Satire is seriously powerful, no joke

29 October 2018
Adeola Fayehun is changing the world, one video at a time
The world we live in teems with ‘fake news’, and the political landscape is shifting with such unpredictability, it’s almost hard not to make a joke about it to get by. Adeola Fayehun is making the most of this to create real world change.

In the lead up to the Sydney Ideas Chaser Lecture, Adeola Fayehun answers some hard-hitting questions about being a leader for African political change. As host of her own satirical news show, Keeping it real with Adeola, she shares what it’s like speaking out about controversial political issues and gives her advice to young change-makers.

Who is Adeola Fayehun?

Adeola has been described by the Guardian as ‘Nigeria’s favourite satirist”. By delivering non-traditional news, she focuses on the issues that affect the daily lives of people across the African continent, making them the active players in the media’s narrative as opposed to the subjects. Adeola received global prominence when she confronted Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe asking him when we would step down.

What was is like growing up in Nigeria?

“I was born in Nigeria in 1984 as the youngest of six children. Growing up there would be times when we didn’t have water or electricity for days. Once I left and moved to America, I found out that things like constant electricity, water and good roads are not luxuries, but basic amenities that everyone deserves as a fundamental human right”.

Why do you do what you do?

“Because it has to be done. Nigerians deserve an accountable and responsible government, true democracy and gender equality. I do what I do because some African men still believe it is taboo to say that men and women are equal, some say what I do is a waste of a Journalism degree, but who cares!”

Do you ever feel in danger reporting about controversial political issues?

Yes I do, but I’m more afraid of what would happen if we all kept quiet. I’d rather take my chances. Hopefully history will remember me!

What role do you think satire has in democracy?

 “Most corrupt officials and dictators are very defensive. They’re not willing to listen to the truth. They would arrest you. In Nigeria, we have freedom of speech, but your freedom is not guaranteed after the speech.

However, with satire, I make them laugh and they let down their guard (I have found many politicians watch my show) and then I give them a punch (I basically echo what citizens are saying about their conducts). At least then they know the truth.”

What advice do you have for other women who would like to use satire to create change?

“When you start, you may not be embraced, but don’t be intimidated. If you’re in Africa, some people will try to intimidate you and write you off just because you’re a woman. I’ve been told “what do women know about politics? You’re a woman, find a real job”. Just shake it off and focus!”

Most importantly, if you decide to do this, do it well. In fact, whatever you do, give it your best so that your work speaks for itself. People know when you’re doing a good job, and when you’re not. So work hard!”


You can hear more about how Adeola is shaking up African politics by listening to the podcast Sydney Ideas Chaser Lecture: Satire is a new global saviour for news, seriously.