THE Nigerian creative sector has been greatly underrated; a reality which is fast hitting stakeholders to the degree that, this election season, they have somewhat showed their disdain for handouts.
Therefore, as some of them vote today across the country, irrespective of political party affiliations, one thing is clear – an enabling environment for creative enterprise.
There is no gainsaying that the ‘song’ about the creative industry developing on individuals’ efforts is still rife. Thus, government needs to be awake to the plight of the stakeholders, not just for the sake of the latter, but for the common good of the Nigerian economy, if government’s agenda of economy diversification from oil is anything to go by.
Indeed, there is the need to re-position the creative sector for auditable structure and optimal returns. A cursory look at some of the pending issues include a few bills proposed to the National Assembly. They include, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) and the Tourism Development Fund.
Wherein the NEA is expected to stem a situation under which artistes access funds at high interest rates, MOPICON, on the other hand, is expected to provide a self-regulatory framework to guide and standardise the activities of the nation’s movie industry, while the Tourism Development Fund is to provide funds for training and project development.
On the aspect of return on investment, piracy being the common threat is still ubiquitous. This is just as a palliative called Private Copy Levy is a form of royalty that musicians and audio-visual entrepreneurs earnestly desire.
At a recent workshop in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Professor Olu Obafemi made reference to how much oil has hindered development of Nigeria’s creative industry.
Obafemi, a Professor of English at the University of Ilorin who stated this during an empowerment programme for young filmmakers, noted that oil has stopped Nigeria from developing its rich creative industry, as against the much talked about economic diversification.
“We are too dependent on oil, and this has made authorities not to give attention to the development of our cultural economy,” he said, adding that, “All over the world, culture has become a major source of revenue as nations package their cultures in films and export them.”
On what it takes to attain alternative source of national income, he identified Nollywood as Nigeria’s key representation on the stage of global economy.
On what an enabling environment entails, he identified piracy, insecurity and lack of adequate infrastructure as some of the banes, making it unattractive to both local and foreign investors, while urging government at all levels to show political will to develop the creative sector.
“I believe that if the enabling environment is created and the right policies are there, the sector will strive,” he said.
“If our roads are not usable and the environment is not secure, how do you expect filmmakers to go to shooting locations? The industry is capital intensive, and to produce very good films, you will need millions of dollars, and this is where funding becomes a major setback to the Nigerian filmmakers.”
Stakeholders in the creative industry continue to seek a way each election year. This season is not different, as they have met with some candidates from the different political parties.
So much has been said about how successive governments in Nigeria have used entertainers as political campaign tools to ‘win’ elections; how their best had been seen and treated synonymously to the glamour of their profession; and how, when it comes to leadership positions, they are not considered fit, because such managerial positions appear to be purely political.
So much was said about how filmmakers, especially, cannot even be bosses of their art in the face of intellectual property thieves who, ironically, are lords in the business, smiling to the bank at the expense of rights owners.
So much was said about enabling environment from government in forms of security at film locations; import waivers, especially for capital equipment and support for trade-related initiatives; transformative policies around access to finance and distribution.
Personally, I do not know where they got it wrong, but these creative people are some of the most brilliant people I have known across all professions in the world. These attributes, they often exhibit before the politicians, who, obviously will agree to every demand but bow to whatever superior interests when the ‘stew’ is done.
Today, as these stakeholders vote out of expectation, it is hoped that the potential winners will meet their expectations.
Author: VICTOR AKANDE