Why the culture factor matters in creating a meaningful political awareness

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By Taiwo Ajai-Lycett

NICCOLO Machiavelli, the master political tactician, long before our own military Maradona, and home grown evil genius, IBB, said, “It should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult to arrange, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes. The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new. Their support is lukewarm… partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience.” 

Dame Taiwo Ajai-Lycett


Entertainment in Political ActivismAbstract:


Political Activism has been around for a long time. There are tried and trusted teaching and education techniques, based on traditional pedagogy, which have worked, and continue to work, in improving the political awareness of individuals and communities. Times are changing though, and with the information revolution and social media domination, political education needs to work that little bit harder to make its presence felt. Who knows where this current revolution will lead us and how much content we will continue to generate. For social activists, this presents an exciting and interesting challenge, where it is time to hold on to our Civil rights, heritage, and sanity, whilst embracing the need to change, and to get creative.
In her Friday keynote address on ‘A Fork in The Road,’ Ayisha Osori, admonished us to re-envision our political landscape.  It’s a challenging goal. We must accept the challenge! Evidently, action is the foundational key to all success. As Roy T. Bennett said, “Life is about accepting the challenges along the way, choosing to keep moving forward, and savoring the journey.”  
As we stand at this ‘Oritameta,’ this ‘Fork in the Road,’ may we, as a people, learn to avoid the roads littered with, according to Mahatma Gandhi, The Seven Sins:


“Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character.Commerce without morality.Science without humanity.Religion without sacrifice.Politics without principle.”
But with discernment and resolve, follow that road less travelled, mobilising and galvanising our exploited masses to recognise their best interests by embracing real political awareness leading to the ability to make more savvy, informed, better choices, than the cynical, morally bankrupt stomach infrastructure politics.
It really is true. There is no business like show business, or perhaps in a world now over-run with content, there is no business without show business. For those of us that work in the creative industries, times have changed and using the power of engagement to get our message to land is key. The things that once worked for us have to be revisited and reinvented with a little bit of entertainment magic. 
Actually, it isn’t really about entertainment – it’s all about engagement! Engagement and enthusiasm.


So, what does engagement theory tell us? There are many complex engagement models and frameworks, but I like this simple equation:
expectation + experience = engagement
If we can anticipate what people want, and then give them an experience that makes them feel good, then we’re in the right place to create real engagement with our topic.
What we are actually talking about here is how to motivate and galvanise people to do something; and, in the case of motivational political education, that means moving people towards awareness, understanding and a change of behaviour. As entertainers, creatives, and educators, our goal is always to create the right outcome.
For this to happen, the challenge we have to overcome is the wealth of content available today. It feels like freedom of choice, but it has created a huge wall of noise that we have to work harder to break through. This is where the entertainment factor comes in. We’re looking to create enthusiasm – and when engagement really works – a ‘buzz’ where people want to tell and share with others too.


Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Einstein said it first. Think about what captures your imagination. Which popular culture references do you know so well that recognising them is effortless? How do you respond to comforting images from your childhood? What makes you laugh? What stirs your emotions? What allows you to step outside of the real world? What matters to you in your daily role?
In political awareness and engagement education, different engagement techniques have been used over the years. Different things work for different audiences, so although we can apply some basic principles, it’s important to know your audience and tailor your education to suit.
Four examples of engagement techniques to get the attention of your target audiences come to mind.  
ADVERTISERS AND PROMOTERS HAVE KNOWN FOR DECADES THAT GENERATING EMOTION IS KEY TO ENGAGEMENT.
POLITICIANS’ PROMOTIONAL EXPERTS RECOGNISE AND USE THESE TECHNIQUES TOO.
Three-steps to the successful political education of the electorate:
Over the years, having observed and worked across many communication, marketing, learning and education roles, I have settled on a simple three-step approach to designing engaging political education.
Step one: Create a universally recognised format.


A well-known format will give your message room to breathe, as your audience doesn’t have to put in extra effort to understand a new concept. Plus, with something familiar (which stirs the right emotions) you are more likely to be noticed.
Step two: Capture your audience’s attention
Use different media, make sure your images have impact, use compelling copy, invite involvement and tie everything together to make it an enjoyable (and entertaining) experience for people.
Step three: Deliver high-quality education (switch on the mental lightbulb!)
Steps one and two are the showbiz glitter, but it’s the backstage production that makes the show a success. There’s a need to be clever with our concept, but, equally, we must be knowledgeable about the evidence base, and confident in the educational content.


Putting the theory into practice:
One example of how we can bring  these three elements together to create a political awareness education programme is the:
Pick of the CONSCIENTIOUS/PATRIOTIC/VISIONARY LEADER PROMOTION CAMPAIGN.
A selection of leaders of vision and their social, educational, health, agricultural, industrial – the  promotion and judicial use of our national resources from the Pick of Past Leaders – local and national.
Pick of the Leaders, a Top 10 video countdown will be devoted to ten politicians that have made real impact on our lives, and that continue to share our world (and our fate). The campaign will use engaging, entertaining education, to raise awareness of the facts about common political adventures, and shenanigans, from the last decade.
For step one, let us choose the well-known ‘Top 10’ countdown format used in pop charts around the world. Something that I imagine, everyone should recognise instantly.


For step two, for visual impact, there will be designed album covers with parodied song lyrics for YouTube videos, invited participation and involvement, and co-ordinating everything across web and social media platforms.
For step three, the campaign would partner with some high profile, manifestly renowned entertainers, high octane authors, and advocates for the power of entertainment in our cultural life; in addition to using qualified journalists, writers, poets, artists from all creative dimensions – producers, directors, and civil liberties activists, to review the content.
Pick of the CONSCIENTIOUS PATRIOTIC POLITICIANS will be open to all. Everyday is our opportunity  to get things right. It’s easy to be ignored or overlooked in our content-rich world, but by conjuring up a little show business we can sparkle a bit and hopefully stand out from the crowd. We have to be so good, they can’t ignore us.
John Ruskin said: “What we think, or what we know, or what we believe, is in the end, of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do.” And what we do is show business. For there is no business without show business!
Consider this trivia: Once upon a time, these “wise guys” so cocksure of themselves, forgetting that the future was yet to come, and that if you can think it, you can do it, made these, now unbelievably arrogant assertions:
“Everything that can be invented, has been invented.” – Charles H. Duell – 1899“The aeroplane will never fly.” – Lord Haldane 1907“There’s a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson – 1943
Crazy, right? We all agree. The world has come a long way and is now at the cusp of the wonderful era of Artificial Intelligence (AI) takeover! It’s already here!


Finally, don’t let’s despair. Don’t let’s give up on Nigeria. Remember, always that there is no business without show business!!!
Thank you for your time.

* Dame Ajai-Lycett (OON, FSONTA, FUTA) is a matriarch of stage and silver screen
November 21, 2021

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