On a day when Nigeria witnesses a new dispensation as Muhammadu Buhari is sworn in as C-in-C, it is probably fitting to revisit this article by filmmaker, producer and TNS publisher, Chris Ihidero.
Dear Mr President, Congratulations on your victory at the polls sir. Isn’t life just interesting? Here you are, finally achieving your long-held dream to lead Nigeria again, this time without the full force of the military. You have now done what no Nigerian has been able to do before now: you unseated a sitting president; you defeated an incumbent. Wow. Sincere congratulations are truly in order.
See sir, Nollywood is truly phenomenal. It is the single biggest indigenous product to have come out of Africa in the last two decades. It has bigger potentials than crude oil and it is worthy of your serious attention. You have a head start where Nollywood is concerned sir. Many of the ‘leaders’ in the industry campaigned vigorously against you, like their lives depended on it. (Well, the livelihood of many of them depended on it.) So, you owe Nollywood ‘leaders’ no debt of allegiance. This is a great opportunity to revolutionise the industry sir. And here’s where I’d like you to start: please don’t give Nollywood money. Let me clarify sir, PLEASE, DON’T GIVE US MONEY TO MAKE COMMERCIAL FILMS. Sorry to write in caps sir but I needed to do that so those who may want to misconstrue my words can see clearly.
Mr President Sir, you have a chance to rejuvenate Nollywood; start by not giving anybody money to make commercial films. Please continue the funding and support for distribution platforms. We need to get to around 1000 cinemas quickly. They don’t have to be fancy edifices like Silverbird Cinemas. They can be advanced forms of football viewing centres. We need these cinemas in neighbourhoods, so people don’t have to travel to the cinema.
We need to have the sale of DVDs on the roads totally banned. It is easier to trace pirates when their pirated goods are sold out of a shop/store. Pirates are not ghosts, Mr President, they are right here among us in the industry. Make an example of one or two of them and the rest will fall in line. You say you have zero tolerance for corruption, right? Good. Piracy is great corruption. Please, note sir that I’m not asking your government not to fund films at all. Surely there are non-commercial films that require funding. Young filmmakers trying to find a foothold in the industry can be aided with little funds for their first short films. This can be cheaply done. There are documentaries about our history/culture that need to be funded.
Finally sir, the rent seekers, perennial industry ‘stakeholders’, perennial holders of offices and positions in industry guilds and associations without any worthy contribution to the industry – jobbers all of them – will start coming to see you the moment you’re sworn in. Remember they did not campaign or vote for you. As individuals, you owe them nothing. But you owe Nollywood all the support you can give. So, on behalf of Nollywood please look them in the face and say fuck you, this shit is over: no more free money! If you can do this for the industry and me sir, I promise to move from my position as a reluctant convert to full membership in the propagation of your greatness. Nollywood needs help, please don’t fail us sir.
Sincerely, Chris Ihidero
This article first appeared on www.thenet.ng on April 23, 2015.