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Nigeria: A rising global soft power and why FG should seize the momentum

Something precious is happening in Nigeria. Despite whatever inadequacies in the country there appears to be a fresh pull that has arrested our people.

The pull to identify with the motherland has become very strong. And the buzz it is creating is something that our policy makers up and down the power architecture should work aggressively to tap.

This positive energy of showcasing, vibing and getting involved in what is happening at home should not be lost in us.

As 2023 drew to a close and the holiday season came up on us, there was a mad return home from all parts of the world.

Of particular interest to me is the fact that most of our superstars in music, movies and sports were home during the yuletide.

This time, and most surprisingly they didn’t sit back in their gated estates to make themselves innocuous. Rather they got involved with community events.

They went to church and mosques, attended crossover events, hosted parties, attended concerts and generally celebrated with the people.

I saw Afrobeats superstar, Davido in a local church during crossover; the same with African footballer of the year and Serie A hitman, Victor Osimhen.

I also saw German Bundesliga star Victor Boniface in a comedy skit within the same period. It was the same for many other celebrities who teamed up with their neighbours to celebrate the Nigerian dream.

It is the same with those who equally travelled around the country. Folks mixed with the high and low, had a good time and enjoyed the season.

This is the sort of camaraderie that the National Orientation Agency should mine. There is nothing that brings our people together these days like our music, dance, comedy, visual arts, football or simply individual achievements of international repute.

While I have argued elsewhere that the government as high as the office of the president and that of the Foreign Affairs minister should begin to physically include our stars in official foreign trips, there is no longer any doubt that the greatest soft power asset we can unleash on the international system is not our oil or solid minerals, it is our music, sports, movies, comedy and IT expertise.

Time has come to develop a template to harness this value, star power and use it to gain massive international recognition, respect and investment.

In rebranding Nigeria, carefully planned messaging highlighting the pre-eminence of our music stars and our afrobeats; celebrating our sporting icons and showcasing our movie thespians cannot be overemphasised.

Our music, movies, comedy and other professionals in IT or even medicine are now global superstars. The internet has made it easier for us not to be hidden. We have to theme our next branding campaigns about our country around them.

Most importantly, senior government officials should create focal themes that will resonate with our stars. These stars can be honed to start NGOs that work in those fields and help to attract not just attention but cash into our economy.

Let’s take for example, stars like Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Genevieve Nnaji, Sabinus or Burna Boy can become ambassadors for peace, renewable energy or recharging of the Lake Chad. Their involvement during global summits or bilateral negotiations will move things a bit faster and draw attention for the rest of their followers to begin to improve their personal lives in that regard.

Their global contacts will go a long way in driving attention or traffic on one hand and dollars on the other.

It is heartwarming that Funke Akindele’s latest film which has so far grossed over ₦1.2billion at the box office has attracted the attention of President Bola Tinubu.

In a holiday period statement, the president extolled the success recorded by the cast and crew of Lion of Judah.

In the same vein, Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said of the film’s milestone: “as a female led initiative, it also showcases the power and influence women wield in the film industry, inspiring countless others to aim for greatness…”

“The Lagos government is the biggest supporter of the creative industry in Africa and we will continue to do more,” Sanwo-Olu said.

While I acknowledge the support government and the corporate world have given to the entertainment sector through direct investments and sponsorships, more can still be done.

The creative industry is a huge market that can spur serious emolument opportunities. To position it even better, policy makers must front the stars in that sector as the ultimate marketing brand or talking head for the country and state.

We have more to gain by exploiting all our assets. Our celebrities are our latest gold mine. Nothing should prevent us from taking a direct dip into this soft power.

America is known around the world because of what its creative industry portrays in movies, music, comedy and other arts. With it comes respect and admiration.

It is Nigeria’s time to shine. We have to acknowledge and invest in their successes, then go ahead to utilise the star power for global attention and respect. We should win minds globally and even locally with our soft power in a more planned and ordered manner going forward.

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