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Monday, December 08, 2008

MTN, empowering youthful talents via Project Fame

AS the first edition of the MTN Project Fame West Africa ended last weekend, the ultimate goal comes to mind, to empower youthful talents with the initiative.

Although the first edition saw the emergence of Nigerian Inyanyan Mbuk coming out of the academy as the star winner last Sunday, the high point will always remain the episode that preceded the finals.

Just the last four, lined out in their resplendent glory with all the attention on them, the live audience as well as millions of viewers across the West African sub-region, not a few tears flowed in the audience, as even their teachers just managed to hold back theirs.

It has really been an incredible journey for the group of young men and women picked up in a talent hunt programme that has become a testament of how money can be spent well to build up the nearly forgotten of the society.

They came from different backgrounds with very little history; at least even if they had any, not the star busting profile they carry now. From that obscurity they have become bearers of bulging newspaper clippings and video clips from television appearances.
Just the four of them: Praise Adejo, Annette Cookey, Nii Ankra and Inyanyan Mbuk.

Looking at them with a very excited crowd showering praises and adorations, all kinds of remarks were coming from the judges and teachers.

“Going into the studio to record you, you guys will make us proud as black people,” music teacher Ben Ogbeiwi said.

Looking quite satisfied and with a smile of accomplishment, former NTA Programmes Director, Mr. Peter Igho enthused: “I was here the night all of you came into the Academy. Tonight, I saw what came out of it.”

There was yet another comment: “Just looking at you is enough to know that whatever money has been put into this show is well spent on you.”

After an eclectic performance by Nii, someone remarked: “You are a performer who knows how to hold the audience and make them scream. You are in total control anytime you are on that stage.”

“Inyanyan, you are a true musician. We can listen to you all night. You are the main show man,” another said after watching Inyanyan spin his act on stage.

The beauty of that Saturday night wasn’t just that the following day would be the real history unfolded but also for the fact that these statements were coming to people that were very ordinary and picked across West Africa just over three months ago. Just ten weeks, the Project Fame crew and teachers among them, Joke Silva, Principal of the Academy, Ben Ogbeiwi, Music Teacher, Gogo Maji, Voice Coach, and Performance Coach Jennifer, had turned the inmates into some well rounded personalities that have become the cynosure of every good comment.

Just in one single file facing the audience they won everybody’s heart and the following day would also know their place in history. How time flies for ordinary folk!

Project Fame is the second major collaborative work between Ultima Communications of Nigeria and Endemol of the United Kingdom. The first major work is Who Wants to be Millionaire that has become a major TV hit across the country.

Seated in the audience as the final unfold were three faces represented by the kind of history they associate themselves with, including the culmination of something quite big and unexpected.

These figures include the chief executive officer of Ultima Communications, Mr. Femi Ayeni, Peter Igho who has worked with Ayeni since his NTA days and Kola Oyeyemi of MTN, sponsors of Project Fame who are also sponsors of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

They were there from the beginning and developed real faith in each other to demonstrate that any product could really be made a good one. Not only that, they seem to be working on making stars out of the ordinary folks and remove the needy from that position of perpetual want. Who Wants to be a Millionaire has raised some millionaires in Nigeria and has also made a big star of Frank Edoho whose anchoring of the programme seems to be for keeps.

But back to Femi Ayeni who is the author of what may have become real magic process. When the search started months ago, not many had the faith he had running across the Sub region in search of students for the Academy. Like he did when he wanted to start the Millionaire show, he was the only one who knew what he was looking for.

He tends to do things out of the ordinary and sees what others cannot see. Many people disagreed with him on the choice of Edoho for the Millionaire show. But look at Edoho now. And quite a number also disagreed on the choice of Murhi International Complex Ogba for the Project Fame show.

But the show succeeded largely at the Murhi venue and once again Ayeni has succeeded in making that hitherto unknown place a showbiz Mecca.

Let’s not forget that Praise, Annette, Nii and Inyanyan made it to the finals, however, prizes must be given. The First Prize went to Inyanyan, followed by Nii, Praise and Annette in a very grueling contest that could try anybody’s nerves.

But the beauty of the show however, was that MTN had made arrangement for all four of them with each leaving with a huge sum of money and a car apart from Annette who got the sum of one million naira. Inyanyan would also have an international recording contract to launch his career.

MTN Project Fame West Africa has once again demonstrated the kind of raw talents available across the sub region. All that is expected of the political leaders is to put good governance in place in order to put the energies of their own people to good use.

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