ALERT Africa leads discussions on entertainers as change agents

Recently Iboro Otu, a former governorship candidate and the chairperson, ALERT Africa, a non-governmental organisation that is committed to providing opportunities and developing leadership and entrepreneurial capacities for young Africans, gathered some 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.

Anchored by Nero Ughwujabo, a former Special Adviser to the British Prime Minister, 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, 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 the Nigerian youths.

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For some, like Sunny Neji, a musician who believed that the inability of the action to work together is impeding its progress, while restoring young Nigerians’ faith in the country is the most critical challenge. Audi Maikori, a lawyer, CEO, Chocolate City, and creative industry expert, echoed similar thoughts, arguing that the outcome of the #EndSARS protest discouraged many youths. He encouraged young people to apply deft socio-political strategy to turn adversity into opportunity.

Madu Chikwendu, a Nollywood administrator, a former president of the Movie Producers Association of Nigeria, 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 could not use their social media influence and posts to encourage young people to vote. He urged entertainers to mobilise youths via their various social media pages to get their voters cards and participate in the 2023 elections.

Ruggedman, a rapper and businessman, 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 and trammels long term collective vision and dogged determination.

Israel Edjeren, a Nigerian broadcaster, 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, Chioma Ude, convener of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) and Gracie Mae, a leading UK entertainment journalist, 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.

The “Nigerian Voices” project is about utilizing the Nigerian entertainment industry to rally national pride and patriotism, especially at a time where national morale is at a record low. The project is about eliciting positive actions beyond the usual conversations and chatter. It is about defining to this generation and the next, what it is to be Nigerian.

An interactive session of ‘Nigerian Voices’ with a live audience comes up on December 15, 2021 at the House of Lords. The project plan is to follow up with similar events across all state capitals in Nigeria and across major world capitals (Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Paris, Jerusalem, Rome, Moscow, Amsterdam, Washington, New York, Dallas, Berlin, Delhi, Johannesburg and where Nigeria has huge diaspora numbers.

The Nigerian entertainment industry controls a commanding social media presence in Nigeria and globally with a cumulative followership of over 4 billion people.

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