Artistes, activists and critics suggest ways that the incoming government can boost the entertainment industry, CHUX OHAI writes
President-elect Muhammadu Buhari may not be aware of it, but he is the object of great expectations among most members of the creative community in Nigeria.
To seasoned actor and film director, Joseph Abiodun Adu, popularly known as Bassey Okon in the rested network TV drama series, The Village Headmaster, for example, Buhari holds the magic wand that could possibly turn around the fortunes of Nigeria’s fast-growing film industry.
Adu’s colleagues in the creative industry, renowned broadcaster and music critic, Benson Idonije, and foremost culture activist, Ben Tomoloju, seem to feel the same way, too. These three wise men, in separate interviews with E-Punch, describe what they think the incoming Federal Government should do to make the industry more relevant to the Nigerian economy.
Adu wants the Nigerian Film Corporation and the National Film and Video Censors Board to be strengthened to carry out their activities, especially in the area of promoting producers who have good stories to tell.
Also, he thinks there is a need for regulation of the content of films produced by most Nollywood practitioners. He says, “In my view, filmmakers should be directed to concentrate on producing films that contribute to human development, not the ones that expose all the dregs and negative tendencies that we have in the society.
“The NFVCB can refuse to approve certain types of films and also lay down certain guidelines. I don’t think they should shy away from this. People should not just be left alone to keep dragging us down all the time.”
Also, he believes the incoming government should, above all, set up an endowment fund for the film industry.
But Tomoloju favours the appointment of a culture minister with a background in serious achievement in the cultural sector – someone who can carry the stakeholders along and be fed by the visions of the stakeholders – to pilot the affairs of the sector for economic, social, intellectual and spiritual growth.
He says “I suggest that the incoming administration should work hard and ensure that there are cottage theatres in various neighbourhoods that are viable across the country. There should be, at least experimentally, one cottage theatre in each local government area. This is because I believe that theatre is viable. It doesn’t end with just putting on Ola Rotimi’s plays or others by other famous playwrights.
“It goes with packaging programmes for theatre, including movies, musical or dance theatre and stand-up comedy. Also, it can become a social centre where people can gather, as well as a marketing outlet in that neighbourhood for art and craft.
“The local government council can also have its own archive somewhere in one small storey building there and a little museum to go with it. So it is as much a cottage theatre as a cultural centre, which must be managed by a well trained graduate of theatre.
“One beautiful play like ‘Saro’, for instance, can tour Lagos for one year if we have 57 cottage theatres in the state and it will generate revenue, as well as create jobs and wealth for the artistic community. This is a practical vision.
“If anybody is asking me why we are saying that government should be one to do these things all the time, I always ask them: Is government is building stadiums in local government areas? Why are they building stadiums and they cannot build theatres? This is a big poser.”
Idonije, who was recently appointed Fellow of the Adam Fibereisima School of Music, warns Buhari against making the same mistakes that outgoing President Jonathan made by giving money to some artistes in a section of the culture sector to develop themselves or to share among themselves.
“Instead of doing that, it should focus on the creative industry as a whole by providing an enabling environment for creativity to thrive.
“When he assumes office, I expect the Muhammadu Buhari to concentrate on building new structures to support the creative industry. I expect him to build more music schools and theatre houses, as well as make it possible for artists to have access to the tools of their trade by reducing import duty on certain items of production. Also, he should set up the right structures that can effectively put an end to piracy,” he says.
Also, a popular actress, Bose Oladimeji, wants the incoming government to make the fight against piracy its first priority for the creative industry.
“Piracy is the biggest challenge facing the creative indsutry in Nigeria. It has wrecked many producers and artistes. For instance, the last movie I produced, which came out last year, was also a victim of this social cankerworm. I believe Nollywood will benefit more and grow stronger if piracy can be stopped,” she says.