PRESIDENT OBASANJO OF NIGERIA.
Nollywood as the story of Nigeria
By Dianam Dakolo
That we all should accept and dignify our community of actors and actresses as well as their theatrical output as of equivalent status to America’s motion-picture industry, the hybrid construct ‘Nollywood’ was dreamt up and incorporated into our entertainment lexicon. We should believe without proof of artistic standards and accomplishment that our own entertainers of the movie genre adequately replicate attributes for which America’s Hollywood is distinguished. Unparalleled virtuosity in matters of art, grandeur, stateliness, glitz and fame! Our actors and actresses want us to believe that they have them all. They want us and the rest of the world that are privileged enough to find and enjoy Nigerian movies to accord them adoration, respect and devotion, the type that catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger to the office of Governor in America’s economic powerhouse and most vibrant State, California. Ingenuity in Nollywood centres around short cuts, how to attain specific goals - status, fame, wealth, etc – with minimum self-exertion. You see it at work in the appropriation of the social identity of a class in another country. All that the ‘great’ minds in the movie industry here had to do was replace the initial letter of the identity tag ‘Hollywood’ with ‘N’, the initial letter of ‘Nigeria’, and then give themselves a name and what they consider an indigenous identity. It is analogous to the process that produced what we today refer to as The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Deep thinking, reflection, planning, hard work and perseverance – the pillars of originality - are out of it all. Like the pretenders called politicians who beguile themselves and the citizenry about the content of constitutional democracy (what has been copied from the United States), Nollywood’s movers and shakers are content to fuse together rudiments of film, giving special prominence to scenic resplendence, mannerisms and thought patterns, and costumes as typical of the American variant(s), just to make viewers believe that the product is of foreign provenance.
GENEVIEVE NNAJI, THE HIGHEST PAID ACTRESS IN NOLLYWOOD.
Nollyhood is the story of Nigeria, the story of a people obsessed with labels and short cuts and little else. You will find a Constitution, one modeled after that of the world’s leading democracy, which sets out the key institutions of government, their responsibilities and powers, as well as means of succession. But, to the minders of the State, it is enough that it proclaims Nigeria to the outside world as a modern State founded on democratic principles. The Constitution, in real terms, is of little relevance in the day-to-day management of national affairs. Political parties emerge, not from shared beliefs and ideologies regarding how best to maximize national resources and mobilize the populace for participation in the process of governance, but from convergence of interests bordering largely on pecuniary projections. Accession to power, as envisioned and practicalised by the military in 1999 and in 2003 by Obasanjo, had to be by selection under the agency of the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and not popular elections as stipulated by the Constitution. Electioneering campaigns and public debates were not necessary as the manipulators of INEC only had to submit lists for endorsement as winners for various offices.
SAINT OBI, ONE OF THE HUNKS OF NOLLYWOOD
No inclination whatsoever to give meaning to those labels that affirm our collective attachment to certain value systems and principles of governance! In imitation of leaders of the world’s true democracies, Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the Abuja Ajunta, would prepare a budget every year and submit same to the National Assembly, supposed representatives of the people, for scrutiny and approval. From the era of former Senate President Evan Enwerem through those of Anyim Pius Anyim and Adolphus Wabara to Ken Nnamani, alias ‘No banana peels’, Obasanjo has had his wish lists rubber stamped and the allocations diverted to projects that only a truly corrective regime in the future can unravel. No queries to date, that the man has never implemented any capital budget by as much as 30 per cent and that Nigerians have been massively shortchanged. Senate President Nnamani, who is content to ride in N44 million limousines at a time the minimum wage in the country is N5,000 and social infrastructure has virtually collapsed, and his Ghana-must-go-compliant colleagues have bothered very little about their oversight responsibilities. Last week, the misery of the masses exploded in the mouth of a fellow while Obasanjo was reading his ‘budget’ speech: “Stop wasting our time. Talk about other things….” Someone shouted on the floor of the House.
A TYPICAL NOLLYWOOD VCD
Nigeria is Nollywood and Nollywood is Nigeria! It is the story of a people who dream dreams shaped by material reality elsewhere - in fancied societies. They identify and lift (for adoption) features of better organized and sophisticated societies, but stop short of the effort to make those things real in their own societies. Institutions of State and facilities are all around you but they are no more than lifeless imitations of functional bodies and monuments that exist elsewhere. You have a Police Force, as every modern society does, for protection of life and property, but here, they are as dangerous as the most dreadful armed robbers and ritualists you can encounter in the back streets and in evil forests. There are academic institutions and hospitals, but hardly equipment and motivated staff. You have airports but the runways are either cratered or are for herds of cattle to wander along. Last Saturday, in Port Harcourt, a plane overshot the runway of the International Airport and burst into flames. The airport had no electricity at the time the plane had to land, and no one in the Control Tower could warn the pilot that weather conditions were inclement. And the fire fighters had no water. Because, Nigerians fooled themselves to label and use such a place as an airport, one hundred and nine souls perished. As if to mock bereaved families, the man who has fraudulently diverted allocations for maintenance and equipment at the airports wrote in a condolence register that the disaster is the will of God!
Nollywood and Nigeria must get to appreciate that it is a measure of self-abasement to copy and copy models originated by others for no better reason than to present a façade of modernity, sophistication or well-being. To what good is it that Nigeria has a Constitution patterned after that of almighty America, yet it is nowhere better than the Central African Republic of late Emperor Bedel Bokassa. Labels lifted from other lands and misapplied here have only made our country the laughingstock of civilized mankind. Nollywood has done same to our country, portraying us all people lacking in creative ability. Couldn’t our artists have invented a name, possibly from our indigenous languages, and nurtured the industry to a respectable state that could make that name resonate anywhere around the world? Let those in the movie industry learn that life is about identifying and adding value to creative processes. That’s the surest part to stardom and fortune.