Why Plateau’s abundant entertainment, sports talents remain untapped | Dailytrust

Why Plateau’s abundant entertainment, sports talents remain untapped

A local football team in Jos, before a match
A local football team in Jos, before a match

Undoubtedly, the entertainment industry in Plateau State ought to have been one of the best in the country, owing to the abundant talent inherent in the state, as well as those who began from the state and are already making exploits nationally and internationally.

The state has fantastic talents in comedy, film making/production, choreography, poetry, literature, dancers (contemporary and cultural), rappers, among others. And in terms of music, talents abound in both gospel and secular music. 

This is beside the fantastic weather condition, lush vegetation, aesthetically pleasing sceneries dotted with rocks around the state. 

In spite of these talents and conducive environment possessed by the state, the unanswered question remains: why is Jos/Plateau State full of talents, yet the industry is not flourishing?

It is imperative to mention some films produced in the state, as well as talents it has produced. Television soap opera ‘Cock Crow at Dawn’ was shot in Jos in the 80s, as well as ‘Rana Bata Karya’ which featured Abdullahi Shuaibu (Karkuzu na Bodara). 

There was also ‘Living in Bondage’, directed by Steve Gukas. The film (Living in Bondage) was shot on the Plateau, and it was the first Nollywood movie to hit the Nigerian screen. Again, the popular soap opera ‘Behind the Cloud’ was shot in Jos.

A lot of movies were shot in the state, and are still being shot, yet the industry is stagnant, or getting worse as time goes by.

Prominent movie stars bred in the state include Desmond Eliot, Segun Arinze (Black Arrow), Saint Obi, Akume Akume, Fred Amata, Zak Amata, Sani Muazu, among others.

Likewise, music icons produced by the state include late Dan Maraya Jos, Panam Percy Paul, P-Square, Tuface Idibia, Idrees Abdulkareem, Jeremiah Gyang, Ice Prince, MI Abaga etc.

People always describe Jos as entertainment breeding ground which merely fertilizes talents for other parts of the country, particularly Lagos, and other parts of the world.

An upcoming music artist who preferred anonymity told our correspondent that he once met one of the aforementioned music stars in Lagos with the high hope that he would get help. The artist said the music star was responding well earlier, and in order to expedite things he said he was from Jos where the star was groomed. 

According to the artist, as soon as he mentioned Jos, the music star instantly turned hostile and discarded him. When asked why that happened, the artist said he was still trying to figure things out himself.

Our correspondent sought from one of the Nollywood stars why those groomed in either film or music in the state and later went ahead to become big stars abandon the state.

The response from the Nollywood star was that some of the stars complained of some level of discrimination at one point or the order in their career struggle, and so whenever they leave and make it big, their interest is not quickened to come back to the state to assist upcoming ones.

However, the Nollywood star stressed that there could still be more to their reason for not coming back to assist, adding that it is more the responsibility of the government to find a way to develop the entertainment industry rather than wait for those who have struggled on their own to excel.

A reggae music artist, Onotu Ezekiel, popularly known by his stage name Nitrogen, said; “In Plateau State, despite the abundance of local talents and gifted artists, the potential of the industry is yet to be fully tapped and therefore presently undervalued. The streets of Jos are bubbling with creatives and music artists putting in good work, however, returns for such work are not readily achieved.

He noted that a number of reasons responsible for the underutilization of musical talents on the Plateau but top amongst them is the unavailability of viable platforms from which good musical artists and their contents can be appreciated both locally and globally. 

“ Many of the big names in the music industry like Jeremiah Gyang, Ice Prince, MI, PSquare, Jesse Jags had to go out of Jos to access platforms from which they were projected to limelight. It’s likely they would have become the super stars they currently are if they had remained here on the Plateau,” he said.

Closely intertwined with the situation with the entertainment industry in the state is that of the sports industry. The state has different talents in the most prominent sports which is football and has produced some world class stars, yet much untapped talents still abound. There are other sports in the state which have talents still struggling with their career. Example of such are basketball, athletics, skating, golf, polo, and others.

Football stars produced by the state include Mikel Obi and Ahmed Musa. They grew up in Jos and still have family members there. 

Others are current Super Eagles sensation Moses Simon, late Justice Christopher (who played for the national team at the Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup as a midfield maestro), Obinna Nsofor, Sam Pam, Patrick Mancha, Sambo Chogi, Salisu Nakande, etc.

And like the entertainment industry too, these stars don’t have any noticeable or impacting football/sports initiatives to propel the youths and develop or advance them. 

Interestingly too, the state has produced two sports ministers in the persons of Damishi Sango and Solomon Dalung.

Sango was appointed Nigerian Minister of Sports in the first cabinet of President Olusegun Obasanjo, holding office between June 1999 and January 2001. While Dalung was made the Minister of Youth and Sports by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2015 and his tenure ended in May 2019.

Sunday Dare, who is currently the Minister of Youth and Sports grew up and schooled in Jos. Hence, he is a proper Jos/Plateau person in principle who knows the terrain and dynamics.

With the aforementioned sports personality and administrators/Ministers the state has produced, the sector is not fully developed as it should, and it is operating below capacity.

Even though from time to time the government rewards winners of laurels at national or international competitions, the development rate of sports remains uninspiring.

Again, there are many sports talents in the state and at the grassroots that have not been fully tapped.

The female basketball captain at the Nyako Youth Centre, Ogochukwu Okeke, said it has been a struggle all through as there is not much support for basketball in the state with all its abundant talents.

The recurring question in all of this remain: ‘Why have these two sectors that are critical to youths’ development not been rejuvenated over the years to offer the youths empowerment, job creation and self sufficiency?’

Commenting on the matter, the Media Officer of Plateau United football club of Jos, Albert Dakup, said the problem of sports development in the state is the inability of the Plateau State Football Association to organize a state league, which has deprived the state the opportunity of harnessing the talents that abound in the grassroots.

“This has allowed scouts to have a field day in taking these talents outside the state and the shores of this country. This also deprive the government’s sports bodies some valuable income.

“Also, the state has not been able to harness the abundant marathon sites in the state, especially in Pankshin, which has the same topography with Ethiopia, Kenya and other East African countries. Though the Sports Council has been able to discover some hidden talents in the marathon, their inability to take good care of their welfare has seen most of them deserting the state for greener pasture,” he said.

In his own view, the Plateau State Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Victor Lapan, said the challenges with sports development is not only a Plateau problem but that of the North in general.

He said the problem is linked with the educational system and curricular which was hitherto sports friendly, but which has twisted differently in recent time. 

The commissioner explained that sports was developed from the schools with events like football, handball, badminton, races/athletics, javelin, shot put, among others. 

But today, he said such sports are hardly found in schools, which by extension affects sports advancement and also the proper harnessing of talents.

The commissioner said federal allocation gap between the North and South is also a factor because more southern states get more federal allocation than the Northern states, and as a result have more funds to develop their sports sector. 

Another strong and current factor he said is the insecurity ravaging the region, adding that this has led to the halting of many sports activities and school events which would have boosted sports development.

He, however, said some strategies are being put in place to revive sports in the state, adding that with the new Internally Generated Revenue drive, more funds would be generated by the state and the sports sector would also benefit from it.

Prof. Adediran K. Ademiju-Bepo, Head of Department of Theatre and Film Arts, University of Jos, said the department began in 1976 and since then has been producing great talents who are doing well globally. According to him, he was with the Nigerian Film Institute in Jos before joining the University of Jos.

Ademiju-Bepo pointed out that one of the problems of the industry’s development was the ethno-religious crisis which rocked the state since 2001, and has not been fully resolved.

Nonetheless, he said their products are well equipped and doing well in their fields of endeavour, even if most are not currently operating from Plateau.

He said among their products doing well and operating from the state, in terms of comedy, are the popular Osama, Senator, etc.

On the wholistic development of the industry and palpable harnessing of the talents in the state, he said there must be an effective platform provision for the talents to express themselves for promoters and investors alike to see them and pick them.

And for such to happen, he said, there must be a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. “The government must endeavour to provide the enabling environment for such PPP or related arrangement to thrive,” he concluded.

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