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The Physically Challenged in the Nigerian Entertainment Industry

Late Ray Charles had lost his sight at the age of seven and his younger brother, two years earlier. The world he was once saw and basked in its beauty and serenity had become dark and misty. In the face of hardship and seemingly insurmountable mountains as he travelled wearily on life’s path, he found solace in music which turned out to be an escape route that late Ray Charles walked upon triumphantly into stardom. Such was the life of this great artiste(though blind), who played the piano with dexterity that “RAY” a biopic movie was released in 2004 starring Jamie Foxx and directed by Taylor Hackford. Our parents would certainly have a nostalgic feeling, reliving hit songs such as “I got a woman”, “Georgia”, “Hit the Road Jack”, amongst others and with a dozen Grammy awards and others coupled with ground breaking achievements recorded in his profile, Ray Charles who passed on to glory on June 10, 2004 was truly a legend.

“This track is so delicious, I go by the way of Cobilicious” was the intro of the rap lyrics Cobhams Asuquo reeled out in Dekunle Fuji’s successful track “No Lele”, though many Nigerians were unaware of his ‘nil vision state’. His popularity soared amongst the populace when he performed the beautiful thought provoking chorus in the song “Lagi Mo” (The Roof Top MCs) which saw the song hitting the number one spot on some Nigerian chart shows. He won the HIP Hop world Awards 2007 for the “producer of the year category”, increasing the number of statuettes he’d already received. He is presently one of the highly sought after producers in the music industry, making guest appearances on TV programmes and reality show (Project Fame West Africa, season 1) along with the solicitation for his services which extends to Corporate bodies, banks (Sky bank’s advert with the Akuna matata song)

The icy hands of death almost took away Yinka Ayefele in 1999 when he was involved in an auto crash. The crash affected his spinal chord and sentenced him to life on a wheel chair. Through the fiery trials and the stop of the pity partying, he was bold enough to put the ordeal behind him, and bursting forth like water from a rock to quench our thirst with refreshing exciting gospel flavour. Fame, fortune, local and international awards have willingly found their way into his life.

The Nigerian music terrain can boast of this duo who have succeeded on its stage, but can the same be said of the movie industry. We’ve seen physically challenged roles (visually impaired/ lame) being performed by able bodied thespians to the best of their abilities, but wouldn’t it be a surprise to millions of movie viewers for medically proven, physically challenged people to naturally perform such roles assigned to their able bodied counterparts. Who says there are no talented ones among them whose acting skills can’t be brushed up, after all not every A-list thespian studied theatre arts or attended schools that specialized in harnessing such talents.

There are a lot of talented physically challenged people out there rotting away simply because no one has dared to give them a chance. After all the scripts can be converted into Braille letters for them to read, at least we know their sense of hearing is hyper functional than that of the sight seeing fellow. Quite a number of TV Reality shows have hit the screens these past couple of years (dominantly in the Entertainment sector) with new ones Nigerian Music emerging by the day, such as Gulder Ultimate search, AMBO, Next movie star, The Intern, Maltina Family dance all, Star Quest, Football with Fash, The Twelve Ambassadors, Big Brother Nigeria, Apprentice Africa, Idols West Africa, Nokia First Chance, Project Fame West Africa.

No reality TV show has been made for the physically challenged probably borne out of fear of not securing sponsors (who are focused on making returns for their investments), or fear of outright rejection by the teeming viewers. Who says a reality show that the physically challenged can function in can’t be conceived and birthed, its all about ingenuity and who can tell whether such a reality show can end up being the best among the lot, nothing is impossible!

No one chooses to be born with a disability, a microscopic percentage makes a touch down on plant earth with disabilities, while a dominant proportion can be attributed to ‘the carelessness of man, accidents and in some cases ‘African remote controlled incidents. Stevie wonder and late Ray Charles were given opportunities to clinch the tickets to stardom, which they appreciatively did, simply because someone believed in them and created opportunities for them to show the world what they had. Let’s help the physically challenged live their dreams in Nigeria, for there is without an iota of doubt, ability in disability!.

 

 

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