By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
Legendary filmmaker, content developer and culture activist, Ambassador Lancelot Oduwarene Imasuen, in this interview believes that the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is a product of good intention by the Federal Government, but…
So, what do you think is lacking in the CIFI?
If you want to proffer solution to my problems it is very important that you first diagnose the problem and I should be part of the diagnosis. In trying to solve my problems the following question should be pertinent: What is your problem? What is wrong with you? Which area do you need help? That has been lacking as far as all interventions in funding the arts and entertainment industries are concerned.
From the Jonathan era when grants were given, to the Eko Hotels where the then finance minister made the representation, I was there. And I was very unequivocal to say that I don’t think it is the raw cash we need, but the infrastructure.
Let’s be honest, If I go and collect N30 million to make a film, and I cannot sell it, what happens? So I feel that CBN should be more particular about corporately selling the Nigerian film industry, re-orienting the Nigerian public because we need corporate marketing and remarketing of the industry.
What do you mean by corporate marketing?
Go to cinemas. What are the films that Nigerians want to see? Because we still have this mentality to foreign attachments, there is always this drift. So today you find a very minute Nigerian film that actually breaks even in the cinema. If I go and take loan to produce …and I am not sure of the market, what happens to that money?
So they must be critical in helping the industry to be consolidated in terms of returns on investment. That cannot be an individual affair. Like I always say: nobody would want to go and buy an aircraft to start a commercial flight business where there is no airport in the city. That is the game. I am proposing that the business must be holistically rejiged, re-aligned, and structures put in place to ensure that money gets back. If not, it is going to be an exercise in fertility.
But have you communicated these views to government?
I was on my own when I got this letter saying that research has been done and ‘we want you’ to come and speak about your ‘rag to glory’ in the industry. We have to look at the genuineness of the offer of help. If they are truly genuine, government will have to look for those who have toiled day and night to keep this industry alive. I have directed over 250 movies. There is no Nigerian who has worked in the Nigerian film industry that may not be conversant with Lancelot Oduwarene Imasuen.
So, here we begin to question the genuineness of the purpose. If you say you want to help an industry, government must be able reach those in the industry. If they cannot reach them on their own, they should use consultants to reach members of the industry that have been there and had gone through the thick and thin.
For me, it is a matter of how genuine the cause is. If they are genuine, then reaching those of us who know the business will not be a problem to them.
The CBN and Bankers Committee are ready to provide long-term low-cost financing to entrepreneurs and investors in the industry; is there anything wrong with that?
Infrastructure, like we are saying, is needed more. Going by the Nigerian Film Policy (a document government prepared) each Local Government should have a viewing centre. Do we have that? No. If 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria have viewing centers, don’t you think that there is already a boost to the sales of the films, if each government has a cultural centre and Nigerians are encouraged to imbibe the practice (of going to theatres)? These things are already documented in the Nigerian Film Policy. So if government is genuine about this cause, achieving it will not be a problem.
Is the intention to revive the National Arts Theatre, Lagos, and make it a creative hub not part of the infrastructure you are talking about?
“Wonderful! That is what we are talking about! Each state must be encouraged. People trouped to this place (The Oba Akenzua II Cultural Centre, Benin) from different states because there was (NAFEST) a great event here. But do they have a place like this in their states where a fantastic exhibition like this can be done? What is the take home for them to say, ‘Oh, we are in Benin, look at the theatre’?
Even in Benin here, the infrastructure now; this building, is it 100 per cent ok for theatrical performance? The answer may be, ok, it has been beautified, but there is still a lot of work here to be done. It is a great initiative so far.
So we want to encourage them to fill this theatre. The production I had yesterday has over 80 casts, and I am saying none of them earned less than N15, 000 from just an opportunity. So, imagine if that becomes a regular feature. That’s what I am talking about. In terms of job creation, if the government is sincere, this sector alone can meaningfully employ (a lot of our youths) and keep them away from crime.