I share the sentiment of my colleague, Shaibu Husseini of The Guardian newspaper who posited that: “practitioners of the Nigerian motion picture industry ought to consider themselves lucky for having President Goodluck Jonathan, who has demonstrated considerable admiration and disposition towards them. The President proved his admiration for the industry and showed that he was somewhat a Nollywood practitioner by inclination, when he again, announced the provision of funds for the development of the industry. President Jonathan had on Saturday, March 3, at a presidential dinner to celebrate the home video industry at 20, announced the provision of a N3 billion grant for the development of Nollywood under a scheme the President said will be called ‘Project Nollywood’.”
No doubt, the magic works for the entertainment industry, in such a way that each time Nollywood practitioners meet with the President, he makes promises of some funds for the filmmakers. As praiseworthy as this may be, it gets me worried, considering that this incidental benefits tend to displace the industry from a position of rights to that of favours. Little wonder the filmmakers saw Mr. President’s utterance about Living in Bondage as a mere joke. Jonathan had said metaphorically that the film industry is under repression by pirates, probably because the acclaimed first Nollywood movie; Living in Bandage carried a derogatory title. I think this is not a statement that any deep thinking practitioner should swallow hook line and sinker.
Indeed, an uncle who gives you proceeds from your late father’s property forgets in a minute that it’s your right and not a privilege with three billion naira being dangled before the face of a 20 year old, they could denounce their parents, let alone their name. Such was an expensive joke, if you ask me; that the industry’s woes should be judged by a mere movie title. Perhaps the thought could have achieved a balance, if Mr. President had also added that some Ministry, meant to help protect intellectual property does exist but has failed. Perhaps, he could have said, in like manner, that the failure of this Ministry is also a problem of nomenclature. And perhaps, we should have had a Nigerian Copyright Fighter instead of Nigerian Copyright Commission?
My drift is that the industry is being taken for a ride, and practitioners are either too blind to see or too weak to act. The Nigerian Film Policy is embedded with everything that the motion picture industry should have, including intervention funds, grants, film village etc. You do not need a presidential dinner to bring all these to fruition. The practitioners should push for things that will give them some level of autonomy. Only the constitution gives such leverage.
I cannot but recall the largest convergence of artistes through their various associations on Monday, March 21, 2011at the Eko Hotel & Suites, and the comprehensive communiqué passed on to the president by each association, detailing how they can function well. Unfortunately, not a significant aspect of these demands has been met by government. A sensitive and proactive government does not make its subject to look beggarly before doing the right things. If government truly believes that the entertainment industry means so much to the country as a potentially viable non-oil sector, then now is the time to begin to prepare for an alternative source of income – even if oil, that has sunk our groundnut pyramid and turned our cocoa plantations to grave yards will never dry up.
When I see what a country like The Gambia is doing with sun and beaches, I get certain that the culture of wastages in Nigeria is a hundred percent.
Did they not say that a house without a solid foundation is precarious? What do we think that Nollywood can achieve with all the grants in the world, if it is still lacking in basic structures? The industry has argued for and against Motion Picture Practitioners Council (MOPPICON) which Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, boasted during Zuma Film Festival in Abuja last year that it will be actualized in three months. That turned out to be another political statement. Whether or not MOPPICON will work, I am of the opinion that it can only make the industry learn when it makes some attempts and fails. A society cannot continue to live in assumptions it must act.
Sadly, Maku did not live to his promises, and to imagine that people had clapped for him when he made that pronouncement. He had even talked about the much anticipated National Film Fund. It was heart-warming to hear Maku say that he was pushed to ensure a quick consideration of the film fund policy by the Federal Executive Council, and I thought that, that made President Jonathan’s administration proactive to issues of the film industry. But could the latest three billion naira be the fund we are talking about?
Mr. Minister, I recall your light joke that night, saying that journalists do not usually write unless the issue is meant to criticise government. To that, I had personally led a group of entertainment writers to re-evaluate the disposition of the Jonathan led government to the plight of the entertainment industry ever since beneficiaries of the $200 million intervention fund were unveiled, and I think the government will get even more of positive reviews when it begins to see itself as truly needing the film industry to boost nation income, rather than seeing the industry as dependant of government largess.
Next week, we shall take a look at the complexity of the Information Ministry and whether the film industry is not a victim of inattention. It will also be interesting to know who the real parent of the motion picture industry is, if indeed, like some say, the Information Ministry is just a surrogate father.
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