I am a great admirer of Nigerian movies and on several ocassions, I have read or heard that, it is a success. As an admirer, the news about the success of Nollywood that seem to surprise many in France, in particular those within the select group of cultural journalists, is to me ,no news. I have always known that, Nigerians are best at anything that, they get involved in. Although I knew how good Nollywood movies were, it was only when I began traveling around Africa, especially in French-speaking Africa, to cover stories, that, I came to discover the true force and influence of Nigerian movies.
In Central African Republic, Nollywood movies are translated into Sango ( national language) and French languages. While in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, Nollywood movies are translated into lingala( national language). Nigerian movies are very pupolar in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, to a point that, some TV stations, especially in the DRC, are sponsored by local beer and mobile phone companies to broadcast only Nigerian movies at specific times.
Besides the TV successes registered by Nollywood, Nigerian movies have brought with them or introduced in most French-speaking African countries, that I have visited: the pride to be dressed in traditional African outfits and also the introduction of new words or terms in the local lingua-francas of those countries. These new words or terms are mostly words borrowed from Nigerian languages, in particular, the Ibo language, widely spoken in Eastern Nigeria. I was pleasantly surprised, when I went to Point Noire, the commercial capital of the Republic of Congo, and a friend of mind, told me in French, during a walkout that, “Je vais vous montre les Maison des Igwe or I will help you discover Igwe houses .” Igwe is a chief or title holder in Iboland. At first, I did not understand why the buildings he wanted to show me in the residential parts of Point Noire were referred to as Igwe houses.
Nutrally, I asked to know why the mansions, especially the new ones, built by the suddenly rich in the commercial capital of Congo, were referred to as Igwe houses. It was then that, my friend told me that, it was in reference to the sumpteous villas that are shown in Nigerian movies. Some Congolese think that, in Nigeria, all the rich and powerful as potrayed in Nollywood movies live in large villas and have expensive cars.
My other surprise at how strong was Nollywood was in Brazzaville, the capital of Congo. It was on the 6th of June this year. That day, at the Alfred Raoul Boulevard, the main ceremonial ground of the city, the ruling party was staging it final presidential campaign rally. The rally was dubbed: “Mega Meeting” and there were around half a million people present. I was startled, when President Sassou Nguesso arrived the parade ground, and the crowd began shouting: Igwe-Igwe-Igwe…….. President Sassou Nguesso is called several affectionate names by his supporters. He is some times called: Otchombe or Ngueli-ngueli. But for President Nguesso to be called Igwe, was a mixture of shock , suripris and also pride.
I was proud of the success of Nollywood and also the Nigerian culture in general. It is an export or a commodity that, the Nigerian government seem to have neglected. For culture and Nollywood in particular, can be used to promote Nigeria positively and more, used to change Nigeria’s image abroad. Interestingly, it is not only Nollywood movies that is Nigeria’s cultural success in all the Central African countries that I have visited . Nigerian music is also making a break through. The Nigerian group that is the toast of the moment is called P-SQUARE. It is at the top of the Hit parade in Gabon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea.
Another interesting thing is that, Nigerian movies are succeeding in countries that are French-speaking, which culturally are different from Nigerians. The success of Nollywood also has it negative aspects. For it has cause disasters in the two Congos. Hardly a day goes by without reports of a house set ablaze because a women began cooking and abandoned her pot to go and watch an episode of a Nollywood film. Some families have lost their children because one of the guidance, in most cases women, got distracted by Nollywood.
Students do abandone classes because they don’t want to miss any episode of Nollywood. Mindful of the popularity of Nollywood and the problems that it has generated, the government of Congo decided that the national TV should stop airing Nollywood films. But since on the other side of river Congo, TV stations were still broadcasting Nollywood movies, the decision taken in Brazzaville was null and void. In order to solve the problem caused by the success of Nigerian films, the governments of both Congos decided to regulate how and when Nigerian movies should be broadcast. It was agreed that, Nigerian films won’t be banned as some extremists had wanted, but would be broadcast only late in the night and no rebroadcast in the mornings, during week days.
At moment when everything from Nigeria is negative, especially with the new banking scandal, Nollywood is one thing that makes any proud and patriotic Nigerian to be glad and proud to be Nigerian. But what I don’t know is whether Nigerian actors and film industry are paid royalties by all the TV stations broadcasting their films