By Zailani Bappa
I read a post by someone who expressed his worry about the lack of unity of purpose (in fact, he said, unity of everything) among the Nigerian people. He was writing about the movie industry. He said Hollywood had been a household name for a country as vast as America. So also Bollywood for a country as big as India. Both countries are bigger and more economically prosperous than Nigeria.
However, despite the existence of Nollywood, we still have the Kannywood in Nigeria. He believes the existence and progression of Kannywood are retrogressive to the Unity of purpose in the industry in Nigeria. I reason with him. However, that is only when the matter is viewed from the surface. Scratch the surface a little, and you’ll see the bigger picture.
Both Nollywood and Kannywood emerged in prominence in the 1990s. Nollywood comes in English, pidgin, Igbo and Yoruba. The Kannywood comes mainly in Hausa and a few times in English. Looking at the Hollywood and Bollywood industries as both business and national projects, both Industries tend to project National Unity, National Pride and National dignity of their respective countries. And the business does not discriminate in the selection of protagonists.
However, in Nigeria, tribal, sectional and religious stereotypes continue to influence the industry, which makes it even more difficult to have a unified industry. To date, egg-heads of the Nollywood industry find it difficult to accept the fact that the industry needed to diversify and be all-inclusive in sourcing for their resource. For instance, African-Americans in the US are arguably the lowliest rated race in the US. However, the Hollywood industry does not believe so. The Industry became all-inclusive and explored for talents instead of being led by stereotypes. Now the negros are almost the best actors in the industry. That is how it grew to excellence.
In Nigeria, however, Nollywood, with the advantage of producing in English first, metamorphosed most of the vernacular protagonists into English productions but unwittingly limited the train to those from the South-East of the Country who saw themselves as the owners of the industry. For instance, the far Northern Nigerian does not deserve more than the role of a gateman in Nollywood films. If at all you hear the name Musa, Usman, or Bala, then, it’s the guy employed to look after the gate or wash the cars of Obinna, Ifeanyi or Chibuzo. The Lagos-based Industry is not making any genuine efforts to integrate with the Kannywood industry, even as the latter continues to grow in influence and affluence in the North and elsewhere.
However, the Kannywood, with its vast audience across the Hausa-speaking communities across the globe, also failed to grow in its intellectual capacity. It instead gets stuck to its money-making trash productions in the name of soyayya themes, which, apart from the sheer entertainment it provides, literally promotes empty value to the morale, capacity and quality of lives of the audience, not to even talk of national value, pride and dignity.
In Nigeria, the film industry has no idea or focus on National project but purely exist for business reasons. Hollywood has developed over time to become an agenda setter for the United States policymakers and implementors. It has now become a platform and potent avenue for increasing the influence of the United States over other nations and peoples worldwide. The Indian Industry also helps that country placate the outside world with its numerous internal crises and contradictions by promoting a clean, prosperous and happy India.
In Nigeria, Nollywood promotes less national dignity and unity but corruption, indecency, cultism and disunity. It exposes more of the weak and bad sides of the country, its institutions, leaders and people instead of strengthening their good sides more. Why? Because they make better money doing that since their productions appeal more to the wrong side of humanity in us. The Kannywood, with its empty intellectual value, is simply vain. So, as the two continue to grow side by side like that, we may have to do with the fast growth of a two-left-legged maiden of an industry.
Zailani Bappa wrote from Bauchi State via email@example.com.