TO say that Nollywood @ 20 is capable of being run in sequels, seemingly unending as a season movie, would not be a hyperbole. In 20 years that the phenomenon called Nollywood has been with us, the rights could be said to be moving in arithmetic progression, while the wrongs are geometric. Reasons are not farfetched: Nigerian government has not been meticulous, and this is talking about all the sectors. But perhaps the entertainment industry is among the worst hit.

Entertainment from time immemorial has been largely regarded as a ‘play thing’. Nigerian parents, in the early days of musical and theatrical evolution didn’t want their children to take up entertainment as a career. Children who chose to toe that line were regarded as outcasts of a sort. The singers were not considered better than town criers. Same for members of the moving theatres who survived by entertaining kings while living on the generosities of the clapping crowd at village squares. Parents may love to be entertained, but they’d rather watch the children of others mount the stage. This brings to my mind, a Yoruba proverb that states that “a madman’s folly excites, but not when the madman is your child.”

Our parents, some of whom were government people carried this sentiment into public office. They never saw entertainment as business. No matter how you want them to look at it, entertainment is leisure, it is relaxation, it is playtime event; it is not work, it is not a serious thing, and so should not be taken seriously. It is supposed to be a service rendered freely by those who don’t work, to those who work. Entertainment to the ignorant is that massage that a full-time house wife gives to her husband after a hard day’s job. But the one who renders these services cannot continue to be a low life. Even housewives today have become breadwinners.

This is the ugly picture that we reflect as Nigerians as far as art and entertainment is concerned. The situation may be better than in times past, but our strides are slow. Our parents’ attitudes are merely changing passively; so is government’s attitude to entertainment. Its entire phenomenon remains ‘play’ which is what entertainment is in English; ‘Wasa’ that it is in Hausa, ‘Ere’ that it is in Yoruba and ‘Egwuregwu’ in Igbo.

I am worried that our independence from the colonial masters was not total. We just knew that we wanted to rule ourselves; we were not moved by the passion to develop and give ourselves the self esteem that we thought the white man denied us. You would recall that the medium of film was a propaganda tool for the colonial masters. It was a medium of mass education on government policies. And that perhaps, is the reason that by accident, the film industry still remains under the Information Ministry where propaganda strives. But after the liberalization of the mass media, it appears that government is still struggling with its defeat, that it does not think that the film industry should be evacuated from its fortuitous spot. They look at the film industry from one perspective; a tool for international diplomacy, forgetting that on the flip side of the coin, Nollywood, is also a vehicle of cultural exportation.

I have thought of two major reasons why the film industry cannot function effectively under the Information Ministry. One; ‘Information’ is such a large sector that endears the Ministry to areas of quick fund, like the telecommunications sector and other private media establishments that give government direct revenue. Two; the Information Minister, in our usual political complexity is too busy defending government’s wrongdoings, to have quality time for the entertainment industry. Yet, they have refused to let the industry go to where it may find succor.

A strong but subtle statement was made about who the real ‘parent’ of the entertainment industry is, when recently, President Goodluck Jonathan announced a proposed grant of N3 billion naira for Nollywood, putting the fund under the management of Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The fund, which Mr. President said will be unveiled in the first week of April, is in solidarity with the industry which was said to have clocked 20 this year, judging from the acclaimed first video film production in Nigeria called Living in Bondage.

If this is a gradual method of making the ‘parent’ get familiar with a child in shelter, say to the child, “I’m sorry for abandoning you as a kid,” and evolve strategies to bring him back home, to this, I say, kudos to Mr. President.

But perhaps for the sake of emphasis, we need to knock ourselves real hard. The motion picture industry is the only sector in Art, Culture and Entertainment that is under the Federal Ministry of Information and Communication. In other civilizations, most of which we emulate as a country, the entertainment sectors are put under the Ministry of Culture. The situation, as it is in Nigeria, has caused a major disconnect between the movie industry and other sectors in the art.

Apart from the fact that honchos at the Information Ministry are not by calling, trained to understand the heartbeat of a people’s culture wholesomely, their ‘unholy alliance’ with the entertainment industry is the reason for its stunted growth. One among which is the fact that only the Ministry of Culture is empowered to sign international treaties which are very needed for the continued growth of the industry.

Of what use therefore is a father, who cannot contribute positively to his child, especially when it has to do with deciding the child’s promising future. Let the Information Ministry, a surrogate parent, who merely took custody of the child from an accidental scene created by the colonial masters relinquish the child to its original parent; the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

But if this is a riddle, let’s see how government intends to solve it: let’s see what the composition of the committee on the N3 billion will look like. Will the agencies dedicated to the film industry, even though they run the mandate of Information Minister, be co-opted into the scheme by the Culture and Tourism Ministry? Or will they be made to watch the game from the sideline?

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