By Lari Williams
We should not be too quick to congratulate ourselves in Nigeria on what one may regard as the successes of our TV programming and Nollywood films. Instead we should be thinking of how best to upgrade our movie production system to match the best that is available anywhere else in the world. If we are complaining about a weak economy and we are talking about entertainment functioning as an economic lifeline, it follows logically that we should not expect domestic sales alone to sustain the industry.
In order to boost the earning power of the entertainment sector, our films, musical works and stage productions should meet present international standards, specifically the stage which is the bedrock of everything else. The stage should be encouraged so that it can remove the hoodlums from the streets and refine the younger generation for a more cultured tomorrow. A dynamic theatre culture needs to be re-established. Theatre practitioners like Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, Kola Ogunmola and Moses Olaiya made an impact in their time. A Briton, Axeworthy, Pepper Clarke, Wole Soyinka, Zulu Sofola, Ola Rotimi and a few other thespians established the proscenium theatre.
The re-establishment of a theatre culture would help in rebranding the nation’s image. A good example to take a cue from would be Broadway where the stage makes more money than any other segment of the entertainment industry. From regularly fully booked auditoria, the Americans unfailingly succeeded bountifully on Broadway. With our constantly expanding urban populations, Nigeria has enviable potential to replicate this type of success.
There are many indigenous music festivals and annual carnivals that have tremendous prospects to attract tourists which can fetch plenty of hard currency to sustain the Nigerian economy without auctioning our National Theatre or any other national monument. Film coverage of these festivals can be packaged to tour foreign lands. In turn who see the filmed version would be enticed to visit Nigeria to experience the splendour of the live version. Those who see the live version would be wooed into buying the filmed version for keeps. All of these should help rekindle interest in our carnivals and entertainment industry as a whole.
Our embassies and diplomatic missions all over the world should join enthusiastically in the campaign for the entertainment industry to re-brand Nigeria. They should regularly invite Nigerian artists to showcase their works in their respective stations overseas. There should be yearly exhibitions of Nigerian Fine Arts, Sculpture, Dances, Stage Plays, books and musical works.
Our producers, performers and others in the artistic creative industry should be more concerned with top quality production to be more competitive with art practitioners worldwide. Here at home, the government should be more interested in creating an enabling environment for art and entertainment to blossom and flourish. More entertainment hotspots should be established and existing ones upgraded for optimum effectiveness. As an illustration, nothing stops us from making Lagos a Nigerian version of Las Vegas with neon lights and live shows flooding Nnamdi Azikwe Street.
Moreover, the pockets of Islands that surround Lagos, like Ibeshe, Takwa bay, Imoren, Ibasa etc., should be structured to make them conducive for entertainment. With exotic restaurants and appealing guest houses, tourism would blossom alongside entertainment and entertainment alongside tourism. Entertainment-enhanced tourism will help create a new Nigerian image.
Up country, places like Obudu Cattle Ranch and Tinapa should be encouraged to maintain repertory theatre companies for regular drama shows. Tourism should and the creative arts should be part of a positive whole. The tourism industry would benefit powerfully from a vibrant entertainment industry. Our cultural heritage is rich enough to feed our tourism industry and make it attractive for the whole world.
In order for arts and entertainment to thrive, government should respect past practitioners by establishing a hall of fame to honour them. The present practitioners should be encouraged with art supportive policies. In this way the future of art in Nigeria would be attractive and secure. Art would thrive and flourish for future generations.