AFTER playing the cheerleading role for President Goodluck Jonathan for the six years he has been occupant of Aso Rock, reality has set in for the nation’s film industry known as Nollywood.
Pirates have never devastated the industry and feasted on the works of filmmakers and musicians like never before and ironically, entertainment practitioners have never been this close to any president, governors and politicians in the history of Nigeria before. Jonathan and other politicians had in the last six years, turned Nollywood stars to mere chaperons and professional escorts. It became big business for the entertainment players during the election campaign period.
After I was woken from sleep by a Blackberry broadcast message by Kunle Afolayan, a popular filmmaker, lamenting how pirates had finished his latest film, October 1, I was forced to ask, what Nollywood had been telling Mr. President all the while they had been escorting him from place to place. This is the message (unedited) from Afolayan: “Pirated copies of October 1 film is now released by the Pirates and everywhere on the street. We have been announcing and alerting the people on government for years (sic). Is this how we will fold our hands and look? It is my turn today, it may be yours tomorrow. I am devastated. Let’s come together and fight this Scourge PIRACY!!! PLEASE DO NOT BUY. Kunle Afolayan.”
Now I am tempted to ask again, what did Nollywood tell former President Olusegun Obasanjo for eight years when they were visiting him regularly?
What has Actors Guild of Nigeria President (AGN), Ibinabo Fiberisima, who had the contract of filling Jonathan’s events with actors and other entertainers been telling the president about the scourge of piracy?
Some minutes after I got Afolayan’s message, moviemaker, Lancelot Imasuen’s dropped. The Edo born filmmaker with a knack for playing to the gallery wrote: “I strongly, personally condemn this mindless infringement on Right to life and existence in this country called Nigeria, where our intellectual right is openly stolen and pirated without any fear or any form of confrontation by the Authorities is getting out of hand! Nigerians, people of conscience we need help, STOP patronising pirated movies on the Express road, respect our intellectual property, STOP this mindless killing our US! (Sic) In solidarity with my colleague Kunle Afolayan whose film October 1 has just been pirated….Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen.”
I replied Lancelot thus: “As long as Nollywood is content with running after any president in power during campaign period and not extracting anything tangible like making him get involved in the fight against piracy by way of stringent legislation, I am afraid, lamentations like this will be the lot of practitioners. What did Ibinabo tell Jonathan all through aside contracting Nollywood practitioners to go stand on the podium anytime Jonathan was campaigning and shout themselves hoarse and get paid ‘thanks for coming’? What did Ejike Asiegbu tell Obasanjo during his time? What did Zik Okafor tell Jonathan? What have all the guild heads told the leaders in Abuja? Nollywood is content with taking photos with any president and collecting their tiny share of the loot from him and that is all.”
The filmmaker who was one of the many Nollywood players that were moving around with Jonathan during his campaign became sober when I accosted him with that fact.
“We need help Justin, we need help. Many of the people you named are not investors; few of us invest heavily in the sector. We need help. I operate in society where my works are always criticised by people who know nothing about how my craft is put together, they have no idea how much pains I go through to bring one new film out, that no bank is ready to lend money to me for film business because it’s too risky as if being and living in Nigeria itself is not a RISk. Then I struggle on my own to raise some few millions of naria to make a film, half of the money goes into buying fuel, and more energy into begging neighbours to allow us put our generator near their houses trying to avoid it’s noise getting into our filming, but it sure will get into it, reason for most of the bad sound u hear when watching our films, which you also complain about.
“It’s hard for me to actually hire the real professionals because I cannot afford to pay their fees, the kind they will get filming a TV commercial, and in case you don’t know the budget for a one minute TvC in most cases surpasses the entire budget for a ten Nollywood budget, yes it’s so true!…”
Comedian Ayo Makun’s, popularly called, AY film 30 Days in Atlanta was heavily pirated, same for Tunde Kelani’s Maami. It will not stop until practitioners stop receiving crumbs from politicians without ensuring they force them to help fight piracy to a standstill. The pirates are known all around us, they are so rich and powerful. The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), the poorly funded government agency that is supposed to fight the scourge is incapacitated. Rights owners fund anti piracy raids for the Commission, so if Afolayan wants to fight the pirates feasting on his film, he needs to cough out at least N5 million for the anti piracy raids on Alaba Market, the hub of piracy in Sub Sahara Africa.
Something must give, it cannot continue like this. Practitioners must join forces and make the government of Muhammadu Buhari take them seriously and fight off the pirates from their works. They must stop reducing themselves to party escorts to politicians for stipends. The entertainment industry players must first take themselves seriously before they expect government to take them serious.
Should another ‘contractor’ like Ibinabo emerges that will contract Nollywood and entertainment stars for state banquet for Buhari, he/she should in the middle of all the wining and dining tell President Buhari the true situation of the industry.
On The Prowl with Justin akpovi-esade, Email: [email protected]