In Remembrance of “Change”

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COUNTERPOINTS

By Femi Akintunde-Johnson

As we stroll towards another civilian-to-civilian transition (is it May 29 or June 12 now?), we roll back the years and review unvarnished thoughts and neglected projections that may yet be useful in placing the surest steps forward, one after the other, in our quest for progressive governance and responsive citizenry.

 Our focus is essentially on the one area we can claim some sort of world acclaim and enduring glory as evidenced by the products and exertions of our creative communities in the past 20 years, and more.

 We can hopefully find some meaty stuff and potential gems in the following regurgitation of thoughts and prognoses. Follow me, please, in the remaining May weeks that this column will devote to exhausting itself in some kind of self-flaggelation or healing process. Here goes:

“We are all glad that  power-to-power political transition has been safely completed without bloodshed or terror unleashed, and we can now settle down to rebuild our life-giving institutions with hope and purpose. We, as good citizens, are obligated to call attention of the new people in power and submit advice on where to direct their fresh powers in such a manner that will benefit the vast majority of the Nigerian people.

 Without a tinge of arrogance, we submit here that a calm and large-hearted attention to the spirit and letters of this article may show forth seed capable of generating joy and gladness in millions of Nigerian homes within a short period of time of sowing. This is the moment that bold ideas should be giving space to flower. When those who can dare are thrust forward to make dreams pop into reality. Charged adrenalin fueled by high imagination can indeed produce economic or socio-political miracles. Please, come with me.

 It is basically coincidental even if it seems similar to the nature of our movie-makers who are fond of putting multiple parts of same film in circulation; nevertheless, it is reasonable to recollect the three earlier parts of this series as we wrap up. The starter was “Why Nollywood Can’t Afford to Lose This Goodluck”, first published on February 3, 2015. Then followed by the post-election “Nollywood vs GMB: Now that GEJ is no longer at ease” on April 19, 2015.  And finally, “Nollywood vs GMB: How To Woo GEJ Lovers” of May 12, 2015. Now to this ‘finally-finally’ part of my submission.

 When we say a government accords an ‘Industry’ status to loosely connected groups of people identifiable by one broad profession, we mean that the government actually ‘means’ business. It recognises the vital importance of that profession to the development of the economy and the stability of the nation. It understands that such a profession can add value to the system by exporting, in massive consignments, its products, general merchandise, services, culture, traditions, tourism destinations, and countless distinctly Nigerian items, articles and paraphernalia, through scenic representations in our movies which become handy worldwide.

 Such a government desires that national artefacts like the crest, flag, stamps, buildings, games, protocols, etc are seen, recognised and patronised all across the world. Such a government appreciates that dominating Africa economically and politically is underlined by a vibrant, adept and professional motion pictures (and similar entertainment products) which are the sure and deliberate steps before ‘conquering’ the world.      

 Therefore, such a government will seek means and measures to protect and nurture the new ‘Industry’ – by spearheading the building of physical and intellectual structures; designing and drafting pragmatic, comprehensive laws and regulations to midwife and safeguard the operations and procedures of the Industry.

 So, to build a world-class country and man-power, the world must first see the class and carriage of her visions and dreams via the windows of her arts and culture – her enduring civilisation!

 Once upon a time it was fashionable for government officials to throw force and power at the restiveness and criminality in the Niger Delta. When that didn’t work, they started throwing money at it: cash-for-gun, bounties on wanted notorious warlords, etc. It later dawned on the powers-that-be  the obvious weaknesses of those strategies. They realised the sane and result-oriented way was to deal with age-long infrastructural deficiencies and assuage developmental iniquities of past vagabond governments. And that brought the omnibus NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission) in 2000 by the troublesome Chief Olusegun Obasanjo government.

  We are not here to review the efficacy of NDDC, but is it any wonder that modest peace and some sort of order have pervaded the region since the policy mindset was persuaded by the Alh. Aliyu Musa Yar’Adua administration to offer carrot-and-stick approach (obviously more carrots than stick); and even quieter still since 2008 when he conjured a Niger-Delta Ministry with NDDC as a major parastatal?

 It does not take much brain-work to know that the issues the core-objectives of NDDC/Niger-Delta Ministry confronted are also staring at us in the Creative Community of Nigeria. Here is a short list:  Resource Control. Environmental Degradation. Pollution. Unemployable Restive Youth. Proliferation of Ammunition. For all these Niger Delta ‘devils’, their creative equivalences are: Dearth of Resources. Economic Degradation. Piracy. Unemployable Restless Youth. Proliferation of Unimagination. And more, of course.

 With the strides of ex-president GEJ in his beloved Nollywood, the new Buhari government has a surly but eager community (however sharply divided and suspicious). The larger Creative Communities have long-standing capacity for supportive and eager collaboration with any government policies geared towards elevating the prospects of their art forms. Unlike Brother Jonathan that threw money at Nollywood in an attempt to palliate highlighted inadequacies (professional training, seed capital for shooting projects, erecting cinema houses, etc), let Uncle Buhari go round the current funding nets and mop up outstanding capitals from Bank of Industry, NEXIM and such financial initiatives still lying fallow. A N3b pledge was made in March 2013 by the Jonathan government for ‘the development of the film industry’, and whatever remained of the N200m loan scheme of 2010. With remnants of these schemes and other aggregated funds/grants, a fresh input and dedicated liaisons with art-loving nations and foundations worldwide, we should have enough stimulus to legislate into being the Nigerian Entertainment Development Commission, NEDC.

 That, I submit, is one of the first set of quick-fire bills this government can activate with guaranteed instantaneous celebrations and sustained enthusiasm nationwide. Look into the archives, there have been many papers and colloquy on this sort of matter; so drawing up a draft bill should be a swing.”

–––(To Be Continued)