How do you rehabilitate a country? I know, I know, you’re thinking this is an extremely weighty question that involves a combination of very in depth measures much too long to write a single blog on. Ok, let’s make the question more specific. How do you rehabilitate Nigeria? No closer to an answer, huh?
Nigeria is a country in desperate need of aid and repair. As a country afflicted with severe violence, government corruption, dire poverty, and illiteracy, some simply throw up their hands in hopelessness seeing no way to change Nigeria’s state of affairs.
But Nigerian Media Mogul Nduka Obaigbena, has a solution. For decades, this powerhouse has been challenging his country’s government with a vision to change the course of Nigeria’s future. His resolution? Partying with the stars. Yup, you heard me right. PR 101. Throwing huge, lavish, parties.
Since 2000, Obaigbena has honored Nigerians who fight injustice, placing a particular focus on recognizing government officials and corporate executives who exemplify good governance through economic transparency, responsibility and respect for the law. But he doesn’t celebrate them through a typical award ceremony or notable mention. He celebrates them by hosting extravagant star-filled events and inviting international celebrities like Naomi Campbell to attend. Each year he holds the ThisDay Awards, named for his media empire and the independent newspaper at its center. The last ThisDay awards ceremony was attended by politicians and socialites including Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin of France and Paul Begala, a former adviser to Bill Clinton.
For the past two years, Obaigbena has also held the ThisDay festival, a blow-out summer concert series featuring artists such as Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Diddy (http://www.diddy.com/ and Shakira, with a goal of promoting Nigeria’s economic and political progress. On Aug. 1, the concert series will travels to the Kennedy Center in Washington and will be headlined by Beyoncé and Seal.
Now certainly this all sounds cool, but is it really doing anything to help the country? The answer to this question seems difficult to answer. Some of Obaigbena’s critics feel his lavish parties undermine his credibility as a leader and do nothing for the poor rural Nigerians who truly need aid. Mr. Obaigbena disagrees pointing out that “we have the longest period of democracy in Nigeria, ever.” It seems impossible to say if Obaigbena is responsible for those changes. But then there is this: according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, foreign investment in Nigeria nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2006. Not coincidentally, 2000 was the year the ThisDay awards began.
To some he is an outlandish sloganeer. To some he is an image of a new, brighter future. To me he is a glimmer of hope, a man who has a passion for change and someone who is looking to turn around a country. Sure, parties and events may be construed by some as just some PR stunts. But if they bring hope and money into a country that needs it desperately, I’m all for it. Party on Obaigbena.