Livewell International (LWI) is a not-for-profit organization that has been around for several years now. It was founded by Mrs. Bisi Bright – a Pharmacist widely known as a bundle of energy and an irrepressible fountain of new ideas. Countless government officials and CEOs of corporate organizations are familiar with her in-your-face lobbying and cajoling, designed to get everyone involved in some health project or other – a health screening, some action on HIV or hepatitis.
Once a year, Livewell International hosts its marquee event -the Grand Health Bazaar (GHB). It is a three-day gala at which people from the private sector mix and mingle with government officials and university students as they listen to presentations from invited speakers and follow the conversation of panelists holding forth on a wide selection of subjects. For each year there is an overarching theme, and there is a main topic for each day’s discussion. The speaker could be from oil and gas, or from some bank or pharmaceutical manufacturer. It always tracks back to health – of employee or executive or society at large, or, as is most usual, for all of them at once. The connections she makes and the variety of interest groups she routinely assembles at these ‘Grand Health Bazaars’ set a tone that affirms that health is the business of everybody.
GBH2019- this year’s installment of the GBH took place last week. The overall theme was ‘Sustainable Development Goals as a Catalyst for Enhanced Corporate Sustainability’.
For the opening day, the discussion was on ‘Entertainment as an ingredient for Good Health and Wellbeing’.
A number of celebrities had been invited to join the audience.
Bisi Bright had badgered you into accepting to be Chairman for the day.
Soon after proceedings took off, it was time for the Chairman’s opening remarks.
It would warm the audience to the work at hand if you opened up the subject in all its richness, you decided.
Entertainment, you explained, was really communication, created and delivered with the use of creative talent. The human being was a social, gregarious animal who was able to create entertainment, as well as consume and appreciate it.
Entertainment could take the form of music, or drama. It could be comedy. It could be art. It could be poetry, or prose.
With regard to the connection with health, the linkages were legion. Music and drama, as well as art, were now recognized tools of therapy in mental health care.
Entertainment of the appropriate sort could help productivity at work, as well as general wellbeing. Even in the harshness of war, the value of entertainment was recognized in boosting morale, hence the practice in the best armies of sending singers and dancers to entertain troops at the war front.
But it was not a one-way street.
There were health and other dangers deriving from unguided, unregulated entertainment. You asked the audience to search their own minds for what could be the health-consequences on the youth of Nigeria of mouthing and imitating the contents of the lyrics Olamide’s popular song on ‘chemistry’.
Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett- one of the invited stars wanted to get some thoughts off her mind.She was the grand old lady of the Nigerian stage and film. Was she really seventy-nine years old, you wondered, yet again? With her distinctive accent, her voice sounded imperious.
The crowd of mostly young men and women applauded, star-struck, as she reached the lectern.
Entertainment was communication, she averred, firmly. It pained her that Nigeria – her country was in such a bad way, politically and culturally. Art and artists – all ‘creatives’, had a responsibility for portraying culture and values which people seldom talked about. In her view, there was too much focus on ‘celebrity’. She was miffed by the air these young people put on. Broadcasters called themselves ‘On Air Personalities’- ‘OAP’s. For goodness sake what was wrong with ‘Broadcaster’- a title many great Nigerians – the Mike Enahoros, the Julie Cokers, the Nkenna Ndagubas had carried with great pride in the past?
There was only a thin line between self-confidence and arrogance.
Since celebrity status automatically made people into influencers, for good or for ill, those in the spotlight needed to realize that it was their duty to help to mend the broken values of the nation. She saw no evidence that they were aware of that responsibility. It was all about money and glamour. ‘Celebrities’ were wearing human hair from Brazil, instead of cultivating an authentic look which could be exported.
‘Should we as artists be colluding in Nigeria’s moral breakdown?’ she asked rhetorically.
She moved up on the stage to join a panel of much younger people populated with some well-known characters. There was Damilola Elliot, architect and celebrity photographer. There was ‘LazyWrita’ – writer, famed blogger, and a social influencer recognized by Google. He looked young and suave and anything but lazy in his dapper casual clothing. Eniola Olaosebikan – ‘SoulwriterAlways’ – was a petite young lady in an afro wig. She was a published writer and blogger. ‘dmx2’ – Bayo Oyenuga – rap musician, Instagram celeb who was also an architect, completed the panel.
The discussion became quite lively.
‘SoulWriterAlways’ admitted she had experienced depression at a certain time in her life and was worried people did not pay attention to mental health, even when they talked about health in Nigeria.
‘LazyWrita’ put it all to stigma and ‘the fact that there are no psychiatrists and psychologists in Nigeria that you can visit as you would in other countries’.
Someone expressed worry that the social media were addictive, and people were getting bullied, with some even driven to suicide.
Elliot the photographer weighed in pithily at a point. ‘If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything’. People were afraid of their own thoughts, and often misused entertainment, especially the social media. They were always on their smartphones, on twitter and Instagram, hiding from thinking or interacting.
According to ‘dmx2’, people often misunderstood celebrities such as Wizkid. ‘I tell people – don’t look at what they do or say – look at the person behind it. The person may be a sad insecure, lonely soul, just ‘forming’.’
Someone from the audience corrected ‘Lazywrita’, confirming that there were indeed many psychiatrists and psychologists in Nigeria, but it was the culture of help-seeking that needed to improve, as well as the creation of access for people who were too poor to pay the fees.
The first day of the Grand Health Bazaar was gradually winding to a close. The young celebrities and the admiring audience accepted that entertainment was crucial to health, that ‘SoulWriterAlways’ was right about the importance of mental health, and that it was alright to be hip without being arrogant, so as not to draw the ire of ‘Aunty’ Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett and the ‘old school’.