I learnt the other day that the rating of the Nigeria’s national team, the Super Eagles, went twenty places up as a result of the team’s African Nations Cup victory. I was really wowed! So, I asked a friend, an ardent football lover, but unrepentant critic of the Jonathan administration whether this victory could influence a change of his resolve that nothing good could come out of this administration.
His answer shocked me! My lips hung open in amazement as I heard this man say: “I am impressed with this government for the first time. At least, they allowed a coach, a local one for that matter, to do his job and he has given us the victory. I am beginning to think that they might do some more positive things.” Well, I had a good laugh at my friend, even as he wondered what I found so funny.
That showed me how little conquests (pardon my language) like winning the AFCON trophy could suddenly begin to make people view a President they had earlier seen as pathologically clueless, in a different light. I wondered more as it occurred to me that the perception of Nigeria as a paper giant by a lot of other African countries may also have been affected by the Gold Medal from South Africa. I realised that Sports, like Entertainment, if properly harnessed is capable of changing a lot of the negative impressions about Nigeria.
Then I recalled the recent Christiane Amanpour‘s interview with President Goodluck Jonathan on the Cable News Network, CNN. My interest here is not so much in the exchange between Amanpour, one of today’s leading news correspondents and Jonathan, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria. No, not really, as I have come to understand that most foreigners, including a lot of journalists, are pathetically ignorant about Nigeria. I also do not think that Amanpour was the appropriate platform to achieve whatever that interview was meant to achieve. But that is a matter for another day
What caught my attention was the fact that Amanpour identified the outstanding talent of Nigerian artiste Banky W. After her interview with our President, Amanpour went on a short break and came back with what many Nigerians may consider the best shot of that evening- the video of Banky W’s single titled Change. The television veteran was generous with this piece as she went ahead to describe Banky W as an activist who campaigns for a better polity. It was interesting that CNN’s Chief International Correspondent found something worthy of positive commentary about a Nigerian. It is, certainly, not very often that a Nigerian artiste gets this sort of endorsement on a respected channel like CNN. That didn’t just pass me.
There are several ways to improve the image of this country other than having our leaders labour to answer questions from journalists who mostly have already formed opinions about us. In the same vein, there are far too many ways of generating revenue for this country outside of our oil wells. All that we need are visionary and creative people in key sectors and for them to connect with individual practitioners on how to harness available opportunities for the benefit of all.
It is, especially, sad that Nigeria has not been able to harness the enormous potential in the entertainment sector. An industry that boasts of great exports for possibly three or four generations past ought not to be where it is today. Even before Nigeria gained independence from Britain a little over five decades ago, the world knew Hubert Ogunde, Adeyemi Afolayan and some of their contemporaries. The late Isaac Kehinde Dairo was one of the first Nigerians to be honoured with the Member of the British Empire (MBE) award while the Victor Olaiyas and Steve Rhodes of this world continue to remain iconic.
Then we have the generation of King Sunny Ade, Chief Ebenezer Obey, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and their cohorts, after which we have Femi Kuti and others in his group. What about the generation of the Banky W, D banj, P-Square, Eldee, Whiz Kid, Naeto C, Waje, among so many other talented artistes? One cannot exhaust the list of the amazing musical talents that abound in Nigeria.
The exploits in the movie industry get bolder by the day. At the moment, Nollywood is believed to be the second largest film industry in the world, second only to India and ahead of the United States of America. It is estimated that Nigeria produces an average of two hundred (200) movies monthly and that the industry is currently worth about two billion United States dollars.
Our home videos are popular export items to so many parts of the world. Interestingly too, the quality of our movies have tremendously improved such that they can compete with movies made anywhere in the world. Nigeria also has a very fair share of its citizenry doing excellently well in the movie industry all over the world.
However, none of these efforts can be said to have resulted from any concerted institutional support. The country, to the best of my understanding, has not made much deliberate attempt to harness the enormous artistic talents in the country to our advantage in any meaningful way, not to talk of employing it as an image boosting strategy.
I know that there have been a lot of talk about harnessing our tourism and cultural potentials but I doubt if we can point to any policy that encourages that. As we speak, the demon of piracy continues to cripple our creative industry more by the day. Institutional funding is unavailable for the practitioners and when they raise personal funds to produce their movies; piracy makes it impossible for them to recoup their investments. A musical artiste has to deal with the whole chain of production by himself in most cases. He writes the songs, pays for the studio, pays for mixing; he pays for duplication and then pays for publicity. Gone are the days when recording labels thrived in Nigeria, every man now struggles to attain his dream, yet the system ensures no protection.
So for the sake of those who lead this country, there is an urgent need to call a stakeholder meeting of people in the entertainment industry. These men need not wait for a Presidential initiative on this. We need to stop the incessant haemorrhaging in the entertainment sector and save our nation from the embarrassment of our seeming inability to put up an organised front. Certainly, we can deploy the twin vehicles of sports and entertainment, among several others, to change the perception of our dear country. Yes, we can.
Adedokun, a Lagos based Lawyer and Public Relations Consultant