By Olatoye IdowuA common idea in Nigeria is that anything American is better. If you don't have the hottest US artist or TV personality on hand, your event must not be important: that's how Nigerians see it.
Over the last five years, I have seen American celebrities go to Nigeria and make a year's worth of income in just one weekend. One of the latest was none other than Kanye West's girlfriend.
In February, Kim Kardashian co-hosted a concert held by big-name local musician Dare Art Alade, and she reportedly collected US $500,000 for her 45-minute stay in Lagos.
I was not shocked when I heard of the visit. What bothered me was that some genius in the Lagos State Government thought she was worth that much money for that little work.
A number of reports state the government paid the sum because they believed she could boost tourism in Nigeria. Why her? She has no notable talent. Plus, how do you boost tourism via someone who spends less than a half-day on the ground?
Please keep in mind that our roads are still a mess. We hardly ever have stable electricity for more than 24 hours straight. And the condition of some public schools is just shameful.
Rick Ross is another big name who visited Nigeria.
Last August, the American rapper performed at the summer jam festival at the Eko Hotel. For the appearance, Ross not only earned about US $250,000 - a sum he would not have made for a six- to seven-song set in the US - but he also took the opportunity to shoot a video for the track 'Hold me back'.
Shot in the slums of Lagos, the video shows Ross flashing his gold chains. Meanwhile, the kids captured on screen behind him live way below the poverty line. I guess Ross did give back to Lagos in his own way; he was filmed throwing $20 bills to the kids in the slum waters of Makoko Village.
Not valuing Nigeria's own talent
So, which is worse? That there are Nigerians who actually think American celebrities, like Kardashian and Ross, are worth what they make per cameo?
Or that we Nigerians don't value our own talents? To answer my own question, undervaluing our own people is by far worse. We have to take care of home first, before giving out ridiculous amounts of money to people who don't need it.
I was once a harsh critic of a lot Nigerian artists and the entertainment scene, in general. But over the years, I've had a change of mind. I think Sinzu AKA Sauce Kid has a unique way of rapping, among Nigerian and American rappers both. Burna Boy has practically taken over the Afro hip-hop world with his Jamaican-infused style.
Not only are these two Nigerian musicians' songs good, but their videos set them apart.
There is no way to justify paying any entertainer half a million dollars for 45 minutes of work when we have these type of talents locally, when promoting them would better position Nigeria on the international music scene and when we have more than half the country living below poverty line.
In other words, it is not these American celebrities milking us. We are milking ourselves all in the name of bringing in anything foreign. We have to realize that just because it was made in America doesn't make it better; it just means it was made in America. None of these foreign entertainers will turn down the money we offer and they sure won't invest in our country by building homes or businesses here.
It is up to us to determine the value of our own local stars and to start investing in ourselves.
Instead of giving money to the Kim Kardashians of this world, we need to start funding the music and art school programmes that nurture Nigeria's own talent and produce entertainment that our future generations can enjoy.