The Battle for Fame
Entertainment is a thriving venture on Nigerian campuses. In this report, GILBERT ALASA chronicles how Nigerian campus entertainers are shooting their way to the top amidst prevailing obstacles.
The venue for the concert was not so cosy but students came in droves all the same. They waited endlessly to catch a glimpse of a reigning crooner, Wizkid, who was expected to perform. As the show progressed, the fun-seekers were encouraged to exercise patient as the singer’s flight was purportedly delayed. Hours later, Wizkid was yet to be around. The aggrieved fun seekers began to hurl stones, sticks and water sachets at the organisers. The scene turned into a boxing ring. Students scampered for safety. Welcome to the flipside of campus shows in Nigeria.
Showbiz is a booming enterprise in many universities in Nigeria. Student comedians, musicians, beauty models and dancers alike abound in almost every campus. Despite the competitive nature of the trade, many entertainers soldier on with the faith that one day the light will shine on them.
Investigations show that many commercial products are targeted mostly at the youths. And as the campus constitutes the chunk of youth’s population, advertising firms see it as a fertile ground for brand promotion. This in turn, creates an atmosphere for campus entertainers to hone their skills.
It was learnt that a number of contemporary entertainers in Nigeria started their journey to fame from the campus. Dr. S.I.D., Omawunmi, Teju Baby-face, Basketmouth, Dr. Frabz, Kefee, Ali Baba are few of such example.
Ekeria Victor is a 400-level student of History and the Chief Executive Officer of Genex Entertainment at the University of Benin, Nigeria. He said: “the grass to grace stories of these leading Nigerian artistes has been a source of inspiration to campus artistes. For prospective acts, the campus is perhaps the best platform to find your way to fame and scribble your brand name on the minds of students.”
But investigations reveal that getting to the top as a campus artiste can be quite daunting. Sometimes, the entertainer pays the prize by skipping lectures for frequent rehearsals and performances. Most times, they are not paid for performing in concerts. Even when they get paid, the remuneration is often meagre. A comedian and immediate Vice-President of the University of Benin Students’ Union Government (UNIBEN-SUG) MC Casino recalled: “When I newly started out, I remember travelling to Ambrose Alli University (Ekpoma, Edo state, Nigeria) for a show. As an upcoming entertainer, it’s was rare privilege to get such invitations. So, I grabbed it with both hands. As the show ended, the organisers handed me a slim wad of cash and I was excited. Later, I realised the money was not enough to take care of my transport fare back to Benin. It’s was frustrating for me.”
A campus showbiz entrepreneur who did not want to be named confessed to have employed unethical practices to sell their shows. He said: “In one of our shows, we had to include bogus names of big artistes to get students interested. Once they see that big names like D-Banj or P-Square are billed to perform, they put aside every other engagement to attend the show. But the consequences of such scheming could be terrible because students, sometimes, will order for a refund.”
He continued: “Again, security personnel on campus could place restrictions on one’s shows. In such instances, the available option is to do such shows outside the campus but many students don’t usually turn up because of their security and fear of being initiated into secret cults.”
Don Saki is a popular face in many campus shows in southern Nigeria. He said entertainment is a challenging engagement especially for students like him who are in tasking professions like Engineering. He said: “For me, it’s been difficult due to the demanding nature of my studies. I miss classes and essential academic tasks due to my rehearsal sessions. At other times, people take advantage of you because you are yet to cut your teeth in the trade. During the 2011 Presidential electoral campaign, I performed alongside Kas, Mocheda and other big Nigerian artistes but UNIBEN Students Union Government did not pay me a dime despite the huge sum of money given to them to organise the rally. At the 2011 Nigerian Universities Games Association (NUGA) event hosted by the University of Benin, I was billed by the same Students Union Government to perform also, but nobody paid me anything.”
But for Mfactor, a campus entertainer who won the 2011 Peak Talent Reality Show 3, such disappointments are necessary to prepare the artiste for the challenges ahead. He said: “I can tell you in plain terms that rising to the top as an upcoming act can be very discouraging. I remember having to do non-stop awoko (a parlance for night reading on campus) while spending the whole day in the studio. My academics suffered. People took advantage of me. But God has a way of doing things. Recently, I won N4m (Four-million naira) and my music career has taken an upward swing.”
A beauty model at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) who craved anonymity said she had to forgo many modelling openings as organisers usually wanted to sleep with her before giving her the job. She said: “I was called to model a beauty soap in Ghana. Along the line, my manager began to pester me for sex. In the end, I declined the offer. And when I realised how bitter he had been over my refusal, I stopped working with the agency altogether. It’s tough going through the mill but I believe it’s a price one has to pay.”
Oraka Nnanyelu owns Sulcata Entertainment at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) The outfit organised the 2011 Miss UNILAG annual beauty pageant. He believed that despite the attendant challenges facing showbiz on campus, positive minded folks can achieve fortune and fame when they keep their eyes on the ball. “You can succeed more than you had ever imagined when you know what you are doing. It’s lucrative for both the entertainer and organisers alike. At the moment, winner of the 2011 Miss UNILAG beauty contest Violet Olisah is an Ambassador for Tax for the Lagos State Government Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) She is equally an Ambassador of University of Lagos, working closely with the Dean of Students’ Affairs office. It’s been awesome for us. ”
Our investigations reveal that some up-coming acts go as far as joining unwholesome groups or do fetish things to attain popularity. Speaking in confidence, an entertainer at the Olabisi Onabanjo University who gave his name simply as Dasala spoke of an experience he had. “Until recently, I used to follow some campus artistes whenever there is a show on campus. That way I was learning the ropes. But one day, it rained and the show was cancelled. My friend (who was an artiste then) requested I follow him to meet with a popular artiste in Lagos. For obvious reasons, I obliged. Later, I found myself in a group of people doing strange things. A man was in the middle chanted incantations and everybody was responding in strange ways. Somehow, I managed to escape. But I faced serious threats later.”
In 2011, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged to inject N200m in the country’s entertainment industry. Students said governments and private establishments should invest in campus entertainment to promote rapid employment creation and reduce youth unrest in the country.