Jonathan N3 Billion Grant to Nollywood – Is the President Losing the Cultural …

| March 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

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A plot is one of the basic ingredients of the arts, especially in film and literature–everything, including the success of a story, resolves around how well the artist develops his plot. This crucial element in the construction of reality is defined as “a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality” [E. M. Forster]–simply, what happens, what it means and how it relates to other events. With this in mind, I am in the most concrete state of depression to wake up this morning and read the headline”Jonathan announces N3 billion New Grant for Nollywood” in Premium Times newspaper [March 3, 2013, online edition]. This, coming on the heels of a N32 billion loan scheme the same President Jonathan made available to the same Nollywood in 2010, and by a government that has consistently ignored Nigerian writers and their labour union, the Association of Nigerian Authors [ANA], is a clear indication that the Jonathan administration has lost its plot in terms of developing a resilient and positive Nigerian cultural identity.

The eminent jurist, Lord Denning of the United Kingdom, memorably said you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand. This is a truism, logical everywhere. Yet, this truism does not seek to dissuade people from trying to build houses in the sky or skyscrapers from the top floor to ground. It is rather a cautionary tale on the futility of doing so; whatever is created by building on dubious foundations will not stand the test of time. It will be like any of the collapsed buildings that waste lives and livelihoods in Nigeria every now and then as a result of poor architecture. The science of Architecture and the art of the Plot are pari passu. The Goodluck Jonathan administration simply cannot continue the ill-advised policy of throwing billions at film producers and their 90-minute creations while ignoring the bedrock of film which is the book, the author who writes it and the guild that guides his vocation. We first learned to write before we learned to make movies, a government that is reform minded as the present administration simply cannot ignore Nigerian literature and writing in favour of film–nor should it be allowed to do this by all stakeholders in the book industry.

In the Premium Times piece under reference, the President stated that the new grant, dubbed Project Nollywood, “will include grants for the best film scripts, a capacity development fund, and funds for supporting the industry’s infrastructure.” A regular watcher of Nollywood movies would not agree less with the President on the absolute necessity of these three activities if the cultural product of national importance that is our cinematography and film is to be made to rise above the present, dominant mediocrity. The 2010 loan scheme for Nollywood, a fund of N32 billion, may have led to the increase in quality and international standing of the work of our best directors in the period since, and there is no arguing that the Government has got to step in and take an active role in the strengthening of cultural ambassadors like Nollywood. But this must not come at the expense of other ambassadors such as Nigeria’s hardworking writers and publishers who need a shot in the arm as well. What is more, the film and book industries are interrelated; where do the “best film scripts” that his Excellency seeks come from if not from writers and scriptwriters and adapters? And how will they produce their best work when they are ignored and lack the means to hone their skills, learn best practices and build infrastructure critical to producing work that reflects Nigeria well to the world? To assume that this disconnect is possible is to take Nigerians for a ride. Is the Jonathan administration taking us for a ride as regards its commitment to culture?

When we speak of a plot, we also mean chronology. There is an order to doing things and you do not bypass a man to enter his compound. In the run-up to Nigeria’s Centenary Celebration next year, the Jonathan administration has floated the building of a new capital city, has already started hobnobbing with the Nollywood folks yet we have had nothing at all as regards books and literacy in the year of our centenary. Yet, beyond Amalgamation there was Independence and Nigeria never would have become independent in 1960 were not for the dogged and tireless effort of writers like Nnamdi Azikiwe and his West African Pilot. There was not a filmmaker in the independence movement, that movement was led and delivered by writers working on their own and in concert. It is a thing of immense annoyance to me that the Association of Nigerian Authors has been treated so shabbily by an administration that seems to pay only lip service to the matter of cultural development. I am aware that the Association has planned a Congress of African Writers for 2014 and has received not a dime in support, not even a word of interest, from the Federal Government even when relevant officials have been personally and officially approached. For God’s sake, how can we persist in putting the cultural cart before the cultural horse?

The recent renaissance of the Nollywood industry can be traced to no earlier than the early 1990’s, with the rise of cheap VHS players. Yet, the Association of Nigerian Authors was formally set up in 1981 by Chinua Achebe to aggrandize Nigerian Writing, on the shoulder of the Society of Nigerian Authors formed in the 1960’s. Just five years after the formal setup of ANA, the Nobel Prize for Literature was won by Professor Wole Soyinka–making that Nigerian the first black person to win it. The cultural stature of Nigeria abroad is borne on the shoulders of these two men and both of them are writers; Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Soyinka’s countless stands against tyranny have defined this country and it is pretty disrespectful that the Jonathan Administration, while publicly hobnobbing with filmmakers who only recently arrived, has not shown the proper interest in the Association of Nigerian Authors and her members.

It is not only the filmmakers who need infrastructure. Early in January, 2013, ANA President Professor Remi Raji, and his 2011/13 EXCO launched an ambitious multi-billion naira writers’ village at Abuja just a stone throw from President Jonathan’s Aso Rock Villa. The Mamman Jiya Vatsa Writers’ Village at Mpape, with a proposed conference hotel, performing arts centre, library, office spaces and an amphitheatre will also have small villas suitable for an international residency programme where writers from within and outside Nigeria can come and write and hone their skills. I am aware that the Goodluck Jonathan administration has not done a single thing in helping Nigerian Writers achieve this legacy project in honour of a great patriot and former FCT Minister, General Mamman Jiya Vatsa. Yet the same government turns around and throws billions at the film industry for “infrastructure”. This sort of behaviour simply must not be accepted by Nigerian writers and member of the Association of Nigerian Authors nationwide. It is indeed a thing of concern that State Governments such as those of Niger and Kebbi States pay more attention to ANA than the Federal Government that is constitutionally charged with Education and Culture.

Nigerian writers must not accept this shabby treatment; it is disrespectful and insulting to our monumental contributions to Nigeria’s history from the pre-Independence period to today. As a writer myself, I am waiting for my President, Professor Remi Raji, and his EXCO to call an international press conference where they will denounce the antics of this administration that has seemingly lost its cultural plot, that is curious about putting something on nothing and expecting it to stand and that would behave in such a manner that bypasses a man to enter his household. When this is done, we writers across the country will take the necessary steps to exert our pressure on this administration in a manner that would not be nice at all. If a prophet is not respected in his hometown, he can refuse to prophesy or he can leave, but there is no one to say he must not put up with such disrespect. Nigerian authors, enough is enough.

Dickson is of the FUT, Minna and is the author of Owl on the Oak.

Culled from :Here

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Category: Entertainment