opinion!Tony Ogbetere writes on the MOPICON bill

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The Need To Strengthen The Guilds and Unite Nollywood For a Greater [email protected]

 

By 2017 I would have done twenty years in the Nigerian movie industry. I am what you could arguably call a bridge between the Old and the new because I know there are also people who have spent twice the number of years I have been in the industry. There seem to be a brewing discord between emerging practitioners and those who have around for sometimes over a proposed MOPICON bill to regulate the industry. Some of the old hands believe that the new entrants have some sort of resentment against them and use that reason in explaining why most of the new guys do not join the existing guilds.

 

I do not think it is fair to reduce all of the concerns of the so called ‘New Nollywood’ to an alleged resentment against ‘Old timers’. My late cousin, Efere Ozako in several fora challenged the guilds to put their acts together if they want new entrants into the industry to take them seriously. You cannot expect people to join guilds just because it is a nice thing to do. The inevitable question staring us at the face is “How have the guilds fared viz a viz the welfare of members?

 

No rational person will join a guild, pay financial dues and not benefit anything therefrom. Our guilds have been bedevilled by a lot of encumbrances that make them unattractive to both old members and new members alike! The Nigerian Actors Guild (NAG) that I joined in 1997 was a vibrant young guild that was exciting to be part of. Can we say that about the present Actors Guild Of Nigeria (AGN) with all the leadership crisis and the series of litigation issues and factional groups that have made the guild a plethora of fissiparous tendencies? Is that a set up that any new entrant into the industry would want to be part of?

 

When I got into regular employment in 1999 and took on a new role in the industry as an Executive Producer I also joined the Association Of Movie Producers (AMP). It was a thing of pride to be an AMP member. I remember with nostalgia how we came together to start up Film Cooperative Of Nigeria (FCON) and birthed an alternative distribution market for independent producers at Babs Animashaun in Surulere.Do we still have that cohesion in the industry? Your guess is as good as mine! So where do you expect an upstart to begin from? Join AMP or join Alex Eyengho’s splinter group which broke away from AMP?.

 

I believe that the guilds were created with noble intentions but over time those intentions have been watered down on the altars of self aggrandizement and crass opportunism. It started with when using the guilds as a pedestal to travel abroad for film festivals and other activities became the dominant paradigm. Perfidious leaders of the guilds took to VISA racketeering and other vices as their stock in trade. Then the opportunity to use the guilds as avenues for fund drive crept in and internal squabbles over guild funds came to the fore. All of a sudden, guilds became the royal pathway for accumulation of wealth and privileges as against avenues to promote welfare of members. The resultant effect was desperation during guild elections which led to litigations and formation of alternate leaderships or outright formation of alternate guilds.

 

These are the major indices that made new entrants to ignore the guilds the way they have done. The Directors Guild (DGAN) and the Screen Writers Guild (SWGN) appear to be the only ones that are a bit less guilty of these issues. Before you accuse the hawk of preying on the chicks of a hen, you must first of all chastise the mother hen for exposing her chicks to danger. If we want folks to take the guilds seriously we must put our houses in order. Some of us stopped our financial commitment to these guilds because of these issues.

 

I want to see the good old days when Nollywood was one huge cohesive family. It’s not going to happen by drawing a battle line between new comers and the veterans. It will start from resolving all of the centrifugal skirmishes that are currently strangulating the guilds. There is no upstart that will see a cohesive guild that can protect his interests and refuse to join, but it is a tough choice deciding to be part of a divided house that barely looks after your interest. Like my late cousin Efere would say “Make the guilds attractive and attract quality membership”. It’s a give and take situation, not a dog eat dog scenario.

 

I remain resolutely committed to one Nollywood where both old and new practitioners will have mutual respect for one another. I haven’t seen the MOPICON document and have avoided making any direct comments on it’s contents but if that document is what will move Nollywood to the next level, then I sincerely do not see why we cannot all agree to have it passed. Except there’s anything contained therein that is not generally acceptable to all and sundry. The way forward would be for us to review such aspects with the aim of charting a common cause. Both emerging practitioners and those who laid the foundation for Nollywood are all stakeholders whose activities are complimentary. Promoting a divide between the two is anti progressive.

 

– Anthony Ogbetere

 

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