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‘Foreigners have patronised us the most’

It has given us two things actually; education and contacts. The opportunity to travel the much we have done and has also given us the…

It has given us two things actually; education and contacts. The opportunity to travel the much we have done and has also given us the opportunity to establish contacts and education in different aspects like people education, geography, and history especially when we have to research before going into all these paces. It has made Nneka a camera person and improved her writing as well as presentation skills.

We didn’t really imagine from the onset that from just producing and presenting “Goge Africa” we would get to know beggars and presidents and everyone in between.

Ma, you initially declined being a co-presenter with your husband and suggested that he use Kate Henshaw. Looking back now, how much has your change of heart impacted on you personally and as a couple?

It has impacted positively and I am so grateful that he insisted that I be his co-presenter. It has helped our relationship, the business and our marriage. Most times, I am with him and I see what his temperament is on set and off set. If he were presenting with someone else, I would never know him on set; and I think it did the same for him too.

It has helped me learn how to follow him as a husband and how to manage certain situations. I am able to handle him on set and off set. I didn’t have to take tips from any co-presenter because I am the co-presenter.

In terms of the business, where we would have had to pay for someone to be on location in different places we now get two of us for the prize of one. We spend less in terms of planning, accommodation and other related issues.

Being a part of it and making it a unique family brand has made it difficult for anybody to replicate. We have been at it for over ten years as husband and wife. Even if he wakes me at 2am to discuss business, I won’t feel like it is a bother or grumble about how much I am being paid because it affects me just as much as it does him. It is one of the things that will keep “Goge Africa” going for a long time to come, God willing.

For me, Isaac, it has gone a long way. When we are abroad, it is as good as being at home. I can decide I don’t want a particular meal and she will make an effort to look for an African market and get me the things that I want. Also, we can wake up at any how to do our shots and production. Like when we went to the Gambia, we woke up to a beautiful night at midnight and after making small talk for a while, we decided to go and take our shots. This we would not be able to do if I were working with someone else. We would not be able to take a lot of on-the-spot decisions. It may not work for others but it has worked perfectly for us and brought us a lot closer.

Also, and without meaning to sound immodest, the kind of things we have brought to bear are not things you would readily find in this country. I do one of the best voice-overs in Nigeria. I know what other people pay me when they request that I do their voice-overs, radio commercials, adverts and similar things. The truth is, I can’t pay that on a regular basis to someone else on my show. This invariably means we cannot afford the show. When an advertising agency person says ‘Goge’ is very expensive, we explain that there is scripting, researching, voice-overs, travels, expenses, crew and the entire package that goes with a perfect production. You cannot compare it with a program done in a studio. It is an entirely different kettle of fish from “Goge Africa”.

We were in South Africa recently and being given a tour of “Channel O” premises. Our guide was billed to go on air in minutes but didn’t seem perturbed. So, when I asked he said, “I use a tele prompter. Why should I memorise anything when it is not an exam?” When I told him we had to use scripts and go through them before presenting, he said, “I cannot be paid enough to do.”

We make the show as interactive and as lively as possible because we have all that it takes to do it and most of all, it is our show. By the Grace of God, one is talented enough to be able to produce a script on the spur of the moment. One should also be able to present it on the spur of the moment as well.

You are your own designer as well as costumier and emphasise the need to create an identity particularly through dressing. People find it cheaper to buy western clothes than to buy local pieces from local designers of the same quality.

The thing is; there are places where you can get things cheap and others where they are expensive. Nigerians find the western clothing cheap because they are mass- produced. What I would like would be for Nigerian designers to take on mass production of our outfits and have them well made and in different sizes taking into consideration our physique.

People can easily go to the market to buy well made ready-to-wear ‘adire’ shirts or suits at very affordable prices. I think this will go a long way to help the situation.

You can also look for good and cheap tailors to make you pretty cloths.

Sir, you love Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa;” do you think we have further underdeveloped ourselves?

Yes, in the sense that we have allowed Western influence to override our things; it has become the status quo. The more westernised you are, the more acceptable you are to society.

You see companies bringing artistes from the US to perform here. They are paid outrageously more than their Nigerian counterparts who perform alongside them. When the Nigerian artiste complains they are told to be happy that they are playing alongside such big names. They fail to realise that if these artistes are well paid, they will be able to develop themselves to international standards.

Look at our banks and establishments advertising on CNN. In which of these banks does CNN have an account? Moreover, the average Nigerian watches NTA, AIT or Channels. How many can afford cable network and regular subscriptions; and these are the people who have their money in such banks?

Why is our local football league not happening? We are educated enough to know what to do right.  But we are too embarrassed to do them. We have a lack of interest which is further under-developing us.

In a recent interview with Femi Kuti in France, he said, Africa waits for the West to educate our people and approve of them, then send them back to us before we begin to respect them. Even when they took slaves, they took the best Africa had to offer but not without our cooperation.

Africa’s problem lies within Africa. Do you know that ‘Goge Africa’ gets more patronage from outside than from Nigeria? It is funny why Nigeria does not take advantage of what she has. Nigerian agencies prefer to shoot adverts abroad and even use foreign models. Is it that we don’t have beautiful women or locations here or what? They go as far as India and use the black race there. It is all taking money out of our pockets.

If you are successful, people naturally get envious and want to pull you down. If all become unsuccessful, who do you run to when you need assistance? Until we change our mindset beginning at the individual level, we will be rocking this boat for a long time to come.  

That is why there is need for more programs like ‘Goge Africa’ to get them to appreciate us from our own perspective, not from their myopic points of view.

The greatest gift for our golden jubilee like someone said, would be to have uninterrupted power supply that day so that the world can see Nigeria radiate at day and night time.

Also, we always seem to have an excuse not to try something new. ‘Oh I would have done a better program but NEPA is not helpful. The roads are not good, so I can’t travel to remote areas. There is no enabling environment’ and so on. I have had to go by boat to get to Opobo. My message is for us to stop making excuses for why we can’t do things. Everything and anything is possible if you set your mind to it. We have decided that for Nigeria at fifty celebrations, we are donating an episode of ‘Goge Africa’ to each state of the federation including the FCT. As long as we are invited there and logistics are taken care of, we will do the rest.

How do you balance the home front with work, ma?

I enjoy it a lot and have fun because I am at a festival enjoying the sights and sounds as well as doing my job in the process. I have my husband beside me; there is no question of giving anybody feedback on my whereabouts and activities. At home, it is an environment for relaxation. I don’t feel any stress. Maybe I should, but I don’t feel it.

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