By Reno Omokri
Some people have remarked in writing and in other forms of communication that President Goodluck Jonathan has given more attention to the entertainment industry to the detriment of other industries.
When I read such remarks or hear them from pundits on radio and TV talk shows, it does occurs to me that there are many who do not understand the inter connectivity of the various industries and sectors that make up a nation and how growing one has a multiplier effect on growing all.
Let me go deeper.
Except Nigeria is a very unambitious nation, (which it is not-Nigeria and Nigerians have a global reputation for ambition) it naturally would be the desire of our industries to spread their wings beyond Nigeria and into foreign domains, particularly in this era of globalization.
Our industries would like to have a presence in other African nations and from there conquer the globe.
But the truth is that nobody buys your product except they first buy your culture!
Culture is a door opener.
Take the United States for example. The government of the US has since the end of the Second World War vigorously supported the exportation of American culture to the rest of the world.
They arranged for American actors and singers to go on cultural exchanges to Europe, Asia and The Middle East.
The world soon fell in love with Buddy Holly, Shirley Temple, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Dean, Fred Astaire and other first generation American international stars.
After falling in love with these icons, the world wanted to dress like them, to drive the cars they saw in their movies, to visit the cities they talked about in their songs.
And they did just that. This was the reason American brands like Coca Cola, Ford, IBM and Chevrolet went global immediately after the Second World War.
By the time America unleashed Elvis Presley, James Brown, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne and the Motown retinue of stars on the rest of the world, their dominance of global pop culture was unassailable and what resulted from this was their dominance of the world economy.
It was and still is a common practice for American companies to hire movie stars from Hollywood and country music stars from Nashville as cultural ambassadors to project their products into nations they wanted to enter.
The logic was that these stars enjoyed a lot of goodwill from the people in those nations and they could transfer that goodwill to their products.
America continued this practice through stars like Michael Jackson who was so popular in Japan that Japanese conglomerates hired him to come to Japan to endorse Japanese products before the Japanese themselves would buy them!
Today, the world is still buying American products because the picture of a movie star appears on a tube of toothpaste, or their songs are used to promote a new mobile phone.
That is the power of projecting and selling your culture!
Where your culture goes, your industries go too!
I remember as a teenager watching Wale Adenuga, the creator of Super Story, gush all over the media about how Super Story had become the number one show in several African nations including Kenya, Uganda and Ghana.
I also remember in my twenties how Nigerian stars were given red carpet receptions in African capitals.
Do we think it is a coincidence that it is precisely in those nations were Super Story, then Nollywood first went to that Nigerian businesses have now landed?
In Ghana, Nigerian businesses dominate the communication and banking industry as well as the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.
In Kenya, Dangote is emerging as perhaps the single largest Foreign Direct Investor, closely followed by Nigerian banks and the service industry.
Uganda and Tanzania are likewise opening up to Nigerian business.
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana were the nations Wale Adenuga was gushing about over 20 years ago when he was excited about the success of his Super Story series.
These things are interconnected!
If fans at Accra, Ghana, can go gaga for P-Square, it will not be too long before they will be buying Nigerian products like Innoson’s cars and Chivitta juices and using Nigerian services like Globacom and ABC Transport.
In 2011, I was walking around Union Square in San Francisco with Kanayo O Kanayo, when a woman walked up to Kanayo and greeted him in an almost flawless Nigerian accent and declared herself to be his fan.
We asked her what part of Nigeria she was from and she was shocked. She was an American!
That incidence taught me a lesson which is that were unscrupulous Nigerians might have spoilt our national reputation through negative actions such as Advance Fee Fraud and other Internet scams, it is our music and Nollywood stars that can correct the negative impression some would have about Nigeria and Nigerians.
And this is what a visionary philosopher King like President Goodluck Jonathan has seen which is why he continues to support the entertainment industry.
Whether you refer to the $200 million credit facility to the industry or the 3 billion Naira grant to Nollywood, or the various ways he has assisted the entertainment industry, such initiatives are for the benefit of Nigeria’s economy.
If we do not value, patronize and project our own culture via our entertainment industry, no one will.
And if no one buys our culture, no one will buy our products.
The fact cannot be overemphasized-culture means business! People who have made connections with Nigeria’s culture will naturally have a higher interest in visiting Nigeria and patronizing Nigerian businesses and services. That is something that must sink into the consciousness of every sector, industry and chamber of commerce!
So next time you see Genevieve Nnaji gracing the cover of the British Hello! Magazine or Omotola Ekeinde in the line up of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential persons in the world, don’t think they are going places alone. No. They are taking 170 million Nigerians along with them.
So, as President Goodluck Jonathan hosts the entertainment industry today, Friday the 28th of November 2014 let everyone know that he is doing it for Nigeria’s benefit.
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant (New Media) to President Jonathan.