I usually don’t like to get involved in the business of politics or should I say air my views publicly on the business of politics… especially as it relates to the Nigerian film industry but there is a wise saying that goes ‘Evil thrives when good men do nothing’ so here goes!

Awhile ago, word came in that Ghanaian film marketers had slammed a $1000 levy on Nigerian actors that come to act in Ghana! This caused a furor and the Nigerian film marketers in a retaliatory gesture, slammed a $2000 levy on Ghanaian actors coming to act in Nigeria! This in effect means that before Van Vicker, Jackie Appiah, Majid Michel etc can act in any future Nigerian film, producers have to pay extra $2000!! The ripple effect is that actors from both countries will no longer act in each other’s films, ending several years of cooperative, symbiotic relationship between Ghana and Nigeria. Many are appalled at this. What could have possessed Ghanaian marketers to come up with such a misguided, ill-advised decision? The entire population of Ghana is about 23 million, certainly not up to the population of Nigeria (150 million). Ghanaian films and Ghanaian actors are enjoying having a thriving, lucrative business in Nigeria. Why rock the boat? Why all this now? If anyone was going to be doing the levying it should have been Nigerians, whose top male actors have been largely ignored in preference to Ghanaian actors. By levying Nigeria, it will force Nigerian marketers to stop using Ghanaian actors and that will certainly affect sales on both sides. I think this is very myopic on Ghana’s part and smacks of a certain arrogance. Its like ‘Well, now we have learnt the business of film making from Nigeria, we do not need them anymore!’ It is unfortunate Ghanaian marketers would do such a thing after all it was Nigeria that magnanimously introduced them to Nollywood in the first place. (Yes, I went there! I said it!) Frank Raja Arase, Ghana’s most prolific producer is actually a Nigerian from Delta State! Nigerian producers have consistently been featuring Ghanaian actors like Van Vicker, Jackie Appiah, Majid Michel etc as lead in their movies, many times to the detriment of our fine actors and this is how their industry says ‘Thank you?”

Anyway, I really don’t blame Ghana. I notice apart from for business reasons, Nigerians have a taste and likeness for most things foreign, believing it is better than theirs, the opposite of what happens in Ghana and even South Africa. There are no protectionist measures and even though we have quota system in the work place it is hardly enforced. In Nigeria, TV stations are rife with Mexican and Brazilian soaps when several talented Producers are wallowing in penury because TV stations do not want to give them the necessary funds to produce soaps. They prefer to buy the already produced, cheap soaps arguing that they are better produced and more interesting. Nigeria is the only country I know in the world where TV stations expect independent producers to pay for the production of their soaps and pay for airtime for 13 or 26 episodes! Nigerian film producers work under the direst of conditions and they still somehow make it work. This is certainly not what they need now.

My take is this; This should be a wake-up call for Nigerian film producers/marketers. Its about time we started appreciating, developing and protecting our home grown talent. We have a lot of talent actors and actresses here and in Diaspora, that are waiting in the wings to be the next Ramsey, Genevieve and co. Stop this business of looking for ready-made and look within. Look to discover and develop ways to increase our marketing and distribution network because we still haven’t done it. Then maybe when that happens we won’t be so bothered when another country fixes levies on us or not.

*Reactions are very welcome