Malcolm X famously said that “the media is the most powerful entity in the world”. However, this has not been the case for Nigeria. A combination of a history of political repression, through both colonialism and dictatorship, high poverty and illiteracy, and lack of infrastructure has meant that Nigeria’s media never achieved its true potential. That is until now. Many commentators, not only in Nigeria but around the world, are highlighting the fact that the populous African nation is on the cusp of becoming a global player in both the news and entertainment industry.

Historically the Nigerian media has overcome numerous hindrances to still provide a voice for the masses. During the colonial era this included calls for independence, better pay for workers and equal rights for both whites and blacks. During the dictatorial era this included demands for freedoms, reduction of repression and also criticism of the poor performance of those governments. It was these leading journalists, such as Dele Giwa, who gave their lives due to their commitment to give a voice to those who could not speak. However, the governments during these times would respond with scare tactics to prevent journalists from speaking out. This worked for some time with journalists fleeing to Europe and other African countries from fear for their lives and subsequently meant that the accountability of the government, the freedom of the press and the voice of the people become lost under a barrage of state-biased media.

The revival of Nigeria’s news agencies has been slow, and is by no means over, but it is something to be genuinely excited by. We look to Sahara Reporters, an online news agency actually based in New York, as a leader in this new age of Nigerian media. The news agency, started in 2006 and run by the human rights activist Omoyele Sowore, is known for its more critical and far more up-to-date portrayal of politics and news events in the African nation. It was Sahara that first identified the unfortunately named “Underwear Bomber” as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in 2009. Moreover, it is Sahara workers who defy numerous death threats and continue to hold criminals and government officials (the two not always being mutually exclusive) to account. The website has attracted not only Nigerians and the diaspora but also international audiences, with over 1 million followers on Facebook.

In addition to Sahara, the continued success and achievements noted by This Day in paving the way for Nigeria’s journalism has been something of significance. The news agency not only has a mass following in terms of its newspaper, but has recently launched Arise TV, seen to be Africa’s answer to Al Jazeera. The channel, like its Middle-Eastern counterpart, covers local stories that often unfairly do not make international news and also gives voice to the African viewpoint on global events. This is an extension of what the great journalists, such as Dele Giwa, began because it gives a vital voice to so many who often go unheard.

A similar story is told for Nigeria’s entertainment industry. During the twentieth century there was something of a Nigerian entertainment boom with the likes of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the popular show “Basi and Company”. That and its criticism of the corruption entrenched in Nigeria provied immensely popular, with a 30 million viewership. In a similar way Nigerian music was a prominent act of defiance during this era, with Fela Kuti leading the dissenters through his Afrobeats and in his rejection of the dictatorships of the time. The importance of these two different forms of entertainment is that they provided an important political voice to the government for the masses through their art. However, these too suffered from repression with Fela being jailed, having his house set on fire and being tortured by consecutive military governments.

These forms of entertainment were lost for almost two decades but have now come back to surpass their previous success. The almost “so bad that it is good” Nollywood industry has gained prominence all over Africa, producing over 1,200 films annually, and now sitcoms led by the likes of Meet the Adebanjos have gained success internationally. Furthermore, the renaissance of Afrobeats led by Wizkid, D’Banj and 2Face has exploded globally with D’Banj having UK Top 10 hits and currently being signed to Kanye West’s label (and yes, that means he has made it).

It is for these reasons that there is genuinely a lot to be excited about in Nigeria’s media revival and now even expansion. However, this is not necessarily a journey complete. The news, although advances have been made, still has some way to go. During the recent #BringBackOurGirls saga, more information could be found faster about the Chibok Girls on BBC and CNN than in any of the Nigerian national papers. In fact, the media took the girls’ kidnapping as just another step in the terror campaign of Boko Haram rather than truly voicing the catastrophe that the crisis was.

However, this isn’t a journalistic ambition from the news agencies . The government has recently led a crackdown on the criticism it receives from the likes of Sahara, arguing that this is a breach of security. It is this type of subtle repression that worries many journalists in Nigeria who want to avoid a decline akin to what was experienced during the dictatorships. Furthermore, with readership in the millions, the media needs to consistently hold government officials to account in an unbiased and critical manner so as to hinder the prejudices that have plagued the country for decades.

In a similar way, even in the entertainment industry there are faults that still hinder a truly positive expansion. Journalists from Uganda, Kenya and South Africa have been critical of the dominance and prioritisation of Nigerian films, television shows and music over the rest of Africa. At a recent entertainment convention the relative animosity of some African nations towards the Nigerian entertainment industry was made evident. A Ugandan journalist belittled the Nigerian actors, telling them that although their shows were given excessive coverage, they were “mostly watched by downtown people, relatively poor and semi-illiterates”. And so, although advances have been made in Nigeria’s mass media, there is a need to still strive for more quality.

Regardless, this is still an incredibly exciting time for Nigerian artists and journalists both in the Nigerian and global media markets, with their expansion promising to have an impressive impact. And thus, it is for these reasons that Nigeria’s media is certainly one to watch.