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The role of Nollywood in fostering National unity

By O’star Eze

There is nothing we need more than national unity in Nigeria now. For this country to retain its value as the most populous black nation on earth and the Giant of Africa in terms of consumer base, human resource and natural resources, we direly need to promote a consciousness of national cohesion and unity in diversity. Nigeria really needs to heal of all the wounds that the civil war and ethnic propaganda machines caused us over the years and learn to harness our comparative advantages as peoples of Nigeria towards a more patriotic and unified citizenry. And there is no better tool for this social re-engineering than the Nollywood (Nigeria Movie Industry).

Rilind Elezaj, in his article, “How do movies impact our societies”, observed that “the film industry is arguably one of the most impactful sectors in modern society. Sitcoms and comedy shows make us laugh, psychological thrillers help us see the world from an improved perspective, and historical films help us understand where we’ve come from as a people. Every video and every film reflects society and transforms opinions.”

The power of audio visuals in shaping the society cannot be overemphasized. History books show us that such past leaders as Adolf Hitler successfully used films as propaganda tools during world war 2. Other political and economic leaders have also used movies to drive home their school of thought; shaping the outlook of people to their own benefit or for the benefit of the people.

Back in the days, before the invention of the television, we know how the Roman Empire was able to distract their people from their misrules and ill-conceived policies. While less discussed, the Colosseum’s significance was actually far more than just as a theatre for mass entertainment; from its design and architecture through to the events it played host to, the amphitheatre served as a tool to Roman Emperors for political control. This is the power of audio visuals which Nollywood industry is in charge of.

So how can Nollywood foster National unity?

Film can be used to reach a wide audience, to inform and inspire change through engaging audiences and reflecting society. Social film drama unites people in a common sense of humanity and shared responsibility, which gives it added power to help foster positive change. Nollywood, instead of making movies that promote fetishism and ostentatious lifestyle as the sine qua non for happiness, which are misleading concepts regrettably, can start focusing on narratives that promote national unity and the beauty of multicultural societies like ours. The Nigerian movie industry can start telling stories of heroes and heroines of national unity like Chioma Ajunwa, the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a track and field event; Agbani Darego, the first black African to win Miss World; Florence Nwapa, the first woman novelist to be published in the English Language in Britain; Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the first woman and African to lead the World Trade Organisation as a Director General; Dora Akunyili, who fought fake and substandard food and drugs market in Nigeria until her death; Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, who is regarded as the Mother of Africa because of her human rights activism, to mention but a few. The story of these and many other heroines and heroes of Nigeria, past and present on our home video would go a long way in inspiring such patriotism and heroism in the next generation of Nigerian men and women thereby fostering national unity.

Nollywood needs to borrow a leaf from Hollywood in becoming intentional about the kind of message and emotions her movies evoke. You need the see movies like King Richard, that told the story of the father of Venus and Serena Williams, both world champions of tennis, to understand the power of audiovisuals in inspiring positive change. Hollywood understood that the black community was hit by an epidemic of renegade fathers absent from their children’s development and they started making movies that would promote responsible fatherhood. There are also movies about heroic soldiers which is aimed at influencing heroic acts from their army. Also notice how Hollywood, in her movies, ensure that the different nationalities that make up their population are represented in their war films. This promotes National unity intentionally.

Today, we are bereft by these hate mongering narratives and propaganda influenced divisive versions of our history like the likes of Reno Omokri and other social media influencers propagate. There is need for the Nollywood industry to rise to the occasion and start making movies that would tell the history of Nigeria in such a way that would heal instead of add insult to injury. An Igbo proverb has it that there is nowhere fences are that you would not see lizards. Harmony is better than being right. And narratives that tone down our mistakes and promote patriotism and unity in diversity are sorely needed today in Nollywood. Who will bell the cat? Kunle Afolayan, that award winning Movie Director and Producer has shown it can be done. We need more intentional producers like him who understand that movie making is more of a vocation than a business venture and that the fate of a nation lies in the hands of opinion shapers, especially those who control the audio visual industry.

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