NIGERIAN VOICES: “STATE OF THE NATION”
Recently Iboro Otu, a former governorship candidate and the Chairperson of ALERT Africa — a non-governmental organisation that is committed to providing opportunities and developing leadership and entrepreneurial capacities for young Africans — gathered entertainers in Nigeria and the diaspora at a virtual conference. The conference tagged ‘Nigerian Voices: State of The Nation,’ focused on using entertainment for leadership, good governance and electoral advocacy. The over one-hour session had musicians, entertainment businessmen and women, filmmakers, artists and other creative industry experts in attendance. The session can be viewed online via youtube link: https://youtu.be/Rq9f-B8xjlw
Anchored by a former Special Adviser to the British Prime Minister, Nero Ughwujabo, the fireside chat plumbed challenges confronting the nation, strategies and measurable actions that will make Nigeria a more inclusive and prosperous society.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Otu who also is a serial entrepreneur, underscored the powerful influence of the Nigerian entertainment industry as one of the biggest exports of the country and also highlighted the need for industry stakeholders to lead the charge towards a more inclusive and prosperous Nigerian society.
“We all know that when it comes to global influence and position management, Nigerian entertainment products and services are by far our biggest export. Almost everyone in the world has listened to a Nigerian song, heard about a Nigerian artist or seen a Nigerian film. Such is the power of our entertainment industry globally. We also can use this power and influence to turn around the socio-economic and political fortune of this country.”
Divided into three segments: Our collective socio-economic transformation, political inclusion and the recent anniversary of the #EndSARS protests, participants presented divergent views but zeroed in on Nigerian youths.
For some, like musician Sunny Neji who believed that the inability of the action to work together is impeding its progress, restoring young Nigerians’ faith in the country is the most critical challenge. Lawyer, Chocolate City CEO and creative industry expert Audi Maikori echoed similar thoughts, arguing that the outcome of the #EndSARS protest discouraged many youths. He however encouraged young people to apply deft socio-political strategy to turn adversity into opportunity.
A Nollywood administrator Mr. Madu Chikwendu, a former president of the movie producers association of Nigeria, didn’t mince words when he argued that entertainers are not using their influence enough to drive change. According to Chikwendu, most entertainers spent time thinking of what their fans would like instead of setting the agenda for the fans to follow.
He queried why they couldn’t use their social media influence and posts to encourage young people to vote as youths belong to the category of people whose decisions were key in the electoral process. He urged entertainers to mobilise youths via their various social media pages to get their voters cards and participate in the 2023 elections.
But for rapper and businessman Ruggedman, who narrated his first hand experience during the #ENDSars protest, praised the commitment and comportment of young people during the protest before it was hijacked by paid hoodlums, he stated that both the youths and the entertainers had a problem which stemmed from poverty which trammels long term collective vision and dogged determination.
Israel Edjeren, a Nigerian broadcaster, however dismissed the notion that Nigerian politics have never favoured youths. He cited past heroes, presidents and governors who achieved feats during their youth even up to the fourth republic. For the female participants, convener of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) Chioma Ude and a leading entertainment UK journalist, Gracie Mae, strongly advocated for youth education through stories, which will help change their perception and ultimately lead to socio-economic and leadership transformation.
Other speakers included filmmaker Lancelot Imaseun, a strong supporter of the ALERT Nigeria ‘Nigerian Voices’ initiative and an ardent believer in the new Nigeria project. Musician Paul Play Dairo and cartoonist Mike Asuquo were also in attendance.