Dumbo Atiya, a Jos-based content producer, is one of the remarkable storytellers celebrating northern culture in a contemporary way on the small screen. Vanessa Obioha reports on how GOtv gave his content a wider reach
Content production was never in the works for Dimbo Atiya, a popular content producer. The earliest encounter he had with the film industry was when his mother was cast in a role in a TV production of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in Jos, Plateau State. Even now, as he recalled the moment, he can hardly place the exact year he had the experience. In his recollection, he was just a young boy who enjoyed going to the studio with his mother, an English Language graduate. His mother’s imaginative mind and stories also fascinated him such that he marvelled at the way she used family members as characters in her stories.
“It was fascinating to read those stories with names of my uncles, aunts, and relatives as characters,” he enthused.
The fascination, however, was not magnetic enough to pull him into the film world. For most of his high school days, he spent wandering, unsure of what career path to take. What would finally do the magic was the intervention of a family friend who persuaded his mother to send him to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism in Jos. Reluctantly, he enrolled in the institute but by the time he attended a radio production class taught by Mallam Auwal, he knew he had creative juice flowing in his veins.
“He had such a creative mind that I knew instantly I was going to return the following day.”
Not only did Dimbo return to the class, but he went on to attend the film school in Jos although he didn’t complete the academic year. He would later work with Mo Abudu, attend New York Film Academy and was partially convinced that he would become a director, but after much deliberation, he stuck with content production.
Today, Dimbo is renowned for producing content that portrays northern culture in a different light. He explained that because he grew up in Jos, Plateau State which most people assumed is his state of origin (he is from Nasarawa State), he is familiar and exposed to northern nuances. Jos, according to him, is home to many northerners and as such he is well acquainted with many from the core part of the region.
“Moreover, growing up, filmmakers like Peter Igho from NTA had a way of mixing the northern culture with contemporary characters in stories like ‘Behind the Clouds’. So when I found my footing in the industry, it was very convenient that I was biased to things I was exposed to.”
Most films and TV shows about northerners are often stereotyped, according to him, so he was keen on telling stories that are contemporary and also appeal to the elites in that region.
The northern culture, he said, has a strong textural appeal.
“There is something very brilliant and deep about the northern culture. First of all, the language. There is something very fluid and poetic about the language,” he gushed.
The appeal also includes their family values which Dimbo explores in his storytelling.
“Most of my content is family-oriented because I have been influenced by the family culture of the north. It’s something that is not too common in the mainstream. Some of these nuances that are peculiar to the northern region are not exploited in the mainstream media so I thought it was a unique way to stand out in the industry. It was something fresh and new and I made up my mind to become the ‘King of the North’ with that kind of storytelling.”
When pitching ‘Halita’, one of his popular TV series on Africa Magic channels on GOtv, the content producer applied the same method, urging the network to capture the story in a northern setting. It worked.
The television drama series gained popularity for its riveting storyline and characters, particularly its eponymous character Halita, a 19-year-old village girl forced to move to the city and work as a maid in the powerful Zamani household. The show finale aired in September 2020. ‘Halita’ featured actors like Sophia Alakija, Mofe Duncan, Chisom Gabriella and the late Matt Alkali.
He admitted that he never envisaged the success of the show because it was the first daily show he and his team worked on.
“Ninety-five percent of the cast were new faces on television. The crew were mostly young people who were graduates from Jos. We were all newbies, we had no expectations but were keen on doing the job and doing it well. We started feeling we were doing something when we got feedback from the social media handles from the Africa Magic channels. ‘Halita’ had the highest fanbase on Facebook. When the show ended, people were really heartbroken and the fans, till today, sent their wishful thoughts for another season.”
“The production value was done differently to give it a unique look. The opening song done by Bez became an anthem. We became confident when we started gaining ground with the audience,” he added.
For Dimbo, working with Africa Magic channels which are on GOtv is a massive opportunity for him.
“We are talking about millions of people tuning in daily to watch a daily show. That is, 240 episodes of ‘Halita’. We were particularly excited when it began airing on Africa Magic Family which is available on GOtv. It’s not premium so we were excited that ordinary Nigerians can also watch it. Most of our fans that watched ‘Halita’ were probably from the GOtv family. “
He explained further: “When the second season premiered, it wasn’t originally on GOtv and some people protested that decision and even migrated to the DStv platform. That showed us that our fans were mainly on the GOtv platform.”
Atiya also disclosed that the popularity of the show was so overwhelming that the cast members get a lofty ovation wherever they go.
“The GOtv platform has done an amazing job in projecting our content more than as far as we can imagine.”
He argued that there are so many stories to tell as long as the content producer knows what the audience wants. However, the most interesting thing for him is that there are platforms like GOtv interested in these stories.
“GOtv has subscription-based viewers that they have to feed every day. And as such, needs content. It can be commissioned or licensed. Such platforms help content producers to share their stories. So, it is a good time for content producers in the country because many stories are waiting to be told,” he stated.