The Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government has been in search of potent antidotes to the nation’s ailments. Nigerian entertainers in this piece by Newton-Ray Ukwuoma weigh in on the matter proffering solutions of their own stripe.
When on the 31st of August the Federal Government officially accepted that the country has lapsed into recession, the entertainment industry, a sector that covers the film, music, comedy, visual arts and fashion, was breaking new grounds.
“About 2.5 million new music CDs/DVDs are being released for sale, over 1000 new songs are uploaded for downloads and at least about four to six full length films are produced on a daily basis in Nigeria since 2016,” the President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Pretty Okafor, told Saturday Tribune, while speaking on the role of the entertainment industry in reviving the economy.
“This is the biggest achievement so far,” he punctuated.
“And by 2017, the Nigerian entertainment industry, especially the music sub-sector, will become the biggest in the world.
“Imagine the amount of downloads, streaming that occur within and outside Nigeria on our songs on a daily basis! If you put that together in a year, you will realise that this is the fastest growing industry in Nigeria and in Africa.”
Many have argued that the industry, though fraught with its own challenges, has the capacity to take the country out of its current economic predicament – sooner than we thought.
But in spite of its vast economic potentialities, the entertainment industry, among other sectors currently financing the nation’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP), continues to languish in poor structure, low financial support and the nefarious activities of pirates.
Nkiru Umeh, a Nollywood actress, laments, “I don’t think they know how much entertainment can impact the economy of a country. I don’t think this administration has understood it yet. Obviously they are not paying attention. We have a huge role to play. But unfortunately our government is looking elsewhere. It is sad that we are where we are — on our own — without any support from them.”
Another actress, Oge Okoye, also spoke on the issue, “I am not happy with our current situation. I think the government should give entertainment the benefit of the doubt. If well-funded and motivated, the entertainment industry can get us out of our present predicament.
“The problem we have in the entertainment industry is that big investors don’t see the entertainment industry as viable because there seems to be no return on investment. This is as a result of the lack of structure,” she said.
One of the structural defects of the entertainment industry is the level of impunity with which pirates operate in the country. According to reports, Nollywood alone loses about $2 billion to piracy every year. If not threatening the existence of the industry, piracy has eaten deep into the fabric of the creative industry and is the single most important obstacle standing in its way to actual success.
Speaking on strategies for restructuring the industry and recouping money on investment, the PMAN leader called on the government to ensure full implementation of copyright laws, prosecution of offenders and eradication of the corruption that fires the embers of piracy.
He said the association had solved the problem of structure but only needs government’s support. Patent owners can now secure their movies and CDs with a barcode.
“With barcoded CDs or DVDs, you can track the reach of your song or movie anywhere in the world. The system ensures that barcoded contents are not duplicated or pirated without the code.
“One can also call back royalties on intellectual properties as well as receive royalties directly to one’s account. With this system, investors can make returns on their investments.”
It is a well known fact that, most artistes depend on shows and endorsements for daily bread, but the PMAN president believes that this system will ensure that they live on their works, which at present is either downloaded free online or duplicated by pirates.
With the system, he also said the industry would put an end to inaccurate statistical figures since it would provide a database of creative contents released in the industry.
“The only and fastest way to get out of recession,” Pretty Okafor said, “is to embrace and improve on the structure of the entertainment industry, especially the music scene.”
He said with the new structure, “the Federal Government can place a certain percentage as royalty from every download and CD releases on a daily basis.”
“The first approach is to focus on the creative industry. Get the music aligned in a structure, get the movies structured, get the fashion designs, the comedy, visual art all aligned to a structure that will ensure an equitable cash flow.
“I can guarantee that only music can remit over N3 billion into the federal purse in a year, and when you add other aspects of entertainment, the figure will be huge.”
The scope of the market: West Africans speak
At a West African Christian leadership conference held at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, earlier in the year, a number of West African students were asked by Saturday Tribune to comment on the Nigerian entertainment industry.
“Nigerian movies are very popular in the Gambia,” Lamen Bisani, a student from The Gambia said. “Everywhere you go, people are watching Nigerian movies. Even the kids know about Nigerian movies.”
Speaking about the music industry, he said, “I listen to most of their gospel music. Their secular songs are very rampant as well. In fact, in every programme in The Gambia, if they don’t play Nigerian music, no one is happy. We know the way the people dress, their culture and everything. I think what they are doing is to show us what is happening in the world. Sometimes it is the good side and some other times it is the bad sides.”
Alexandra Fagbemi from Togo, a student of English, said, “I watch Nigerian movies a lot. I like Nigerian movies because it (the country) is the pride of Africa. I love the materials, the stories and the passions of the actors even though the voodoo scenes scare Togolese people. My sister buys the CDs a lot.”
In countries where English is not the official language, like Guinea Bissau, Togo, among others, Saturday Tribune gathered that the movies are converted to the national language or the creole in order to break the language barrier.
From Liberia, Richard D. V. Saye told Saturday Tribune of how he sneaks out of school to watch movies. “I personally love Nigerian movies to the extent that when I was in seminary school, I used to escape from school to watch Nollywood movies in the town. But I have stopped watching because of the obscenity in the movies.”
Edward Williams, a Sierra Leonean, who doesn’t like music and movies, describes the situation in his country: “I think Nigerian movies are making serious impact here in Sierra Leone. You see people glued to African Magic on DSTV and everything. If you ask a small child in Sierra Leone, he could tell you about Rita Dominic, Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola, Pete Edochie and others. One thing about Nigerian movies is that their English is very good and people learn. We learn from them. Also in Sierra Leone, if you want to make the club groovy, you play Nigerian songs.”
There is no doubt as to the great market potential open to the entertainment industry of Nigeria. But whether Nigeria and Nigerians can leverage on these opportunities to rescue our economy is solely in our hands.