Written by Ekine Stronghold
I consider this a very important question which we must carefully answer. As far as I am concerned nollywood is a mini-Nigeria. Yes, an exact mini-Nigeria that has all the qualities both good and bad. High level politicking, confusion, power play and power tussle amongst political parties, poverty, poor infrastructure, poor policy implementation and of course high level corruption and looting. The only thing not yet in nollywood is arguably the boko haram thing which is new. So from the marginalization theory to the conspiracy theory to every and any other theory that we see in play in the bigger Nigeria exists however micro in the mini Nigeria we call nollywood.
Why I choose to draw these similarity is very deliberate for it will help us see the truth as it is whether clothed or naked and at the end we will be able to answer the question above and then tell how bright or dull the future truly is if we do not make a change. It would be easier and more fun to demonstrate my prowess in physics by giving you the prof. Ama Nduka’s definition but for the benefit of all consider scalar quantities as quantities that have magnitude with little or no direction and vector quantities as those quantities with more direction than magnitude. Any one that knows Nigeria or nollywood well enough should be able to guess correctly which is our nature, whether true or adopted and hence our reality.
Nigeria aptly named the giant of Africa possesses in quantum a lot of resources that other nations that seem to be doing well lack. The most populous Black Country has in abundance numerous natural resources of which I will name only but a few leaving out the popular black gold. That’s common knowledge. According to statistics, Nigeria has in deposit over 40 million metric tons of talc in Niger, Osun,kogi, Ogun and Kaduna states, over 3 billion metric tons of iron ore in FCT, Enugu, kogi and Niger states. Lead/zinc deposits in east central Nigeria is estimated at about 10 million metric tons; barite in Taraba and Bauchi states is over 8million metric tons. There are other minerals like gypsum which is used in the making of glass, POP, ceramics, dental plates, fertilizers e.t.c. is estimated at over 1 billion. We of course know we have coal, its rich deposit in Enugu and east central Nigeria stands at over 3 billion. Forget not bitumen in Ondo state and rock salt in places like Benue, Plateau, Ebonyi e.t.c. Have deposits estimated to be around 42 billion and 1.5 million respectively. Nigeria is blessed.
It is also common knowledge that Nigerians are about the smartest people in Africa. I mean not to be imposing but everywhere in the world whether for negative or positive uses the Nigerian mind is revered. Whether it exhibited in the literary world by great minds like Professor Chinua Achebe, Professor Wole Soyinka or in science world by father of the internet Phillip Emeagwali or the internet whiz kids that express their enormous capabilities to yahoo-yahoo (internet fraud) to our sensational musical artists that like Fela, KSA, onyeka onwenu e.t.c. Even the tricky ninja governor diepreye alameisegha miraculous escape from Britain is a testimony of the genius embedded in the Nigerian mind (just imagine we when crazy over the seasons film prison break). Yet what do we have to show for it, over 23% unemployment rate, insecurity, poor power supply, poor social infrastructure, poor leadership just to mention a few .Amazing outcome, isn’t it? A consummate scalar nation. All magnitude little or no direction hence a blind giant. Too sad.
Back to nollywood, think about it. We have a rich cultural heritage, an almost infinite pool to recline on and tell the world our own unique stories from the mouths and hearts of Nigerians (too bad our stories have been regarded as majorly formulaic). We have the best spectrum of actors and film-makers. We have a guild system than amalgamates at top level in KONGA. Not forgetting other government agencies that should in a way co-ordinate, catalyze, promote and protect the film making industry like the NFC, Censors Board, NCC e.t.c. even, we are one of the highest producers of movies in the world, rubbing shoulders with Hollywood and bollywood. According to Peter Rorvik, director Durban film festival quotes what he calls the Nigerian phenomenon to earn $250 million per annum, $100 million per annum from exports and 180,000 people employed. While this might sound like high feats, from ground zero the reality is far from pleasant.
Alas the average film practitioner experiences a high level of joblessness and poor leadership at guild levels. Guilds barely have enough resources and backing to enforce and sustain the functionality of the existing pitiable structures. With exception of a few, most guilds can barely afford to pay for office space and pay administration staff. Most guilds don’t have adequate data for planning and their members can’t pay dues majorly because there are no jobs to even pay for their basic needs. Consider a system where anybody can spring up from anywhere and begin to run a training school for film practice and answers to nobody. Lawyers have a syllabus, a training format which all lawyers must undergo and be scrutinized afterwards to ensure that they are qualified to practice, so also the engineers, the doctors e.t.c. is this the same in the motion picture industry?.
Come to guild meetings and you will meet a handful of members but you just wait for elections and you will be surprised to see the hall filled to the brim. Wait to hear there is a grant or a nollywood fund and you will be awed, wait to hear that some state has given AMAA 1.5 billion naira and everybody will be agitating to be flown business class to the awards, some will ask to be chopper flown and get for some piece of the national cake in the guise of payment for appearance, hardly ever thinking of the general good of the industry. Some veterans grew up with nollywood and are the pioneers of what we have today to save or to kill. Now there is a conscious attempt to ridicule their valuable knowledge by the purported new schools. It is funny because at the end we will be starting from square one all in the name of the new school. A system that looses value for the knowledge and experience of the old school irrespective of their achievement is tending towards creating a new wheel rather than improving on the existing one and in my own opinion this pattern epitomizes a consummate scalar industry, all magnitude and no direction. Think about it, let’s make the 180-degree turn and change things.