MTV Adds ‘Shuga’ To Nigerian Talents

•Eku Edewor (l), a guest and Colette Otusheso

For two seasons, it rocked many African countries with millions of youths on the continent thrilled with action movies set in bars, hangout joints and clubs in Nairobi, Kenya. In its third season, Shuga, the TV drama about youth, sex and relationships is coming to Nigeria courtesy of MTV Base and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation.

L-R: Biyi Bandele, Alex Okosi, Georgia Arnold and Kemi Adesoye
L-R: Biyi Bandele, Alex Okosi, Georgia Arnold and Kemi Adesoye

The third series of Shuga, a part of a 360-degree mass media campaign designed to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS prevention and teen pregnancy in Nigeria, was unveiled at an exclusive event held at the WheatBaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, on 25 June.

Alex Okosi, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, VIMN Africa, who expressed excitement over the launch of the series in Nigeria, said his organisation and MTV Staying Alive Foundation are set to tap into the creativity of Nigeria’s flourishing entertainment industry in the creation and realisation of the series.

“MTV Base is proud and excited to bring Shuga to Nigeria for the first time.  We are delighted that this award-winning series and multimedia campaign will be using its muscle to shine a light on important public health issues affecting youth, and promoting meaningful behaviour change while leveraging Nigerian creativity and talent,” Okosi said.

Georgina Arnold, Executive Director, MTV Staying Alive Foundation, who walked into the ceremony in crutches after a minor domestic accident, also spoke on the initiative behind the launch. She stated that the foundation aims to strike a chord with young Nigerians and provoke a significant shift in their attitude and behaviour towards sexual health and associated public health issues.

“We are combining these messages with stylish production, poignant storylines, believable characters and world class acting to make Shuga sweeten the pill and make an impact where other campaigns may have failed to resonate in the past,” Arnold said.

•Eku Edewor (l), a guest and Colette Otusheso
•Eku Edewor (l), a guest and Colette Otusheso

MTV Base and MTV Staying Alive Foundation have found allies in the Nigerian government’s National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They will be joining forces with the US President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, which has also expressed its intention to support the campaign on creating awareness and information about HIV, sexual responsibility and teen pregnancy among Nigerian youth.

“Efforts such as Shuga that seek to expand knowledge about HIV among young people are critical to helping us achieve an AIDS-free generation. Raising awareness is key to keeping this and future generations healthy and able to lead productive lives,” Shirley A. Dady, PEPFAR Country Coordinator, Nigeria said.

The third series of Shuga will be shot and produced in Nigeria for the first time, utilising a predominantly Nigerian cast and crew.

Biyi Bandele, British-based Nigerian filmmaker who directed the film of Chimamanda Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun, will direct the 8-part series.

•L-R: Beverly Naya, Ehiz & Shalewa
•L-R: Beverly Naya, Ehiz & Shalewa

Speaking about his involvement in the series, Bandele said: “I was attracted to Shuga because I considered it a special, great project. It is doing something that no any other television programme in Africa is doing right now.”

He added that it is crucial that Nigerians tell their own stories. “When you do that, you find that your target audience immediately responds. There is no translation to be made; you don’t have to do any special pleading. They are just there with you immediately,” the author of the popular war-story book, Burma Boy, told P.M.NEWS Entertainment Café.

Bankole will be working will award-winning scriptwriter, Kemi Adesoye, who will write the screenplay alongside a team of Nigerian writers.

P.M.NEWS Entertainment Café learnt that Adesoye was picked by Bandele after he saw her screenplay for Kunle Afolayan’s Phone Swap. She has also wielded her skills in other top productions including M-Net hit soap Tinsel and The Figurine.

“In bringing Shuga to Nigeria, I hope that we embrace it. I hope young people will learn, be entertained and ultimately change their lives. I would like Shuga to help start  conversations between friends and families about issues relating to certain taboos, talk about HIV and about teen pregnancy,” said Adesoye.

Scores of Nigerian established and upcoming actors are expected to feature in the popular series. Shuga 3 will star Nigerian actor and artiste,  Ikubese Emmanuel Ifeanychukwu, who will reprise his role as smooth-talking bad boy, Femi, from Shuga 2.

Also in the third series will be Kenyan actor, singer and On-Air-Personality, Nick Mutuma, who was in series one and two. Mutuma will be revisiting his role as Leo, one of Shuga’s most popular characters. Following hit turns by EME stars, Banky W and Wizkid, in the Series 2, a number of popular Nigerian musicians are also expected to be involved in cameo and acting roles.  It was learnt that the pre-production of the multi-episode drama is already well underway. Principal photography is scheduled to begin in August.

“Bringing Shuga to Nigeria is a very smart move as youths in Nigeria need to take the importance of sexual health seriously and using this medium to push this message as well as using Nigerian acts to create real life situations is a smart move,” actress Beverly Naya told P.M.NEWS Entertainment Café at the event.

Other elements of the Shuga campaign will include a radio drama series, a peer educator programme, a comic book in Hausa and English, a mobile information service, social media and a range of digital platforms.

The series will be premiere on MTV Base (DStv Channel 322), Nigerian terrestrial broadcasters and other MTV networks and third party broadcasters around the world on 1 December (World AIDS Day).

—Funsho Arogundade