• Friday, April 12, 2024
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Rivers needs a driver in entertainment industry to retake leisure economy

Rivers needs a driver in entertainment industry to retake leisure economy

Rivers State is said to be home for entertainment industry but needs a driver to retake the sector it led in the far past.

On this, Gov Sim Fubara has been advised to appoint a Special Adviser (SA) on Entertainment to drive the rebirth of the industry that made the state famous in the past with the likes of Rex Lawson, Julius Agwu, Isakaba, Hilda Dokubo, etc.

Gov Fubara has however, been commended for the early steps he has so far taken on the entertainment subsector but he has been urged to move further by pushing the sector into a wealth and job creator.

The counsel was rendered by some of the biggest investors in the entertainment and leisure industry who appealed to him to push through an SA on Entertainment to activate the sector that made the Old Rivers State thick.

Some of the leading voices and investors in the Niger Delta including the Mayor of Pitakwa (KO Baba Jornsen) and Mayor of Housing (My-ACE China), urged Gov Fubara to work closely with the leaders of the industry so as to cause a spike that is waiting to happen.

The call came in Port Harcourt during a press briefing to unveil details of ‘Mayor of Pitakwa’ show 2024.

The creator of the show series, Jornsen, thus urged the state governor to leverage the brightening relation between the state administration and the leisure industry to consolidate and boost investment in the sector.

He said: “Yesterday I was with the Commissioner of Youth and the discussions facilitated things. Gov Fubara is bringing youths on board. For instance, this is the first time the government is sending representatives to entertainment shows in the state.”

So, now, he said, “We urge him to go ahead and appoint an SA Entertainment who can talk about comedy, music, dance, blog, etc, because the office running entertainment for now is office of the Commissioner of Culture who only talks about Zoo, Pleasure Park, etc.

“So, SA Entertainment will help create jobs. This show alone has created over 70 workers from now to event night. That is how big the industry can be. So, get an SA Entertainment to synergise with the industry, then see how this sector can create jobs and wealth.”

The promoter of ‘The Mayor of Pitakwa’ show series said all plans are set to make the 2024 edition one of the biggest.

This year, he went on, a ‘Presidential Table’ is a reserved table on stage at N5m. This is an innovation. He said they have a strong team that can push a narrative that will suit partner and sponsor because the big objective is to give brand visibility to the partners and sponsors. He said it is going to be fully comedy (up to 98 per cent).

On security, he said it is in place, saying the event centre has strong security system and works with the best security units in the state capital as backup.

The headline sponsor: My-ACE China (CEO, the Housing & Construction Mayor Limited), appealed to the government of Rivers State and other governments in the Niger Delta and south east to leverage Comedy as an industry to create wealth.

He said: “In some states, the window to leverage on this is getting narrower. Oprah Winfrey once urged people to make themselves relevant. This is done by being part of those trying to succeed.

“The brand, ‘Mayor of Pitakwa’, is growing at a fast rate. If the State Government does not take advantage now, they might miss out like the government missed out when Burna Boy, a Port Harcourt boy, won the Grammy. This was so because the state government did not invest in him when he needed them. The opportunity does not stay there forever.”

He said that is why the Entertainment community is happy with the present state government on what they did on Stanley Nwabali (national goalkeeper and AFCON hero) who was hosted by the Governor and given support in form of funds.

“So, we say, this is the best opportunity to invest in ‘Mayor of Pitakwa’. When artistes blow, they are never easy to get because they become too big to care about you.”

The investors and entertainers admitted that the state had not had it so rosy for years, saying the interest so far shown by Gov Fubara has stirred the industry into believing that hope still lies ahead.

N100bn per year industry waiting

The annual value of business in the comedy industry is estimated at over N100bn but most state and local governments in the Niger Delta are said to ignore this.

This is as a force has come from Mayor of Housing to push the reigning comedy show in the oil region, ‘The Mayor of Pitakwa’ to become one of the leading shows in Nigeria.

The ‘Mayor of Pitakwa’ is said to be the biggest comedy show in the Niger Delta and ‘Mayor of Housing’ is regarded as the number one brand for two years running haven won it at D’MOMA Awards for 2022 and 2023.

Now, the Mayor of Housing, My-ACE China, has moved bigger behind the ‘Mayor of Pitakwa’ show to make it go bigger and maybe international as the laugh and hilarious centre in Nigeria.

The brand force has thus explained why he is pushing the ‘Mayor of Pitakwa’ show, saying it is not only the biggest comedy show in the Niger Delta, also because he (China) was once a comedian. “I know how their industry is under-utilised and under-appreciated. Many of the corporations in the region have not recognised the value of that industry-like endeavour as is done in Lagos and now in Abuja.

“We want to be the pioneers, not only to recognize that industry, but to bridge the gap of dichotomy between Lagos/Abuja and Port Harcourt zone.”

Another point, he stated, is that this show captures Nigeria’s biggest demography of about 70 percent of the population. Nigeria right now is over 235m people and 70 percent or 146m of this is huge that is underappreciated and underutilised.

“A lot of people have called for an industrial and agricultural revolution in Nigeria as a way out, but the people that can bring this about are the youths that we neglect. The future billionaires are these same youths that we are underappreciating.”

So, he told BusinessDay, “If we can make an impression with and build bridges with them, we would be securing our future because by the time they are up there, they would not forget those who were there for them in the beginning.

“These are the three reasons why we are partnering with the ‘Mayor of Pitakwa’. On a lighter note, the country is going through a new wave of stress. So, without humour-therapy, the rate of depression and suicide would be very high.”

On why Nigeria is surviving the wave of what it is going through, he said it is because of the heavy presence of humour. “It has come in as a huge panacea for what people are going through. Over the years, because of the explosion of the humour industry, most Nigerians have come to fall back on humour to digest their problems.

“They simply turn their misery into jokes and find a way to live with it or overcome it. Songs and jokes abound in Nigeria on every single disaster or misery. Some comedians make cruel jokes on themselves so much that people see their own afflictions as jokes from nature. They no longer see these things as tragedy but as jokes from nature which they must overcome.”

He went on: “See how bad Nigeria has become. You can’t even attempt to look up the value of your Naira to Dollar. You can’t even compare the Naira to Cameroon Cefas because before now, one Naira was equal to almost 100 Cameroon cefas but right now, one Cameroon cefa is N4. That is how bad things have become.

“Part of what is shielding the populace from the wave of hardship in Nigeria is humour as captured by the comedy industry. That is why this industry should not be overlooked or downplayed. It is more important than any ant-depressants or pill that can be given for depression, heartbreak, or hardship.

“For us, it’s a huge thing and we are contributing and supporting with our all.

Finally, we are the only startup company in Nigeria that does corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a scaled project. As we grow, we make CSR impact. We do not believe that you should wait till you grow or make all the profit before you make CSR impact around you. We do as we grow, and as we grow bigger, we offer bigger. We make impact with our growth.”

He commended the Lagos State government for partnering with an international firm to build the Lagos Film Village. “Government can invest in these spaces.

“Before now, arts and culture got huge chunks in annual budgets but right now, it is the opposite. The sector is on its own; to either grow or die. What the government can do is to give some support which will definitely go a long way.

“Every location in Nigeria has a huge population of indigenous talents and every local council authority can easily support these talents. We no longer have cultural centres, comedy centres, halls, nor facilities or incentives to support art and culture. There are even no recognitions to the sector practitioners. Facility, financing, and recognition are needed urgently. Facility is the infrastructural support; financial support is the funding made available to the comedy industry, while recognition is the emotional support needed to boost the sector. Sometimes, if your son does well, a path on the back is all he needs.”

He said the government is no longer sowing patriotism in the hearts of the youths, the largest demography in Africa. They have the risk of this huge demography turn against them.”

Earlier, the man behind the ‘Mayor of Pitakwa’, K.O. Baba Jornsen, said at the pre-event press briefing that unveiling the objective of the 2024 edition was important to show how big the annual show has become.

The event would be mounted on April 1, 2024, with the theme; ‘They like to fool us’. The objective, he said, is to create brand visibility of the sponsors and those that know the value behind comedy shows.

Jornsen said the event would feature comedy for almost all the hours allotted to it, though other spices such as dances and short remarks are lined up to create variety. “There will be one hour of open moment to allow any comedian outside the cast that wishes to make an entry.”