Michael Palin in Nigeria

UK 2024, 45 mins
Director: Neil Ferguson

+ Q&A with Michael Palin, chaired by Ronke Phillips-Pakenham.

Michael Palin in Nigeria is a new three-part 1,300-mile journey series with broadcaster and writer Michael Palin, as he visits this vast country for the first time. The series is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2022 series Michael Palin: Into Iraq which reached 2.5 million viewers and won a prestigious AIB award, and the twice BAFTA and RTS award nominated Michael Palin in North Korea.

Nigeria has a rapidly growing population of 220 million predicted to nearly double by 2050. It’s expected to become the third most populous country in the world after China and India and a major player on the world stage. Stories of corruption and violence have often characterised how the country is portrayed in the media, but away from these stories the reality is much more complex.

Michael has never visited Nigeria, and he’s long been fascinated by its story, cultures and significance within the African continent. Experiencing what life is like in this dynamic country, through the voices, opinions and experiences of Nigerians from all walks of life, he finds a place where optimism can rule in the face of adversity, where world history casts a shadow, and where the modern world and contemporary Africa’s dilemma of wealth and poverty are found side by side. For Michael, the so called ‘Giant of Africa’ is a story that reflects our contemporary world in so many ways, and his journey explores how Nigerians and their country face the many challenges of now, and the legacies of the past.

Michael Palin said: ‘Nigeria has the biggest economy, and the biggest population in Africa. The potential of the country is enormous, but so are its problems. Visiting the country for the first time, I saw these problems at first hand, but also caught a whiff of the excitement and energy of the place. Sometimes inspiring, sometimes a perplexing challenge, my journey through this rich, raucous mix of a country hardly gave me time to draw breath. I came home exhausted but exhilarated. And, as in the best of journeys, feeling I know a lot more about the world.’

Starting in Lagos, Michael experiences a city of contrasting extremes, from heart wrenching poverty to extravagant wealth. With his Nigerian production team, Michael flies 1000 kilometres to the Islamic North, a completely different land of Sharia law and Boko Haram strongholds, before starting a challenging road trip down through the spine of this country. With roadside attacks and kidnapping a very real threat, Michael and his team need to travel with armed guards. But his journey reveals a very different Nigeria and its people – one of stunning nature and beauty, strong cultures, and welcoming communities. With Nigeria set to be central to developments and events way beyond its boundaries in the next decades, this is the time to understand this major global player through the eyes and experiences of its people in this awe-inspiring place. For Michael, at 80, it may well turn out to be the most prophetic journey of his life.

A book to accompany the series will publish next year.

Michael Palin has written and starred in numerous TV programmes and films, from Monty Python and Ripping Yarns to The Missionary and The Death of Stalin. He has also made several much-acclaimed travel documentaries, his journeys taking him to the North and South Poles, the Sahara Desert, the Himalayas, Eastern Europe and Brazil. His books include accounts of his journeys, novels (Hemingway’s Chair and The Truth) and several volumes of diaries. From 2009 to 2012 he was president of the Royal Geographical Society. He received a BAFTA fellowship in 2013, and a knighthood in the 2019 New Year Honours list. He lives in London.

Ronke Phillips-Pakenham’s career as a journalist includes stints in print, radio and television, as a presenter and reporter in both national and regional media, in the UK and abroad. She is currently Senior Correspondent at ITV London working on big investigations and breaking stories including the murders of Stephen Lawrence and Victoria Climbie, the July 7th bombings of London, the murder of Lee Rigby, the terrorist attacks at London and Westminster bridges and the Grenfell Tower Fire. Ronke is also a vocal advocate for greater representation within the media and is ITN’s first-ever Editorial Diversity Partner.

Series Producer and Director: Neil Ferguson
Channel 5 Commissioning Editor: Guy Davies
Executive Producer: Will Smith
Head of Production: Nicki Purcell
Assistant Producer: Segilola Arisekola
Production Managers: Hazel Graham, Charlotte Robb
Junior Production Coordinator: Abi Cook
Post Production Facility: ITN Post
Director of Photography: Jaimie Gramston
Camera and Drone Operator: Ben Crossley
Film Editor: Eddie Haselden
Assistant Film Editor: Larry Molloy
Fixers: Chriss Nwobu, Mohammad Adamu
Consultant: Noo Sara-Wiwa
Graphics: UF6
Colourist: Boyd Nagle
Composer: Miguel D’Oliveira
Sound Recordist: Joe Morsman
Dubbing Mixer: Jez Spencer

UK 2024
Episode 1 45 mins
Channel 5/ITN Productions

Total running time: 100 mins

Available on Channel 5 and My5 from Tuesday 16 April, 9pm

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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