BY WANA UDOBANG It is the season of good will they say, a time to reflect, a time to give back, time for many a charity event and most of all the celebrity’s publicity dream. This Christmas all around the world B-list celebs and soft porn actresses will be going naked for PETA(People for the ethical treatment of animals) instead of wearing fur. A-listers will be dumping their SUVs for energy efficient automobiles and strutting down Hollywood green carpets in a bid to endorse the tree hugging revolution. Even here in Lagos a charity gig is to any celebrity the equivalent of juicy opium laced hypodermic needle to a junkie’s pulsating fresh vein. They go hand in hand without saying. It’s difficult to surf through any website, walk through any office without being accosted by a charity poster or leaflet plastered below with brand names and its celebrity attendees.
I am one of those who has always been entrenched in the charity sector but never really felt the need for known names to endorse a cause but just the support and voices of as many human beings need be. I remember a designer friend of mine who had gotten a corporate body to sponsor her Christmas charity bash. I received a message from her seeking my divine charity wisdom on which poor groups of societal rejects should get the residual proceeds from the ball. Just after the grand worth of table tickets had been purchased, the plush venue paid for, the three course dinner, the event planner fees, the photographer fees, videographer, ushers and of course some fashion memorabilia had been purchased too. She was contemplating between the children and the widows. With my divine intervention, the children took precedence and her market value soured to astronomical heights. I doubt if she knew who the children were or were they stayed though. The most important thing was the glitterati were there, fashion was celebrated and charity had graduated with a first class thesis. Recently I was forced to a press conference about another good will event which would take place over the weekend. I watched the celebrities as they undertook their mandatory promotional photo sessions. It was the same routine. I watched them give their clichéd interviews to television stations desperately seeking content and then waltzing away just before the premeditated dialogue between the proprietors of the event and my hungry gutter press comrades would commence. There were divine explanations for the project. I didn’t bother asking because I would probably have humiliated myself or the supposedly dignified saint in front of me. I stared as him intensely. I knew he could read my thoughts. Not to say that social ills had its own ladder of hierarchy, but it was a recurring theme in my head. Within the spectrum of rape, hunger, abject poverty, education, child slavery, Dafur, HIV, Liberia, orphans, book drives, Rwanda, Katrina, Tsunami, downs syndrome, mental health and cerebral palsy, you choose to paint the streets of a neighbourhood instead!
I was still waiting to see if I would hear about urban development and its correlation with economic mobility of the people and hopefully some increase in the gross domestic product of my great nation. But then I didn’t. I realised my inner skill as a spin doctor would have come in handy at this point. I would have even added words like rural rehabilitation, gentrification, revenue generation and equity.
This idea I still thought was ingenious. The project manager makes his mark. Every passer-by sees his work. His résumé is on display. And the paint distributor, his name is engraved on the wall, literally. The state administrator’s wife will also be there with a large pair of scissors to officiate the happenings of the day.
As for the celebs, some will lose out. The Z-listers will not be caught on tape. It’s only those that got good seats on the planning committee that will reap the rewards of the PR avalanche.
One of the superstars in attendance came up to me and said, “I’m not even in town that day but you know now, we have to play the game”. He was right though, the more lenses and print sheets you could infiltrate, the better your chances of winning. I called a friend who was participating in the event and asked his true opinions about it. He claimed that he wasn’t going to judge anyone and as far as he was concerned, someone was doing something. He was right; at least someone was doing something. But he took me back to a conversation I had with the afro beat musician Seun Kuti, and there was something he said that always resonated with me. “You don’t have to carry all the cameras in the world to show that you want to give pipe-borne water to a village in Africa” he added that when you want to give you shouldn’t expect to get anything back.
For me though I might not be beautifying my neighbourhood this charity season but I will be at the Grace Ushang vigil. She was the student who was raped to death in Borno state during her national service. Im not soliciting your celebrity though, I just want your humanity. I do sound like a self-righteous sod I know, but as they say, comment is free.
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