Sunday, April 4, 2010 was another memorable day in the Nigerian music industry as P. Square and King Wadada were crowed the African Artist of the Year and Best African Reggae Artist at the KORA All Africa Music Awards in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. They beat Black Diamond, a group from Senegal, Paul G from Angola and Amety Meria of Burkina Faso to the KORA plaque and $1 Million cash prize while King Wadada won in the category of the Best Reggae Artist in Africa with his album, If Men Were God, which was released in 2005.
The award was attended by more than 3,000 people, including President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso. P. Square was not present at the ceremony because they were on tour in London. President Compaore received the award on their behalf and a private jet was afterwards dispatched by the event organizers to London, to pick them and their band to Burkina Faso. They arrived on Monday, April 5, 2010 and President Compaore re-presented the award to them at the Presidential Villa. P. Square and the other winners, including King Wadada, then performed to the elated Burkina Faso audience at a free show held at the City Stadium in Ouagadougou. Senegalese-American Hip Hop star, Akon, who was billed to headline the show didn't show up, even after being offered $150,000 and a private jet by the organizers.
Immediately afterwards, they set out for Nigeria. The organizers of the awards once again provided a private jet for the Nigerian artists up to Benin Republic because there was no direct flight from Burkina Faso to Nigeria. From there, they were driven back to their houses in Nigeria with a military-escorted convoy. Speaking to Notes and Tones on their arrival, a very happy P. Square said: “We are dedicating this award to God, our fans all over the world and everybody who has supported us all along.” They also stated that they did not hear anything about the call to boycott KORA and were just grateful to God for winning the prize and His blessings.
King Wadada paid a visit to our office with his award. He told us that he got his invitation to attend the award ceremony, but that they requested him to sponsor himself to Ouagadougou which he did. The organizers then took care of his accommodation and welfare. “We were well treated in Burkina Faso. They lodged us in the best hotel in the city, the Azalai Hotel,” King Wadada revealed happily. “I am so happy to have won this award and I told them so while collecting my plaque. I told them that KORA is great, but that God is greater. Immediately I said that, the President of Burkina Faso stood up and everyone gave me a standing ovation. The President invited me to the Presidential Villa the next day and we all had a good time when P. Square arrived from London.”
The KORA president, Ernest Adjovi, according to King Wadada, promised to visit Nigeria in the coming weeks to present the prize money to the winners during a press conference.
However, there were mixed tales from most of the other Nigerian nominees we contacted. The duo of Rooftop MCs who were nominated in the Best African Artist category said they didn't hear of the recent developments. As at Friday, April 9, when we called them, they claimed ignorance of the fact that KORA awards had held.
Banky W admitted that he heard about the ceremony and duly received an invitation to also sponsor himself to Ouagadougou, but he had seen a publication which mandated all Nigerian artists to boycott the event and didn't want to be caught up in any controversy.
Gospel artist, Nikki Laoye, who was nominated in two categories also didn't know what was going on with the awards. “As usual, I had looked forward to the award ceremony but as the days went by and nothing happened, I gave up and concentrated on other issues.” She didn't get any invitation to the event and also didn't even know the winners when we called her on Friday, April 9, 2010.
Blackky was also of the same view. He received his invitation to the awards, but had a lot of misgivings. “I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask about the awards. Nigeria was not carried and many Nigerians didn't even know the event was going to hold. They had voted in 2008 when the nominees’ list came out but didn't know what was going on all along. I knew the organizers of the awards had issues with the Cross River and Lagos State Governments and didn't want to be involved in it.”
The KORA All Africa Music Awards 2010 was backdated to reflect the works of artists that had been submitted before the awards became embroiled in controversy over its hosting. The awards ceremony which was initially billed to hold in Calabar, Cross Rivers State, was curiously moved to Lagos and finally to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. This was after its CEO, Mr. Ernest Coovi Adjovi, had allegedly collected $2.5 million and $5million from the Cross River and Lagos State Governments respectively. This caused a huge rift between the organizers and the aforementioned states, forcing the Nigerian Music Coalition and the KORA office in Nigeria, managed by Zmirage, to issue a statement calling for its boycott: “The Nigerian KORA office is calling for a mass boycott of the 2010 event by all artists (nominated or not), managers, label executives, jurors, presenters, media reps, reporters and government officials. The KORA office, in association with relevant organizations like NARI, PMAN, AM.B-Pro, MORAN, etc (under the aegis of the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition) shall work to ensure that Nigerian stakeholders who refuse to heed the call by legitimizing the Ouagadougou event with their presence be exempted from any project executed by these organizations and the governments of Lagos and Cross River states.”
A representative of Zmirage who craved anonymity told us that the position of the company has not changed, but that there was no official word yet since the Nigerian stakeholders had not yet sat on it. But Mr. Efe Omoregbe, who spoke for the Nigerian Music Coalition, reaffirmed that stance. “The Nigerian KORA office came up with the stance and we supported it based on the fact that there were court proceedings still going on and we felt that it would not be nice for a Nigerian contingent to validate the event with their presence.” He also reiterated that they had not yet deliberated on it and that there is no official word from the KORA office yet.