Arts and CultureCelebrity

We are bringing a lot of countries together to celebrate Goge Africa @25 – Isaac & Nneka Moses

Tourism is one untapped sector of the Nigerian economy. Isaac and Nneka Moses have toured a lot of African countries with their syndicated TV programme Goge Africa, showcasing the rich tourist sites and cultural values of some of these African nations including Nigeria. Come October this year, Goge Africa will be 25, a milestone they hope to celebrate in grand style.

in this exclusive interview, Orji Onyekwere speaks to the duo on their illustrious career and the activities lined up for their silver anniversary celebration.

Q. Let’s look at the other programmes you have for the 25th anniversary.

R.The inaugural event of the 25th anniversary took place on March 3, which is the Face of Goge Africa, FOGA. This took place at the Muri Okunola park in Victoria Island, Lagos and we had five winners, five ambassadors of Goge Africa.
The whole idea was to empower youths between the ages of 18 and 35 which we succeeded in doing because some of them won trips to the Gambia. Another won an all expenses paid trip on Royal Carribean Cruise line, which is the world’s most successful cruise liner. Another won an all expenses trip to London fashion week in London. The Liberian won a prize, one won a cash prize of ₦500,000 courtesy the Goge Africa foundation. That was just inaugural.
We are 25 years in October because Goge Africa debuted on TV on 1st October 1999, that is when we will be 25. We will have Goge Africa awards which will be coming up in between, we are looking at that happening in August. We are looking at honouring some bloggers across Africa, those who have contributed to the development of tourism in Africa through their work. Quite a number of things we have lined up but the major things is the Goge Africa festival.
We are inviting a lot of the countries we have visited and a lot of the cultures we have interacted with. There is going to be soup, fashion and dance competition and we tagged it a symphony of culture. It’s going to hold at the Onikan stadium because the event we had in March turned out so successful and we decided we need a bigger space. It was at Muri Okunola park, but we now decided to use a bigger space. It’s going to be a one week event because we’re going to have a novelty match between Nollywood’ practitioners and tourism practitioners and we also have bikers parade. The main event is 26 and 27.

Q.Take us into your your proposed cruise to Bahamas in November
The Bahamas tour is a cruise because this is our 25th anniversary. The cruise to Bahamas starts from the USA, abode a Luxury Cruise ship which is coming up from the 3rd – 10th of November and this is part of our celebratory activities. We have an event in October which is called the Goge Africa festival and after the festival, we will go on a cruise as we try to bring Africa to the Bahamas. That’s the whole idea.

Q. You started off in 1999 by promoting local musicians and have to via off to tourism. Why did you eventually ventured into tourism promotion ?
We didn’t start out intentionally to promote tourism. It was about music and culture and then, we ventured into other countries to bring their culture to our people because the intention was when Africans get to understand each other’s culture there will be more mutual respect. The problem is that we really don’t know much about each other, that’s why you have unhealthy rivalry among the African states and if you look at the amount of business conducted among African countries, its low because we’ve not understood each other much. That’s the essence of Goge Africa bringing different cultures on our TVs’ and syndicating them across Africa and you get to see the symphony of culture.
So in the process, we started getting emails, ‘oh, I saw you in that country and we will like to visit the country, how is the visa, is it expensive, how much will it take to travel to such country’ ? And it became the order. We visited Egypt and somebody said, ‘oh, so that country is in Africa, I will like to visit it, is it visa on arrival? That’s how we started infusing tourism into our programme and it became deliberate. We will come to a country and we will like to expose the tourism potential since people were becoming interested.
We started consulting for people. Then HP sent us an email that they will like to go on a retreat, that we should suggest any country they can have a retreat and we should go ahead and package it for them. We did the first one for them in Benin Republic and another one in Sao Tome and Principe.
We gradually became tourism monarchs, people will call, to ask about places and how we can package it for them. My wife and I became tourism consultants and we started infusing tourism into our programme. Other countries started inviting us to come and expose and project their tourism because Nigerian is a country that people have a lot of disposable income. Nigerians travel a lot and they are about the most travelling country in Africa. So every country wants to come and pitch their country to Nigerian and they started using us as the mouthpiece and consultant. Some of these countries want us to expose their country to Nigerians who may want to visit.
So the idea is that we want Africans to visit each other. If Africans visit themselves they will have enough arrivals to match the tourism receipt of the Europeans but not knowing enough about your continent will only make you go to places you only know. When we started Goge Africa, we said we have to put the spotlight on our culture, fashion and the people because America is so popular in Africa and everybody’s dream is to visit there or other European countries and we thought what of our own continent? There was not enough TV programmes to project the virtues of Africa, so Goge Africa came in to fill the gap.

Q. Is there any country you wished to visit that you have not visited. How do you want to project our culture to such country?
Goge Africa is a syndicated programme and everybody is going digital, but the intention is to keep scaling the production levels of Goge Africa so that we can meet up with the dynamics. We syndicate to other TV stations around the world so that these people will get to know more about Africa from the contents we put out. It’s a lot easier when we put it on YouTube and everybody can watch. But we still need to travel to different parts of Africa because culture is evolving.
There are places we have visited more than once. The first time we visited Ethiopia, it was not as developed as it is the second time we visited.and we need to keep exposing new development in Africa, new travel trend. We are not going to be left behind.
Goge Africa is old school and we did not migrate to digital media early but we will get there.

We have a lot of undiscovered tourist sites here, why are they not yet untapped?
Tourism is a function of mainly private sector but the government needs to create enabling environment and this means developing infrastructure, making sure everywhere is secured and clean. These things make tourism to thrive especially when the environment is safe, secured and clean. One of the biggest onus of government is to put out tourism marketing communication like, promo, ‘visit Malaysia’, and these things will begin to play in the mindset of the people, but it cost a lot to put it in the international media.

Q. Why do you not have the NOA and Ministry of Culture ?
I want to believe it’s because they are overwhelmed and have little funding but that’s what they’re supposed to do. I don’t want to be in the shoes of the government
Again, maybe the government have not really realised the immense importance of tourism because their attention is still not on tourism but oil. Tourism money starts first from the grassroots and government gets their shares from the taxes. If they don’t create an enabling environment they will not be able to get their taxes. With a lot of tourism attraction properly developed, the country will be a destination point.
Domestic tourism is what dovetails into international arrivals. When we develop our tourism you will want to go to Adamawa, the museum in Kebbi. The man who lives in Enugu may not have been to Kebbi and he sees the whole north as unsafe, he’s a bit scared but it’s not true because you have people living there. If these places are developed and people visit, the food seller, water seller and other memorabilia sellers will make money. There are memorabilia which people buy and keep safe. If you don’t develop your attraction to make people come there and spend their money, your economy will not grow .
Somebody comes in with a thousand dollars and he spends on 980 dollars and goes back with the balance. But I can tell you that in developed countries, they make sure you don’t go back with the money because there’s a lot to buy. That’s why their Tourism projection for 2024 is over 5.8 trillion dollars . It’s a lot of money. Look at Europe getting a big chunk of tourism spent. China is getting in the mix. What of America and South America, they are getting a good chunk but look at Africa, what they are getting is not upto. What Morocco, South Africa, Seychelles, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana,are getting are quite negligible but West Africa is worse because it’s so expensive.
We did our best to see if we can throw the spotlight on some of the challenges we were experiencing especially in West Africa. Flight from here to Senegal or Gambia is something else. For you to go to Gambia and back, a four hour flight, you will be spending almost ₦1.5m We are talking about cost that’s what the average tourists will check, the cost advantage and implications aside from the safety. That’s why Africa and West Africa, considering what they have are not getting anything for what they have.

Q. You have travelled far and wide, is there any particular people you are fascinated about their culture and would want to go back again?
Quite a number of them. I recall our visit to Ethiopia, the people are not as rich and flamboyant as Nigerians but they have pride. They love their country. We visited Ethiopia the first time through a young man who sent us an email that he sees a lot of other countries on our show because Goge Africa was showing in Ethiopia but we have not promoted Ethiopia. It’s the only country that is not colonised, so you need to come and see the rich culture and coffee which originated from Ethiopia. But I told him that it’s capital intensive for us and he asked us what we needed. We told him we need flight ticket, hotel, a car to move us around and he said it’s done.
There’s this festival in their country called Tim Kat in January, he asked us to go to Ethiopian airline and give them the list of our crew members and they will give us the ticket and they already have a hotel booked down for us when we land in Ethiopia and I will release my car to take you around. We could not say no to that, getting to Ethiopia and experiencing the festival .
The Tim Kat or epiphany is a religious festival but huge. Ethiopia is over 80 million people. They are not as rich as Nigerians but you don’t find them begging in the airport or make you give them money even when you feel satisfied and want to give them something they will say no. They respect their laws and don’t like anybody breaking their rules. They make sure you enjoy the festival and you are their priority. They feed you injera which is part of their staple food which they eat with meat.

I also like the Gambia because we went there at the instance of the President Yaya Jammeh. We were his guests and they took us around Kanilai which is the festival we came for that had over 16 countries from Africa. Jammeh sat in the the field, he did not leave because when the president leaves, his entourage leaves and because the president is seated nobody will leave. The festival was there so the president, including the ambassadors and other guests were there.
We were standing in the middle of the field and from where he was seating, he noticed we were standing and he asked them to go and get us a seat.
I also like the Carribean, Barbados and Jamaica. These Carribean countries welcomed us well but they felt that if Africa really love them, there should be a direct flight to the Carribean, not going through America or Europe before connecting to Africa and it’s expensive. Air Peace is trying to get a connecting flight to Antigua and I believe that with time there will be direct flight because it’s just six hours. African is unique.
The other place their culture is rich is the francophone African countries though we don’t mix much with them because they speak French. Our interactions is limited. Outside that I love every part of Africa I have visited for their unique culture and food.

Q. Which African food did you taste and you loved and which one didn’t you like?
When Ethiopian considers you a special guest, they will prepare a meal called Kitfo, it’s raw meat spice. They made it and brought it and when I found out it was raw meat, I declined it with respect. But Nneka said no, they have taken much time to prepare this, why should we decline and she ate it
Nneka: I ate it, you will not know it’s raw meat because they spiced it very well. It’s a special food and significant because those days when their warriors go into the bush, they stay for weeks and months and each time they light fire to cook they will expose their hideout and the enemy will attack them.
Over time they developed that technique to eat the meat raw.and spice it enough, with that they are able to sustain themselves in the bush for a long time.

Q. In all your journeys, did you encounter any hostility?
With all due respect, French countries have a way of being hostile to you when you don’t speak their language. I recall on World Music Day, we were in Paris to interview , Manu Dibango, he is late now. Because we could not speak French, members of his team said he should not grant us any interview, he should not try speaking English with us because they don’t understand why we will come all the way from Nigeria to force them to speak English in their own country. The leader of the band said he will leave this band if Manu Dibango grants us interview in English
Nneka– You ought to understand that the French when they come here, they make effort to speak English no matter how bad it sounds and when they are not doing that they try to communicate in our local language. But Anglophone Africans starting from Nigeria, we are a bit pompous, we go there and expect they should speak English. I like what the guys did. It made me to make an attempt and when I did, he started laughing and said since I have made s little effort. They all spoke English and granted us the interview!
I don’t think that is hostile but where I see a lot of hostility is at the borders, when you cross Africa borders especially when you’re traveling by road. We enjoy some leverage when we pass the Nigerian border at Seme here because they at the Nigerian side, know us very well and most times we are friends of theirs bosses. From the French side, sometimes they recognise us.
Can you imagine that just a letter from a musician is respected as if a head of state gave you a passage. There was a time we had a letter from Nel Oliver. We went to see Nel Oliver in Benin and we told him the challenges we faced at the border. He then gave us a letter as we were coming back, which we presented at the border and when we showed them they said these are friends of Nel Oliver and even took pictures with us and ushered us to the Nigerian side.
But we did not enjoy this reception in Togo or Ghana or Cote de Voire, once your travel documents are complete and you have paid, they will let you go. There are hostilities but it’s around the borders. in communities sometimes you can get hostilities within Nigeria.
I remembered our visit to Bonny Island, it was a peaceful journey. The king, the Amayanabo of Bonny, very nice but they have rules that an unsuspecting tourist will never know except you are told or you see a sign post. The thing that most Africa communities lack is appropriate sign post to keep the travellers safe.
There is what they call Ikuba square in Bonny Island, where the king is coronated and where he addresses the people. There’s no sign post to indicate what that place is for. Some guys went there and took pictures, I went there to take pictures and the community arrested me. It took the intervention of the king and our host NLNG to get me off the hook. Our tour guide was busy explaining some things to another set of people that was when I called my photography to take my pictures because I always like to take pictures everywhere I go. They knew Goge Africa but I have gone against the rules. Imagine if it was a total stranger? But Bonny people are friendly and loving and I was forgiven.
In Nigeria and other Africa countries there’s this gender sensitive to our culture. For instance, there are some masquerades a woman cannot see or cross it’s part. In the Gambia, there were some masquerades that came to entertain his excellency for some time. Because I was also a camera person on the trip, when they were playing, I took my camera across them and these are really dangerous masquerades but the journalist in us is quite curious. I did not think, however it took the intervention of the President to ensure I was safe and later my boss went to see them and appeased the Gods.
In the eastern part of the country, there are some masquerades you don’t go near not to talk of taking pictures. Like in Ihiala, their masquerade is not what you should play with, same with Okija or Nnewi. These are some of the few places when you are talking about hostility, you can get some level of hostility.

Q. Are you working towards having a TV station?
Nneka: The future is not setting up a physical structure and filling it with people. Goge Africa is dynamic and we move with the time. The important thing is that we want Goge Africa to be seen not just by Africans but the whole world. If the future is on the digital space that’s where Goge Africa will be, but all those virtual things cannot be compared to the physical.
That’s the reason why my boss decided on the Goge Africa festival. We are now bringing everybody on the same platform physically to appreciate each other ‘s cultures, learn and set the pace for the next generation so that we don’t lose what we have
The other day one of the Senator’s, who is cultural minded, Hon Jeremiah Umaru from Nasarawa State, came on a courtesy visit here. When he was reeling out the names of people coming from Nasarawa for the Goge Africa festival, I was hearing names and cultures I have never heard. Goge Africa has not covered the whole of Nigeria’s ethnic groups . The thing is that when people talk about Nigeria, they think it’s only Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Fulani, there’s so much more that people don’t hear about
What do you know about Edo, the Benin people have rich cultural heritage. At Goge Africa, we try to pull a lot of these people so that you can actually see them physically.
I know you hear a lot about jollof rice competition, it’s not an indigenous food to our people. What we are doing is the soup competition. In your culture, you have your peculiar soup, same with other cultures. There will also be cultural dance competition. The ticket to the venue is for you to dress culturally.You will see different people from different cultures.

Q. You have been married for 27 years, what are the challenges working with your wife?
None. I enjoy working with my wife and wherever we are is home. She knows this man likes to swallow and she tries to make it available where we may not have a plate of swallow. Nigerians and West Africans are the ones who do swallow a lot. I am an open person when it comes to food but some people will get to another country and starting looking for Nigerian restaurant. That’s the idea of visiting another country, to eat their food; try it, you may like it and you will want to bring it back home.
Working together makes me understand her better, it’s not much of a challenge because the objective is the same, we complement each other. In the office we are partners, at home we are husband and wife.
Every idea she brings is for the growth of the company. It doesn’t matter who comes up with a better idea

Nneka: The challenge working with him is the fact that we have all our eggs in one basket and we know that once there is a will to do something, God will provide a way. We put all our eggs in one basket, there are times we could go hungry when we invest everything we have in Goge, his voice over money, acting and the little I made from my fashion career, everything goes into the Goge Africa project.
Sometimes this can be a big challenge. For a lot of couples, money comes from different sources because of their different careers, but for us, this is it.
The other challenge is, initially when we have not conceived; both families were like, ‘instead of staying home to ensure you conceive, you are busy traveling around’ but we had the grace to block the noise and focus on our goal because we know God had plans for us.
He likes to boss me around when we are on set because he is the director. He likes to behave like the MD of a bank. Anything I want, after discussing with my staff he will want me to make a power point presentation to prove that we need to start this project. He will be like, ‘have you done your feasibility study, how much are we investing or expecting .
He is professional, when he is in the office, he forgets that I am his wife and I can’t arm twist him in the office the way I can at home. He always remind me that this the office.

Q. Are you working on any movie that will depict the totality of Nigerian culture ?
Nollywood is doing that but that’s a good suggestion. For now, we have a lot of documentaries that we are pushing out, documentaries that are history based with culture and tourism. Our priority is to do more documentaries and tell the story as it is. We sometimes talk about it that it will be nice to shoot a movie in the nearest future.

Follow us on social media

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button