THE ALTERNATIVE With Reno Omokri
Nollywood, the Nigerian movie industry, is by and large the brain work of people of Ndi’Igbo origin. The official birth of Nollywood can be traced to the movie, Living in Bondage, which is now studied around the world as a unique vehicle that launched a whole industry.
It was written, directed, and starred an all Igbo cast. And very little has changed since the birthing of the industry. The Igbo still dominates Nollywood. However, a weapon is only as good as the wielder.
Ndi’Igbo should have used Nollywood the way the Yoruba are using the media. Sadly, Nollywood actually works against them. It makes others perceive the Igbo, wrongly, as ritualists. It makes people wary of the Igbos in politics and business. Nollywood has been a great disservice to the Igbo nation.
Ndi’Igbo saw Nollywood as a money maker. They failed to see it as a game-changer. And now, the damage that it has done to them, within Nigeria, and to the larger Nigerian society outside Nigeria, is almost unquantifiable.
The mistake Igbos made, which the Jews in Europe and America did not make, is that they focused only on dominating Nigeria’s commercial sector, and forgot the media.
The media is like airpower. Once you have it, no one will mess with you! Why? Because the collateral damage to them will be more than their attack on you. And only a mad man fights a war he knows he is going to lose.
You use your control of the economy to reward your friends and use your power over the media to punish your enemies. Carrot and stick, that is what makes the world go round. How do you think Orji Kalu got his release? Because he is the only Igbo man that controls a national media (Daily Sun).
However, let us talk about the larger damage that Nollywood has done, not just to the Igbo, but to Nigeria.
I have been to many African and Caribbean countries. Once they know you are Nigerian, many become wary. Not because of 419. But because of juju. Nollywood has conditioned them to see all Nigerians as fetish juju people. We did this to ourselves!
True story: in 2011, Kanayo O Kanayo and I were walking in San Francisco. An American lady recognised him. I brought out my camera, thinking she wanted a photo. She screamed and said ‘you want to use my photo for juju’! That is what Nollywood has done to us!
Nollywood is itself more racist than even White Supremacists. Take Nollywood, for instance. The typical movie consists of painting African culture as fetish and evil. Then the hero goes to church and defeats the African evil. We hardly project our own cultures positively.
When I was a child, I watched Tales by Moonlight on NTA which used African culture to teach moral lessons to children in a fun manner. I remember Auntie Nkem with Nostalgia. Nollywood should learn from her. Project African culture positively.
You will never see a Bollywood movie project Indian culture the way Nollywood movies project African culture. Many of us fell in love with India and Indians because of Bollywood movies. But if an Indian watched a Nollywood movie, he would be afraid of Africa. Hollywood was used by America to market her culture and commerce to the world by glamorising America. Nollywood, on the other hand, is being used to demarket Africa to the world by demonising our culture and commerce!
The Igbo apprenticeship system is the most successful in the world bar none. Alaba International market alone generates $4 billion, according to Robert Neuwirth. Why can’t Nollywood do a movie about that and promote the Ndi’Igbo ethnic nationality, rather than this near-obsessive focus rituals and juju?
It will serve them better if they use Nollywood to project positive things about their race that are already happening. Sadly, this is not the case. Not at all. Not at all.
You can imagine a movie called The Great Tycoon, about Cosmas Maduka, based on his rise to billionaire status, from a lowly second school dropout from Nnewi, who went to Lagos with nothing but the clothes on his back after the civil war. That will be better than rituals! It will project Ndi’Igbo and Nigeria positively.
I watched The Greek Tycoon as a child, and that made me want to go to Greece to see the land of Aristotle Onassis. While in Greece, I spent close to $1000. That is what movies should do. They make you want to invest in a culture. Nollywood does the exact opposite!
Movies are make-believe. And that is what Nollywood does not understand, or if they understand it, they fail to appreciate. They are selling a fantasy that people end up believing even if it is not true. What Nollywood ought to do is project a truth worth selling, not a lie that brings money.
A notable Nollywood actor, who I happen to admire, responded to me by saying that Hollywood does shooting movies, yet tourists still go to America, hence I should leave Nollywood alone, especially as we politicians did not fix Nigeria.
First, let me say that I am guilty as charged. I was a Presidential spokesman to a President that built or repaired over 10,000KMs of roads and built 12 new universities and 165 almajiri schools as well as the super-fast Kaduna Abuja railway. We could still have done more.
However, what this Nollywood star may not have taken into account is that while Hollywood does violent movies, it balances things by producing other genres of movies, unlike Nollywood, who focus almost exclusively on the negative themes of juju and fetish practices.
As a matter of fact, Hollywood churns put more romantic comedies and science function movies than violent movies. For example, the biggest grossing Hollywood movies are Gone With the Wind, Avatar and Titanic. All of them are romantic movies.
Yet, even when Hollywood shows violent movies, the criminals are almost always apprehended by the law and made to pay for their crimes. This makes America attractive as a country with law and order. Bad things can happen, but bad people won’t win!
Nollywood should not see my exposition as criticism. I am trying to help them sell Nigeria better. When they do, they will be better able to break through the international market and ultimately make more money, which is the object of business.
As proof of my assertions, I point to The Wedding Party, The Wedding Party 2, Chief Daddy, Sugar Rush and King of Boys. These are the highest-grossing Nollywood movies, and they are not based on juju and fetish. You don’t have to go that route!
I am a patriot, and my counsel is borne out of love for my country and not out of any desire to savage anybody or industry. My value as a human being is tied to the value of Nigeria, and it is this shared national objective that moves me to make these suggestions.
The wedding industry is HUGE. You have
The marriage industry is SMALL. You have
Invest your money in yourselves, not in strangers that impact your wedding, but have no impact on your marriage. God invented marriage. Man invented weddings. That is why weddings don’t last. Maximum, one day, and it is over. It is better to endure your wedding and enjoy your marriage than to enjoy your wedding and endure your marriage. Marriage without a wedding is complete. Wedding without a marriage is incomplete. There is nothing like wedding certificate. You only have marriage certificate. Don’t use all your money to pay for a wedding and have none left to pay for a marriage. Think long term!