SONTA’s agenda for repositioning Nollywood
For the first time since 1982 when the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists (SONTA) was established, a government agency played host to the conference by SONTA. On August 4, 2015, the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), hosted the 28th edition of the Annual International Conference and AGM of SONTA, an event that has strengthened the hope of further engaging relationships with other government agencies and institutions.
The theme of the conference: Repositioning Nollywood for the Promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy and National Security was designed to stimulate discourse of pertinent and contemporary issues which under-pin the development of the sector described by SONTA’s President, Prof. Sunday Enessi Ododo, as a goldmine that has not been fully exploited for gainful impact in the socio-cultural system in Nigeria.
Former President, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, represented by Nkechi Ejele, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, said “the focus of this conference, Nollywood; the Nigerian Film Industry, is a phenomenon that should stimulate our collective attention because of the enormous potentials for the social, political and economic development of our country.”
Gen. Babangida tasked Nigeria to take advantage of the general acceptance of Nollywood films by the global industry and society to achieve the feat.
His words: “Nollywood can be deployed as a potent mechanism to address our current security challenges. Beyond entertainment, through films, the citizenry can be adequately informed and educated on the enormous benefits of living in peace and harmony, have respect for the sanctity of human life and the grave dangers of breakdown of law and order and the tendencies towards criminality and insurgency.
“I have no doubt that Nollywood can be deployed as a veritable tool for cultural diplomacy and social re-engineering. Through the medium of Nigerian Films, our rich and diverse cultural heritage and achievements can be projected and promoted to attract tourists and investors the way foreign films have been effectively used to promote Indian and American national interests. Nollywood certainly makes huge contributions already to Nigerian external relations and even foreign exchange earnings.”
The retired General also recalled the role he played in the advancement of the Nigerian Film Industry. He mentioned that it was his government’s policy of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the late 1980s, that gave rise to the deregulation of the broadcast media that energized and sprouted independent producers in the Nigerian Film Industry, opened up the entertainment space and massively encouraged creativity.
From records of the industry between the pre-1986 SAP era and post 1992 deregulation experience, Nollywood exploded and the Nigerian society and economy penetrated the national borders into the African continent, America and Europe.
In her remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Nkechi Ejele represented by George Ufot, said, “It is imperative to note that the leading economies of the world are leveraging on the lucrativeness of the sector. It is on the record that the creative industry contributes about 76 billion pounds to the economy of the United Kingdom.
“The figures are much higher for the U.S. where it is a major drive of economic growth. It is estimated that the creative industries contribute about $698 billion to the US economy. Nigeria has a great array of young people with great energies and creative abilities to launch Nigeria into the league of world leading economies.”
SONTA’s President, Sunday Enessi Ododo, was quite appreciative of the support of NICO with his expression of the hope that it would endure and further open up the ‘floodgate’ of more robust and engaging relationships with other relevant government agencies and institutions.
He said, “When the academia and government agencies partner and synergize on collaborative ventures, the benefit is enormous. There is no greater way to see government policies in action than this layer of collaboration. I believe that our President, Muhammadu Buhari would explore this kind of synergy to fast track his three-pronged agenda on security, youth employment and transparency.”
“Indeed, interrogating Nollywood and National Security, opens up a fresh vista on how the current security challenges in Nigeria can be addressed. Repositioning the Nigerian film industry to play key roles in character transformation, national consciousness and security sensitivity will be in the overall interest of all Nigerians. The film is a potent medium with wide reach and with mass mobilization appeal.
“If the present government was to go far in her change mission and national re-orientation, the answer is Nollywood. Also, we affirm that Mr. President’s determined fight against corruption is commendable and it should not start and end with government officials only. Corrupt practices in the private sector should receive due attention.”
He continued, “As it concerns Nollywood, piracy is the industry’s greatest headache that needs to be specially tackled to a halt. When this battle against piracy is won, Nollywood and its economic benefits shall have stronger footing and genuine impact on our economy”.
The Executive Secretary of NICO, Dr. Barclays Anyakoroma said the agency has been carrying out sensitization programmes in the bid to harness culture for national development, in line with the World Decade for Cultural Development (1988-1998).
Besides, he itemized some steps taken by the institute to promote Nigeria’s arts and culture. These include introduction of academic courses in cultural administration for improved productivity; promotion of Nigerian dress culture, Nigerian indigenous languages, reading cultures, cultural clubs in schools and media workshops for writers and editors.
The choice of the theme, “Repositioning Nollywood for the promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy and National Security,” by the organizers of the conference was informed by the need to direct the attention of states that could contribute significantly to their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) through the platform of the Nigerian Film Industry.
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