Last week, the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists (SONTA) headed by Professor Sunday Ododo, held its 2015 international conference at the Yar’Adua Conference Centre, Abuja. It was hosted by the cultural parastatal, the Nigerian Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma. By the way, this is the first time in our history that an arm of government in the culture ministry is hosting a university based organisation comprising cultural academics. It is a salutary development.
In a quite salutary manner, the event had as its special guest of honour President Muhammadu Buhari, who seized the occasion to demonstrate the commitment of his government to give priority attention to the cultural industries in his drive to diversify the nation’s ailing economy.
With particular reference to the theme of the conference; the repositioning drive of Nollywood to participate in the effort to grow he nation’s economy, the conference unanimously lauded Nollywood as a critical entry point of Nigeria to globalisation and restated its massively growing relevance to solving some of the nation’s problems, namely growing job creation and deployment as well as rapid reduction of poverty in the land. The conference also discussed some of the challenges facing Nollywood as well as the cultural industries in general and came up with salient suggestions on how to give impetus to it as an important sector of the nation’s economy.
The importance and potentials of the cultural industries in Nigeria, and in this instance, the Nollywood, was critically addressed, to the effect that even though governments have paid lip service to it over the years it has continued to recognise, without contention, its importance to repositioning the nation’s economy. And the present government appears poised to build on the achievement of government in this direction.
It was also instructive that General Babangida was the special guest of the occasion, when we recall that it was his government which promulgated the Cultural Policy (1988) and brought the NICO into existence. The Obasanjo government also drew attention to the Tourism Master Plan (2004) while ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, made meaningful gesture to the industry.
Represented by the then minister of state for the FCT, in May 2011, in Abuja at the 4th African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC), which had as its theme: ‘Crafts Industry for Economic Transformation;’ Jonathan called for the transformation of the arts and crafts industry to boost the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
In like manner, the then minister of tourism, culture and national orientation, while presenting the scorecard of his ministry, echoed the president, when he remarked that, “though the country offers a wide variety of tourist attractions, such as fascinating beaches, unspoiled nature and climatic condition conducive for holidaying, he regretted that many of these attractions are still largely untapped.” The Buhari government has, through this conference, re-affirmed government’s commitment to giving fillip to cultural industries through Nollywood and other cultural activities in his drive toward turning the economy around.
It is heart-warming, as the conference noted and discussed that while the cultural industries are yet to be given prime attention in general and are performing far below their potentials in the economy as a relatively unexplored area, the same cannot be said of the medium of film, which has come to be directly associated with the culture industry. The role of film, and by implication, home movies, as a revenue earner for Nigeria, is central alongside its crucial role as the cultural carrier. According to Onuzulike (2007), “the corpus of songs and oral literature, festivals, rituals, the traditional religion, performing arts, music, dance, and indeed, the entire range of artefacts constituting traditional oral performance of Nigerian culture are represented in Nigerian movies.”
A cursory foray into the revenue generation capacity of the cultural industries would show how important they are to the economy. To buttress this point, Dominick (2009:222) reveals that: “Home movies have become Hollywood’s biggest revenue source. In 2006, the combined income from the sales and rentals of DVDs topped the $24 billion mark, more than double (and in addition to) the amount taken in at the Box Office.”
Nollywood, Nigeria’s booming film industry is, according to a UNESCO study (2010), the world’s second largest producer of feature films next to Bollywood in terms of number. In 2011, Nigeria made 872 productions, while Hollywood made 485 productions. Yet, unlike Hollywood and Bollywood, films are made on shoe-string budgets in tempo-fiscal terms in Nigeria with a non-sophisticated informal economic structure production system.
An average production takes just 10 days and costs approximately $15,000. Unlike the figures in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, this statistics is a far cry from what it should be, in terms of investment into the industry. Nevertheless, to buttress the potentials that the industry has in turning around the fortune of the country, in less than twenty years of its existence, Nollywood has grown from nothing into over a billion dollar-a-year industry creating jobs for more than a million people in our country and outside of it.
The cache here is that, if Nollywood is the second largest film industry in the world and the third leading country, the USA is raking in about $36b per year then the figures from Nigeria (no matter how conservatively put) are abysmally low and can be radically improved if the attitude of the state towards it is right and all the resources, including social infrastructure are emplaced.
The growth of Nollywood in the Nigerian economy as well as its ramifying influence and importance in world culture manifestations have made it expedient for us as a nation to deploy energies, resources and infrastructure to develop it so that we can maximise socio-economic benefit from it.
There is need for government to re-strengthen the arms of such agents like the Nigerian Copyrights Commission and such other regulatory bodies to protect the intellectual property of the nation and by implication maximise the revenue derivation potential of Nollywood and other cultural industries in which the nation is massively endowed.