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Fighting for the good of others

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The Advocates: Emeka Mba, Ekene Ezeji, Chuka Ihonor, Uche Okoli and  Saidu Basharu

Anita Kouassigan, a strong advocate for speaking up and addressing the truth about important matters to overcome the challenges faced by societies poses the notion of “advocates as angels.” Fighting for or against something (for good) on behalf of others is necessary, and this is not the same thing as advocating violence or harm against others like the act of terrorism. She invited the team of Advocates, Ekene Ezeji, Chuka Ihonor, Uche Okoli, Emeka Mba and Saidu Basharu of the new show The Advocate for a group interview to address this question.

Introduction
Aside from comprising the team of Advocates of the TV show by Plus TV Africa, this group of people strive to give back in some way, for example, as mentors. For example, with over 22 years in business, Saidu Basharu has mentored a number of young entrepreneurs through GSEA (Global Student Entrepreneurs Award) that is organised yearly by an organisation he belongs to. Similarly, Uche Okoli is also keen on empowering the youth and when she started her online radio station, Reel Radio, she mentored numerous young men and women who have now gone on to do really well in broadcasting. Emeka Mba also mentors young people in the media, entertainment and technology space by providing career guidance and networking opportunities, as well as teaching engagements.

Who came up with the idea of producing this show? Does it have anything to do with the definition in the legal practice of defending a person or a group?
Ekene: One of our senior producers came up with the idea of a discussion programme that would be table-shaking. Our MD, Kayode Akintemi, brought me in to produce it. I named it The Advocates because it brought to my mind a team of people passionate about driving societal change through open dialogue – essentially advocacy. Yes, any connections to legal practice wouldn’t hurt our brand, so why not?

When did the first episode of The Advocate air, and how long was the process before the launch? Has it been challenging, and have you had any support?
Uche: The first episode aired on Sunday, January 13, 2019. Prior to the launch, we recorded two pilot episodes in November and December 2018. The process has been very enjoyable. One challenging aspect is the responsibility of remaining steadfast and bold in speaking truth to authority and our audience, regardless of any negative consequences. Though we have a very supportive team, and our individual backgrounds have more or less prepared us for this role.

“The Advocate” is a very bold – and wide – title for a show in Nigeria. Have you been told that perhaps you’ve raised the bar pretty high, that eventually you’ll run out of subjects, causes and issues to debate?
Emeka: Every new day, something happens within the public space that raises public interest concerns. From traffic, politics, the economy, security, global affairs, etc., therefore it is practically impossible for Advocates to run out of issues or subjects for debate.

Advocacy has been defined as “public support for, or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.” If you could only choose three, please can each of you name the most important things you would advocate for?
Ekene Ezeji: The most important things I advocate for are: Individual or personal reformation; the welfare of children; and paving the way for people with disabilities in society – essentially inclusivity. I strive to be a voice for the voiceless in these areas. As a driver of empowerment for the weak and a guardian angel for all that is good for the welfare of society amidst the clamour of injustice and the hustle of the survival of the fittest. No one should be left behind.

Chuka Ihonor:  Sickle-Cell. The management of it, early detection of it by clinics nationwide so that even the rural/poor/uneducated are reached; Rape. Greater punitive sentences, better sex education; and Design/Architecture. The products of design mark time. They are the best-kept representations of time. We need to accord them greater respect and funding.

Uche Okoli: I advocate mostly for freedom of speech and expression. Truth and issues that affect the family. These are the building blocks for any society and must be protected at all costs! As our world becomes more politically correct, such rights are being eroded, and society is becoming increasingly fractured.

Ekene Ezeji

Emeka Mba: Perhaps because of my own lived experience, I tend to gravitate towards issues that revolve around the social-cultural space. From the media and the arts, to how government policies impact on the growth of that sector, as well as how that sector reflects on how we see ourselves. Being an advocate for something you believe in is a privilege, to be able to present arguments in support of public causes in a nuanced and reflective manner with measured arguments (in support of or against a cause) – is even more important in a world now suffocating from information overload.

Saidu Basharu: The most important things I advocate for are: Family built on strong values as the bedrock of any successful nation; Leaving behind a good legacy (how we do wish to be remembered after we are long gone?); and Good governance based on fairness and equity.

Do you feel that Nigeria, traditionally, has shied away from discussing and addressing certain issues in the public arena?
Saidu: Nigerians traditionally shy away from discussing certain issues due to a number of reasons: Cultural beliefs; Religion, and they feel that their contributions do not count anyway. As an Advocate, I believe I can position myself as a voice for the voiceless and mostly speak for those who will probably never be heard.

Do you feel there is a shift happening? And why?
Chuka: There is a great shift already well underway here with regard to advocacy. It’s a global thing really. While there are problems of a clash between our own ways and the incursive Westernisation, it is pertinent to note that civilisations do not standstill. They change, adapt and absorb from others.

You all come from diverse backgrounds of disciplines. Please share, in turn, what you would like to bring to the table.

Ekene Ezeji: Perhaps encouraging the notion of tolerance, even in the midst of strong polarised positions on an issue.

Chuka Ihonor: I would like to think that I am fearless but reasonable in criticism and advocacy. No one who has a responsibility should live above criticism or the law. They should not be above learning from good and intelligent teaching/advocacy.

Chuka Ihonor

Uche Okoli: I have a young son and I’m concerned we are becoming increasingly morally bankrupt as a society. I hope to bring boldness and truth to the table; drawing attention and proffering solutions to those areas that will affect the future of our youth and society.

Emeka Mba: The beauty of The Advocates is that we all come from different backgrounds, a healthy mix of interests and experiences with a passion for the public good. My remit is bringing my public sector experience to exploring how policies or the lack of them can help or hinder developments

Saidu Basharu: My contribution will be mostly my shared experience and my honest opinion on matters that I have some knowledge, such as on the state of the country. I advocate for solutions at the level of the family. Intentional and purposeful parenting cannot be over-emphasised.

Conclusion
Chuka Ihonor believes that Nigeria is badly in need of redirection and advocates for the reorientation of values. This is a task for all. For parents in families, teachers in schools, friends in groups and the government of the day. It is about setting all on a straight path of good and righteousness. To trumpet the achievements of those who are good leaders and mentors – good people. This is not the same as legal advocacy where technicalities may get an offender off the hook. Here, the results are always good. It’s a win-win situation.

The YouTube channel for The Advocate by Plus TV Africa can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdktBXx3RdMrxvJK7RErBQfgOiJutcpGr


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