Nigerian author and columnist Azuka Onwuka explains why Nigerians are “seduced” by the entertainment industry.
Azuka Onwuka is a trainer on effective writing and speaking, a marriage counsellor, a businessman, author and columnist. In his piece entitled Before All Our Children Become Entertainers, he explains why Nigerians, especially our children, are lured in by the entertainment industry. He also commends the American model of organizing the society and advices Nigerians to follow suit.
As an example, Mr. Onwuka notes that contestants of talent and/or reality shows (such as Big Brother Africa, Etisalat’s Nigerian Idol, etc.) receive millions of naira, expensive cars and multi-million naira contracts as a reward. Whilst the budget for education-oriented competitions is much less impressive (Cowbell Mathematics Competition: N100k; Lagos State Spelling Bee: N50k; School scrabble: N25k; Cool-FM Spelling Game: A goodie bag filled with Amila drink, etc.)
“And someone is asking why there is so much failure in WASSCE [the West African Senior School Certificate Examination]?” Mr. Onwuka asks rhetorically. He adds that most of the small children would probably say they’d like to be the future Davido, Wizkid, Omawumi, Don Jazzy, Genevieve Nnaji, or Ali Baba.
Mr. Onwuka says it is actually a good thing that Nigerian entertainment industry has become a source of national pride. Most importantly, a lot of youths are now employed and, therefore, there is little to no risk for them to choosing the life of crime.
However, “therein lies the problem,” Mr. Onwuka says and proceeds to explain: “Children watch their intelligent uncles and parents go unnoticed, uncelebrated and impoverished, while entertainers – many of whom are not particularly book-intelligent – become the stars of the day.”
Today, a “star” often earns more than some CEOs of top companies do. Even more money flow from “commercials, endorsements, celebrity appearances, fees to act as a judge at shows, album sales, and any other private businesses the celebrity is involved in.” Seeing the glamorous and seemingly non-strenuous lifestyle of musicians, actors, media persons, many parents “railroad their children into entertainment”.
The problems of Nigerian doctors, teachers, ordinary labourers, etc. often remain unnoticed. “Nigerian writers have to move to the United States or the United Kingdom to be appreciated,” Mr. Onwuka remarks.
Moreover, apart from entertainment, politics is another field that is attractive to people, Mr. Onwuka says. The reason? Money and all the personal connections one makes.
“It is more rewarding – financially and socially – to be a local government chairman than to be a professor. If you are lucky to be a senator, a minister or a governor, you are made for life! Beyond amassing a lot of money, you are also initiated into the political circle, which ensures that even when you leave office, you are made an ambassador, a chairman of an agency or the like.”
One may notice, Mr. Onwuka comments, that President Goodluck Jonathan’s smile is “broader” when he is shaking hands with a celebrity that with an “engineer, computer scientist or professor.”
To put an end to this somewhat dangerous trend, Nigeria needs “to emulate the United States in our national development,” Mr. Onwuka says.
“The reason the US is different is that it is not a one-product economy,” he explains. “While it is the headquarters of entertainment in the world, it is also the headquarters of academic excellence and research. It consciously encourages its doctors, engineers, scientists, lecturers, broadcasters, writers, etc, to be the best by providing a wonderful environment. It does not create the impression that a senator is better than a professor by paying the senator higher than the professor, or giving the senator more recognition than the professor.”
“That is how a robust economy is built. It is an economy in which people have the potential to excel, to be rich and get national recognition in whatever field they operate in. That way, children who have the proclivity for research or teaching are not discouraged by such fields’ low-rewarding prospects and get lured into music or acting. … The nation must not make those who should be in other fields to jump into entertainment or emigrate, just because they believe that their natural field is unappreciated.”
Should we really follow the example of the United States? What career do you wish for your children?