Nollywood star, Genevieve Nnaji attended an exclusive preview organised by the show’s producers at the Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, on November 21. Present at the event were two of the three judges on the show, singer Yinka Davies and African American entertainer, Jeffrey Daniel of Shalamar fame. The preview was anchored by the show’s presenters, Anis Holloway and Misi Molu (aka Yemisi Fajimolu).
Also in attendance was Rotimi Pedro, CEO of Optima Media Group, current holders of the Idols franchise in Nigeria. He talked to NEXT about his company’s plans for the show, as the search begins for the next Nigerian superstar.
The Idol franchise first came in to Nigeria in 2008 but was discontinued after only one season amidst controversies. Why has your company picked it up and why would you be more successful with it?
Looking for the next big star in Nigeria is something I think that is ripe at this point in time. Over the last few years, there has been a huge renaissance of Nigerian music. I have a two and a four-year-old kid. When I was their age, I was singing to Shalamar and Kool and the Gang; those were my mentors. But kids these days are singing to Banky, D’Banj and P-Square. These are the people they know now. They don’t know about the American scene anymore. Like I said, there is a huge renaissance of Nigerian music and having a huge franchise like the Nigerian Idol is in line with the mood of the country. This is the reason why we went into it.
Is this strictly a business decision for you or is there also an altruistic desire to invest in Nigerian music?
The way we have positioned Nigerian Idol this time around, it can never be about the commercial aspect of it. It is purely about the altruistic, looking for the next talent and making our contribution to the Nigerian music scene. Over the last ten years we have done very well with sports and we now want to make our contribution to the music sector. We are in it for the long term. We aim to develop the next talent. Our franchise covers 44 African countries, not just Nigeria. In the next couple of months, we are going to launch East African Idol and the Ghanaian Idol. We are about discovering and nurturing the African talent over the next five years so we are in it for the long haul.
The last Idol winner in Nigeria is yet to fully make his mark on the Nigerian music scene, especially after much publicised misunderstandings with the then organisers of the show. What should we expect from and for the winner of Nigerian Idol?
The last holders of the franchise in Nigeria lost it due to this issue of non-compliance to obligation. So because of such issues, the owners of the franchise, Fremantle, were looking for a respectable Nigerian/African company that could actually project the franchise for the next few years and my company, Optima Media Group, came along to pick it up. The [winner of the] Nigerian Idol season one would be recorded and release an album on Sony-BMG and all obligations in accordance with the franchise would be respected.
Simon Cowell expressed disappointment at the fact that many American Idol winners had failed to become big stars. Any such fears here?
I think that Nigerians have the ability and we have the opportunity to discover raw talent in this country. As Jeffrey Daniels [a judge on Nigerian Idol] said, there are people from the creeks of Ajegunle and the Niger-Delta who may never have the opportunity for their 15 minutes of fame but Nigerian Idol is giving them that opportunity to come out and represent this great country of many talents. Based on this idea, we do not think we would have any dearth of talent or problems discovering one. We had ten thousand people that registered and above five to six thousand of them came to the venues, three thousand in Lagos alone; surely, there must be one or two stars in that number.
Tell us more about your company
Before we went into music, we were mainly into sports. We hold at least 80 percent of the market share in terrestrial sports television in this country. We have done that for over ten years. We have now gone into music and entertainment generally. Apart from Nigerian Idol, we would be handling other shows like ‘Got Talent’. We have already done ‘Don’t Forget the Lyrics’. Basically, we are building a pedigree in quality production of music formats.
So far, much of your content is based on foreign franchises. Do you see yourselves developing totally indigenous content?
We believe in the global village. A Nigerian guy in the Niger-Delta knows about what goes on in North America and Europe. We want to harness the power of globalisation and promote our own. The world does not live in isolation or with a nationalistic toga anymore. The ethos of our company is plugging into the global network and delivering for our people. Even though we bring these international franchises to Nigeria, we would leave our own mark on it. The idea is to use a global platform to project the Nigerian image and artists that would cross over and conquer the world.