Squid Game is the no 1 series in Nigeria and also in other 94 countries on Netflix. The fictional drama from South Korea has ranked as Netflix’s “biggest-ever series at launch”, the streaming company told CNN on Tuesday.
The dystopian series has been made into memes, quotes, Tik Tok videos, on the Internet. Even Halloween costumes this year got inspiration from the show. However, the details and lessons of this series are more in-depth than the jokes or reactions it has garnered.
Before hitting the jackpot with Netflix, the creator Hwang Donghyuk had a decade of failed trials due to the reason of how “unreal” the pitch of the film was. However, his breakthrough came when Netflix saw his idea as relatable to real life. This claim is agreeable as the movie encompasses themes from everyday life, such as poverty, debt, greed and elitism, etc.
One can even see the same similarities of Squid Game scenes happening in Nigeria. It is amazing how a foreign series can capture extensive issues in Africa’s largest economy without even trying to mimic it.
How Squid Game Captures the Socio-Economic Challenges in Nigeria
As we examine how the TV series mirrors Nigeria’s socio-economic issues, be warned that there are a lot of spoilers ahead. So, if you have not seen Squid Game, you might want to binge on it before completing this article.
The Devaluation of the Currency
The shockingly low value of the Korean currency in the series sparked a discussion on the internet. With questions surrounding the four million won being a few notes and 10,000 won being just a note. This shows the level at which their currency has been devalued. A challenge that is very similar to the devaluation of the Nigerian Naira.
One million doesn’t need to get crash into a note before it is clear that Nigeria’s currency rate is depreciating. The continuous devaluation of Naira from 380.7 NGN on January 1st to the current 410.8700 NGN shows how bad the economy is becoming.
The Naira devaluation has caused inflation of goods and services, making life hard for Nigerians. It has caused increased prices in food, transport, clothing and every other essential commodity.
We are All Playing the Game
As crazy as it may sound, we are all playing the game. The Squid Game is in Nigeria. We don’t need to see a big game arena with a bunch of people wearing a green or red tracksuit before we know it is playing out the same way as in the series.
We are conformed by certain rules or protocols that do more harm than good. In a bid to survive, we trade our birthright for a nickel handed out by political and business elites who mischievously leverage the deepened poverty in the land.
A lot of the genocides we’ve seen in Africa were penetrated by the common people and spurred by government entities, and individuals driven by personal interests. Take for example, the 100-day massacre in Rwanda that happened in 1994 between the Tutsis and the Hutu ethnic tribe. About 800 Tutsis were killed by the Hutu tribe. It was reported that the Rwandan government was backed by foreign bodies, who allegedly provided ammunition and hints on where the Tutsis lived, to carry out the mayhem.
The Nigerian civil war is another case. At least 500,000 to 2 million civilians, mostly women and children, reportedly died from starvation, not counting military casualties from both the Federal Government and the Igbo’s side. As displayed in the Squid Game series, the powerful people at the helms, who had the power to stop the war even fuelled and watched us destroy ourselves.
At the end of the series, Seong Gi-Hun refused to continue with the game, declining to follow any of their rules. We have to reach this consensus as well.
The Elites as Spectators in the People’s Long Suffering
In the series, six VIPs arrive through a helicopter to the game facility. They wear grotesque masks in the shape of different animal heads to hide their identities. The VIPs are wealthy men and the main facilitators of the game. According to the mastermind of the game, Yeong-su Oh, he and other VIPs created the game because they were bored with life, even with all their wealth.
This part explains a lot in Nigeria. There is a wide gap between the elites and the poor. We live in a country where the elites have made it a lot harder for the low and middle-class to ascend to a higher status. In some twisted way, they enjoy having to be up there and looking down on the larger population.
The EndSARS protest in Nigeria last year was a reflection of how disenchanted the masses have become with the existing system. Again, the political elites weaponized poverty to disrupt the peaceful protests. They paid thugs and hoodlums to infiltrate genuine protest groups, leading to chaos and killings of innocent young citizens.
The Old Man: Elitist Manipulation in Nigeria
All along, old man Yeong-su was the game master who disguised himself as a player. In a bid to manipulate the other unsuspecting players, he votes for the game to be cancelled. Knowing that he had won their trust, he was able to convince each of them in the outside world to despise their debt-riddled lives and return to playing the game.
This particular plot point in the series shows how manipulative the elites can be to get whatever they want. Even to the point of disguising as commoners.
During electoral seasons in Nigeria, politicians and their cronies, who typically become demigods and unreachable by the people once elected, would suddenly become friendly faces in the neighbourhoods. They pretend to be concerned about the things that bother the common people and give handouts just to curry favours with them. Sadly, this trick works all the time as poverty deepens in the country.
The Failure of the Police System
In the series, Hwang Jun-ho, who played the role of a police officer, was in search of his brother, only to discover that he was a part of the game officials. He threatened to call for backup when he made the discovery, but his brother reminded him boastfully that the police in the country would not get to the location on time.
This portrays the policing system in Nigeria. Officers are hardly quick to respond in emergency situations. They’re notorious for bribery and high-handedness. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than getting a Nigerian police unit to investigate a criminal matter, just like we saw when Seong Gi-Hun was narrating his ordeal to the Korean police.
The Red Tracksuit Minions
The role of the red tracksuit minions is to organise the game. It is clear they are receiving orders from above and can’t do as they freely choose. Instead of helping their fellow Koreans escape or stop the game, perhaps by orchestrating a revolt, they do exactly as commanded – kill them and harvest their body organs for onward sale to buyers outside the facility.
These minions can also be likened to the low-ranking officials in public service. They aren’t so different from Nigerian civil servants who carry out the dirty jobs of their superiors, extorting and exploiting their fellow citizens.