The Dirty Side Of Entertainment-Seunmanuel
How ‘Dirty Money’ Enters Nigerian Entertainment Industry
The Land Is Green
By the virtue of the size of the country, its population and the creativity of its people, the Nigerian entertainment industry is the biggest in Africa. The home-grown industry that houses sub-sectors such as arts, recreation and a section of the media is rated atop same industry in sister countries like Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and South-Africa.
A forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in 2017, predicted that Nigeria will house the world’s fastest growing Entertainment and Media (E&M) Industry between 2017-2021. And true to this prediction, the past few years have witnessed an onward influx of Nigerians in the diaspora and foreign investors coming into Nigeria to invest in the music business and in the production of quality movies that can stand side-by-side with other contents produced across the globe. Nigerian productions are in fact becoming more noticeable at international festivals and awards such as the Grammys and Oscars. Two weeks back, Nigerian Joel Kachi Benson’s “Daughters of Chibok” won the Best Virtual Reality story award at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, another indication of the unrestrainable potential of Nigeria’s entertainment sector.
Another testimonial of the big things already happening in the Nigerian entertainment sector is the various news of international musical and film deals that continue to break the internet. One of such is a recent partnership between multi-billion dollar Chinese film corporation, HUAHUA Media with Corporate World Entertainment, owned by standup comedian, Ayo Makun, or AY as he is popularly known. Already, AY’s movie “30 Days In Atlanta” was named as 2017 Guinness World Record holder for movie with the highest domestic gross.
Details of the deal signed by both media companies when the Chinese business executives visited Lagos suggests that they might soon be co-producing “30-Days In China“, which would be a sequel to AY’s franchise; Akpos: Warri Sharp Guy, that has birthed movies like “30 Days in Atlanta“, “A Trip To Jamaica” with the same character featured as a supporting lead character in “10 Days in Suncity“.
Like AY, other entertainers are cashing in on their investments in the industry by discovering fresh talents with bankable prospects. Little wonder when industry green horn, Rema made to the 2019 summer playlist of former US President Barack Obama posted earlier in September with his single “Iron Man”. Thanks to more talent discovery and continuous pushing of the frontiers of the industry, more dreams are becoming fulfilled and Nigeria’s GDP is the better for it.
However, amidst the current development and promises that the entertainment industry holds in Nigeria, investigation has revealed that there is the case of a mixed multitude among the financiers of entertainment industry. While there are a large number of genuine practitioners, whose pedigrees are easily ascertainable and the sources of their investments defensible, there are a lot people who have made money from allegedly shady sources and have seen the prospects in entertainment industry as an avenue to pour their supposedly ill-gotten wealth.
Where Does The Money Come From?
Sources revealed that some of the thriving investments that currently boosts the entertainment industry come from less than legitimate ventures. Endeavors from which some financiers now bring money into the music and film businesses include: official corruption or stealing, internet fraud, drug peddling, prostitution or pimping among others.
Investigations by reveal that those who indulge in ventures that run foul of the law find a natural avenue of investments in the entertainment industry because they spend much of their times and resources frolicking in night clubs in the company of entertainers from which relationships are built and confidences developed.
Azunna Omezi, an entertainment reporter with an online news platform told eelive.ng in an interview that Nigeria is beginning to have an increasing volume of monies from the underworld in its entertainment industry clarifying though that this is not peculiar to Africa’s most populous country.
According to him: “…the entertainment industry here and if I’m not wrong in most countries have money bags who are either politicians, soccer stars, even people who make their money from crime. It is not new to hear that a Yahoo boy owns a club, or sets up a bar, or owns a record label. That is usually where they put their money,” Omezi enlightened.
Muji, a presenter with a Lagos-based radio frequency aligned with this position when she told mention that; “most of these guys are naturally used to the social life, they live and breathe the night life, music, and what have you, so it is not out of the box thinking, to see them investing in that line of business. Since they understand it very well. Apples don’t fall too far from it’s trees. They invest money in entertainment, not because they understand the business fully, but just because they appreciate arts, and are avid consumers of entertainment contents, music especially, that makes these people put funds in the business. Usually, what they do is to hire someone who runs the affairs of the label. They are usually just comfortable being the CEO.”
Investigations by this blog reveal that there are two main ways that people turn their illicit resources unto the entertainment industry. The first, we gathered is that they personally set up entertainment related businesses like night clubs, promotion companies, recording labels or even movie productions outfits. When they do not do that, they seek protégés with talent on whom they would put money and expect a return on investment. They are sometimes musicians or music producers who have connections with talented artistes capable of raising the profile of record making and promotional companies set up with the slush funds. They could also be actors, movie producers or just people who have a hang of the entertainment industry with the capacity to run clubs or hotels where these monies are moved about. A source told us that quite a few artistes have surrendered themselves to laundering money for these overlords even on some of their foreign trips.
According to Omezi, “There is a certain highly placed and well-respected music label owner, who also runs one of the biggest night clubs in Lagos. He does politics too. Why is no one asking how he made his first billion to invest into these businesses? Words on the streets have it that he pushed drugs overseas to make those billions.
“Well, how true is what I cannot say, but the guy just came from nowhere and re-defined the night life business Nigeria’s commercial nerve-Lagos. He has supported his younger brother, who has a talent in music, by creating a music label for him to showcase his talent to the world.”
Muji talked about a certain indigenous actress, who allegedly had a child for a senator under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) believed to be the financier of the luxurious lifestyle of this actress. The actress is also renowned to run a music label.
“A certain actress was in the news sometime in 2015 for her alleged rump with a certain senator from the North. She was even alleged to have had a girl child for the senator who was believed to love her very much and funds her sophisticated lifestyle. The actress too started a record label and signed some Yoruba artistes. How do you think she got the money from? Now, that’s what we’re talking about.”
A Lagos-based digital marketer and blogger who simply wants to be known as Sunny told us about a celebrated filmmaker whose fortune originated from pimping young actress to wealthy men for handsome rewards.
Sunny mention that “although, he gives the impression that his breakthrough came after one of his movies became a box-office hit, that is not the case. The guy is a certified pimp in the industry. He pimps actresses mostly for politicians and highly placed individuals who settle him for the runs in Nigeria and Ghana. He has made hundreds of millions from the deals to be able to afford, exquisite properties in choice areas of Lagos.”
While this surge of revelation might appear like a thread to worry about Nigerian celebrities, eelive.ng investigations shows that there this pattern of ill-acquired wealth redirected to entertainment on a global scale. Some of renowned artistes who have shadowy pasts include:
The British born actor admitted in a 2013 interview with GQ Magazine to selling bags of weeds in the past while also working as a doorman at Caroline’s in New York City. Although, not proud of his past, he confessed that those experiences come handy when he takes roles that require him bringing such characters to live.
’50 Cent’ Jackson was introduced to the dark underworld of drugs dealing from the age of 12. He began selling crack and cocaine while living with his grandmother. He was only 8 when his mother died selling drugs too. Curtis admitted that growing up without a means to survive was tough, and drugs dealing appeared to be the easiest means of surviving.
He got caught many times, got shot and served jail terms too, but he no doubt made wealth from these illicit deals, until he became a rap sensation.
If you’ve ever heard him talk about his past as a drugs dealer, Jay Z credits his entrepreneurial skills to his street orientation selling cocaine and other substances. And that has helped him build his fortunate and brand today. Jay Z started selling drugs after his father left him and his mother to survive on their own. His uncle was also killed.
According to him, drugs trade saved him, and he learnt vital lessons like “you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up” Jay Z once admitted in an interview. Today, he is a successful club owner, clothing manufacturer, hip-hop artist, and sports agent.
Others on the list of previous drugs pushers also are Snoop Dogg, Notorious BIG and Tim Allen among others
Those Who Have Got Their Fingers Burnt
Even though there is a new consciousness about the relationship between the entertainment industry and crime currently, there has also been unproven allegations of artiste’s association with drug trafficking and such crimes in the history of Nigeria. From Evangelist Ebenezer Obey to King Sunny Ade and the late Dr Sikiru Ayinde Barrsiter, Nigerians have made unsubstantiated allegations in the past.
However, the juju artistes known as Prince Adekunle, Kennery King and Late Dr Orlando Owoh were once convicted about two decades back on allegations of drugs trafficking.
The Economic and Financial Crime Commission also seem to be paying more attention to issue of internet fraud now. In April 2019, one Olufemi Lawrence, who is an up and coming actor and personal assistant to veteran indigenous actor, Yinka Quadri, was arrested by the police alongside two others, for stealing several millions of naira from the public under false pretenses. They had allegedly created social media accounts with the handle @kingsunnyademusic to announce concerts that were not true in the US and UK. They were said to have made millions of naira from unsuspecting Sunny Ade fans who were interested in attending the concert. According to Lawrence, he embraced internet scam because his meagre earning from entertainment industry was not sufficient to keep up his lifestyle.
Likewise in May, the duo of Afropop artiste and Soapy crooner, Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley and his bosom friend and fellow artiste, Temidayo Omoniyi, popularly known as Zlatan Ibile were both arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for cases bothering on internet scam. Although Naira Marley now walks the streets on bail, the case against him is due back in court in October.
This goes on even as artistes like afropop singer, Eleniyan, who released a single titled; Yahoo Lawon Oremi meaning, “My friends are All Internet Fraudsters”, earlier this year glorify internet fraud. The club banger with indigenous lyrics glorified internet scam as a hustle that is worth being proud about.
Respondents are divided as to how justified it is to pass judgement on artistes who have had rough pasts Writer Oluchi Thompson opined that: “Celebrities are no different from everyday people, they made their mistakes too, like everyday people. While some have gotten their hands burnt in the mix, a few we’re lucky to survive to tell the stories. It’s tough surviving in the cold.”
But a music producer who does not want to be named noted that there should differentiation between having a rough past and living in crime. He explained that “we can talk about forgiving and not judging people if they agreed that they had a rough past and have moved away from it but so many of our people still rejoice in these crimes and I do not see why we should talk about judging them. Artistes are models and what they do and say affect how the young ones see life so we cannot afford to look away.”