Written By: Ekine Stronghold
I have had the pleasure of interviewing quite a number of film/movie practitioners from other African countries and I always ask them if they have a guild system in place in their industry. The bulk of them answer in the negative. Also I ask them if they think the guild system is good and they answer in the affirmative. Guilds are a coven of practitioners of a specialized craft and the purpose is simply to harmonize and unionize. It is to create an assembly of like minds to create a pool of both human and capital resources from which they can all tap into and make both individual and collective progress. It also serves as a platform for collective bargaining and makes it possible for interaction with government and the corporate world. One of the most important functions of guilds is that it makes possible the formation of policies and regulations that better the lot of practitioners and the practice itself.
As our industry evolved it became necessary for us to unionize to mitigate chaos and exploitation. Several attempts were made and several failed. Some were setup for personal gains and when that aim was achieved it naturally died out. I’d save you the history and go straight to the point. In the long run several guilds survived and formed the basic structure of what today is called nollywood.
For a long time these guilds and association functioned separately, there were many voices and that didn’t do utmost good to both the practice and practitioners. Coincidentally it was at that checkered time in our history that the then president of Directors’ Guild of Nigeria, Mr. Bond Emeruwa conceived the idea to amalgamate the industry and bridge the gaps in the industry. He discussed it with Mr. Tony Anih, who was then the president of Screen Writers’ Guild of Nigeria and Sir. Emmanuel Isikaku the president of Film and video producers and marketers association of Nigeria FVPMAN. Together they all worked assiduously to amalgamate the industry; one by one they reached out to various heads of guilds and associations. Consequently the coalition of nollywood guilds and association CONGA was born. As far as history is concerned that is the best thing that happened to nollywood. All came together in equality and threw away the notion as at that time that some guilds were bigger and more important than others.
The confederacy set to work and made a lot of progress in a short time. It was budding and there were still a lot of constitutional lapse that needed to be taken care of but it was getting there. However guild elections came around and these guild heads had to make way for new administration and there came a new set of guild heads and because of what I’d call a “loss of the original ideology” and/ or “poor transference of legacy” the new guild heads had hardly settled down and the chairmanship of CONGA became the subject of contention.
Along the line most of them had seen the chairman of the coalition as the highest position in nollywood which was not the case. It was a confederacy that garnered any power it had from the committee of guild heads and representative. The chairman had no power.He was just a figurehead that presided over the meeting and did the biddings of the congress. However the power tussled lingered and the immediate past guild heads didn’t want to smear their names is the dirty politics of nollywood so they left the newcomers to flex their muscles and because they lacked constitutional powers there was not much they could do.
The tussle lingered and the new comers started slinging shots at one another in public. The president of AMP, Mr. Zik Zulu Okafor is quoted to say that he recognizes only three guilds, his second biggest verbal goof since he became president. Then in one of the meetings of guild heads he used the term smaller guilds to refer to guilds like SWGN, CDGN, NSE, NSC, FVPMAN e.t.c. he even went as far as insisting that in the sharing of 5o million endowment fund, those smaller guilds should get less than the bigger guilds. Some guild heads protested and he categorically stated that the reason he will never agree to a fair share is that his members have told him if he agrees they would not re-elect him.
Just so the records are clear, the whole of AMP can’t boost of having made up to 15 films in the last two years while FVPMAN is single handedly responsible for over 90% of nollywood content, CDGN is responsible for over 85% of designs in those content, MOPAN is nearly ten times bigger than AMP and the list goes on. While I leave you to do the simple arithmetic, it is important practitioners in nollywood especially the elders come together and resolve this matter or see CONGA progress from comatose to imminent death.
To conclude, I will say this to the pioneer guild heads of CONGA like Mr. Bond Emeruwa, Sir.Emma Isikaku, Mr.Paul Obazele ,Mr. Tony Anih, Ms.Iyen Agbonifo, representatives of MOPAN,ITPAN,ANTAP e.t.c. if CONGA dies you are not free from blame. I have had this discussion severally with the pioneer trio and they always will put up good arguments to validate their distance but I’d like to ask, who cries the most when a baby dies? Who loses the most when a house collapses? If you answer these questions correctly then my point is made. As we document the history of nollywood, it is my hope that there shall not be a place that will read, they gave birth to it and let it die.