As I sat there savouring the display of raw talents by a carefully selected cream of Akwa Ibom youths, I felt this choking sadness for the plight of Nigerian youths. It was sad to know that some of these very talented young boys and girls may never have the necessary support and platform to excel in the areas of artistic competence they have displayed to the enjoyment of the audience at the Emerald Events Center that New Year day, 2020.
As they danced, letting themselves float in the enthralling ecstasy of music, bodies swinging and tweaking to various rhythms, the crowd -made up of mainly young people too, cheered. The acts competing for the spoken words/Comedy glory were equally in their elements; they came rolling in the most engaging poetry; they came with rhythm and rhyme, imaginatively delivered to the delight of the audience. The songs came in scintillating genres; ranging from soul-moving rhythms and blues, to the traditional and then to the pulsating pounding of dance hall music. It was a night of a peep into tomorrow; an arts and culture tomorrow for Akwa Ibom State capable of taking many young and budding talents off the streets.
As the artists filed out at that Events Center, it was easy to see a new generation of P-Squares and Wizkids; the Flavours of this world and the Davidos, waiting to be discovered. I could picture Akwa Ibom State playing in the big leagues of music, movie and other forms of arts, away from the maddening political arena, when this sector is painstakingly and consciously nurtured.
At the end of the competition, which involved 29 contestants contesting in three categories of Music, Spoken Words/Comedy and Dance/Drama, Nsidibe Etok, went home with the star prize of one Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira for the Music category, followed by Abas, who went home with a Hundred Thousand Naira and Jehns Williams, who got Fifty Thousand Naira, in the second and the third places respectively. For the Spoken Words/Comedy, Israel Abadnego came first, followed by Promise Ochibry and Lucas Effa, who came second and third respectively. All three got like prizes as winners in category one. In the Dance/Drama category, Dominion won the princely prize of One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira, followed by One Kube, Mfoniso Etim, who also received One Hundred Thousand and Fifty Thousand Naira each.
But the reality of a gloomy future remains.
It is however, heartwarming to know that something has started in the direction of hunting for talents in the state, and it is even more gratifying to notice that behind the driver’s seat that night at the Emerald Events Center, was a young lady whose benevolent gods had thrown into the arms of the United States, who could have felt if she wished, gauging by what happens around us, that she had nothing to do with us. Winnie Adiahachi Bush had left the shores of Nigeria for the pursuit of the proverbial Golden Fleece, after her secondary education, first in the state and later in Abuja. She studied for her Bachelors at the Jackson State University, Mississippi, where she stood out academically; even graduating first class as we say here in Nigeria. While an undergraduate at Jackson State University, Winnie had sharpened her creative and volunteering abilities. Her first taste of arts and cultural event was the soar-away successful hosting of the “Taste of the Culture Fashion Show”, in Mississippi on March 26, 2017. It was a show that attracted the finest of fashion of the five continents, many countries and cultures. She followed this up on March 26, 2018 with another event, “A Message to my Sisters: Self Love, Self Care and Self Respect”, also held in Mississippi. This intellectually enriched programme announced Winnie’s interest in feminine studies and her desire to help build the complete woman. In February 2019, Winnie hosted “Dating and Marriage in Nigeria vs China”, in Ohio, USA, where young Nigerians and their Chinese counterparts aired their views on the critical issues of dating and marriage in their countries. Just before she came home in 2019 to host the Ibom Arts Night, Winnie had on November 18, 2019 in Ohio, hosted Dating in America: An International Perspective”, which gave vent to her crave for multicultural understanding in America.
Winnie Bush has a very rich background in social giving; she is Akparawa Michael Bush’s daughter. Whether as a presenter or an independent radio and television producer, Akparawa Bush has built young people all over the country. He is imbued with the spirit and talent to spot talents and nurture them to stardom. Perhaps, Winnie has caught that bug or was it transferred by nature?
How did she get motivated to come and help? She says, “My motivation to host Ibom Arts Night came after being a part of ‘An Evening with Sagas’ on my visit to Akwa Ibom State two years ago. I was awed by the quality of talents on parade and what Akwa Ibom youths could do with their voices. I was impressed and wanted to create a stage for those with different talents to also feature. Ultimately, my philosophy is to stretch the circle wider so that Akwa Ibom youths can join me on the winning journey”.
Continuing, Winnie said, “The programme is my gift to Akwa Ibom State. I hope to continue hosting the programme as an annual or biannual arts event as funding permits. It wasnt easy funding the entire programme. I hope there will be sponsors so that every youth that participates gets some encouraging takeaway. More importantly, I would love a situation where winners are further exposed to begin to make the necessary impact in the national and international arts scene. The programme can put our state on the art spotlight if properly funded.”
Currently studying for her Masters at the Kent State University in Ohio, USA, Winnie says her exposure has become a challenge to her. She feels intensely for talents being wasted all over the state as every youth is made to believe that the only way out of poverty and gross ignorance is through politics. To her, active harvesting of talents in varied fields of human endeavours is the way to go in engaging the youths of Akwa Ibom State.
I expressed my surprise at seeing her do the things she is doing because experience has shown that children from privileged background here scarcely engage in such social services. I reminded her that the only time we see children of those ruling us are at official functions, where they are shepherded into exclusive seats and also in family photographs where they are seen receiving their certificates from choice universities abroad.
“That can’t happen with my father”, she says sharply, “My father will tell you that there is nothing special about you other than the difference you make in your immediate community. He tells me that the privileges you have if not shared never existed. So, to me I strive to create that impact, no matter how small. If every youth, privileged to learn new things or acquire some experience abroad should come back and contribute the little they can, things will begin to change.
Winnie says of her 2021 edition of the show tagged Ibom Arts Night, “We commence preparation for the 2021 edition immediately. I expect it to have double of the impact this edition has had. I expect that we shall raise funds for the less privileged in the next edition. Proceeds from the show shall be distributed to charity across the three senatorial districts of the state. The prize money will also double and more categories shall be created to accommodate as many categories of art talents as possible.
Like her father Michael Bush, Winnie has identified her mission platform; building the youths of Akwa Ibom State. Both are driven by a desire to teach the young ones to fish, rather than giving the youths fish for the day.
Akparawa Bush, according to Winnie is a super hero. She says of her father, “My dad tells me that charity begins at home. I believe, like my Dad, that people and relationships are the core of my experience. My dad motivates me to give willingly and to work on any talent or vision I have whether it is big or small.”
To Adiahachi Bush, no one is too small or too young to contribute to society. She reckons that the little you contribute may mean a whole lot to so many in search.
As we applaud Miss Bush, we hasten to ask, where are the children of those who have been privileged to benefit from the common coffers? Where are the ones who have had to be sent abroad with our common patrimony? They should, like Miss Bush also come home and mix with their peers and pass some vital experiences to their brethren. This is the time to start.