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My Road to MAMA with Airtel

Each year the MTV Africa Network holds a number of parties dubbed, ‘Road to MAMA’ in selected countries to generate excitement ahead of the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA). This year the parties were held in Tanzania and DR Congo. Last year, I was at the Ghana Road to MAMA in Citizen Kofi but this […]

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Each year the MTV Africa Network holds a number of parties dubbed, ‘Road to MAMA’ in selected countries to generate excitement ahead of the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA). This year the parties were held in Tanzania and DR Congo. Last year, I was at the Ghana Road to MAMA in Citizen Kofi but this year, my Road to MAMA was a very different one that saw me visiting Nigeria for the first time. Yea believe it or not, this was my first time in Nigeria even though I like to call myself West Africa’s Number one Celebrity and Showbiz reporter/blogger’.

As part of a group sponsored by Airtel to attend the MAMA in Lagos, I had to arrive at the Kotoka International Airport by 6 am on Saturday December 11, the day for the ceremony, to catch a flight to Lagos. Needless to say, I was punctual as always. I was excited to find out that I was going on the trip with some friends in the media in addition to a bunch of people whom at that time were just strangers to me.  These strangers were subscribers of Airtel who had won a draw to attend the awards in Nigeria.

After going through some checks we made our way to Boarding Gate 2 to board our Air Nigeria flight. I soon found out that the airline hardly flies on time, and the workers at the airport are so used to the name Virgin Nigeria that they still refer to the airline as such! Anyway, our flight already had some passengers from Banjul in transit waiting for us to join them to Lagos. I was seated in between two such passengers and so I hardly made any conversation till we arrived at the Murtala Muhammed Airport after some 45 minutes or so.

We were met on arrival at the airport by our chaperon, who led us into a bus that was assigned to us for the entire trip.  On the bus, I got to interact more with the group and appreciated the dynamics even more. Every member of the group that I spoke with had a different story to tell about how he or she won a golden ticket to the MAMA.  From people who had little to no idea about what they were texting in for, to those who just wanted to give it a try just for the fun of it, none of them really expected to be a winner.  Some texted in just once and others up to 15 times; and they did so from different parts of the country. From the young to the old, from male to female, including even a Gabonese resident in Ghana, the selection was as diverse as possible but no matter their backgrounds, $500 spending money for day and a chance to see the best of African and international stars on one stage was a good enough a reward for anyone.

I was particularly happy to feel the optimism and support of the group towards Sarkodie’s bid for the Best Anglophone award at the MAMA. After all, they were on the trip because each one of them had voted for Sarkodie to win; it was only natural for them to wish the rapper well. Another thing that I observed was the group’s faith in Airtel. They had a lot of good things to say about the telecommunication company being a truthful company unlike some of the other competitors. Although none of them was clear about having any bad experience with the promotions ran by the other networks, most were of the opinion that if it was a promotion from the other telecoms it would have been a hoax and they wouldn’t have been selected.

In fact most of them thought it was a hoax or a prank when they received a call from Airtel about their winnings. Some of them had not fully digested the name change from Zain to Airtel so they were like: “Huh, Airtel who?” The oldest man on the trip told me that he told the Airtel officials that he wasn’t interested at all about travelling the first time he received the call. But after some friends and family told him to grab the opportunity to fly in an airplane for the first time, he changed his mind the next time he received a call from the mobile network.

By the time we got to Victoria Island from the airport, we had become like a family and I started referring to the group as Team Ghana! We stopped over at a restaurant called ‘The Place’ which according to our chauffeur was the best restaurant in town, however after tasting their food; I am convinced that she was joking.  Huh, these Nigerians, they all got jokes! It was amazing to observe that Nigerians eat a lot of homegrown food but I wasn’t used to the taste of the local rice so perhaps that put a bad taste in my mouth and so I wasn’t able to finish my plate.

When we arrived in Victoria Island, most of us were tired and wanted to rest before the main event but we didn’t have that luxury as we were rather sent to the Palms, a shopping mall on the island. It wasn’t any different from the Accra Mall, perhaps a little bigger but the shops and the layout were very similar to what we have back home. On our way to the Palms we saw ongoing preparations at the Eko Suites Hotel, venue for the MAMA and that psyched me up even more for the even!

At the Palms, the group had the chance to bowl and shoot some pool but most of them went around the mall with some grabbing a few items to take back home. Finally, it was time to head to our hotel rooms at the Eko Suite Hotel and Sheraton Four Points for some little rest before heading out to the ceremony.  Sadly the rest I so needed didn’t come because we were told to get be ready for dinner within a short while.  And of course after travelling around all morning I had to get on Twitter and Facebook to tell people about my trip; I had to let the whole world know that I was chilling in a comfy suite at the Sheraton. I kid you not!

Anyway, I freshened up and got down to join the rest of the group at the Lounge waiting for dinner and our passes to the MAMA. Finally dinner came in the form of KFC and after grabbing my VIP Yellow ticket and my KFC pack, it was away to the Eko Expo Hall! At the venue, the Airtel winners were taken to the general standing area and so I didn’t see much of them during the show.  But the pictures I saw afterwards indicated that they had a blast as well. As for me and the other media guys, we hanged out in the VIP area, one section away from the artists including T-Pain, Rick Ross and others.

As the ceremony unfolded, I wanted so badly to update my friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook on the proceedings but my phone battery was simply dead.  Thank goodness I didn’t have to pull out my old Nokia N73 to tweet when I was surrounded by BlackBerry phones. So instead I just enjoyed the show taking down notes, while Graphic Showbiz columnist, Francis Doku did all the live updates. When Sarkodie’s category came up, I got excited and screamed out his name rather uncharacteristically as if my screaming would make him win but sadly it wasn’t to be. Daddy Owen from Kenya won the award and for some reason I was happy that it didn’t go to Wande Coal, haha!  Anyway, when Sarkodie came on stage to perform with Chuck D (Public Enemy) and Mo Cheddah, I went hyper again – still very uncharacteristically but I guess I was in another man’s country so I could be somebody that I’m not.

After the awards, I linked up with a Nigerian friend to catch some extra fun before retiring to bed. We went from one club to the other but all the clubs had long queues forming outside and so I didn’t want to wait in line, after all me too I am somebody! We even went to Rehab, and if I had stayed a while longer I may have witnessed the fight that broke out between Nigerian rapper Ikechukwu and the bouncers. But I was too tired so I put up the killjoy cap and went to my hotel room to finally get some rest.

With yet another early morning flight back home, I was up by 6 am (Nigerian time) because our bus was scheduled to pick us up by 8. I had a shower, dressed up for a continental buffet breakfast before checking out of my adorable suite.  We assembled at the lobby and headed to the airport as I caught my last glimpse of a city that I’m sure to visit again soon. After checking in at the airport rather swiftly, it was back to home sweet home.

I certainly enjoyed the trip although I wish it was for a longer period and on a less stressful schedule. I can’t wait for the 2011 MAMA – hint, hint, Airtel!

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