Saturday, July 24, 2010

Razzmatazz, as Nigeria Image Awards holds in New York

A few weeks ago, many Nigerian music stars, popular comedians,a ctors and actresses stormed New York in the United States of America to be part of the Nigerian Union Corporation and Nigeria Image Awards events, which held amid glamour and razzmatazz, Jennifer Ehidiamen who covered the show writes

WHAT is the big deal? It all started off as a High school reunion in 1996. Two girls based in the US were inspired to organize a reunion for their friends from Queens College, Lagos. They extended invitation to their male counterparts who graduated from Kings College. Few years down the line, the small-group reunion has expanded into a formal gathering of Nigerians in Diaspora.

Now known as the Nigerian Reunion Corporation (since 1999), the organization whose primary purpose is to promote and strengthen the unity and honor of Nigerians and Nigerian descendants in the Diaspora, draws on its broad cultural diversity to facilitate professional and academic development in a relaxed and entertaining environment.

Every year, the organizers, which comprise college students, entrepreneurs and working professionals, bring Nigerians- young and old, from different parts of the United State together in one space to rekindle friendship, unity and interaction among Nigerians; promote cooperation and professional networking and provide assistance to the poor and the needy etc.

It is not an overstatement to say that Nigerians in Diaspora need to be more actively involved in nation building by transferring their skills and knowledge in transforming the country into a competitive nation with growing demand.

This year's event themed “An awakening, a change, a promise for the future- the Golden Year” was held in New York. According to Segun Adeyina, the President of NRC, the theme was chosen based on a number of interesting activities-- its 14th annual Nigerian reunion, 50th year of independence, a competitor in the first World Cup held in Africa, 4th term democracy, a country predicted to be the “Next Eleven” economy, the largest black population in the world with a dynamic Diaspora population etc.

“Sometimes I think we set the bar so high for us to achieve, but low for others to come into our community to take advantage of our rich resources”, said Adeyina in his opening remark at the Town-hall meeting.

“There is still a heavy dependency on foreign expatriates when in today's world, fellow Nigerians have qualifications very similar and in number of cases supersedes those that sell their services to our home country…a recent example is the World Cup where many African countries think the way to success is to import foreign coaches.”

The 3-day event established an opportunity for Nigerians in Diaspora to have a dialogue and take action in making a difference to improve the way the Nigerian image is perceived abroad. “We have to be right with ourselves before we are right with anyone else”, he said.
We gathered in Unity

You could hear the scream of excitement at the lobby. Everyone was excited to see familiar faces of friends and families separated by distance. For some of us, it was the first time of attending the Nigerian Reunion.

This year's event was the 14th annual gathering-- not a gathering in the traditional sense-- but one of coming together to celebrate what it means to be Nigerian, even though home-Nigeria was many miles away. The serene venue on Long Island in New York was a brilliant pick.

It was close enough to the train station and far enough from the hustle and bright lights of New York City.
The first night, there was a town-hall meeting on “Redesigning the image of Nigeria and Leadership 2011”, two panel discussion sessions that had different experts- business professionals, entrepreneurs, celebrity and politicians- giving their opinion about practical steps individuals can take to redesign the image of the country.

They gave account of what they were doing in that capacity, which qualified them to urge the audience to take action too. “We cannot sell Nigeria to the world if we cannot sell it to ourselves”, said Folake Ayoola, the President of Afrimetro. They buttressed the need for Nigerians both home and abroad to stop nagging and start participating. “Nigerians are quick and good at sitting behind to be coaches. It is high time we participate”, said Ramsey Nouah, who was also one of the panelists.
Prayer for Nigeria

Re-affirming how religiously spiritual Nigerians are, both home and abroad, everyone gathered for “spiritual connection” worship service on Sunday morning, which was hosted by Redeemed Christian Church of God, Long Island. Everyone prayed for Nigeria. Popular comedians Jedi, Seyi Brown, Gbenga Owoeye-Wise and the PCE crew thrilled the audience with some entertainment during the service, which was followed by D'comeback movie premier.

There was room to laugh, until tears dropped

The star-studded Nite of 1001 Laughs concert and Nigerian image award, which featured rib-cracking jokes from Lagos-based Basket-Mouth, US-based Gina Yashere, Ayoola Tosin (Jedia) and Seyi Brown, was the highlight of the event. Some of the best of Nigerian artistes both home-based and in Diaspora were also featured.

As part of an effort to recognize and encourage outstanding achievement of Nigerians in different industry, individuals who promoted the Nigerian culture through their creative endeavors were also honored with awards. The Nigerian Image Awards recipients include: Hakim Kae Kazim; Nnena Agba, finalist on America's Next Top Model; Gbenga Akinnagbe; Nollywood actress, Ini Edo; Steven Hendle, producer of Fela on broadway; Sanmi Rotimi; Ovation publisher, Dele Momodu; Rap star, M.I; Popular R & B star, Banky W' performed and closed the event up by ushering the crowd out for “New York Night after concert reception”.
In retrospect

The turn-out for the town-hall meeting, world cup soccer fiesta and picnic was pale, in comparison to the crowd that stormed the “pre-independence day” reception and “Night of 1001 Laughs concert and award”. Being a July 4th weekend which is a public holiday in the US, people were naturally inclined to be more interested in letting their hair down. “This is a fun weekend, a relaxed weekend, and when people are relaxed and open it is easier to get the message across,” said one of the organizers.

(culled from The Nation newspaper, Sunday July 25th edition- )

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