Blacknights’ Independence extravaganza also attracts numerous celebrities, such as John Fashanu, Kele Le Roc, Tremaine Gidigbi (Chucky from “Footballers Wives”), Antoinette Williams (“Make Me A Supermodel”), Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal FC), Richard Blackwood, Mica Paris, Trisha, Brian B (“The Bill”), Ashley Cole, Rowetta (“X Factor”), Nadia (“Big Brother”), Ricardo (“The Saloon”) as well as Page 3 girls such as Leilani Dowling.
Taking place during October’s Black History Month, the event celebrates the freedom and liberation of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, who gained independence from Great Britain on 1 October 1960. In the UK there are now around 3 million Nigerians and after Asians, Nigerians are one of the largest ethnic group in UK.
About the need and relevance of the event to Nigerians in the UK Dutch, founding member and head of Blacknights, says: “Nigeria is a beautiful nation but just like all nations there is good and bad – however, most of the time all you hear about Nigeria is corruption, ethnic and religious violence, kidnapping and other negativity. But there are also so many positive things about Nigeria: real estate, beautiful beaches, investments and also Nigeria boasts the second largest shopping complex in Africa (after South Africa) and the development of tourism is being worked on extensively right now. It is especially important for young UK-born Nigerians and Nigerians that have assimilated into the UK culture, to see that Nigeria has a rich heritage and culture that should be celebrated and that one can be proud of.” Tunde Babalola of Blacknights adds: “A lot of young UK-born Nigerians have in the past refused to be associated with their roots because of the negativity and the fact it was seen as “not cool” to be Nigerian. A lot of our younger clientele would have never been caught dead in traditional African outfits, but now you can see them at least once a year proudly coming out in full African attire and they even get their non-Nigerian friend to come and celebrate with them.”
Long established as part of the event is the final of Mr Nigeria UK where ten male contestants will be competing for the title of Mr Nigeria UK 2006 with celebrity judges including Antonia Okonma (‘Darlene’ in ITV’s “Bad Girls” drama), Janet Gabriel (former Miss Nigeria, now UK-based Soul singer), Rebecca James (former Miss Jamaica) and more.
Throughout the night there will be amazing musical entertainment. Performing live on stage, all the way from Nigeria, are Africa’s number one R’n’B 3-piece, the Kora-award-winning Styl-Plus from Nigeria’s capital Abuja, Nigerian Reggae superstar African China from Lagos, R’n’B/ hip-hop newcomers De Indispensables from Port Harcourt and Nigeria’s new Jazz sensation Folu G. From the UK there will be MOBO 2006 nominees Fun*damental ’03, hip-hop group Choong Family, R’n’B newcomer and former choreographer of the stars Chocolate Blonde, UK-based Nigerian rappers Komo and King David, Tri-O (an urban artist collective from the University of Kent), plus more to be confirmed.
DJs on the night will include Jigs (Choice FM), Alpha Juniors, Frontliner (Butterfly Bar), Jump Off Entertainment (Rain Forest Café), DJ Tease (Fresh Fridays @ Virgo’s), DJ Virus (Fresh Fridays @ Virgo’s), DJ Bayo (The Establishment) plus of course members of Blacknights themselves, playing African beats including all the hottest music from Nigeria, plus R’n’B, hip-hop, 80s & 90s Old Skool classics, funky House and bashment.
The event will be spread out over three arenas. The main PAs and the Mr Nigeria contest will be taking place in Arena 1. Arena 2 will feature a live Fuji band, Murphy Alabi, Nigerian native cultural dancers, the Mr and Mrs African Attire competition (£100 cash to be won) as well as the traditional Ikebe dance competition where the best booty-shaking dancers can win cash prizes and goodie bags (“Ikebe” is slang for “big bum”). Arena 3 is reserved for the artists, celebrities and those holding VIP tickets and there will be drinks promotions with Alizé and Red Bull Spritzers.
The night will be sponsored by Skye Bank Nigeria, MTN, African Pride and Virgin Nigeria. Virgin Nigeria was launched on June 28th 2005 with the first flight from Lagos to London, quickly followed with flights from Lagos to Abuja, Port Harcourt and Accra. Virgin Nigeria is proud to serve Nigeria, and to fly the national flag for Nigeria. With a vision to become the leading global airline based in Africa, Virgin Nigeria Airways provides services which support trade and economic development in the region.