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It is Time for Lai Mohammed to Stop Talking And Start Communicating. Seriously.

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By Abayomi Omotayo

Preamble

  1. This is for all the current opposition parties who may one day become the ruling party. A vociferous spokesperson of your party does not necessarily translate to an effective Minister of Information and Culture. Halo effect it is called.
  2. Thoughtless people are careless talkers. Nigeria has a fair share of thoughtless leaders hence incessant careless talks.

“Most states today have more than one festival a year, but the packaging and lack of capacity has not enabled them to make the most out of these festivals. There’s a particular masquerade in the south east, it takes 100 people to dress him, another 100 people to undress him. If this masquerade is well-packaged, it can provide employment in one week for more than 1000 young men. These are some of the untapped potentials.” – Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture

Above are the words of our backwardly but nonetheless aspirational Minister of Information and Culture. This statement was in 2016. I thought I’d heard it all until four days ago, precisely Saturday 15 July, 2017 when the minister during a visit to the headquarters of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) outdid himself with another bombshell. He said the Federal Government plans to stop the production of Nigerian movies and music outside the country. According to him, “this government has agreed that henceforth, whatever we consume in Nigeria in terms of music and films must be made in Nigeria. We cannot continue to go to South Africa or any other country to produce our films and then send them back to be consumed in Nigeria. The Broadcasting Code and the Advertising Code are very clear on this. For you to classify a product as a Nigerian product, it must have a certain percentage of Nigerian content”

According to him, this is bad for our economy and unfair to consumers because “when they get there, they will patronise the economy of that country and then bring the products back to Nigeria for us to consume. It is like somebody going to China or Japan to make a product that looks like palm wine and bring it back home to label it Nigerian palm wine”. These words sound patriotic but has the government also been devoted to the improvement of the creative industry in Nigeria?

Our honorable minister should consider the following before making such pronouncements next time.

  1. He who pays the piper dictates the tune and dear Mr. Lai, you and the FG clearly do not pay the piper here. An artiste or a film/music producer raises capital by himself. No thanks to the banks who are only supportive on paper and in adverts but not in reality. They tell you to bring the X Chromosome of your ancestors as collateral with a debt plunging interest rate to match. After raising capital through sweat and blood, no serious artiste wants to churn out mediocre material he therefore opts for the best location that will avail him quality without any undue preference for his country. This is not being unpatriotic, it is just being sensible and business smart.
  2. Mr Lai., where are the infrastructures that our entertainers can leverage on in churning out quality works? In Lagos, the undisputed hotbed of entertainment and nucleus of the creative industry in Nigeria, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that for a film or music video crew to shoot a movie undisturbed by touts. This in itself is a major challenge that your government needs to give attention. Beyond that, where are the film villages, entertainment hubs, studios and resource centers that players in the creative industry can take advantage of instead of going abroad to make their videos and music?
  3. In the end, the bottom line is really about bottom line. Profitability is what the investors, artistes and producers consider and in ensuring that this is achieved, there must be good quality productions which will give consumers value for their money and ensure willing and continuous patronage. We may have the know-how and technical resources to produce quality movies and music videos but we do not have the enabling environment to profitably do that. A producer will rather have his Nigerian reality TV show produced in South Africa rather than Nigeria because of critical factors such as power and infrastructure.
  4. It is 2017 not 1959. The age of Cable TV, Internet Television, Live Streaming and Digital Downloads and not the age of having just Western Nigeria Government Broadcasting Corporation (WNTV) as the first and only Television station in Tropical Africa. This means that the audience is diverse. Producers and artistes therefore need to consider this in their art so as to appeal to the global audience. For example, one of the biggest Hollywood franchises, Fast and Furious, the seventh release was shot in Atlanta. Los Angeles, Colorado, Abu Dhabi and Tokyo. This means that even when the environment is conducive, necessity will still push film makers out of the country to make movies. Sorry Mr, Lai, there is nothing you can do about this.

Instead of trying to bully the creative industry to be more Nigerian, the Federal Government should simply create a conducive environment that will make it cheaper and more convenient to make quality and international standard movies and music videos in Nigeria. Business sense will then dictate to all players to play in Nigeria and not South Africa, the common destination for Nigerian artistes for shooting videos.

Omotayo is a blogger at www.musingsamplified.com.ng and tweet @AbayomiGOmotayo and @musingamplified

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