Now, Nwankwo Kanu must go green! -By Greg Odogwu

Filed under: Life And People |



I must confess that I gleefully grinned from ear to ear when I watched on TV as officials of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency sealed the gates and doors of a hotel reportedly owned by a former Super Eagles’ captain, Nwankwo Kanu, for environmental pollution. The hotel’s giant generators, it was reported, used to give off monumental quantum of carbon monoxide through their exhaust pipes, and in this way caused both noise pollution and air pollution in the vicinity.

Truly, just like going for the big fish in the fight against corruption, this is a good way to fight environmental malpractice. Therefore, LASEPA must not relent to go for the jugular of other top shots – especially politicians and Nigerians in positions of authority – whose business concerns are daily polluting the environment; and who because of their status in society, go about this with impunity.

But there is yet a better way to look at Kanu’s hotel predicament: Which is that, whereas Nigeria’s environmental sector has yet to gain the required traction and national goodwill because our celebrities have not publicly declared for the environment, Kanu can turn the table around.

In fact, most of our celebrities, starting from the stand-up comedian to the Nollywood darling, seem not to understand the issue, and how they can even leverage on its publicity mileage in advancing their careers. I can bet that if they knew, by now the whole public space would be filled with one “go green” publicity stunt or the other. Nigeria’s entertainment/social arena basically thrives on a bandwagon principle. If a Tuface made a new style trend today, one other Tuface-wannabe would take it to another ludicrous level the next day; and then another comedian would make some new money out of the whole confusion. Trust Naija!
This is why sealing Kanu’s hotel could be an “accidental” smart move to make Nigeria go green. The ball is now in Kanu’s court; and history beckons once more. He could become the first Nigerian celebrity to stand up and be counted among the green. If, for instance, he transforms his guesthouse into the first green hotel in Nigeria, we can only watch how others will scramble to emulate him. And, because of the goodwill he enjoys among the vast football-loving populace, if he raises his voice in support of the environment, people will listen. In this way, the humiliation he suffered by having his hotel closed shall turn around to become messianic, as his pains will become the gains of Nigerians. Just like the gains of many compatriots from the pains Kanu suffered from the heart disease that threatened his career long ago.

There is something angelic about Kanu. He made his name as one of the most celebrated footballers that Nigeria ever produced, but became a specialised philanthropist when he founded the Kanu Heart Foundation after undergoing a successful heart procedure at a critical stage of his career. Today, with the primary aim of “putting back smiles to the faces of Nigerians and Africa’s Blue Children/Young Adults who suffer from various heart defects”, the organisation has metamorphosed into a colossus with great achievements both in local and international circles.

So, Lagos, and indeed Nigeria, need celebrities like Kanu to take the lead in the fight against environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change. Environmentally speaking, we have had it up to here!

It was reported that Kanu’s hotel, located on the high brow Victoria Island was among many other hotels, churches and mosques sealed across the state over allegations of air and noise pollution. Needless to say, in these modern times, a highly populated city like Lagos cannot sustain its development and growth without adopting green strategies and lifestyles in key sectors. Modern times demand eco-consciousness.

The developed world has deployed this celebrity strategy in gently, but firmly, herding its citizenry into the eco-train. Globally, celebrities have always had their pet causes, but none has received more star support in the past few years than the green movement. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood have gone crazy for hybrid cars, organic food, and eco-friendly fashion, and in the process, they have helped bring sustainable and green lifestyle choices to light. Some of such celebs include Brad Pitt, Daryl Hannah, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ed Begley, Jr., Ben Harper and Jack Johnson, Cameron Diaz, Ed Norton, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Adrian Grenier.

The actor, Brad Pitt, declared for the environment in 2004 by purchasing hybrid cars and calling for energy independence, and then later made the biggest green mark on the world of green building and sustainable design through his support for the rebuilding projects in New Orleans, USA. Pitt also hosted a public broadcasting series on green design, helped design a green hotel in Dubai and purchased an eco-friendly winery with his wife, Angelina Jolie.

Ed Begley, Jr. has a whole TV show dedicated to his green life, entitled, “Living with Ed.” He took his home off grid using solar panels and wind power, and riding his bike all over Los Angeles, and grows his own food; then cooks it with a solar oven, and also amazingly created a line of non-toxic green cleaners. Daryl Hannah is another passionate activist and proponent for sustainable fuels and transport. Recently, she picked up an El Camino luxury car and converted it to run on biodiesel, saying, “My car loves to drink vegetable oil, especially if it’s from waste. I only use sustainably-sourced biodiesel.”

Leonardo DiCaprio, known as “patron saint for green celebs” is a passionate, committed, educated environmental activist, with worthwhile green accomplishments too numerous to list – from global warming documentaries to green charities to producing Greensburg for Planet Green and starring in films condemning conflict diamonds.

Perhaps, Ed Norton’s project is the most captivating because of its sentimental, bandwagon effect. In 2003, he helped create the BP Solar Neighbours Programme. This is how it works: Each time a celebrity has a solar electricity system installed on their house, BP donates a system to low-income family. Norton was the first to do it; it was reported that he thought it up when having solar installed on his home, and has convinced other big names like Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks, and the late Robin Williams, to do it.

Interestingly, some of these eco-celebs are thinking of Africa. Matt Damon co-founded the H20 Africa Project to raise money and shine a spotlight on the need for clean drinking water in the poorest regions in Africa. Research has shown that 80 per cent of all illnesses, diseases and premature deaths in developing countries are the result of poor or lack of drinking water.

But among these Africa-loving celebrities, the one that should really ignite our pride the most is our own Akon, the Senegalese-American musician and producer. His Akon Lighting Africa project is as revolutionary as it is humbling. The social media recently went agog when the celeb launched a new “Solar Academy” in Africa as part of this initiative, which aims to provide electricity to 600 million people across the continent. The academy is set to open in Bamako, the capital of Mali, this summer, and will teach African engineers and entrepreneurs how to produce solar power. This is why, when I read a media report that Akon visited Nigeria a couple of days ago, I earnestly prayed that among the business ideas he discussed with his Nigerian celebrity friends, should be a partnership deal for them to join his “green wagon”.

Our own Papilo, as Kanu is called, can turn his “green pains”, following the closure of his hotel, into gain by joining the global go-green movement for environmental sustainability.