Lai Mohammed and The Nigerian Entertainment Industry

Four days ago, Nigeria’s Minister Of Information, Lai Mohammed, during a meeting with the Copyright Association Of Nigeria, COSON, talked about the formation of a policy that will prevent musicians and movie producers from producing videos outside the country. He argued that we must begin to consume whatever we produce and grow our economy with entertainment rather than invest in the economies of other countries. He argued that it is economically unwise to invest in the economy of other people while sidelining ours.

His words:

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. 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. As long as we are not able to implement our own code to ensure local production of Nigerian music and movies, our young talents will not get jobs. It is Nigerians that pay for the consumption of these products and therefore they must be allowed and encouraged to participate in their production. I am going to meet with the relevant stakeholders over this, to see that whatever amendment that is needed to be made to our Broadcasting Code in this regard, is done urgently.

Several artistes and industry personalities like Peter and Paul of P-square, Jude Okoye, Charlie Boy, comedian ‘I Go Die’, K.Fee, and rappers Ruggedman and Yung6ix, have come out to condemn the statement made by the minister. All had something in common. They attacked the policy from a position of equity. They questioned why the same government and leaders whose kids study abroad demand what they can’t give. They asked why the same government that has blessed Nigerians with abundant hunger and poor governance are trying hard to control how citizens, who have become their own government, produce their films and music videos. It was I Go Die who came from a place of diplomacy and Ruggedman gave a detailed solution to the problem. Both argued that the government need to have some Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) with these artistes to grow the economy and provide jobs. They all had a point.

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The questions facing us are: Is that a right and a proper way of building the economy of the country to global standard? Does the government has the right to decide where business people do their trade in a democracy? Is it right for a public servant or servants, whose children study abroad, who go oversea for shopping, who go oversea for medical tourism, who use technological devices manufactured abroad, to tell a business man, who is neither a public servant nor a leader of any constituency, to cut his businesses abroad? Why should this hold for the entrainment industry alone and not all industries in the country? How should other nations act when you ban your producers from shooting in their countries but at the same time intend to export the materials when finished to these countries? What is the right way to secure jobs and project the image of the country through entertainment?

The problem with this policy stems from the shortsightedness it harbours. There are so many things that deter artistes from shooting videos in Nigeria. The Director of the Movie, Behind The Wheels, spoke of a charge of 500,000 Naira for shooting just a scene at an Airport in Nigeria. The issue of power interruption is also another problem. The sounds and troubles from generation sets piss many producers who shoot here off. The interruption of Power as a movie is being shot discourages these producers too. And when they consider the fact that they are responsible for everything at all levels of production, lose more money in the process and become frustrated, it becomes difficult to remain patriotic. It is easier to be patriotic when you see patriotism in your leaders. It is easier to sacrifice for your country when those who preach sacrifice make it easier to sacrifice for the country. What if there is a memorandum of understanding between the Actors Guild of Nigeria(AGN) and Professional Musician of Nigeria(PMAN) with the federal government making it easy to use some venues?

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Why should this ban be only for the entertainers? There are so many businesses between Nigeria, Nigerians and other countries that take money outside the country. The crude oil we export abroad for refining and import later as finished products without benefitting from the petrochemicals gotten during refining. The policy to import healthy grasses from countries with healthier grasses. The motorcycles that come from Asia through the Lagos Apapa Ports everyday. Why is the ban only for entertainers? The reason these other imported goods are still allowed into the country is because of our insufficiency in the fields. If we had a functional refinery we wouldn’t be exporting crude oil to import them back as finished products. If we had companies that make motorcycles, the importation of motorcycles from Asia will be a wasteful exercise for anyone to go into. And if we had grasses that are very healthy there wouldn’t be need to try to import them. I don’t know why the Minister couldn’t see it in this light. If we had the right environment for the production of all music videos and movies, then artistes and Nollywood producers won’t go outside to produce. This is pure logic. If we allow the importation of motorcycles, export our crude for refining, and intend to import grasses because we are lacking in materials and resources required to produce motorcycles, refine crude oil and get quality grasses, why should entertainers, struck by unavailability of resources to execute a video, be banned from seeking those materials outside? After all, like the importer, they still bring it back here to distribute and create jobs.

It gets annoying when you look at it from the angle of equity. Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has been in London for more than 70 days on medical treatment. His government’s 2016 budget for the State House Medical Centre was around 3.87 Billion Naira, 787 Million Naira more than the combined budget for the sixteen Federal Teaching Hospitals available in the country. While the State House clinic serves just the President and other residents of the President Villa(or Aso Villa) numbering not more than 2000, the Federal Teaching Hospitals serve millions of Nigerians all over the country. And when the President falls sick or needs a medical checkup, he is flown abroad. The children of Nigerian Ministers are also studying abroad. The same thing with the children of the governors. These people go abroad for any minor headache and checkup. They travel outside the country to shop and have fun. They relish any little opportunity to travel abroad. Where then is the moral right to consume local content coming from? How does a person who is neither patriotic or enhancing the lives of Nigerians ask Nigerians to be patriotic?

On a business level, Lai Mohammed was also wrong. It was this association with the outside world that led to the growth of Nigerian music and Nollywood. You don’t change a winning formula. I still remember watching P-Square perform in the Cora Awards in South Africa. I remember the MOHITS’s deal with Snoop Dogg to shoot the Video for Mr Endowed Remix. Today, most of our artistes do free and paid shows abroad. If Lai Mohammed is against shooting videos abroad, I would like to know what he has to say about foreigners paying Nigeria artists to come perform in their country. Is he against our artistes or for them? I wonder who will let you do shows in their country if it is an abomination to shoot videos in the same country. What Mr Lai doesn’t understand is that entertainment must be beneficial to both sides and confuses the benefits on the side of the host country with slavishness. While the artiste’s and producers country share large percentage of the money, the country where the video was shot gets the lower share. Lai doesn’t seem to understand that both sides must gain in a business relationship and doesn’t know who gains more. He is trying to grow the business by cutting down business partners. It is like saying that Nigeria and not South Africa gains more from MTN Services in Nigeria.

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I’ve heard many people argue that if the environment is healthy, our artistes and movie producers will shoot majority of their videos in Nigeria. First, the majority of videos produced by our entertainers are done in Nigeria. Only few of our super stars and movies are shot abroad. I don’t know where the idea that most are shot abroad is coming from. The second thing is that lack of beautiful environment is not the only reason too. Entertainers do not shoot movies abroad simply because the environment over there is more beautiful. The reason some choose to shoot it abroad or anywhere else is because it captures what they are trying to convey with the song. It could be just to improve the video content or purely ego driven. But it all boils down to passing a message. Whatever message. Here, the idea some who shoot abroad want to portray to the viewers is that they’ve made it. If there are areas in Nigeria that could also massage their egos they will use the locations. The Fate of The Furious, aka, Fast 8, had some scenes shot in Iceland. These settings were chosen because they met the idea the directors were trying to convey. The truth is, if Nigeria was more organized, if our leaders were more responsible and the quality of living at a very high level, the few artistes and movie producers, who shoot outside, will have no business shooting videos in other countries at the same or lower level. If the country was well run and had all they need they would be less reason to shoot videos abroad. Entertainers are not stupid and any ban on production abroad will be a joke.

About Poet 171 Articles
I am Rey Alaetuo, a conscious Poet and health care professional living in Owerri, Nigeria. I am an exponent of humanism and a vigilant Poet. I am deeply interested in the propagation of positive human values and behaviour.

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