Nollywood can give Nigeria better image:Say Kanayo O Kanayo, Stephane Okereke

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Two popular Nollywood stars, Kanayo O Kanayo and Stephanie Okereke recently mounted the rostrum to relay their success stories to students of the University of Benin in Edo State. They also served as role models to thousands of the students who graced the launch of President Goodluck Jonathan's Bring Back the Book project in the university.

As star speakers and role models in the area of motion picture, both Kanayo and Okereke expressed their support for Jonathan's dream of propagating the book and reading culture among young Nigerians.And expectedly the Main Auditorium of the university was filled to capacity by students who came to listen to the speakers.

Also comedian MC Casino made the event memorable with his deft performance along with other campus-based music stars. In fact, the presence of Mr Oronto Douglas, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Research, Documentation and Strategy as well as Kanayo and Okereke, created excitement amongst the students. On the team, too, was Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa (Jnr), son of the late minority rights activist, also from the Presidency.

While explaining the book mission of Jonathan's team to the campus, Student Affairs Assistant Dean Mr. F.O. Osadolor, recounted the struggles students had previously embarked upon to entrench the book culture in Nigeria. He disclosed that in the '80s, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) canvassed free and qualitative education for all. He therefore, commended the President for establishing more federal universities, saying it was the mark of an educated President, who knew the importance of education.

Osadolor said that the universities would create jobs and take many Nigerians from the crowded labour market. ensure that more Nigerians received knowledge. Following this was a brief performance by Tamara of Naija Sings. The young singer thrilled the audience with her melodic tunes just as the students, trooped to the dancing floor. Douglas who described himself as a bonafide citizen of Benin, recalled his student days with Osadolor and their exploits in ousting military dictatorship. His words: “Educational system today is not the best that we can get. It is 10 months since Jonathan had been President and he has restated education as one of his priorities.

All of you here who will be governors, senators, engineers, doctors, lawyers and presidents tomorrow should be properly educated and made to understand the value of the book to the great Nigerian project.” Douglas played into the students' fantasy when he told them they were the most unique and dynamic. The auditorium exploded in wild jubilation in response.

In the words of Kanayo, the book project is a mark of President Jonathan's love for knowledge and development. According to him, President Jonathan is a good political product who is not a hard-sell.
Said Kanayo: “We need to receive that consciousness about the book for our collective development. Jonathan has not claimed that he owns all the intelligence, but he means well. He is a story of hope. Being a stakeholder and former teacher, and a teacher, he knows the problems in the university system such as poor electricity, poor hostels and lack of facilities. But he is capable of giving Nigeria a fresh breath”.

Also speaking was screen idol Okereke whose words sparked off wild jubilation among the students. Okereke told the students that although they weren't on campus to campaign, a new era had come, which every Nigerian needed to embrace. Jonathan, she said, had brought government closer home to Nigerians.

She noted that when Nigerians were trooping, she took a personal stand to stick it out at home and be treated like a queen rather than as a dishwasher abroad. She tasked the students to make similar decision in order to make Nigeria great. She asserted, “Nollywood is the biggest branding thing we have apart from oil. Right from his days as Deputy Governor of Bayelsa, Jonathan has said these people (in Nollywood) need to be recognised as the biggest branding people we have.

“Now, he also understands that education is key; that it is what makes a man go far in life. He is going to concentrate on education because education builds our confidence. This is the time for all of you. I ask myself, What's the legacy I'm going to leave behind? It is that Nigeria moves forward. Jonathan has made us have hope. Don't let this transformation process pass you by. The future is in your hands; use it wisely. The next country that will be reckoned with in the world is going to be Nigeria”.