Competition results anywhere in the world hardly sit well with all and sundry. The fact that most awards, especially in entertainment, are opinion-inclined makes controversy the status response to the results of such competitions. The Nigeria Music Awards, NMA, ceremony, which held on May 19 this year, produced its fair share of the shock and surprises usually associated with results of awards of that nature. As should be expected, followers of the NMA are all out in their gowns and wigs complete with gavels, assessing the 2007 NMA.
The NMA, just like other awards of its kind, is like the raffle where you have to buy the ticket first in order to stand any chance of winning. Therefore, as deserving of an award as certain artistes may be it is difficult to make a case for them once they were not in the nominations in the first place. Having noted that, it has to be pointed out that the “of the decade” idea in the whole show did not do the awards any good. Hence, right from the start the 2007 NMA had a peculiar line of criticism to contend with.
The honorary awards could not have gone to more deserving music personalities in Nigeria than Onyeka Onwenu, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the others. Looking at the competitive categories, however, one cannot but disagree with the rather ‘queer’ decision of the judges and the organizers. The first question here is, what were the criteria used for picking winners in each category? In the category for female voice of the decade for instance, was the criterion about who has the loudest voice or the most distinct voice of all? Shouldn’t consistency be the overriding factor here considering the length of the period the awards covered? Whatever the answer is, one can argue with good reasons that it was Ego Iheanacho rather than Yinka Davis who has a voice that is not only powerful but was more prominent and consistent in music during the decade. Yinka Davis may have a powerful voice all right plus she has a charming personality, but beside Eko Ile in the mid 90s and the 2001 release, Emi Aro, which enjoyed only a negligible amount of airplay, musically speaking she was nowhere near Ego Iheanacho. It was Ego’s voice that consistently charmed and captivated us in Lagbaja’s songs on the airwaves and in live shows around Nigeria and beyond for the last decade and more. It is hard to overlook her unforgettable and song-defining part in Konko Below, one of several such pivotal parts she played in Lagbaja’s widely acclaimed songs during the course of the decade under review. It would have been perhaps understandable if this category were judged on the basis of performance in a single song or album, as is the case with movie awards. But seeing that it was, just like others, based on achievement in music for a whole decade and for several songs, then ‘voice of the decade’ was a complete misnomer here.
One question everyone seems to be asking regarding the result for the male voice of the decade award is, Obi who? Though cheeky and satiric, this is a legitimate question to pose considering the fact that Obiwon won the award in this category. Frankly speaking, even by the subjective nature of entertainment wards, not only is Obiwon a newcomer, he has not done enough to be able to upstage a more established artiste like Sammie Okposo for instance. For the past one decade Sammie Okposo has not only had well-acclaimed songs but his voice has been on the soundtrack of our movies at the ratio of 5 in every 10 movies. Contrast that with Obiwon’s two years in the industry so far and you begin to understand why the question here is really, Obi who?
A probable way to rationalize the ‘strange’ results in the awards may be the fact that winners were picked from votes sent in by viewers via sms. If this is the case, then maybe the organizers need some reminding that some trials are too important to be entrusted to the jury. Tony Okori and Partners, TOPS, failed to notice, or maybe chose to ignore a trend in mobile telephone cum GSM services usage in Nigeria. In Nigeria, when it comes to entertainment, the most active patrons of the sms or text messaging are the youth, consisting mainly of teenagers who see the service as an avenue to circulate fun messages amongst themselves. Therefore, as far as such shows as the NMA are concerned, this group is usually the only committed segment of the society as it consists of people who have the enthusiasm and boundless sense of adventure to participate no matter the cost. For this ‘impressionable’ group, new and fresh is chic while old, however good, is cheap. New artistes and new songs come first however they compare against relatively older ones. Leaving the decision for the results of the biggest musical award show in Nigeria to people in this group was always likely to give the results a lopsided outlook.
And one can conveniently pose many more questions to the organizers for each category of the awards. Which accentuates the belief that the theme of the awards was an unwieldy idea. In their obvious eagerness to make up for all the years we have all missed the NMA, Chief Tony Okoroji and co tried too hard in the end. They could have organized a ‘compact’ awards ceremony themed for the last one year, complete with the glamour and razzmatazz we all have come to identify with the NMA rather than trying out the awkward idea of presenting awards on the basis of a decade long involvement with music. By deciding to experiment with the ‘decade’ idea they have succeeded in staging a competition that did not even reflect its theme. Simply put, as far as the lists of nominees and eventual winners suggest, the 2007 NMA was for the last half-decade as it was more reflective of recognition for achievement in music for the last five years than of a recognition for musical excellence in the period between 1996 and 2006.