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Why Utang Akwa Ibom May Fail Governor Udom Emmanuel, Akwa Ibom Entertainment Industry

By Nelson NseAbasi
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The Nigerian entertainment industry, as a sub sector of the tourism industry, offers the highest number of employment for the youth. The case in Akwa Ibom is not different, and as such, every administration must consider the sector a priority in their manifesto and development plan.

It could be recalled that in 2014, the Nigerian Entertainment Industry single handedly raised the nation's annual earning above that of South Africa, making Nigeria the leading economy in Africa. This and other reasons made the then Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to have series of meetings with talents in the industry, and his administration gave out billions of naira as grant to practitioners and stakeholders in the industry at national level.

Entertainment sells because it has mass appeal. The Nigerian Entertainment Industry is a gold mine, and Governor Udom Emmanuel knows that, he also proved it by the involvement of multinationals in the 2015 Akwa Ibom State Government Christmas Carols Festival, which had Telecoms giant Globacom throwing their weight behind the state event, with support from United Bank for Africa, and Zenith Bank, amongst others.

Interestingly, a good number of the Governor's appointees are entertainers; a comedian (David Sergeant- Utang Akwa Ibom- Special Assistant on Entertainment), Nollywood actor (Moses Armstrong- Special Assistant on Project Monitoring & Agriculture), a musician (Godfada Uko- Special Assistant on Project Monitoring) and recently appointing super actress Ini Edo as Special Assistant on Tourism.

Before you read more meanings to all of this, remember that even the US President Barack Obama has a synergetic relationship with the likes of the highest paid couple in the entertainment scene, Jay Z and Beyonce.

For me, I see the appointment of a musician, comedian and actor as recognition for the creative arts in Akwa Ibom state. A recognition long overdue, following their roles and support to the state in years gone by, like in the cases of Delta State where a veteran actor Richard Mofe Damijo was appointed Commissioner of Culture & Tourism, and in Imo State, where a renowned comedian Okey Bakkassi was appointed Special Assistant on Entertainment, or recently in Cross River, where Nollywood actress Kate Henshaw is appointed Special Assistant on Lagos Laison Office, thank God that of Akwa Ibom state is happening in Governor Udom Emmanuel's time. It is Divine. It is historic.

It could also be recalled that Nollywood veteran actor Kanayo O.Kanayo, a.k.a K.O.K. was appointed as the chairman of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Studies under President Goodluck Jonathan, while veteran musician Onyeka Onwenu who had served as Chairperson of IMO State Council of Art & Culture was also appointed as Head of National Women Development Center, Abuja.

The newly appointed aide to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Entertainment Utang Akwa Ibom has a herculean task up his sleeves, to drive the long awaited overall development of the industry. Maybe not directly, but he will be expected to draw a blue print and facilitate the commencement of the journey to the Akwa Ibom Entertainment of our dream. Being the pioneer occupant of the office, he is to help the current administration with responsibility of defining institutions of Government that encourage and regulate the arts properly.

Topping the list of reasons why the pioneer entertainment aide may fail will be stumbling blocks rising from aggrieved and embattled unions; they will surface to hinder good intentions. For instance, in Music, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) the umbrella body of musicians and music workers in Nigeria has remained controversial over the years, even at state level.

There is also a coalition of music mixers by the name Disk Jockey's Association of Nigeria (DJAN) and it seems to be the only peace loving association. Growing by the day, this is undoubtedly one of the sub-sectors with an increasing number of entrants. Anybody can play or mix music, but doing it professionally is more than just an art. The industry in Akwa Ibom does not give adequate attention to the talents under this sector whereas; they are part of the few who smile to the bank weekly. Given more support, their performances and achievements will increase, as it is also their responsibility to promote the home grown music talents through their musical selection for events or public consumption.

While I am yet to know of a surviving umbrella body for comedians in Nigeria, the Comedy sector has been enjoying a boom as a family led by veteran and pioneer comedian Alibaba.

In Akwa Ibom, the sector causes ripples always, just as it causes tickles.

Frontline comedian Sir James, dubbed the most successful comedian, gets infuriated every time the subject of an election for the association of rib crackers ‘Comedians International’ is brought up, a group of comedians in the state which he has chaired sentimentally for 8 years.

My question for him is; is the NUJ Chairman the best journalist?

Moreover, I think the association is his personal establishment, and if so, a bigger and better umbrella body which can embrace and accommodate more comedians is recommended, in pursuit of initiatives to better their profession.

In the movie industry, Akwa Ibom producers have been able to make an impact in Nollywood, the Nigerian movie industry, churning out movies screened internationally, and producing actors doing well in the main stream. The movie industry in Akwa Ibom is to a far extent the most lucrative. Producers of local content movies have 'smiled ' to the bank more than musicians have from sales of audio CDs, but for piracy. The role and involvement of government was the only boost remaining to bring about the boom to an industry that has produced the likes of Ini Edo and Bishop Okon Lagos, both of whom began their now flourishing career in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Unfortunately, another hindrance will be the battle of supremacy, AkwaWood lacks unity. From Akwa Cross Indigenous Movie Makers, to Ibom Actors Forum, there are a number of groups set up to rival the embattled Actors Guild of Nigeria in Akwa Ibom State, while other unions like Guild of Directors, and the Marketers association also exist.

If the industry is organized, like in Lagos, then Sponsorship can be accessed, here the need for an Entertainment Board in the state under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is inevitable. Just like the Hotels & Tourism Board, Sports Commission, Hospital Management Board, etc., with a Commission or Board, entertainers will be recognized as stake holders in the economy and the industry can be regulated.

Only an industry that is united can access a Bond, enabling entertainers to access loans to pursue their show businesses and pay back through the board. Moreso, the board will also assist in checking irregularities and fraudulent activities. We have seen cases of people being robbed of their hard earned resources in the name of entertainment. By this I refer to organizers of ‘Beauty Pageants’ and ‘Talent Hunt Shows’ who sells forms and end up not providing the promised star prize to winners of the contest.

It is believed by many that the journey to a thriving entertainment industry begins with a step, for Governor Udom Emmanuel, that step it by appointing an assistant, for Utang, this we can say Utang Akwa Ibom began, by hosting a select number of stakeholders in the entertainment industry, and paying a courtesy visit to the Commissioner for Culture & Tourism in the state.

Series of interviews with entertainers proffer ideas to encourage improved infrastructure in the Council for Arts & Culture on Abak road, to protect and promote Akwa Ibom heritage, to empower and monitor the progress which will discover and develop young artists and artistes'.

Establishment of an Entertainment Board is also advised, arriving from interviews with a handful of celebrities, just like the Hotels & Tourism Board, Sports Commission, Hospital Management Board, etc., with a Commission or Board, entertainers will be recognized as stake holders in the economy and the industry can be regulated.

Meanwhile, Entertainment practitioners in Akwa Ibom are yearning for a Roundtable Discourse to chart a course for this critical sector, using Akwa Ibom state as a case study to galvanize adequate support for the industry, and possible access to grant and sponsorships for would be Musicians, Producers, Comedians, Actors, Marketers, Disc Jockeys, Photographers, Cinematographers, Technicians, Service Providers, Bloggers and Entertainment Publishers of Akwa Ibom origin from across the state and the country. This can be achieved through the entertainment unions like AGN, PMAN, Comedians International, DJAN and so on'.

I hear the S.A to the Governor on Entertainment Utang Akwa Ibom intends to unite warring factions, I suggest that he also organize seminars and conferences, attract patronage from government, attract sponsorship from private sector, facilitate Micro Credit Loans, develop a Pension Scheme for entertainers, and propose a tangible Health Insurance Scheme. All the good will and intentions may be frustrated by traitors rallying around.

I part with a quote from the scriptures “Take heed, brethren, lest there be any of you with an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God”.

Nelson NseAbasi
Journalist, Entertainment Entrepreneur, Media Strategist

Best Regards,
Nelson NseAbasi
Journalist & New Media Strategist, Artiste, Event & Brand Consultant

Facebook- Nelson NseAbasi, Twitter- @NelsonNseAbasi

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