The 8th season of the popular music reality show, MTN Project Fame West Africa has gotten underway with high expectations from fans. But does the higher number of women in the academy suggest yet another female winner?
By George Emine

14 lucky contestants have already made it to the MTN Project Fame Academy after thousands of hopeful youths went through the hurdles of making it through the various auditions held across the country. The final contestants were unveiled at a rather exciting opening gala that featured thrilling performances from Nigeria’s brightest upcoming talents, plus past winners of the competition including Iyanya and Chidinma amongst others.
Interestingly, 12 out of the 18 contestants that made it to the opening gala night were given automatic qualification to the academy based on their sterling performances from the regional auditions that held in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Accra and Ibadan by the panel of judges without having to perform at the Opening Gala. They are: Deborah Ohiri Oluwamayowa, Jeffrey Ufedo Akor, Jennifer Chioma Amadi, Adanoritsewo Gold Tosanwumi, Funmilayo Comfort Arewa, Stephen Sackitey, and Okletey Biko. Others are, Joy Chukwuma, Olanma Pearl Awa-Agwu, Amma Korantema Kumi, Richie Tay and Tejiri Odjighoro.
Deinde Okubajo and Emmanuel Amos Anderson were however selected by the panel of judges to join the academy after going through a keenly contested session of performances to prove their worth.
Interestingly, out of the 14 contestants that made it to the academy, eight are ladies, while only six are men. ‘Does this mean we are likely to get a female winner again this year?’ many fans have asked. According to Juliet Eze, a fan of the programme that has followed the show right from its first season, “I think the chances are higher for a female contestant emerging winner. As you can see, they have the numbers this time, so that naturally increases the likelihood of having one of the ladies clinching the star prize.”
It would be recalled that only two ladies have won the coveted star prize so far in the previous seven seasons – Chidinma and Monica who won the third and fourth seasons respectively. Already, analysts have predicted a tough one for the judges this season as all 14 contestants have put up a stiff fight from the very being. The judges were unanimous on Sunday when they declared: “We cannot judge anyone of you based on voice; you are all good. We shall be looking out for something extra- like you character, stage craft, and that extra you bring into your performance.”
This year, the contest is between Olanma Pearl Awa-Agwu, a 21 year old graduate of foreign languages from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Richie Tay, a Nigerian-born Ghanian who lives in Accra; 26 year old Amma Korantema Kumi, who holds a BSc in entomology and wild life from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana; Joy Chukwuma, a 22 year-old graduate of public administration from Madonna University, currently undergoing her one year compulsory national youth service in Rivers State where she auditioned for the competition; Deinde Okubajo, a business management graduate from the University of Leicester; Tejiri Odjighoro, a first class electrical electronics engineering graduate of Afe Babalola University; and Jeffrey Ufedo Akor, a sound engineering graduate from the SAE Institute, Cape Town.
Others are: Adanoritsewo Gold Tosanwumi, a sociology graduate of the Delta State University; Stephen Sackitey Biko, a student of the University of Ghana who has shared the stage with Lauryn Hill as a backup singer; Funmilayo Comfort Arewa, a 24 year old Lagos State University alumnus; 21-year old Emmanuel Amos Anderson who is currently studying international relations at IRGIB Africa University, Cotonou; Deborah Ohiri, a student of the National Open University of Nigeria; 22-year old music enthusiast and graduate of computer engineering from Covenant University, Ogun State, Chike Osebuka Ezekpeazu; and Jennifer Chioma Amadi, an an 18-year-old school leaver seeking admission into the university.
If the numbers game favours the laies in the house, then the eventual winner might well come from amongst Olanma Pearl Awa-Agwu, Amma Korantema Kumi, Joy Chukwuma, Tejiri Odjighoro Adanoritsewo Gold Tosanwumi, Funmilayo Comfort, Deborah Ohiri, and Jennifer Chioma Amadi – the eight ladies at the academy.
The winner of this year’s competition will walk away with a grand prize of N5m, a brand new SUV and a recording deal worth millions of Naira. The 1st runner up will get a saloon car and N3m, while the 2nd runner up will get a brand new saloon car along with N1m, and the 3rd runner up will receive a cash prize of N1m.
According to the general manager, consumer marketing of MTN Nigeria, the sole sponsors of the event, Richard Iweanoge, Project Fame was one of MTN’s platforms dedicated to supporting the growth of music in the country through talent discovery. “MTN has an unwavering commitment towards supporting the development of the music industry in Nigeria. We are delighted that Project Fame in the last eight years has helped us to achieve this purpose,” he said.
Previous winners of the competition are: Season 1, Iyanya; Season 2, Mike Anyasodo; Season 3, Chidinma; Season 4, Monica Ogah; Season 5, Ayo; Season 6, Olawale Ojo, and Season 7, Geoffrey Oji.
The judges and faculty have also not changed. Ade Bantu, Bibie Brew and Tee Y- Mix still remain judges, while Joke Silva, Dupe Ige and Ben Ogbeiwe remain the faculty. Joseph Benjamin who has been the presenter from the first season is still holding forth, while his new partner from Season 7, Bolanle Olukanni was also retained this year as co-presenter. Bolanle replaces Adaora Ole who co-presented with Joseph Benjamin in the first five seasons. She however may have more work to do as the first week of the programme saw Joseph Benjamin obviously under the weather, leaving the stage for her. It is however expected that he will be back by this week, with his voice, to continue to anchor the programme that has given his career in the entertainment industry an added boost.

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