Monday, February 18, 2008

N1 Million for Dinner!

By Ohimai Godwin Amaize

We have a great continent besieged with great problems. It is disturbing that Africa has retained the reputation of a continent replete with colossal absurdities. And our dear country Nigeria is no stranger to the shameful tune of torment and the macabre beats of a continental order still reeling from all the symptoms of a post-traumatic-stress-disorder. Everyday we wake up to the realities of a failed system foisted on us by our sheer ignorance of the psychodynamics of our civilization. We have spent years debating how the West underdeveloped Africa, but no one is talking about the debasing acquiescence of Africans to the superiority of Western concepts. It is true we have managed to overcome decades of colonial disorientation, but it is sad how much we remain entangled in the web of cultural deracination. The painful and yet prevailing paradox is the disappearance of our cultural values into the liminal limbo between the unafrican and the near-western! The result is the frenzy and pointless show of alien values in our media today. What is the problem with us?

I intend to attempt a brief, albeit seemingly digressive nosedive into the collateral manifestations of this growing media disproportion in African societies. The entertainment industry is no doubt a very profitable venture. So much progress has come to Africa through exploits in the arts, with music, theatre, etc. remaining the dominant genres of this sector. But a close look at music in Africa reveals a frightening descent from its critical status as an art form with great potential for social reconstruction, to a massive playground for sex and consumerism which are today considered ‘strategic’ tools for effective communication in Western media. But how did we relapse so fast into such distressing times?

It is shameful that the media in Africa continues in its sheepish admiration and regurgitation of negative portraits in Western media. Rather than getting involved in more public advocacy for greater sex education, our media have unwittingly collaborated with the Western media in its flagrant display of Western societies as sexually liberated, a situation which has created global sexual inequalities between Africa and the West. As a consequence, we have begun to pay the ultimate price for this socio-cultural derailment. The result is today’s disaster metropolis we call Africa – a continent despoiled by untold penury, famine and disease. If it is not bad enough that poverty continues to demobilize an increasing African population, the November 2007 UNAIDS/WHO report on people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) world over, which puts Africa on the top of the chart with an estimated 22.5 million adults and children in sub-Saharan Africa alone, calls for sober reflection. This is out of the estimated global total of 33.2 million PLWHAs! Increasingly, sex has been identified as the major means of transmission. How then do we talk about real development with such media irresponsibility to society?

Let me now focus on the situation at the home front. Here again in Nigeria comes another opportunity for media slumber. The Kora Awards, the most popular awards of the recording industry in Africa is coming to Nigeria. Founded by Ernest Adjovi in 1994, the ceremony enjoys great media attention annually and rightly so, because it is patterned after the American Grammy Awards which is the biggest and most renowned music awards for deserving musical artistes in various music genres worldwide. The Kora Awards, being its African prototype has strived since its inception to live up to the standards of the Grammys. Perhaps, in a bid to broaden the scope of the event, the organizers are throwing the carrot to Nigeria. Nigeria, I understand has been granted the hosting rights for the next five editions. This indeed, is a welcome development. It is another milestone in the Nigerian entertainment industry and a good omen too for tourist exploits in Nigeria. I have no problem with the Koras coming to town.

The media launch announcing the awards in Nigeria has been scheduled for 20 December 2007 at the Abuja International Centre. And as is usual with such events, there will be a dinner. I would have been glad to stop here at this point of the event plan and wish the organizers a very happy launch. But my attention was drawn to the outrageous idea of dinner tables of ten (10) seats being available for N1 million! Yes, I mean N1 million for just one seat! But what is wrong with that? Somebody is bound to ask. Really, I do not expect much hue and cry from a nation where scandals involving billions of dollars have become more popular than the names of our national heroes. But the danger in adopting what may be called a trite-matter position on this N1 million per dinner seat, is the seemingly harmless but precarious infiltration of our national psyche by the spirit of corruption. It is critical to call attention to how we think we are building our society. Why do we spend so much on the ethereal at the expense of enterprising social ventures? What do we invest our time and resources in? Through this continued love for pleasure and fanfare, are we not entrenching a feudal order over a fast disappearing middle class? What is happening to our consciousness? Why on earth will a dinner seat for just one night be worth N1 million? Is the food from Mars? Maybe you have the answers, but a quick introspection into the fall of the flamboyant Bourbon monarchy of France is instructive to those who care enough.

My problem with this N1 million per dinner seat should not be misconstrued as an attempt to undermine the idea of the Kora Awards or efforts by the organizers to showcase a world-class event. I am particular about the extraneous trappings of their fund-raising strategy. It is true a lot of money is required to stage an event as the Kora Awards. But there is room for corporate sponsorships and philanthropy. Even the Grammy Awards which is approaching its 50th anniversary depends on corporate sponsorships, and has established the Grammy Foundation since 1989 in its attempt to develop a give-back mechanism to the American society. For whatever it is worth, the Kora Award launch has succeeded in portraying Africans again as bad imitators of foreign concepts. This is happening in Nigeria, a country where poverty is still a major issue. Or is this the new face of philanthropy in fund-raising? It appears the organizers are over-fascinated with the status symbol or VIP syndrome which has heightened the race for money at all costs, especially among our youths today. I strongly believe the organizers could have raised more funds if they had welcomed generous donations from organizations and individuals in the spirit of charity. It is instructive that with the growing civil consensus against corruption (thanks to the anti-corruption agencies) we must eliminate opportunities that promote the laundering of stolen funds.

Indeed, not a few Nigerians can afford the luxury of a dinner seat for N1 million. We had seen even more ostentatious display of ill-gotten wealth before the EFCC anti-graft guillotine started taking its toll. But what do we expect from a country with a sickly tax-paying system? Let’s not even talk about Aso Rock where eye glasses and daily refreshments enjoy an obese budget of N1.5 million and N2.3 million respectively!


AlooFar said...

Wonders shall never end in Naija.

Welcome to Blogosphere.


Kingsley keke said...

This is the peak of intellectualism. It has the insight of someone who truly understands the Nigerian ailment. I must also add that it has the Soyinkian diction and the Achebian didactism. Good write bro!

The Nigerian situation is a labyrinth of mediocrity and disaster. What do you expect when our Leaders are disillusioned? We parade a crop of insensitive Leaders who lack the passion and drive required to move this Nation ahead. Not until there is a paradigm change and a mental revolution, things can only become worse.
It is only in this Country that a man can boast of stealing billions of naira, yet he is still being given a National award!
I would rather drift away in the dance of innocence than be awake to witness this show of shame!
God help Nigeria!