By: Ugo Stevenson
Here in Nigeria (Igboland) especially, I have come to the ugly realization that artistes are not accorded their due respect and honor. These uninspiring and disconcerting unpatriotic altitudes only give credence to the Biblical saying of “A prophet is without honor amongst his people”.
To buttress this assertion, the Owl cried again from the same direction, their victims this time are the true Imo State ambassadors. In defense of his unfulfilled dreams as the former Chief State Comedian to the state government, Honorable Uche Steve Ogbuagu has continuously allege at different occasion that his former boss the State Chief Executive has no regard for the State artistes, and that the governor has many a time told him to ignore these NEVER DO WELLS’- the Imo State artistes.
When Chief Ikedi Godson Ohakim at his pleasure moment called Imolites ”Hogamugally”, little did he know someone was listening, the former governor is yet paying the price of that misguided statement.
On this aspersion cast on Imo state artistes by their benefactor, I am not concerned with the former Chief Comedian failures, neither do Imo State Artistes require the support of governor Okorocha to excel in their career; rather I’m worried as to why a governor should ascribe to his citizens as NEVER DO WELLS’. I may not be privy to the parameter and criteria governor Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha used in coming to the conclusion that Imo state artistes this include literary , performing artistes and fine artists as NEVER DO WELLS’’. Did the governor measure the failures of Imo State artistes in the areas of education, marriage or creativity? This is the question begging for an answer from his benefactors.
Imo State artistes are among the voters and protesters who sacrificed to secure governor Okorocha’s electoral victory in 2011.If politics as they say is all about interest (including being selfish) what then is out of reason if these artistes demand for governor Okorocha’s support and assistance to uplift their fledgling career? Weeks after Okorocha’s election, not less than fifteen Imo State based musicians did praise singing records in his honor. (This is one improper creative skill exhibition I strongly frown at my colleagues when it comes to unwanted praise singing) .It’s on record that none of these musicians who sang the governor’s praise were appreciated by Okorocha. His former Chief Comedian, Ogbuagu’s effort at rewarding these praise singers were also a ruse as it was alleged in some quarters that the artistes were made to pay an entry registration fee of N5,000 (Five thousand Naira) each for the last year’s held- LOUD SPEAKER’S AWARDS.
What then has Governor Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha done in the last three years of his administration to encourage Imo State Based Artistes at which they failed him to label them NEVER DO WELLS’? Outside his Nollywood act of playing maracas or wooden gong with the Bongo music entertainers when he accidentally runs into them on stage, who among Imo States artistes has he assisted? Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe Ph.D, executive governor of old Imo State established the Imo State Cultural Centre (Mbari). Col. Tanko Zubairu, Imo State’s last military administrator increased the welfare packages of the staff of the state owned Council for Arts and Culture; this writer was among the beneficiaries of Col. T.K Zubairu’s study leave with pay grants to some artistes in the council. Chief Ikedi Ohakim elevated the status of Imo State Artistes by creating the office of the Executive Assistant on Entertainment, and his subsequent appointment of Okechukwu Onyegbule (Okey Bakkassi) who worked with him till the end of that administration. Imo State played host for the prestigious Nigeria Music Awards (NMA 2008) of which governor Ohakim facilitated. The annual Ozuruimo and pan Igbo Ahiajoku festivals were regular on the front burner during Ohakim‘s administration, and the State Troupe (OMENIMO) were encouraged to participate in all the national festivals in honor of the state.
If governor Rochas Okorocha will discredit his former Chief Comedian assertion of having less regard and respect for Imo State Artistes, I will appreciate if our amiable governor clears this allegation with records of prospective projects and assistance to Imo State artistes. Meanwhile, the hurriedly built Bongo Square is without functional facilities and equipment. Governor Okorocha has done every other thing in his administration to show his disdain for the growth of Imo State Artistes. The proposed first Imo Carnival is yet a proposal three years later; it has been postponed and probably now a suspended project. Not even the state owned Arts Council receives his regular patronage. None of the professional art associations in the State is encouraged by the governor. At governor Okorocha’s fiftieth Birthday Anniversary held in the state, performing artistes were imported to celebrate with him in humiliation to the dozen of his State based praise singers; even during her daughter’s wedding, these “NEVER DO WELLS’ were actually not recognized. These cited instances are at the ridiculous level of encouraging an artiste, but governor Okorocha finally unsettled the pride of Imo State Artistes by ridiculing the Executive Assistant on Entertainment portfolio in his administration to that of a Chief Comedian.
I’m at loose to why a man whom Imo artistes showed much love and respect could turn around to be their chief mocker. I may conclude that governor Rochas Okorocha is totally ignorant of the giant strides and professional breakthroughs of Imo State Artistes, both in the State and beyond. How does governor Okorocha assess the creative leaps of ISREAL NWAOBA NJEMANZE whom the Guinness book recognizes as the first Nigerian to produce a music album? What about the legendary ORIENTAL BROTHERS, IKENGA SUPER STARS, PEACOCKS INTERNATIONAL, OLARICHE BAND, JOENEZ AND THE TOP SIX, SWEET BREEZE, SOKI OHALE, OBIWURUOTU DANCE GROUP, EMILY AMAECHI and many of their kind, are they all NEVER DO WELLS’? The CHIEF LOMAJI UGORJI, NZE ORJI IMO, OBIMESHILE OKORIE, CHUKWUBIKO OKEREKE, PA EUNAN CHIDOMERE, CHIJIOKE ABAGWE, NSOFOR OBUA, PA MOSES OSUJI and more with their heroic artistic conquests of what assistance did Okorocha give to them before their death, to now attribute them as NEVER DO WELLS’. How does governor Okorocha asses the theatrical exploits of ABC TONI DURUAKU, CHIOMA NWACHUKWU, KALU OKPI, JOE ANICHE, CHARLES AWURUIM, RAY EMEANA, INNOCENT WILLY WILLY OHIRI, SALOME OKEKE, SLEEK OGBONNAYA OGWO, ASH OKORO, LUKE DIKE, etal?
Governor Okorocha pretends to be a lover of Bongo music, but which of these in the likes of CHIMA EKE, DR SIR FOREIGNER, ELIGWE UGORJI, SARO WIWA, CHIMUANYA, KING OWIGIRI, ND STANLEY, ABABANNA, SUNNY BOBO, OBISCO, SHARMA MELODY etcetera has he empowered to sustain the growth of his most cherished music culture and yet they are labeled NEVER DO WELL.
Imo State controls more than sixty five percent of the Nigeria movie industry, but governor Okorocha’s hatred for his brothers and sisters in arts excluded them from his consultations in the proposed Oguta Film Village which is now a mirage. If KANAYO O. KANAYO, GENEVIEVE NNAJI, RITA DOMINIC, AMAYO UZO-PHILIPS, EUCHARIA ANUNOBI, OSITA IHEME, FRANCIS DURU, EMEKA IKE, STEPHANIE OKEREKE, STEPHNORA OKERE, TOM NJEMANZE, VICTOR OSUAGWU, DICKSON IROEGBU and many other outstanding Imo State born Nollywood ambassadors are NEVER DO WELLS’. What will Governor Okorocha not speak about these great Imolites who head the administrative structures in the Nigeria arts industry, the CHIEF TONY OKOROJI, ONYEKA ONWENU, CHARLEY BOY OPUTA, UGO STEVENSON, ALEX OKOROIGWE and legion of others, are they all NEVER DO WELLS’?
The purpose of this article is not meant to eulogize Imo State Artistes, rather to remind Governor Okorocha and his other ilk’s who still label Igbo born artistes the ‘Unoko’ of their generation to desist from this ill conceived assessment. I’m not expecting Okorocha to make the development of arts and culture one of his priorities, but to know that the disregard of “Unokos” in Igboland is the constant tragedy of their “Okonkwos”. If you won’t be a blessing to a man, please don’t heap curses on him.
Ugo Stevenson is the Acting Chairman, National Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP); Public Relations Officer, Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN); Secretary General, Actors Guild of Nigeria (Former) AGN; Facilitator Imo State Based Artistes (ISBA); and Founder/Chief Production Officer EKWE (All Igbo Music) AWARDS.