By Alex Enyegho
Three months ago, the Minister for Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, revealed that the Ministry was at the verge of presenting the Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) bill to the Federal Executive Council. According to him, the bill aims to professionalize the film sector and bring it in line with global best practices.
I was not moved by this yet another ministerial posturing because, Maku’s predecessor in office, Prof. Dora Akunyili, made so much hullabaloo about being in possession of the original draft MOPICON bill and indeed, in her characteristic manner, vowed to ensure the passage of the bill by the National Assembly.
She never did. This is why I wonder if any stakeholder in Nollywood believes Maku. For me, the much talked about MOPICON is gradually but steadily replicating the Freedom of Information (FoI) bill in terms of checkered historical antecedents.
Let me historicize, albeit in capsule. In 2006, the Nigerian Film Corporation set up a steering committee for MOPICON. The committee, which was made up of what was then considered as elected representatives of all sectors of the motion picture industry in Nigeria, actually generated the much talked about draft MOPICON bill.
The committee met severally and received memoranda from stakeholders cut across virtually all the zones of the federation. The committee completed its task and submitted the draft MOPICON bill about 5 years ago. If passed into law, MOPICON will be akin to the Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria (APCON).
As motion picture practitioners await the “passage” of the MOPICON bill into law by the National Assembly, little did they know that the said bill was nowhere near the confines of the hallowed Chamber. I suspect that politics and personal interests set in soon after the NFC handed over the document to its parent ministry – Ministry of Information.
In my view, two main factors are responsible for the frustration of the MOPICON document. These are the politics between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and its Information counterpart on one hand, and the rivalry between the NFC and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) on the other hand.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism believes, and rightly so too, that the MOPICON issue is its affair and not the business of the Information Ministry. The impunity of transferring the NFC and NFVCB from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the Ministry of Information in early 2000s by then President Olusegun Obasanjo is largely responsible for the avoidable politicking between the two ministries.
My take here is that globally, film and indeed the entertainment industry is inseparable from culture and tourism. Apart from conservative countries like China and France, no film making nation in the world would pigeonhole an NFC or NFVCB under Information Ministry. Nigeria should not be different.
The second challenge is the unhealthy latent rivalry between the leadership of the NFC and the NFVCB. MOPICON is manifestly an NFC project. This did not go down well with some top shots in NFVCB. This explains why somebody high up in NFVCB allegedly fired a petition to Mr. Maku, adducing why the ministry should not push for MOPICON.
It is also an open secret that NFVCB under the leadership of former (sacked?) Emeka Mba, generously supported the setting up of a so-called ‘Coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Associations (CONGA)’, a group of few persons mooning to be an interim MOPICON through the backdoor.
Though this nebulous body still exists on the pages of few newspapers, it effectively died soon after it was launched about two years ago. Not a few serious-minded associations and stakeholders in Nollywood have refused to subscribe to it.
If the well-received Conference of Motion Picture Practitioners of Nigeria (CMPPN) died a natural death, I wonder what made the handlers of CONGA think they could fly, particularly without first sincerely, consciously and deliberately building consensus among key stakeholders in Nollywood.
In terms of structure, the legitimate and all-encompassing way forward for Nollywood is for MOPICON to come alive with all its attendant benefits. For instance, it would streamline activities of practitioners in the motion picture industry and force every practitioner to conform to guidelines set for the industry and inhibit most of the challenges the industry is currently facing.
It will perpetually kill the challenge of proliferation of associations and guilds in Nollywood. It will also boost the confidence level of investors and other financial institutions in putting their money in Nollywood.
However, the MOPICON I have in mind should not be another government agency peopled by civil servants and other non-practitioners. It must be a MOPICON of the practitioners, by the practitioners and for the practitioners.
Government should only give the necessary legal and other related fillip to the process and its sustenance. Anything short of this will not be worth the idea.