Throughout the weekend in Ghana, the never-ceasing Ghana and Nigeria bitter(but silent) rivalry issue has dominated the media space again, this time occasioned by fallouts from the Zylofon/Mengold Launch Concert held on Friday night in at the Eko Convention Centre, in Lagos, Nigeria. Primary arguments are that Ghanaian big music stars, who Nana Appiah Mensah’s Zylofon had flown to Nigerian to headline the concert were treated with disdain by Nigerians. This notion was obviously fueled by videos from the concert on social media of where top artistes from Ghana got merely no vibe at all from the audience while on stage at the concert and were made to feel like lesser stars to their Nigerian counterparts.
The summary from this, according to those who started the argument, is that Nigerians have never supported Ghanaians and that unlike the royal welcome Nigerian stars always get when they are in Ghana, the big stars of Ghana are never celebrated in Nigeria. Emotions and tempers (as usual) have been running high and otherwise over the development and opinions have been divided over it, but the major arguments seem to support that conclusion.
As an ardent follower of entertainment and more in these 2 countries in the last decade, and based on proven realities, as well as clear evidences and experiences, I felt a special urge this time to pen down some of my findings which are related to the realities of today as it affects entertainment business and the players in the sector in Ghana. The realities relates well with some of the key reasons why the Ghana and Nigeria issue will continue to rear its head.
In modern history, Ghana and Nigeria have a connection that has not actually been totally well described. So many times, for different reasons, there had always been something linking the two. Meanwhile, entertainment and tourism, more than any other thing seem to have being the strongest links between us in the past 2 decades or so. As strong as this industry seem to be however, it had always brought controversy. It appears as it has not favored Ghanaians so much as the Nigerians who have been taking the bigger advantage. A lot of controversy has come up in this regard.
Fast forward to the Zylofon/Menzgold Launch Concert in Nigeria.. it will be wrong to judge the event as a Ghana event held in Nigeria. So, arguments for or against Ghana or Nigeria based on what happened at the event or afterwards cannot stand. It was simply a corporate event and I am certain the organisers had their own private plans/actions well thought out. The outcome should be their personal issues as well, basically.
It was only the launch of their business in Nigeria and they took charge of their own thing. It will however be reasonable to conclude that everything about the concert were all Zylofon could put together with resources and manpower it deployed to it. They are solely responsible for whatever incident that emanate from the event.
However, I feel the pain and relate well with the bias of patriotic Ghanaians who have yet again expressed their disappointments and have been vetting their anger at Nigeria and Nigerians over issues surrounding the Lagos concert. However, I sum the situation up, in my own way as a case of ‘To Whom Much Is Given…’
Ghanaians actually expect much from Nigerians in terms of appreciating and adoring their own superstars because in Ghana, Nigerian Superstars are gods of some sorts. Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy are on the same level Wizkid, Davido and the likes are in Nigeria, and they are equally global stars. So, why won’t they shut down shows in Lagos, Abuja and other big cities in Nigeria just like the Nigerian boys do in Ghana? Why don’t Nigerians pay big to have Ghana stars on their shows, just like the Nigerian stars earn big from Ghanaians who always rush after them? Why are Ghana’s biggest stars not big in Nigeria? If industry experts will give sincere answers to these questions, then the root cause of the matter may have been found.
Between 2008 and now, I have had encounters and dealings with a good number of entertainment industry players in Ghana; actors, actresses, musicians, record label owners, artiste managers and others. And there has been a general concern among most of them, ‘Nigeria’. They all have one concern or the other about Naija! The bottom line of the concern is the lack of support/patronage from Nigeria. At some point, the issue got worse to the extent that movie producers have to start imposing big levies on foreign actors coming to be part of productions in their country.
The situation seemed to have improved a lot just a few years back as a few Ghanaians made good inroads into Nigeria. Some of them are big stars in Nigeria, even till date. But obviously, their figure is so low, compared to the large number of talents in Ghana. Things however appeared to have taken a worrisome turn lately, even as the Ghana entertainment industry seemed to have been hit with a low, with Ghanaians barely having any great showing in Nigeria. Ghana music and movies have appeared to become less of what they used to be years back when they dominated awards across Africa.
Till just about 3 years ago, Ghana movies used to scoop the laurels at major awards including AMAA. No big Nigerian movie was worth its salt without a Ghanaian face as lead at this time. All big Ghana movies made it to Nigerian cinemas on popular demand. All that seems to have suddenly fizzled out. Ghollywood has been hit by a glut. Nominations for Ghana productions at major awards in the last 2 years will simply confirm this.
Why is Nigeria so important sef? This is a popular question that many Ghanaians who have been calling for the development of their country’s entertainment sector, always raise. Is it that Ghanaians can’t do without Nigeria? I have had that question thrown around many times too. My honest answer in this regard is, both countries can actually do without each other in many ways but at what and whose expense? Natural factors have created the urge and opportunities for each of the two countries to take advantage of the territorial advantages available to them. So it is a matter of choice for either side as to who takes what advantage.
There are obvious differences between Ghana and Nigeria in key areas including lifestyle and modes of doing business, just as there are obvious similarities in many other areas. These factors are basically the bedrock of the realities that has led to this topic. Findings however, have shown that while Nigerians have been the adventurous ones in the natural union, Ghanaians have been otherwise. Nigerians have consistently been exploring every available opportunities they smell in Ghana (not minding having to face the consequences and challenges), but truth is Ghanaians have made little efforts in exploring Nigeria for reasons unknown. This over the years has become like a tradition and it reflects in outcomes of efforts like the Zylofon/Menzgold Concert in Lagos.
Nigerians have not been used to reigning Ghana music stars coming to rock their big stages in the last couple of years, so it should not sound very strange that the stars did not get the kind of ovation they deserve when they took the stage at the Eko Convention Centre on Friday night. That would be Shatta Wale’s first major Nigerian performance since he came into reckoning as a superstar. Nigerians are also not used to Ghanaians coming to stage big shows in their country. Nana Appiah Mensah’s effort would be the first in the last decade if I am right. Kudos should be given to the Zylofon Media boss for having the balls to dare.
The concert was meant to be a major announcement for Ghana in Nigeria, but that aim seemed to have been defeated by the reactions that followed it. The backlash should be understood as part of the challenges of a crawling baby trying to start walking. The organisers probably should have done better, but that is a discussion for another day. They were probably too selfish with their own ambitions and chose not to go to Nigeria with a superstar-packed Ghana contingent for a major concert where Nigeria’s big artistes including Tekno, Olamide, Niniola, Phyno have been duly paid to perform. Only artistes signed to Zylofon Music were on the list from Ghana, and just about 3 of them are well known in Nigeria. If other known big artistes from Ghana have been paid by Zylofon to support the team to Nigeria, there is no doubt that the experience would be different.
However, in order not to rubbish the hard efforts of other people, I think the review of the concert in Lagos is better done by the organisers when they consider what was invested on the project and its outcome. And once again, they deserve some accolades to have taken a bold step. They have opened the eyes of others to new realities that if you want to step out of your comfort zone, there are prices to pay. Nana and his team have paid their first due and I am sure here had been some lessons learnt. The reality that it will not happen unless someone does it has also been better established. The major key here is doing it right and following the right lead.
The need for Ghanaians to take their products to Nigeria is constant for those who seek expansion. Already, Nigerians have taken their own share in the arrangement, but Ghana will always appear to be on the receiving end when no one from there is ready to take the risk.
GhanaMeetsNaija is almost the biggest concert in Ghana today, with Nigerian artistes headlining it since inception. The same old concern of who bells the cat has made its organisers unable to stage a planned Nigeria version of the concert with Ghana artistes headlining it. This is just an instance quite a number of fantastic concepts from Ghana have also failed to make it into Nigeria.
If the arguments about Nigeria’s over-dominance in the entertainment industry in Ghana is to be checked/balanced, then Ghanaians must rise up to the occasion and embrace the reality that locale patronage is not enough in any business in today’s world that has become a global village. Real experts should take charge and work with ever-willing Nigerians to also storm Nigeria with their own concepts. Rome was not built in a day. Nigerians are crazy about things from Ghana and their arms are wide open to embrace things from Ghana.
It is high time nationality sentiments are thrashed and those discerning enough take up the challenge of returning Ghana entertainment to its deserved place in Africa. With all that could be termed as its failings, the Zylofon/Menzgold launch concert in Lagos is a welcome development that Ghanaians should take positives from rather than blaming Nigerians for not being supportive. There is still a long way to go.
About the Writer: TOPE AILERU is the CEO of Blue Synergy Media, organisers of #GhanaNaijaShowbizAwards and he doubles as a Special Adviser to Ytainment