Sunday, 19 May 2013
Nollywood Prayer Warriors–The Movie Just Got Real By Chinedu Ekeke
My friends understand my reluctance in referring to the Nigerian movie industry as “Nollywood”. For me, the name represents all that is wrong with the industry: lack of imagination, half-baked dramas passed down as movies, regurgitated scripts. I don’t understand why we can’t name ours Tinapa, Surulere or New Haven so as to represent locations where these movies are acted, or industry players gather more often for meetings. Forcing an industry to sound like its American counterpart is the worst form of intellectual laziness.
This is even more so when the original industry they sought to imitate was named after a physical location. And for an industry which stock in trade should be creativity, that imitation in its identity highlights an unwillingness to bring newness to the world of movies. In their lack of originality, they unwittingly send out a signal about their low standards. Their movies carry this badge into every home.
But this isn’t about their name. This is about their blindness to the Nigerian reality and their seeming forgetfulness of the line between screen dramas and real life challenges. For the purpose of this piece, I will still refer to the industry as Nollywood.
In Nigerian movies, every life challenge is solved by prayers.Full stop. The brain is rarely challenged to explore physical possibilities, to soberly recall causes of effects, and apply solutions that could be lasting, and ultimately help others to not get into similar situation. It’s not that prayers don’t work; it is just that Nigeria’s problems aren’t in any way related to insufficient prayers.
Recently, Nollywoodians and some of their singing counterparts convened somewhere to ‘pray against untimely death’ in the entertainment industry. They probably assumed the spirit of death was after their industry, a reason for which prayers were invoked. It was a real-life replay of all they’ve been acting and feeding on, a typical Nigerian movie.
Well, their fear is understandable. Last year, a couple of actors in the movie industry died. And since death is a mystery, safety against it, at least in the interim, can only be acquired from divinity. So they prayed, and sang, and clapped, and danced. They decreed, and cast away the spirit of death, and then believed their decrees had been established.
Well, it isn’t a prayer issue. I do believe in prayers and their ability to move mountains. But I also believe in understanding such basic issues as life expectancy. It is low in Nigeria. And it is that way because of bad governance. All the well-governed countries in the world have very amazing life expectancy years. Actually, life has got so good now that people are expected to live a lot longer than the biblical seventy years. Improvement in modern medicine has made this possible. In Monaco, it is 89 years. Japan is 83. France is 81. UK is 80, Canada 81, United States 78, Nigeria 52, Afghanistan 48, Zimbabwe 51, Somalia 50. While the serious countries are enjoying longevity past the biblical 70 years, the unserious ones can’t even live near 70, except, of course, those in government, their business fronts and associates and their relatives who could all afford medical trips to these countries where healthcare system is working.
It should surprise everybody that Nollywood prayer warriors do not know this. There are too many reasons why people die in their numbers in Nigeria, and lack of adequate healthcare system ranks top.
It is also not true that the untimely death has been peculiar to only Nigeria’s entertainment industry. In fact, what is happening there currently is a reflection of how bad it is in the entire Nigerian society. People die in their numbers! Our huge population silences major tragedies that strike many families. People only complain about the ones they know. And in a population of 160 million, how many ‘ordinary’ citizens will their deaths get to be heard by the entire nation? Countless deaths can’t – and never will – make newspaper headlines.
By January 30th, my friend, Ifeanyi Umeh was buried. He died a month earlier, during the yuletide. He was 29. We knew in our university years while I was a campus reporter in Students Union law court. Ifeanyi was a counsel representing an impeached SUG President in a suit filed by the president himself. His brilliance dazzled everybody and made the Students’ Court the cynosure of all eyes on campus. What killed him? He wasn’t even sick. He just slumped during a wedding ceremony, conked out and died after two days. It’s easy to point accusing fingers at witches and wizards, or wicked uncles and ‘village people’ – who themselves are victims of government-induced poverty and lack, and may not even be connected in any way to the sad incident. If there was a functional hospital in his village where he slumped, two days could have been enough to revive him.
There are many other Ifeanyis. Our roads alone have consistently cut short the lives of many. And far from the ignorance of merchants of religion, the deaths aren’t caused by witches and wizards or ‘blood-sucking demons’. The deaths are caused by roads in total disrepair. Between the time CD John and MC Loph fell victims of our terrible roads and now, who knows how many unknown youths who have been consumed?
Our Nollywood prayer warriors should therefore understand the challenge that we all face: that bad governance is robbing us of long life in Nigeria, and that in their movies, people should be made to know how this evil thrives. They can highlight, using the instrumentality of their movies, how bad leadership cuts lives short, instead of the lies about witches and wizards in the villages which their movies portray.
But they may not. Our Nollywood actors and actresses – many of them – were part of those who endorsed the presidential aspiration of Goodluck Jonathan even when he had no history of performance in public office. OnyekaOnwenu’s ‘Run…Jonathan…run’ song still plays in my head.
Before you start defending the ‘rights’ of Nollywood players to choose whoever they want, I should state here that such choices must be made with a clear reference to the candidate’s antecedents. Endorsing people for the sake of the money they will dole out to an industry lacking in creativity should be frowned at by commentators. The choice Nollywood made in the last election – and they helped stir up the attendant sentiments among women and men who watch them – still haunts us all till today.
Instead of prayers against untimely death, they should begin now to define what good governance means to them, the role of government corruption in citizens’ untimely death, and the right mix of qualities they seek in those they want to put in government next time. That’s more reasonable. It isn’t like praying is unreasonable. It’s just that bothering God with a demand to clean up the mess you created isn’t godliness in any way. It is folly.
The countries that enjoy over 80 and 70 years lifespan did not get there by prayers. In fact, many of them aren’t even known for endorsing any religion at all. They are simply reaping the benefits of responsible leadership. Their leaders, rather than steal from their treasury like we witness here, invest massively in health care, education and research, security and infrastructure. In such countries, local celebrities do not just back candidates who give them free money to share for electoral contests, they back those who they are sure, based on their past, can keep the society functioning optimally to the benefit of the majority.
When next Nollywood wants to cast and bind the spirit of untimely death, they should remember that no Japanese wastes energy doing that: for a parent in Japan knows that their baby born today will live up to 83 years (except an earthquake strikes, or something just goes awfully wrong).
China doesn’t have churches and mosques littered everywhere. It is even doubtful if the country officially recognizes God, but the average Chinese lives 74 years. That’s how countries work.
Let men handle the affairs of men excellently, then and there God will manifest. Even in the countries that don’t know God, his wonders are implemented by responsible leaders. Let’s leave God out of our wickedness and rebuild the country we’ve killed.
You can join Chinedu as @Nedunaija on Twitter, for the continuation of the conversation.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters