by Wilfred Okiche
As the annual #YNaija Power List enters its 4th year, we bring you the most influential young Nigerians under 40 who are braving the odds to get things done in the entertainment scene. From movie stars to showbiz promoters, record label bosses to shapeshifting comics, these are the guys who matter.
Superstar comedian AY Makun has played bit part roles in films by Omoni Oboli and Juliet Ibrahim but when it was time for him to invade Nollywood, he showed even veterans how things are done. His side splitting ensemble comedy 30 Days in Atlanta attracted everyone from Ramsey Nouah to Vivica A. Fox and quickly set the record for the most successful film at Nigerian cinemas with a domestic gross north of 100million Naira. His AY Live remains one of the hottest comedy tickets in town and he has made inroads into television with the sitcom, AY’s crib.
This prolific video director, cinematographer and filmmaker may well be the hardest working man in show business. Always on demand, Peters is the go to guy for every A- (and B-List) artiste. His videography reads like a dream and he has his imprint on nearly every relevant video that has come along in the past 7 years. Peters is also a business man as his Capital Hill Records, one of the most competitive labels in town is home to such high profile acts Chidinma and Suspekt.
There was a time Davido’s success was dismissed as a fluke but the year 2014 proved he is here to stay. He set things rolling with an against type single, Aye which turned out to become one of the biggest hits of his career and by the end of the year he had been nominated for the Future Award for Young Person of the year, the MOBO Awards, Soul Train and MTV Europe Music Awards, sealing his status as both a trusted hit maker and one of the most exciting artistes to emerge from Africa in recent times.
Where do we start from with the Don? A trouper at reinventing the wheel, the Mavin boss shrugged off the loss of both D’Banj and Wande Coal and instead focused on turning his new sign ons; Korede Bello, Dija and Reekado Banks into viable alternatives. In between producing huge anthems for his Mavin Crew and anyone cool enough to afford his talents, Don Jazzy has proven himself a formidable business brand, signing much publicized deals with Loya Milk and E-commerce giants, Konga.com.
His parents named him Tobechukwu Melvin Ejiofor but the boss of talent management outfit Goretti company which has been merged with Clarence Peters’ Capital Records is better known as Ill Bliss. After dropping a hit album in 2012, Oga Boss has stayed mostly back stage, guiding the careers of Chidinma and Suspekt to maximum visibility. He found time to drop a mixtape as well as a timely single, Different kind of war that forces every listener to pay attention. Ill Bliss has also been instrumental in the transition of red hot rapper, Phyno from local champion to genuine superstar.
Matthew Ohio may love to party but one has to give him credit for turning this hobby of his into something worthwhile. Industry night, the regular industry meeting/party which he promotes and serves as executive director has become the definitive music industry networking event, with its ability to attract A-List celebrities as well as corporate sponsorship. Every music star- from 2face to Olamide- hasn’t arrived until this Edo state indigene and his team have hosted them on the Industry night stage.
The Jonathan administration’s romance with Nollywood gave Omoni Oboli the wings she needed to test her bonafides as a reputable filmmaker. And she has proven adept at flying high. Oboli returned in 2014 with screen writing and producing credits in the drama thriller, Brother’s Keeper, then starred as a crusading editor in the big budget actioner Render to Caeser. But it wasn’t until she scored a private screening at the state house in Abuja (plunging neckline intact) for her smash directorial debut, Being Mrs Elliot that folks began to sit up and take notice. She is a one woman squad.
The brothers Okoye may well be the most powerful twins in Africa and they show no signs of letting up. They put up weddings that put the cities on lock down and managed to come through a bitter row that almost took them to the verge of separation, proving that the Psquare identity is as durable as ever. They released another dance heavy album Double trouble in 2014 and collaborated with American rapper TI (Ejeajo) and Jermaine Jackson (Zombie). The brothers can be seen on occasion, hanging out with billionaires Aliko Dangote and Tony Elumelu whenever they aren’t presiding over their other business interests.
You know you’ve got the power when the folks at The Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards neglect to nominate your film for the major categories and then, turn around to present you with some New Era Award as a sort of consolation. Rita Dominic’s 2012 film, The Meeting made a surprise return when it showed up to compete in the AMVCAs major categories this year despite its 3 year old release date. Dominic co-runs The Audrey Silva Company with director Mildred Okwo and is the celebrity face of Zaron cosmetics new ad campaign.
Iyanya may be the Kukere master but everyone knows that talent can only get you so far and he owes a big deal of his waist rolling success to his manager and boss of the Made Men Music Group that houses him, as well as upcoming acts like Emma Nyra, Selebobo and Tecno. Franklin has quietly morphed from the behind the scenes fixer scouting for gigs for his client, to an industry heavy hitter supervising a budding empire. Some may question the wisdom of juggling multiple acts all at once but Mr Franklin seems to have it all handled.