With Gambari, Nollywood gets an ally in Aso Villa

by Araayo Akande

Wednesday’s appointment of Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari as the new Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari might well turn out to be a boon for Nigerian filmmakers.

The reason is that the resourceful academic and diplomat is one who understands the benefits of film and is inclined to using it positively.

Though one would have expected that the film industry would be the least of his interests, the Kwara State-born replacement for the late Abba Kyari is well aware of it and its soft powers.

In his keynote speech entitled ‘Film Production and Preservation as Diplomatic Tools for Promoting Peace, Unity and Development’ at the 2018 Annual Film Lecture of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), the former Foreign Affairs Minister explained how movies could be put to positive uses.

He said that the motion picture industry could be used to drive national unity, build values of love, peace and tolerance among Nigerians.

“I seize the opportunity to renew our appeal to all movie producers, their followers and supporters, to step up their interventions for advocating of a peaceful, free and fair electoral contest in Nigerian in 2019. Film production is the engine that drives peace, unity and development, and Nollywood must be at the vanguard.

“As the 2019 elections are approaching, there must be films targeted at discouraging elections rigging and promoting violence-free and fair elections,” he said.

The new Chief of Staff further urged filmmakers to use their works as tools for positive social mobilization of citizens towards peaceful co-existence.

“The 2019 elections will either make or mar Nigeria, and we should desist from hateful and inciting movies, as hate speech is not a free speech.

“We must not pretend that hate speech, hurling of insults and making dangerous films portray well for Nollywood.

“Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, and we should not allow it to go the ways of Somalia or Afghanistan. Nigeria has never been more divided than now. All hands must be on deck to rescue Nigeria from our present challenges. The elites must rise to the occasion. The production of films can serve as diplomatic tools to promote both the image of Nigeria and as a major income earner.”

He didn’t fail to mobilize support for players in the movie industry, requesting government and regulatory authorities/stakeholders to provide an enabling environment for Nollywood to thrive.

Gambari said, “Nollywood is doing well, and this generation of filmmakers are looking forward to taking it to the next level. Therefore, Nigeria is in dire need of a national and visionary leader who would encourage talents and entrepreneurship in all ramifications.”

Little wonder then that the NFC was among those that volubly congratulated the Founder/Chair of the board of Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development on his appointment.

The congratulatory message signed by NFC’s Managing Director, Dr Chidia Maduekwe hailed the appointment and added that Gambari’s 2018 lecture boosted the development of a national film archiving policy.

It read in part: “Your strong view for government to strengthen the creative economy resulted in Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) being privileged to have you deliver the 2018 Nigerian Film Corporation Annual Film Lecture in Abuja, with the topic: ‘Film Archiving As A Tool For Diplomacy’ Your intellectual and resounding presentation of the annual lecture subsequently provided the fulcrum that has guided the development of a National Policy Document on Film Archiving for the country.

“Consequently, deriving from the core values of the paper, donor agencies from Germany and France are working assiduously towards funding infrastructural edifices at NFC that will scale up our National Film Institute (NFI) into becoming the first reference Film University in Africa.”

If Gambari walks his talk, especially the part where he called for a visionary leader who would encourage talents and entrepreneurship in all ramifications, Nollywood might have secured its newest ally in Nigeria’s seat of power.

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