The Sun News

Between education, brand ambassadors and telcos

By  Segun Imohiosen

Nigerians would remain eternally grateful to God by the singular act of the Obasanjo administration that brought the pay as you go telecommunication network service to life in Nigeria. This, to a very large extent, would be seen as one of the dividends of democracy. In as much as the politics of how that came to being or those who have been the champion of such moves but never saw the light of day is not the concern of this piece, it is only significant to point out that despite the fact that some dull headed individuals in government back in the days at one time in the history of Nigeria once said that telephone is not meant for everybody, but today, the wanton foolhardiness of such people has been demystified through the ingenuity of those who want the country to escape from the throes of the dark age. Today, even the pepper sellers have cell phones, the meat sellers and all those who in their wildest imagination at some point would have never thought of the luxury of a cell phone.

Be that as it may, watching the growth and the development of the entertainment industry over time is mind-blowing by  virtue of the success achieved and the great talents/artistes discovered. These are people who would never have been known or come to limelight if not for the entrant of the telecommunications industry. The unusual role played by the telecommunication companies in Nigeria so far cannot be overemphasised. Shattered dreams have been resuscitated; dreams have been brought to fruition and visions into reality for a number of individuals who sometime were hopeless because of the in-enabling environment.

However, hopes were rebirthed with the eventual and sudden arrival of the numerous Telcos in Nigeria. Networks like Glo, MTN, Etisalat, Airtel and others have put smiles on the faces of Nigerians at different levels, not to mention the different kinds of promos initiated to enrich Nigerians. The voice – Nigeria Got Talent, sponsored by Airtel, MTN – Project Fame, hit maker, Etisalat – Big Brother Nigeria and Nigeria Idols and others in that same category have created that enabling environment to discover talents that would never have seen the light of day. But looking at the different brand ambassadors of these networks in the showbiz, one cannot but give kudos to the telecommunications industry for creating the pathway for prosperity and fame for these young up and coming artistes. Invariably, as much emphasis is placed on these newly discovered talents in the entertainment industry, the same hands of fellowship should also be extended to the high-flyers in the academic environment as means to spurring competitiveness among youths in the education sector and encourage development in different fields.

But then, in as much as we appreciate the efforts of these networks with regards to their corporate social responsibility initiatives, it is important to have a paradigm shift, maybe not in totality but a fifty – fifty kind of arrangement to better touch the lives of Nigerians at different quarters. Profit is germane in business and we all know that free enterprise in a capitalistic oriented society is the sole purpose; nevertheless, no one will ever ask an investor not to put its interest where there would be utmost return on its investment. But, morals and values equally demand that money and profit cannot be everything. In the words of Maya Angelou, she says “…Don’t make money your goal…” Some songs have obscene contents; they are totally unacceptable especially in an environment where the children are growing. Placing undue emphasis on the acquisition of money, wealth and “jagban-jantis” – nonsense as it is so common in some of their lyrics without teaching morals and values makes nonsense of their celebration save the melody and the rhythm.

Congruously, this is more like an aside but very poignant; music back in the days was basically thematic, didactic, always teaching virtues, values and espousing morals, most of these artistes were not particularly rich then, but the reverse is the case today. With these obscenities so celebrated in the contemporary music these days, they smile to the banks, very good for them. The urban youths and other groups enjoy these artistes, yes, for their creativity and ingenuity, great! One man’s meat as they say is another man’s poison. If ours is ‘no more the wasted breed’ as pointed by Femi Osofisan, then we must wake up from our slumber and counter the opinion of the writer who saw the frivolities of our time and considered us as the ‘wasted breed’. So, content is one area that should be of concern to us and these sponsors. Moreover, not to condemn the artistic relevance of these celebrities, the contents of their songs should be revisited. That may be a topic for another day because the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has standards as regulator in this regards.

However, not to be a judge of anyone’s character but then because we have children growing in this same space, they are going to be influenced by the kind of music they listen to. However, to give an impression that only those in the showbiz are the ones to be captured by the goodwill of the Telcos make the contents of CSR totally incomplete not to say there is a prejudice. Great artistes as brand ambassadors may sell the products due to the fact that they are trendy by the reason of the contemporary music they play.

Though some of the songs may be mere banalities but the rhythms go down well with the people.  Profit, fine! But there should be a catch beyond profit to give room for development in technology, art and artistry, medicine, economics and the rest which at the long run will make our country compete adequately with the rest of the world.

Talking about Nigeria taking its place among the comity of nations, it is not going to happen overnight, neither would it be through lip service but all hands have to be on deck including that of the Telcos, other blue chip companies and the rest of them and by extension the corporate Nigerians who desire to see a better country to ensure that education is encouraged. It is high time they beamed searchlight into the academic community to encourage scholarship among the students for a better tomorrow. The Philip Emegwalis and the rest of them out there would be most willing to stay back at home to use their God given talent to develop their country if they are encouraged here. How much more if the students on our campuses are encouraged through brand ambassadorial distinction if they are recognized by virtue of their academic feat? There is a need to invest in our students on our campuses just as the entertainment industry is highly favoured by these organisations.

In a national newspaper early in the month, Saturday February 4, 2017 to be precise, one of the Campus Champions, a young man from a very humble background, from the Ajegunle community of Lagos, Nkemelu Daniel emerged the overall best graduating student in the 2016/2017 academic session, got a 7.0 CGPA in Computer Science from the University of Ibadan. That Ajegunle is the place the likes of Daddy Showkey (of the “if you see my mama Rosanna” fame), Chidinma Ekile (of the MTN Project fame) and the rest of them evolved.

We Lagosians are aware of the notoriety associated with the place and the poor almost to no infrastructure existence in the place. Here we are, this scholar in the presence of nothingness was able to cross the Rubicon despite all odds. It is only worthy that individuals like these are encouraged and given the best of place in society. What about Ayodele Dada with a 5.0 CGPA in sociology last year, first to break the record in fifty years from University of Lagos, the two ladies Taiwo Bankole 5.0 CGPA in Cell Biology and Genetics also from the University of Lagos and Oyindamola Omotuyi also 5.0 CGPA in Systems Engineering from the same University this year. This young man and the others mentioned are just some of the numerous from different universities of the country that have proven themselves academically. The number is endless in other private universities.

The pivotal issue as it were is that, is the university high-flyers not good enough for brand ambassadorial consideration or is it until they delve into showbiz before they could be considered? Somebody should help us out. I tell you what, with the right strategy in place and deliberate quest to change the status quo, these organisations can enlist university scholars in their catchment and still make profit as they would with the entertainment industry. What is the role of government in this regard?

Imohiosen writes from Abuja.

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