Why the Plateau’s Abundant Entertainment, Sports Talent Goes Untapped
Without a doubt, the entertainment industry in Plateau State should have been one of the best in the country, due to the abundance of talent inherent in the state, as well as those who started from state and are already making feats nationally and internationally.
The state has fantastic talent in comedy, film directing/production, choreography, poetry, literature, dancers (contemporary and cultural), rappers, among others. And music-wise, talent abounds in both gospel and secular music.
It is next to the fantastic weather conditions, lush vegetation, rock-strewn aesthetic landscapes around the state.
Despite these talents and the favorable environment that the state possesses, the unanswered question remains: why Jos/Plateau State is full of talent, when the industry is not flourishing?
It is imperative to mention some films produced in the state, as well as the talents it has produced. The soap opera “Cock Crow at Dawn” was filmed in Jos in the 80s, as well as “Rana Bata Karya” with Abdullahi Shuaibu (Karkuzu na Bodara).
There was also ‘Living in Bondage’, directed by Steve Gukas. The movie (Living in Bondage) was shot in the Plateau, and it was the first Nollywood movie to hit Nigerian screens. Again, the popular soap opera “Behind the Cloud” was filmed in Jos.
Many movies have been filmed in the state and are still being filmed, but the industry is stagnating or getting worse over time.
Prominent movie stars raised in the state include Desmond Eliot, Segun Arinze (Black Arrow), Saint Obi, Akume Akume, Fred Amata, Zak Amata, Sani Muazu among others.
Likewise, state-produced musical icons include the late Dan Maraya Jos, Panam Percy Paul, P-Square, Tuface Idibia, Idrees Abdulkareem, Jeremiah Gyang, Ice Prince, MI Abaga, and more.
People always describe Jos as an entertainment hotbed that only fertilizes talent for other parts of the country, especially 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 high hopes that he would get some help. The entertainer said the music star was responding much sooner, and in order to speed things up he said he was from Jos where the star had been treated.
According to the artist, as soon as he mentioned Jos, the music star instantly became hostile and dismissed him. When asked why this happened, the artist said he was still trying to figure things out himself.
Our correspondent asked one of the Nollywood stars why those who prepared for movies or music in the state and then became big stars left the state.
The Nollywood star’s response was that some of the stars complained of some level of discrimination at some point or order in their career struggle, and so every time they leave and become big, their interest is not accelerated to return to the state to help the next.
However, the Nollywood star pointed out that there could be even more to their reason for not coming back to help, adding that it is more the government’s responsibility to find a way to develop the entertainment industry rather than to wait for those who have struggled on themselves to excel.
A reggae music artist, Onotu Ezekiel, popularly known by his stage name Nitrogen, said; “In Plateau State, despite the abundance of local talent and talented artists, the potential of the industry is yet to be fully tapped and therefore currently undervalued. The streets of Jos are bustling with creators and musical artists who do good work, however, returns for such work are not easily obtained.
He noted that there are a number of reasons for the underutilization of musical talent on the Plateau, but chief among them is the unavailability of viable platforms from which good musical artists and their content can be enjoyed at both locally and globally.
“A lot of big names in the music industry like Jeremiah Gyang, Ice Prince, MI, PSquare, Jesse Jags had to get out of Jos to get to the platforms from which they were thrown into the limelight. It’s likely that ‘they would have become the superstars they are now if they had stayed here on the Plateau,’ he said.
The sports industry is closely tied to the status of the entertainment industry in the state. The state has different talents in the most important sports, namely football, and has produced world-class stars, but untapped talent still abounds. There are other sports in the state that have talent still struggling for their careers. Examples are basketball, athletics, skating, golf, polo and others.
State-produced football stars 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, the late Judge Christopher (who played for the national team in the 2002 Korea/Japan 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 have no notable or impactful footballing/sporting initiatives to propel youngsters and develop or advance them.
Interestingly also, the state produced two sports ministers in the person of Damishi Sango and Solomon Dalung.
Sango was appointed Nigerian Minister of Sports in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first cabinet, serving between June 1999 and January 2001. While Dalung was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2015 and his term ended in May 2019.
Sunday Dare, who is currently Minister for Youth and Sports, grew up and was educated in Jos. Therefore, he is in principle a real Jos/Plateau person who knows the terrain and the dynamics.
With the aforementioned sports personality and administrators/ministers that the state has produced, the sector is not fully developed as it should be and it is operating below capacity.
Even though the government occasionally rewards winners with laurels in national or international competitions, the pace of development of the sport remains uninspiring.
Again, there is plenty of athletic talent in the state and at the grassroots that has not been fully tapped.
Nyako Youth Center basketball captain Ogochukwu Okeke said it has been a struggle throughout as there is not much support for basketball in the state with all of his talents abundant.
The recurring question in all of this remains, “Why have these two sectors critical to youth development not been rejuvenated over the years to provide youth with empowerment, job creation and self-sufficiency?
Commenting on the matter, the Media Officer of Plateau United de Jos Football Club, Albert Dakup said that the problem with the development of the sport in the state is the inability of the Plateau State Football Association to organize a state league, which deprived the state of the possibility of exploiting the talents which abound at the base.
“It allowed Scouts to have fun taking these talents out of state and off the shores of this country. It also deprives government sports bodies of valuable revenue.
“Additionally, the state has been unable to operate the many marathon venues in the state, especially in Pankshin, which has the same topography as Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries in East Africa. Although the Sports Council has been able to uncover some hidden talents in the marathon, their failure to look after their well-being has seen most of them desert the state for greener pastures “, did he declare.
According to him, the Plateau State Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Victor Lapan, said that the challenges related to the development of sports are not only a problem of the Plateau, but that of the North in general.
He said the problem was with the education system and school curricula which have so far been supportive of sports but have skewed differently in recent times.
The commissioner explained that the sport was developed from schools with events like football, handball, badminton, racing/athletics, javelin, shot put, among others.
But today, he said, such sports are scarce in schools, which by extension affects athletic advancement and also the proper exploitation of talent.
The commissioner said the gap in federal allocation between North and South is also a factor, as more southern states receive more federal allocation than northern states and therefore have more funds to develop their sports sector.
Another strong and current factor, he said, is the insecurity that is ravaging the region, adding that this has led to the cessation of many sports activities and school events that would have stimulated the development of the sport.
He, however, said that some strategies are being put in place to revive the sport in the state, adding that with the new internally generated revenue campaign, more funds will be generated by the state and the sports sector will benefit. also.
Professor Adediran K. Ademiju-Bepo, head of the Department of Theater and Film Arts at the University of Jos, said that the department started in 1976 and since then it has been producing great talents who are doing well in the world. According to him, he was at the Nigerian Film Institute in Jos before joining the University of Jos.
Ademiju-Bepo pointed out that one of the problems in the development of the industry was the ethno-religious crisis that has rocked the state since 2001 and which has not been fully resolved.
Nonetheless, he said their products are well-equipped and perform well in their areas of operation, although most currently do not operate from the Plateau.
He said that among their products that do well and work from the state, in terms of comedy, are the popular Osama, Senator, etc.
Regarding the holistic development of the industry and the palpable exploitation of talents in the state, he said that there must be an effective platform for talents to be expressed so that developers and investors can see and choose them.
And for that to happen, he said, there needs to be a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement. “Government must strive to create an enabling environment for this PPP or related agreement to flourish,” he concluded.