The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; and Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elulemu, have called for enhanced capacity of stakeholders in Nigeria’s entertainment sector, saying it will lead to a boost in the economy.
According to them, the sector, especially Nollywood, has the potential of enhancing the Gross Domestic Products of the country, given its current rating in the movie industry globally.
The call was made in Abuja on Friday at the opening of a two-day leadership masterclass training for Nollywood actors sponsored by Elulemu.
Gbajabiamila, who noted that the training was intended to improve the leadership capital of the men and women who make up the country’s film industry, stated that with talent, fortitude and extraordinary resilience, actors have built a globally competitive entertainment industry “despite the unique challenges and constraints of our environment.”
The Speaker noted that the entertainment industry in Nigeria has grown to become “a cornerstone of our national economy,” noting the data released by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), in 2016, which indicated that film industry employed about 1 million workers and accounted for about 2.3 per cent or $600m of the country’s Gross Domestic Products, with over 2500 movies produced annually.
He said, “These are extraordinary numbers. Yet, they fall far short of what can be achieved given the right circumstances. With adequate investment, a supportive regulatory environment, better training and capacity development, Nollywood will grow beyond our present dreams and surpass our highest ambitions.
“It falls to all of us, in government, in the private sector and across society to identify the ways we can help the industry reach the heights we all know is possible.”
Gbajabiamila pointed out that the Leadership Master Class for Sustainable Creativity and Innovation was apt, “particularly at this moment in our national history when the challenges we face require leadership, creativity and innovation in bounds.”
He said, “In the last year and a half, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the global reduction in economic output, every sector of Nigeria’s economy has experienced a precipitous contraction. The entertainment industry, reliant as it is on shared experiences of cinemas, concerts, award events and other such, has been particularly hard hit.
“One of the other reasons this event is especially timely is that it provides an opportunity to answer the question of how to rebuild the industry after what has been a difficult year. Additionally, we can lay the groundwork for future collaboration and acquire the leadership resources that will stand the industry in good stead for the future.
“Beyond the questions of economics and profit, there is the issue of the critical role of Nollywood in influencing culture, defining national character and promoting national identity. As actors and entertainers, you directly exert tremendous influence on the lives of hundreds of millions of Nigerians, who are impacted by the roles you play, the stories you tell and the realities you explore in your movies.
“This is power. And with power comes a responsibility to tell stories that inspire goodness, motivate thoughtful acts, encourage fraternity, and uplift the human condition. You also have a responsibility to tell the best stories of our beloved country. I do not propose to turn you into cheerleaders for a Nigeria that does not exist, but the stories of men and women thriving through adversity and innovating for prosperity needs to be told, and it falls to you to tell those stories.”
The Speaker assured the actors that the House would be ready to develop and advance practical proposals to advance the cause of the entertainment industry and ensure that the industry continues to contribute to the socio-economic advancement of Nigeria.
“Rest assured also that you have in us, a sure ally and a legion of faithful fans,” he added.
Elumelu, in his welcome remarks, noted that with the training, the much needed strategic multi-sectoral effort to guarantee the desired rebound and repositioning of the movie industry in Nigeria, “though long overdue, has began.”
He said, “Nollywood ranks as the second largest movie industry in the world and indeed, the largest in Africa, providing over 1 million direct employment and much more business openings in the sectoral value chain, within and outside our country.
“I recall that under the PDP administration, our movie industry received boundless multi-sectoral support and synergy which resulted in a record productivity boost and unprecedented return to our GDP.
“Though there has been a serious decline from the 2.3 per cent GDP contribution recorded in reports released in 2016, to 0.27 in the first quarter of 2019, I believe that with concerted effort and cross fertilisation of idea in trainings such as this, the industry will surely rebound.
“Furthermore, the movie industry is a critical hub of our national unity. Nigerians are passionate about the movies you produce as it sees their personal and shared challenges, struggles, anxieties, aspirations and achievements in the lives of the characters you aptly portray.
“In the same vein, our movie industry, more than any other social platform, remains critical in moulding of character and modelling the trajectory of social preferences and predilections, especially among our youths, women and children.”
Elumelu added, “Moreover, the outside world sees our nation from the plots, setting and narratives of the movies you produce and make decisions one way or the other from what they watch. It is therefore imperative that we deliberately ensure that the movies we produce project our nation in good light. We must strive to use our movies to promote those virtues that stand us out as hardworking and very responsible people which we are, while strategically showing that the vices that threaten our society today are not part of our values as a people.
“Our films must deliberately promote our unity as a people as well as encourage actions that spur mutual understanding, harmonious co-existence and forcefully show our quest for peaceful society where economic and social activities thrive.”