Dear Fred Amata,
Students and lovers of history have a peculiar habit: Whilst the rest of the world consume daily news looking for survival tips, opportunities and for items for entertainment or elements to foster their tribal or partisan unity and division, students and lovers of history tend to be look out for big items that stand out during an event. They look for what is termed as the big stories, these are normally deeds, pronouncements, events and characters that standout enough to make history generally or textbooks in particular.
Let’s face it though, the world has changed, for better or for worse? It is not for me to judge but for all to see. Fact is that, save for moments of crises, history, science and text books don’t matter much to most like they used to in the slow old analog days. In our times times, it is fiction led by films and then other forms of entertainments that matter to most people in the world. In good times popularity and jocularity matter more than content, wisdom or principles. These days the new historians and custodians of information are the storytellers.
So, Dear Olorogun Fred Amata, once the pandemic is over, those of us lucky enough to be alive and those that will come after us will be looking up to you and your colleagues in Directors Guild of Nigeria to tell us the story of what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help you and your colleagues in writing and staging the days of the Convid-19 pandemic, I have put together for you some characters that you might want to consider for your future scripts and films. In choosing them the criteria considered are their originality and a few other factors you will notice as we go along.
It will be unfair to write or screen the days of this pandemic without creating a role for the Nigerian President. At time when leaders of the world from London to Washington, Tel Aviv to Canberra were busy panting and wasting time to interact with insidious journalists giving day-by-day account and exposing themselves to criticism and some like Boris Johnson even falling ill., our own great president stayed calm and above the daily frays and worries of common mortals. With his mode of communicating with Nigerians and dealing with daily issues he has invented a new style of governance understood and described, defended and even praised by those with refined taste; the style seems to be lost on the plebes but most are now getting used to it. Though it has not been given a name, there is something clearly imperial about it. Buharistic is a suggested working title.
Two other members of the Federal Government have earned their place in a future narrative of COVID-19 and I think it would be unfair to exclude them. One is the Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, an outstanding surgeon of international repute, the other is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, a lawyer, management consultant, politician, businessman and boardroom guru of considerable repute.
The appearance of these two stars must be crafted and presented using non-diegetic and introspective techniques. A good episode can made out of trying to see what goes on in the mind of Dr. Ehanire in seeing the world applaud health workers as heroes instead or mere temperature controllers.
Another good episode can come out examining the world of Boss Mustapha who candidly admitted that he never knew that our entire healthcare infrastructure was in the state in which it is until he was appointed chairman of the Presidential Task force (PTF) on COVID-19. It would be a delight to explore Boss Mustapha’s life before and after his discovery.
Man is a product of his environment a good director must take us through what papers do these people read, which WhatsApp groups do they belong to if any.
At the state level the big star is Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. A gentleman per excellence. It is difficult to be more original than a Governor who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Biochemistry, a Masters in Biochemical Toxicology and a PhD in Biochemical Pharmacology who then goes on to declare that since his, “Abia is the only state that is mentioned in the Bible, “we have been promised by God that none of these diseases will get to us. We saw Ebola, even this one (Coronavirus) it won’t get to us.”
Makeup artists and costume designers will be glad to note hear that Prophet T.B. Joshua made the list ahead of many pastors. Directors have enough materials from our churches but I think it will be wrong to leave out an episode or film called “the rain that didn’t fall”.
At least the men leading our faith sector tried something. What shall we say about our scientists? Well, given that the professors are on strike and the laboratories are ill equipped maybe we can call their own episode “The invisible ones”.
Olorgun Amata, these are just some ideas for you and your colleagues, in the meantime please stay safe and tell others to keep safe too.
*You may reach Prof Kila, Centre Director at CIAPS, Lagos at @anthonykila