hear It



AtokeIf you’re a writer of African descent, and you’re plugged into the literary or media scene, you’re probably aware of the term ‘Poverty Porn’.  Simply put, it is the showcasing of poverty, or extreme conditions of struggle to elicit sympathy or perpetuate certain stereotypes.

While we’re aware that these stories of doom and gloom exist, there’s a consensus that there is a need to tell stories that show that we are more than the poverty and neglect.  It is in this light that you find that many writing festivals have themes like “Telling Our Own Stories” or “The Africa Western Media Doesn’t Want You To See”.

Across multimedia platforms, new age creatives are thinking out of the box to tell stories that don’t foster the existing image of Africa. So, you find modern filmmakers telling stories of a wider demographic  – less of people going to the shrine and fetching water from the streams, and more of people driving cars, living in nice houses with running water from taps.  You find journalists telling stories of entrepreneurs who are creating economic growth with innovation and skill.

So, how do we get more people to see our stories…told from our perspective?  Unfortunately, this isn’t happening any time soon – at least not at the rate at which the negative stories are being told, and allowed to go viral.

It appears that international media has a certain lens through which they’d like us to tell our stories, and if we’re not doing it that way, then we’re not worth the spotlight. It’s that thing about the two extremes. It’s either they’re showing Africa in extreme poverty and squalor, (as seen in the BBC Two Welcome to Lagos documentary which aired in 2010), or in a flagrant display of wealth  (as seen in the more recent Channel 4 feature ‘Lagos to London – Britain’s New Super Rich’)

My friends and I often deliberate about why these stories are the ones that get the most media attention. Where are the stories that lie in between these two polarised points?

Why are publishers not picking up stories that don’t have a protagonist who survived famine and pestilence and escaped to Boston to study – finding nirvana in the arms of the Western Saviour?

Why aren’t we able to see more airtime given to the Nigerian who earns 150, 000Naira, pays his rent on time, and is able to go on holiday to Obudu Cattle Ranch once a year?

Is there a reason why there’s an underlying clucking sound of mockery and disbelief when international media tells the story of our successful and wealthy brethren?

We concluded that it was probably because these media houses didn’t have ‘local’ correspondents. Maybe they didn’t have people on ground to show them that we are more than Makoko, and more than £30,000 holiday shopping sprees abroad. Maybe they didn’t have someone to show them the stories of the hair dresser who isn’t living in squalor – but manages to have a bright smile still send her kids to good schools.  Our conclusion ended up being baseless. There are local journalists and writers willing to tell these stories, but there aren’t enough international media organisations who want to hear these stories told in this way.

Earlier this year, my friend, Mnena wrote an article about how Guardian UK got things wrong in their coverage of Lagos, in their Cities Series.

She stated:
In summary, the Guardian series rehashed viewpoints and ideas which form a continuing motif when reporting about Nigeria. Why does this keep happening? Do western newspapers use the same fixers? Do they reach out to the same sources who provide a true but limited viewpoint of Nigeria, of Lagos?”

When this story was published by, an editor at the Guardian reached out to her. They wanted a chance to get it right – or so the introductory email appeared to imply. She was to write another story for the Guardian – telling our story the way she believed the Guardian should have told it; how Guardian got it wrong, (without criticising the series)  from the perspective of a Nigerian living in Nigeria.

After the first draft, the editor kept asking for redrafts and edits which would implicitly turn the story into another tired trope – the same one they like to see. It was a terribly disappointing experience for her, considering she had hitherto, worshipped at the temple of Guardian UK. We still love you, Hadley Freeman.

Around the time of that publication, the Guardian had also reached out to BellaNaija to give their perspective on how much money Nigerians spend on weddings. Our Weddings Editor, Ink, responded saying that if a story was to be told about Nigerian weddings, we would rather the beauty of our cultures and our fashion sense, is accentuated. The Guardian editor didn’t agree with this, and BellaNaija never gave an interview, and requested not to be quoted – since we were not interested in what they were offering.

The story was published – the way they wanted. To show us as people, who display wealth in the midst of poverty. Our story… the way they wanted to tell it.

Recently, a commissioning editor for reached out to me to write a story about the state of healthcare in Nigeria. The brief was to tell the story of what the government was doing with healthcare, and what international organizations were doing to help (if any) I asked if she would like me to tell the story from the perspective of the doctors who were working tirelessly to save lives – irrespective of the limited resources at their disposal. I believed this would be a more positive story and one that would show the greatness of our people, as opposed to showing the inadequacies of the government.  This story was not approved – if it would be told from this angle.

There are several instances where our journalists and writers tell our stories, but the foreign editors tell them “we want stronger pictures”. By ‘stronger’ they mean pictures that show children with marasmus or ribs shooting out. Or, maybe a picture of a child naked, dancing in a mud road. Nothing else perpetuates the stereotypes than a starving African child.

During my time at Swansea Uni, our class was given an assignment in psychogeography. We were told to write about a place we were familiar with; and so, I wrote about my home city, Lagos. When it was time to do reviews one of my classmates, said he believed I romanticized Lagos a great deal. I asked if he’d ever been to Lagos.

“No. I’ve read about it and seen news reports.” He said with an air of self-assured confidence.

I responded that I was born, and raised in Lagos and I would have thought I was a more reliable witness of what my city represented.

That hushed him; but it did make me realize that it is people like these who are the editors and publishers in the West. They have an idea of what they believe we are, and they can’t bear to think that we are anything else.

So, why exactly do we need “Western media” since we know they’re going to stifle our voices? Why do we need ‘white validation’ since we know they’re probably always going to always want to look at us through stained lenses?

Coverage and exposure.

Inasmuch as we have platforms working hard to tell our stories, we still don’t have the wide ass reach that international media has. We don’t have the kind of patronage that western media enjoys. So, we want to tell our stories, but we don’t have enough platforms upon which to stand. Then, there’s also the niggling issue of balancing conscience, morals and the need to pay bills.

As such, we find ourselves making compromises every day. We think: this commission will earn me $250 for a 600- word piece; what does it matter if I’m selling my people out a little bit?

However, we owe our children the collective responsibility of telling our stories and making sure they’re told the right way. We have to make sure that no matter what, we let the world know that we’re more than just the stories of the credit card frauds, the extravagant weddings and the malnourished children.

Because between those two extremes are millions of Nigerians whose stories need to be told on a global scale.

Photo Credit: Charity Adetiba-Howard

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. Chukwuma

    July 29, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    I must commend this,its true we africans must tell our own stories by ourselves. Its neocolonial for we africans to always seek western validation. Africans should rise, and emancipate their minds from the dark. Enlightenment is the need..

    • Damilola

      July 30, 2016 at 11:45 am

      Atoke, is not looking at the bigger picture but so caught up in her own ego. Why should the West care if Nigerians live in big houses with TV, or the small middle class when they know the reality, millions of children and youth are suffering. The West know us better than ourselves. You think they are not aware of that part, to think of it they know how much these leaders loot because it’s sitting in their banks. They know Nigeria has oil, can be rich if resources are managed well. You gain respect not by what you have, show off but what you do with it and the result speaks for itself. But they are just letting you know your continent, your country has serious problems that you guys close your eyes to. Britain, is like we colonized you guys but after independence, can you guys successfully govern yourselves? Not much to show for it. The type of stories you are running away from is exactly what needs to be told. The west tell the bad and ugly side of their story, which is the reason they are able to grow.

      We are so embedded in covering up our problems, wrongdoings, loopholes and dysfunctionality. That’s not true patriotism, it’s selfishness and wickedness. Nigerian pride should come from the progress, effort, change the country makes to make sure average Nigerians at least lives a decent life. So, if you tell the stories of those who are managing in spite of the difficult challenges they are faced with but the government is not doing much to fix the problems or you are disillusioned to think it’s ok and normal. It defeats the purpose. There’s no respect in that.
      We are so far gone with our coping mechanism of enjoying through pain, sorting ourselves out and managing that we don’t even know what’s right and wrong anymore. The type of stories that should be trending internationally is how the average naija is suffering and what is the government doing about it?
      Western media reports the bad, good and the ugly that’s the reason they are able to grow. If you don’t face your demons, keep running you will never see the light.
      Infact, there should be some sort of revolution right now against the government, demanding the government to do right. But no, it’s not that serious, I will rather risk my life, and suffer in silence.

    • tunmi

      July 30, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      I disagree. I’m sure Atoke was trying to strike a balance in her reporting. See Battabox does this well, and it’s run by a white guy. They show a wide array of Nigerians from the low to the middle class. You see videos of the people earning very little money and you see the average Nigerian running small businesses.

      I agree, the people in the middle, their stories need to be told. But when the majority are still poor, it’s as though we are trying to hide them. Battabox shows the average Nigerian and they do it well: accents, clothing, culture and all without concern for white approval. Yes we want coverage and all but if we remain consistent in our work and keep calling out those major publications who get it wrong, we’ll be good

    • The real D

      July 30, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      @ Damilola, now i have issues with many comments you made.
      1) “The west knows us better than we know ourselves” that is totally incorrect, like Atoke pointed out using her experience while in Uni has an example. Many westerners do not know us or the true state of our country, economy or continent as a whole. Many in the west base their knowledge off of what they have either heard, or read, i.e what has been portrayed on media. Does that translate to knowing us? I do not think so. Especially since what is being shown and/or written is biased i.e one sided/not balanced.
      2) Secondly, that there are issues in our society does not nullify the fact that there are also good in our society, as can be said for other countries including the western world. I know nothing sells like bad news but the truth is the Western media is still bent on portray Africans as neanderthals that are yet to move into the 21st century which we all know is untrue. Poverty has nothing to do with being aware of the times. The average Nigerian even those in the slums no what a faucet is. Considers education a priority and pushes to have their kids educated. That there is State St/Garfield boulevard in Illinois, Route 352 in Dallas TX, Detriot MI or Compton CA does not mean the US and the entire North American Continent is dangerous or full of gangs and lack of security. That is the point Ms. Atoke is trying to make here. We are more than ribs poking out children, or prodigal individuals. We have people of virtue and intellect just like the west. The point the author is trying to make is that you will be hard pressed to find a balanced view of our country, its people and our economy in the media especially western media and that is not a fallacy. Whether we realize it or not it is to our own detriment.

    • Damilola

      August 2, 2016 at 12:20 am

      @Real D
      I’m not speaking based on the ignorant people who still think Africa is a country but I’m speaking of “powerhouse” who are controlling the political, economic system and the media in this case. It’s a lot going than what we can see. Britain, and American government are more involved in Nigerian government than what we think. They know what’s going on in our country than many Nigerians.
      The west show these images of Africa not because some of them don’t know but it’s all propaganda. They want to portray Africa as backward bcos they believe Africa is still backward compared to the other continents. African Americans only know these images bcos it’s an agenda for the white media to show them if you didn’t come to America, this is what your plight will be like in Africa. It’s a “divide and conquer” mentality. And you guys are far better off here, so quit complaining about Slavery.

      The West colonized us, there’s still some neocolonialism going on, they are the ones who go out there to do research, study and write about us. You learn about Africa as a whole in western textbooks and media than what we write about ourselves. When there’s a Boko haram attack, other things happening in Africa the western media will show you more than any African media will.

  2. Olu

    July 29, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    BN readers are very guilty of this! They scream ‘boring’ but you are still not allowed to be different.

  3. Tob

    July 29, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Atoke, may God bless you real good for this article. I pray God gives the Nigerians in diaspora the fl grace to leave above the sterotypes and the pre-conceived notions of who Nigerians are as a people. Mostly for the strength to wade through the sea of ignorance before us. For the people who have made it to the other side of the Atlantic, may we not be sellouts, and may we be able to hold on to every ounce of our heritage and national pride. The need to preserve our story cannot be overemphasized; if not forthe current generation, certainly for those to come. Otherwise someone else will tell it, and from their tainted lenses. History is reason by those who won the war. Otherwise, human beings will kill our enemies and raid ou possessions, and they will say not only where you complicit, but you also enjoyed it.
    See me writing epistle on top of this matter. It is well.

  4. Tob

    July 29, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Atoke, may God bless you real good for this article. I pray God gives the Nigerians in diaspora the grace to live above the sterotypes and the pre-conceived notions of who Nigerians are as a people. Mostly for the strength to wade through the sea of ignorance before us. For the people who have made it to the other side of the Atlantic, may they not be sellouts, and may they be able to hold on to every ounce of their heritage and national pride. The need to preserve our story cannot be overemphasized; if not forthe current generation, certainly for those to come. Otherwise someone else will tell it, and from their tainted lenses. History is written by those who won the war. Otherwise, human beings will kill our enemies and raid our possessions, and they will say not only where you complicit, but you also enjoyed it.
    See me writing epistle on top of this matter. It is well.
    Auto correct and small phone screen almost disgraced me.

  5. Que

    July 29, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    My dear as you said…it’s gon be a long while b4 different views are seen…

    In March a bloody semi-literate African American man still had the nerve to tell me I was lying when I said I had schooled in Nig my whole life, up till I left for masters…his problem was that my English was of a sound quality- better than his for sure….kept insisting I was trying to romanticize Nig….. and I’m like egbami, is it strike in my uni I will now be romanticizing abi ewo?!!!. .. But that’s what his local media feeds him.

    Same stretch of time I was in south America with a group of travellers when I mentioned being afraid of travelling to certain countries cos of violence and they pointed to me that naija was covered with violence…wondering how I was coping…, I had to draw out map and start teaching them, that we weren’t all at war with ourselves…that regular folks are still managing to survive…. try to tell a story of anything that appears ‘greener’ and you get that ‘romanticizing’ speech…. even Americans + immigrants with their bedeviling gun violence problems -which scares the crap out of me btw- will join and eye you for lying…pls tell me who is at war within…when common school, your kids go dey fear to go and return in one piece… so much for free world, where we’re crying for the future of black men in 2016…

    Some even do it here on BN, check comments…so where we wan start?… In fact I can hear them already asking you why you’re living in denial about the state of the nation, as though the nation consists of only two sets of people- north and south…. I can’t be bothered to feel insulted, but I won’t hesitate to school you if need be.

    First things first, arm yourself with true and right knowledge about your place….then u can educate anyone.

    • I Ren

      August 1, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      Que, may God richly bless you. I hope Damilola reads your comment. Was looking for who to conk after reading his/hers.

    • AshBun

      August 1, 2016 at 7:37 pm

      …. Lmao @ Isoken. Sometimes some comments should be ignored else we give them undeserving life. If a Yoruba person would speak of her nation like this among fellow country people I cringe at the negativity he/she feeds the Westerns with.

    • AshBun

      August 1, 2016 at 7:39 pm


    • Damilola

      August 2, 2016 at 12:55 am

      There’s no doubt, many Americans are ignorant. Some white Americans appear more enlightened than black Americans sometimes, which is due to many factors. Better education, more exposure etc So many Americans do live in a bubble. It’s all about educating the ignorant ones. Just like how many Africans are ignorant about African Americans generalizing them to be all thugs or what we watch about them on TV. Many African/Nigerians know nothing about slavery and the civil Rights Era.

      However, this discussion led to do we tell the true story based on majority of Nigerians or do we just settle on our own little story which applies to a small number of Nigerians. I believe, many Nigerians romanticized way too much in the process of proving Nigeria is not all full of huts and poverty. I’m not saying don’t tell your story but acknowledge the other critical story and situation that many Nigerians are faced with.

      Here in America, when there’s violence on one part in the state, you have Americans asking you if you are ok. Then you tell them, it’s a different city. There’s always an assumption, misunderstanding of a place you are not familiar with. There’s high gun violence in America but there’s still general security that allows you to move around freely to an extent.
      Apart from Boko haram, there’s security problems in Nigeria. You can’t decide to walk down the street by yourself without all sort of fears coming over you. When I visited, I couldn’t go anywhere without somebody coming with me.

  6. TA

    July 29, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    Atoke of life, long may you live! Let me just quickly say Chris Abani comes to mind . ..I dey come, will come back with another comment.

    • nwanyi na aga aga

      August 1, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      hahahahahahahahaha! Chris Abani…man gats to chop tho. when I read his story i said to myself in naija 2003? haaaahaa Chris soffry o. But then it is what it is. Atoke thanks for the piece.

  7. Egocentric Bella Naijarians

    July 29, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Who out story epp? Middle class people always feeling like they should have a voice. Who the opinion of western media epp? What does it do but to give you a warm feeling inside it make you happy. Please tell me in no uncertain words what the opinion of westerners does for you!!!!! It makes you feel bad abi when they think everyone from your country is poor and suffering. Aaaaaaaw, poor you. Get your head out of your own backside and realise that just because the majority of people that you know have similar lifestyle to you, doesn’t mean that the majority of people in nigeria aren’t suffering. See the difference!!!! We go through life sometimes close minded and sheltered so much so you start to believe your reality is the truth. Let them showcase the poor struggling child with ribs sticking out. The people that matter don’t care. The ones who were able to have golden morn in the morning, want CNN to showcase them too now, not just those who had nothing to eat or those who drink champagne for breakfast. The media you vilify are the only ones that give those poor people a voice. Have you considered that without international media many of you won’t really know the plight of your fellow citizens. How many local Nigerian media really and truly focus on the people who were born and live on the over side of the tracks. Take Bella Naija for example. You show the glitz and glam, and you have the nerve to accuse western media of portaging you as poor and starving. You are the extreme end of the scale so you have no leg to stand on to accuse western media of one sided reporting. When was the last time if ever that a local media team went to the hinterlands to show how people live and how the government doesn’t care. These people have been forgotten about and largely ignored, if not for western media we largely won’t know that they exist, I mean their true realities not white washed stories. We should be ashamed of ourselves that these people do our work for us. If we reported our struggles more maybe, just maybe if the realities of the problems in nigeria stared at us in the face every day, like western immediately push that story every day, we as a people will be moved to demand more from our government. So you get mad or feel disappointed that western media doesn’t show the in between, you that have had good to eat and Internet to play with, so you can feel better and clap for yourself on the back, so that what. Oh, your oyinbo classmate in Swansea won’t accuse you of romanticising Lagos. You think the child in Ajegunle that can’t go to school and should be able to like oyinbo children gives a damn. The Lagos to London show how different is it from the lavish weddings you post and lavish Celebrations. Pot calling kettle black. Did you know that western charities raise more money for under privileged people in African than Africans themselves. Does the Alakija or Dangote foundation donate as much as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation? People are getting aid and support, medicine, Doctors Without Borders, college kids spending a year in africa building wells, schools and so much more BECAUSE of the REAL reports by international media. But you want them to report you drive nice cars too and speak English so that it will do what “add money to your pocket” or more like feed your ego. If they didn’t report it, all those lives that have been saved would have perished, just so that madam Atoke can feel like she can relate to the stories on CNN because she isn’t poor or rich. With your literary skills which plight of nigeria have you written extensively on to gain exposure for people who aren’t privileged like you. Abi it is the stories of how I so so so in the abroad or having baby in America that furthers the course of humanity. The day we stop being selfish is the day we move forward in this country. No apologies for the epistle. If you like don’t post my comment. You read it. No apologies for the epistle.

    • Ginger

      July 29, 2016 at 10:48 pm

      You should make this an article; it would make a brilliant one

    • Teju TJ

      July 29, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      I can’t even lie, I was rooting for Atoke’s article but after reading your epistle you make very valid points. Which even raises the question for me, what does it matter if white people see us/portray us a certain way? The way they portray us, albeit one sided is not a lie. Those things they show about us is true. Those ‘do you live in a hut’ questions are valid, because there are a lot of people – dare I say the majority who actually live in these situations. We Africans need to write our story by first changing our story. The middle class has never mattered anywhere. However, the middle class’ struggle are just as valid especially in the creative world. You write your experience right? How can you write about poverty or drinking champagne for breakfast when you lived in Yaba and went to St.Saviors?
      I think Chimamanda covered the middle class situation adequately at least from her perspective in Americannah. If your editor can’t see the big picture that you see, find another editor.

    • mie

      July 30, 2016 at 1:53 am

      me too, i was enamoured of the article till I saw the comment. i guess we need to start telling our stories, from one extreme to the other with everything in between. and like someone said not just telling but actually “changing our stories” too.

    • Oma

      July 30, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      “We Africans need to write our story by first changing our story” Oh the truth in this statement.

    • Nala

      July 29, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      Your days will continually be filled with wisdom!!!

    • Love

      July 30, 2016 at 12:07 am

      The opinions of the western media is important because that is the knowledge the foreign investors and tourists that create revenue for Nigeria have.

    • E.N.B

      July 30, 2016 at 12:19 am

      Tourism in Nigeria. ?????. Don’t make me laugh. Let’s sort ourselves first to an extent before we invite foreigners to come and visit us.

    • Akinwale Kelvin

      July 30, 2016 at 12:09 am

      Indeed, you just said it all. It sometimes beat my imagination how we live in denial of our own very realities. Should I call that being patriotic? Lord have mercy.

    • Naijatalk

      July 30, 2016 at 1:32 am

      Chop knuckle.

    • Wanderlust _Trekeffect?

      July 30, 2016 at 6:15 am

      Despite the face that you made salient points your tone was a tad bit aggressive and personal. There is nothing wrong in wanting to tell a story from your perspective, which is what Atoke was trying to point out, the lower class, mid class and high class are both entitled to having their story told. The story of a nation should never be limited to one side simply because it brings in donations. As a matter of fact africa can spend the century begging for alms from Western world and still live abject poverty. Donations have never built a strong nation.
      There is a lot of good that could come from reporting more than just poverty, it could bring people to the country in the form of tourism and not just their money. It could bring investments which would in the long run benefit the nation as a whole.
      Everyone knows Africa is poor and suffering but that is not all about Africa.
      Maybe when the donations stop pouring in, people will be moved to self sufficiency actually bring about development and change in their society.
      PS you should know that nothing goes for nothing, the money they give you today will be used to demand something tomorrow. Don’t be naive.

    • Eva

      July 30, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Abeg one chilled bottle of orijin for you jare.
      I have always said and I still insist “if you don’t tell your story, others will tell it, and tell it wrong”. Also, “closing your eyes to things you don’t want to see, wouldn’t make it go away”
      Sooo….open your eyes, see what’s real, and tell the story!!!

    • Bade

      July 30, 2016 at 3:47 pm


    • "changing moniker"

      July 30, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      You make sense die! !!
      Atoke I suggest you clean your glasses

    • "changing moniker"

      July 30, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      Why won’t they ask how much Nigerians spend on weddings? When 90% of the time only outrageously lavish weddings get featured. .
      When you’re on the other end of “the extremes “, how do you now judge the international media for only showing Nigerians as poor? ?
      BN, you guys need to become stakejolders in the Nigerian media (news reporting ) and stop playing second fiddle to the international media you guys are always complaining about.

  8. TR

    July 29, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Oh Atoke, how I miss your banters. Great read

  9. Toyin

    July 29, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    @ Egocentric Bella Naijarians July 29, 2016 at 9:50 pm
    Ooohhh baby, signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours!
    Ah, ah you have summarised everything I wanted to write.
    This is the truth! You can take it to the bank!

  10. Suwa

    July 29, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Egocentric Bella Nigerians plenty hugs… love love you joore…..

  11. Jubile.

    July 29, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    Thank you, Atoke. You made very salient, true and timely points.
    So, did @egocentric, though the same message could have been delivered with less vitriol and personal attack. Though the handle has changed, I recognise the tone, language, emotion and subject matter of the commenter. You could write in a less combative tone and desist from personal attacks. Everyone has to come together and join hands to find and implement the required solutions. Hardly ever can one person or even one organisation, no matter how big and influential and wealthy, tackle all problems, or feel equally stirred and moved to find solutions to one problem as to another.
    I’m going to stop here.
    I’m just really, really, really tired of all the negativity and being down on each other I see here.
    “”The Land Is Green.””

  12. think about it

    July 29, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Atoke…God bless you for this article…..thanks for voicing the frustration of many Africans living abroad.
    The West refuses to see Africa in a positive light; I guess it’s called “superiority complex”.
    The ignorance and refusal to learn can be quite annoying and disheartening. All we can do is continue telling our story and educating as many people as we can.

    Job well done.

  13. Tales of the Poor suffering Nigerian

    July 29, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    Ooooooh, this argument again. Let me break it down for you Atoke and the others whining about the frustrations of many Africans living abroad. OMG!!! Is that supposed to be a joke. You want the international media to reduce the real stories of people with REAL FRUSTRATIONS,, and tell more of your own story because a few ignorant Americans or brits made a statement about your country that is really and truly shitty. If it wasn’t, what are you don’t abroad. Abi how many Norwegians do you see living in America, or how many Americans do you see that are immigrants compared with Africans. Let me write my own article as a comment. For you, the international media reporting these stories make you feel bad. They make you have to have uncomfortable conversations with non Africans abroad right. They make you feel defensive every time you have to correct their wrong notions. You poor darling. Come and have a hug. Let me wipe your tears with Kleenex, while a child somewhere in africa doesn’t have water to clean himself up after using the pit latrine.

    At the end of the day, looking at it from a general standpoint, it doesn’t stop you from eating that day, or having access to electricity or being able to read or write. You know the real stuff that matters that billions of people in africa don’t have access to not to talk of getting on a plane like you. All you feel is frustrations that doesn’t affect your quality of life. For the people who the international media report on all the time, that report is hope, it’s help, it’s donations, it’s bringing attention to their plight. It’s them finally getting drinking water, it’s them finally getting a hospital or a roof for their school. It’s them getting food to eat. it’s someone leaving their country to talk about them when their own fellow countrymen in the city don’t know they exist or care. So please tell me in the grand scale of things which is important. Your hurt feelings or their livelihood. It’s disgusting and incredibly egotistic this article of yours. I guess you were expecting fellow abroadians like you to come pat you on the back, and share their “experiences”. We fiddle while Rome burns.

    I wish you wrote the story asked you to write. You let your ego get in the way of exposure to people that need help. You don’t know who could have come across that article that could have donated something or helped. like you said about coverage have more power than our media. You see the doctors you wanted to write about to soothe your ego, while we applaud them, their plight is not worse than the patients that die every day at their hands. Your selfish need to want “your own story to be told” caused you an article that would have done greater good. There’s a phrase that says “the right thing to do is the one that benefits the MOST people”, and Atoke what you did was the wrong thing. If the ass licker middle class head buried in the sand commenters won’t tell you the truth i will. Like the comment above said, who your story epp? Compared to the people with real problems that you can never relate to. The ones whose story needs to be told every freaking day till the government does something. The media should be used to shame the government, but rather bella naija will report fluff and we’ll all go to bed feeling like our normal is the new normal. The local media doesn’t do their job, so international media does it for us. They should talk about it more in my opinion. Who cares if Lagos now has swimming pools.

    The doctors are a minority compared to the sick patients. The doctors get paid a salary, though not adequate but they are better than patients who can’t even afford injections. You had the opportunity to write about the teeming millions of people suffering from lack of adequate healthcare and you buried your head in the sand to talk about a thousand doctors. Not saying their story shouldn’t be told too but why didn’t you Atoke write the story about doctors plight on bella naija? But you wanted the prestige of writing for That’s ego talking. You just want stories of people in the same middle class as you to be told so that you can go to sleep in your warm beds catching feelings. You forgot the real people who need help.

    Look at the case of Mayowa. I wish her story gets international coverage. When it does I am sure some people will still complain that the media is showing images like that to make us look bad. Like Mayowa cares or will care. If her story got to CNN best believe the international community would have flown her out within a week, to give her a better quality of life, and palliative care. An organisation would have sponsored her trip and they would have sprung to action not the one they are still investigating here, wasting time. That’s the power of the international media. The stories of the middle class are told aplenty by bella naija, blogs and the rest. Any non african who is interested in the middle class can google. we tell our own stories amongst ourselves. we know who we are and we know that our country has a middle class. if ignorant americans and briticos don’t know, who cares. .

    I hope when next you get the opportunity to write about your own people’s suffering you won’t miss the chance to do good for people that don’t come for your class just so you guys can “feel good about yourself”. All this article you are writing is about the “feel good factor” and nothing else. there will always be poor people in this world. that’s a given, but the clamour for a balanced view to be given should only happen when the poor become becomes the minority, or measures are put in place by the government to alleviate their suffering. like welfare packages, free healthcare, free decent education, student loans to university, scholarship grants and so on and so forth that you get in the developed world.

    In england for example, you get a more balanced view, in fact the reports about the rich are the minority and the majority of news are about the plight of people suffering from inept government policies, economic policies, how many children go to bed hungry. In fact, that’s all they talk about everyday from radio to newspapers to tv. The rot of the NHS, public schools losing standard of education compared to Europe, the state of the roads, you know things that actually affect people’s lives. In fact i daresay the british media report more of what is wrong in their society to get change, than what is right. This is the same society you went to school in. Did England pass through you, or did you pass through England. Is your Lagos reality the same as Makoko or Ajegunle. You are here talking about your story, when your fellow nigerian probably went to bed hungry and no one reported it.

    If the western media talk more about your story, the real people who need their stories told will be ignored. Do we have the same socio economic demographic as the western world? Their majority is not our majority. For right or wrong, what they report actually does good to the people affected, it only just burises your ego and who cares about you and your kind arguing with a colleague in the abroad about lagos. Are you listening to yourself. They report about the majority, which to be honest the suffering child represents that. There’s more to Nigeria than Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja and port harcourt. these cities represent a fraction of the whole country. The first time i ever saw a starving child was on CNN, i can remember being so shocked i was telling my mum that it was film magic and not real. I had never seen such on NTA before. CNN had to be the one to tell me about the reality of a Nigerian like me. These people are never going to get to Swansea to talk about how Lagos has cinema too and Dominos Pizza. How many of their stories you Atoke have you written. You only write about stories that the middle class can relate to. Why are you now accusing the international media of being one sided when your writing is one sided. Me too I am not apoligising for my epistle. Hahahahah

    • Md

      July 30, 2016 at 10:49 am

      I would love to have a beer with you

    • Eva

      July 30, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      Another chilled bottle of Orijin for you….
      Sharee all dese semi-rich-comfortable shildren, make dem dey der side dey yarn, no be person wey chop bellefull, dey complain say na rice dem give am, wen hin wan chop spaghetti??

    • Aries

      July 31, 2016 at 10:31 am

      @tales of a poor suffering….. please i would love to sew a dress for you free of charge. I really mean it. Send me an email [email protected]

  14. I Am Shakara

    July 29, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    Atoke, thanks for this piece!

    One thing that technology has allowed these media houses to do now is that they use computer programs/algorithm to write stories! These computer programs just spits out the story according what angle the story need to be told. It’s almost like “cut and paste”.

    If you notice, any story about Nigeria always end up with, “Nigeria is an Oil/gas producing country, but people live under a dollar a day”. I swear, go and check some of the old stories/reports on Nigeria, you’ll notice what I’m saying!

    Discerning news consumers knows to take foreign press stories about local conditions with a grain of salt, and know what angle the report is trying to portray, but unfortunately some gullible people take these reports, hook, line and sinker as the truth!

    Best thing is to seek news from many different sources, if you can!

  15. Big Tee

    July 29, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    The issue is not just in the one sided stories, what they expect us to achieve or aspire to become is also streamlined, I remember when I was looking for investors for my app, I pitched the idea to a bunch of hedge funds in Lisbon, everybody liked it, someone said that I don’t fit the profile of an IT inventor, I guess he wanted me to create apps for people looking for water or mosquito nets and not apps that would stand to earn millions in IPO, I laughed, ignored him and focused on other questions.

  16. Menoword

    July 30, 2016 at 12:09 am

    I hear you on this Atoke. Not disputing that life is hard for many, but there is so much more to us than “the Muslim North and Christian south” or “more than 80% live on less than $1 a day”. We are not one dimensional in our identity, there are many more stories to be told.

    We have to come to grips with the fact that these stories might never be of interest to the international media. They don’t want everyday people with everyday issues, they want abject poverty or farcical lavishness. Let’s tell our stories nonetheless. Not for them, but for ourselves, before we forget that there is more to us than what they tell us

  17. vee

    July 30, 2016 at 12:29 am

    Well as a writer, you can only write about what you have experienced or seen. I used to believe the whole of Nigeria was like lagos until i went for NYSC and was posted to a town called Akanran in Oyo state. Dilapidated classrooms,Very low standard of education ,no electricity. Really someone as to tell the whole world that some people’s luxury is gotten from their fellow man’s dustbin. Bella Naija wont do that neither would NTA. So let s appreciate those doing it for us…Let us not compete with the western world. They are ahead of us and we still need their help to move ahead…and we need to let them know we have problems. Folorunsho Alakija isnt what the average Nigerian woman. Even my mom isnt the true representative of Nigerian women. Go on the streets… People are suffering

  18. nunulicious

    July 30, 2016 at 1:14 am

    Each time I happen to be abroad and i’m asked where are you from and I respond Nigeria, the discussion would inevitably shift how corrupt we are, how boko haram is bombing us or how one thing or the other is wrong with us. I’ve had different reactions-be quiet and change the conversation, claim another African country (any fellow Ghanians in the house?) or educate them. As I become more and more comfortable in my identity and more knowledgeable about my heritage, I feel more comfortable educating them.

    I envy the Kenyans though. they seem to have this innate self pride and national consciousness that make them stand COLLECTIVELY against any mis-information the western media tries to portray about them (case in point SomebodytellCNN movt in 2015). The point is we have to tell our own story. But how can you tell your own story if all you know is Tope from the west, amaka from the east and Musa from the north. what about the Byencit from middle belt or the Uruopa from the south south? It’s going to be a long haul but one megabyte at a time, we’ll fill the cloud with our own story.

    btw, Atoke, gosh you write so well! chop knuckle!

  19. aurora

    July 30, 2016 at 1:34 am

    you said everything.
    thank you

    • aurora

      July 30, 2016 at 1:35 am

      this was for egocentric bellanaijarians and tales of a poor suffering Nigerian

  20. ElessarisElendil

    July 30, 2016 at 1:41 am

    Violence is actually at its lowest ever levels in the USA.

    Columbia is no longer a drug-filled haven but one of the booming economies of the Americas.

    There is more to North Korea than the latest crazy thing Kim’s done.

    Iran has visa free travel from Nigeria.

    The Chinese get past the Great Firewall.

    People tell your story to fit their stereotypes, nothing you can do about it, don’t let it define you.

    • Power.

      July 30, 2016 at 5:45 am

      “”IRAN has visa-free travel from Nigeria””?!!!!! IRAN? Ah, Buhari we hail thee. Your own ‘vision” and plan for this country keeps unfolding. It will surely come to an abrupt, sudden and inglorious end. God MUST surely judge you.

    • Ginger

      July 30, 2016 at 8:49 am

      Iran has always been Visa free travel from Nigerians. At least since I was in secondary school and I checked some years ago. On the bright side we also have Seychelles and I think the Bahamas 🙂 ?

    • Ginger

      July 30, 2016 at 8:50 am


  21. Naijatalk

    July 30, 2016 at 1:45 am

    You know for their supposed “inferiority” LIB and SDK do a GREAT job of reporting the raw, hard, and pathetic stories of NIgerian society. I love BN and have followed this blog since my undergrad days aka 2006, pink background days. I expected a lot from this blog. The blog has lived up to some, but some other aspects have been somewhat disappointing.
    BN please take a stand; use your socio-cultural influence to actually take a stand. Highlight the terrible state of things. It is not embarrasing; It is truth. You know great revolutions were supported by the elite and middle class who refused to remain comfortable in their comfort.
    Embrace the discomfort and I’m sure in the lovng run, you will be the better for it. I admire you and I wish you greater.

    • tunmi

      July 30, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      I challenge BN to report on those places they are tired of seeing. I challenge BN to invite writers or better yet interview those who don’t have the opportunity. Add those people in your mix. Speak with the hairdresser, the house maid, the conductor driver, the mallam, the kids in Makoto or Ajegunle. Reach out to the majority of Nigerians. Make it a goal to reach out to those without Internet access. You guys can do it so just do it and stop whining about CNN.

  22. Papacy

    July 30, 2016 at 2:18 am

    I Iove the way you write Atoke! Guys you made valid points. We know that we have the extremely poor amongst us, in the majority in fact. However, I believe the point the writer is trying to make is that we cannot feed the world with only one side of the narrative. Chimamanda Adichie aptly described this notion in her speech about “the single narrative”. A balanced story by Nigerian writers is all that is advocated. True, we have extreme poverty, there are malnourished children dying in the north east today, it’s shocking to see the images and imagine that i live in the same country. However it doesn’t exclude the fact that there are Nigerians who are striving to change “stereotypes”. Why would you want me to tell my story only the way you want to read it or hear it? It’s my story, my experience. If my story has been about war and strife, let me tell it. If it has been a fairly stable story, why must I dilute it? Does CNN really focus on gun violence and the senseless killings in the USA as much as, say, Aljazeera? They choose the narrative they want to tell. Will you kill them?
    Telling my story does not invalidate yours. As the late Chinua Achebe said “until the lion can give his own version of events, the tale of the hunt will be for the hunter to tell” (something in that line, not sur I’m accurate).

    • Ginger

      July 30, 2016 at 8:51 am

      But white people KNOW Nigerians have money. Ever entered a Macy’s or Selfridges? So when people ask about the unsavory stuff we have to admit that we’re in the tiniest minority. Which takes you back to egocentric African and Tale’s points

  23. lani

    July 30, 2016 at 3:09 am

    I’m shocked at this article though. He who pays the piper, dictates the tune. it’s my platform and \i’ll approve whatever pleases me.

  24. Nike

    July 30, 2016 at 3:14 am

    My first thought as I was reading this article was the Nigerian middle class is as elusive as the black swan. I kid.

    In order to get our stories told and our voices heard outside of the poverty porn and “obscene opulence in the midst of prevailing poverty” there has to be a collective of African promoting these stories. I’m sure the dream of every African writer is to be known and acknowledged on the international stage, however, I haven’t seen a less than tough book by an African writer nominated for international awards or being published by international publishers. All of these come with prize money which our writers need. A collective which will adequately protect and publicise African writers is sorely needed.

  25. The real 'Somebody'

    July 30, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Your people are willing to risk life and limb crossing the Mediterranean each day and often perishing in the effort, along with mother, father and children, but they are showing a ‘one sided picture’ of Africans??????

    When was the last time you heard of an American, Briton, Swede, French or German person undertaking such a pathetically desperate journey to basically go and join the teeming masses of the underprivileged in another man’s land because that is so much better than what obtains back home?

    And the repeated telling of this causes you no shame or qualms? Just indignation!?

    Atoke, sorry to say (and I really like your writing by the way) but you and your ilk (in this case I mean people who think like you) are part of the problem, not the solution.

    • Nakoms

      July 30, 2016 at 9:49 am

      Gbamm!! Spot on.

  26. Anonymous

    July 30, 2016 at 8:03 am

    The story of the middle class in boring. That’s the answer to your question. It takes a talented and creative writer to make a story without conflict, challenge or triumph interesting and this is why most stories in the Western Media are of either the poverty or the wealthy extreme because in the end the Capitalist Western media have to sell copies/ increase readership and viewership and not write politically correct stories to please every perspective. Story telling/ journalism is about making a story interesting enough to be read so I think the writer should see this as a challenge in creative writing. Too many times we are quick to say our stories were rejected because they didn’t fit Western media sentiment without looking inward and realizing it didn’t have a Heroes journey or any of the challenges and triumphs that make a story worth reading. That being said, Tales of a poor suffering Nigerian and Egocentric Bella Naijarians, Spot on!!!

  27. Kokoro Dudu

    July 30, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Atoke, get off it!

    The international media portray us in bad lights and then what? How do they portray themselves?

    There isn’t any orchestration against us, everyone knows – bad news sells more than anything else.

    Like someone else pointed out up in the comments, what’s the good news here to talk about? Do we talk about our own good news even in our own media? Have you seen the type of news that trend on Punch, Nairaland or Linda Ikeji?


  28. Rhecks

    July 30, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Well articulated point! You hit the nail on the head with this powerful response. How exactly do we draw attention to the plight of the downtrodden when we want to be applauded for painting a brighter picture of the dark continent? Please let’s say it as it is and stop looking for gratification which does not exist.

  29. esssob

    July 30, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    The Nigeria middle class is a minority even the “rich” places are glorified slums.Try and see the big picture here.The western media see the big picture because majority of Africans are in dire situation .My dear just be grateful you are in the middle class- that class is really for the few in Nigeria .Open your eyes to the plight of the masses in Nigeria – the young child hawking on the street ,young female children being married off in the north for money,the young graduate still looking for job for more than 5 yrs,the father unemployed or hawking on the streets .Menh my dear the western media is actually portraying the true story .I used to think like you before but shine your eyes,look around you (your hairdresser,trash collector ,driver,maid ) those are stories that need and should be told till thing change

  30. BN editor

    July 30, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Good write up. Ego centric u also nailed it.
    However I want to look at this topic from another angle. I want to peruse “what” and “why” the international media will always report in their media.
    The Westerners invented the internet, printing machines, satellite TV, terrestrial TV and the radio. These are means of relaying the messages. So every time we flaunt our insatiable material acquisitions they are often baffled is it that we chose to live in denials of real poverty around us or we are actually ignorant of the realities around us cos rather than investing real and tangible projects we waste lavishly on perishable items.
    Hence, the “what” to them is the fact of the actions we take that shows we are people with misplaced priority and the “why” is it that we deliberately look the other way or we are just ignorant.
    The “who” doesn’t motivate western media cos they know we proclaim individuals over institutions which to them its a representation of class and they don’t care!
    Look at all our sectors which one is projecting a viable Nigerian story. No Nigerian company is a global brand yet we want a story the western media can relate it
    Is it not appalling for over 40years we have discovered oil no single Nigerian petrol engrs or team of Nigerian engrs can boast of successfully drilling oil unless being supervised by a white Engr and u want our stories not to be tainted.
    I could go on on but the way forward is to act our own scripts thereby we change our stories by placing priorities on developmental projects, investing more in capital projects than social functions, build more schools than foreign trips. Etc thereby influencing reporting/reportage by the international media.
    We know the right thing to do and I pray we selfishness and greed will not stand in d way.
    BN post my comment o!


    July 30, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Ok let see

  32. Tosin

    July 30, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Nice piece.

  33. Fade to black

    July 30, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    You tried Atoke, but they are stuck in their ‘Single Story’.
    Binyavanga Wainaina wrote an excellent article about this.

  34. slice

    July 30, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Atoke I think you should tell them you’ll write the article. You have a rich body of work that includes difft perspectives. You can send in article about that desired angle and they’ll include a link to your other works. Yes, some will say you wrote about bad stuff like the west does but as long as you’re not lying you’ll be finr

  35. I Ren

    August 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    You know, when I read Egocentric’s aggressive comment, I wondered – does s/he live abroad? Or go abroad? Does s/he have, or plan to have children who will cross Nigerian borders or mingle with other people? Because if the answer is yes, they should value how we are perceived as a nation. It’s very similar to the problems African Americans are having now with their people being killed – merely because of prevalent perception, because media almost only shows African American men as gangsters or idiots with no dignity or principle.
    Atoke never said only present the posh. She says we are more than the bipolar image of kwashiorkor or corrupt big spending. Nobody who has worked to improve or has a sense of self-worth wants to be misrepresented, your darling West inclusive. They carefully control their image too.
    Then I wondered what Egocentric has done for the starving, and how they know exactly how much or how little Atoke has done. Be speaking about westerners like all their people are caring and sharing and financially comfortable.
    And please, Africa is continent. Can we speak about Nigeria and specific, named countries?
    God bless.

  36. I Ren

    August 1, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    *a continent.

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