Last Saturday at the State House Marina, Lagos, President Goodluck Jonathan hosted the crème de la crème of Nollywood to celebrate Nollywood at 20. At the end of the exercise, he announced the donation of a grant of 3 billion naira to the industry and said the minister of finance and minister of tourism and national orientation would work out modalities for the use and application of the funds. This is beautiful, but I am wondering how the initial $200 million he announced a while ago was administered and how much effect and impact it has had on the industry so far.
In making the donation, he acknowledged the role Nollywood has played particularly in the enhancement of our national image abroad. Personally, I have no problem with giving grants to the industry and I think a lot more needs to be done. My worry is the way these donations are made. They seem to be spontaneous, unplanned and lack a clear cut purpose or objective. What has happened in the last two occasions seemed like, the entertainers or the industry is gathered in one place with the president? It seems he enjoys their company and decides to “do something” for them, but what?
A situation where money is allocated without a clearly defined and articulated purpose and strategy for its disbursement is worrisome. The movie industry is not just any industry! It is almost a national religion in Burkina Faso, for instance, where once in every two years, a thousand of cineastes from all over Africa and the rest of the world gather to celebrate cinema. Tourism, hospitality and local businesses boom during this period. Cannes may be a small town on the French Riviera, but once every year global attention is turned in that direction. Cape Town in South Africa hosts big budget Hollywood movies all the time and the lifestyle of Capetonians is more than the national average on the continent. In Egypt film and tourism are intertwined through the Cairo International film festival which the Egyptians use to show off their national treasures.
On its own and by itself Nollywood has been able to generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and has greatly exported and sold Nigeria to the global audience all without the help of government. Sometimes positively, other times negatively. If the government is going to support the industry effectively,
it must define clearly what it wants to achieve through it. A friend jokingly said the president was trying to buy over the entertainment industry to his side ahead of 2015 knowing how handy their endorsement might come then. Personally I do not care. The industry needs all the support it can get at a time like this or we might soon lose our dominance of the industry on the continent as other countries with better plans outperform ours.
I think there is a need for the finance minister who is the guardian of the money to sit with knowledgeable and experienced practitioners who understand the needs of the industry. Those who are not selfish and who are exposed to international best practices in the industry to draw up a proper plan that will ensure that this money takes the industry to a whole new level. The industry cannot afford to waste this opportunity as not every president may be as interested in the industry.
VICTOR OKHAI – [email protected]
We are watching!