“…I never believed such decision could come from the Ghanaians. Nollywood has done a lot to improve their movie industry and what they have done now is a clear indication that they are ingrates. How could the Ghanaians insist that Nigerian actors must be paying $1, 000 before participating in their productions?” – said Prince Ifeanyi Dike, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria. If you notice, Ghanaian actors and actresses are being ABSORBED into Nollywood, they may think they are being smart, and they are, but they don’t even realise what is happening to their film industry in the long run” – said one Londoner.

The dust in Nigeria over why the Nigerian film marketers use Ghanaian actors and actresses often has not settled before the Ghollywood said by 2ndJuly, 2010 that Nollywood must pay $1, 000 (One Thousand dollars), before any of its (Nollywood) actors or actresses would act in Ghana, or the act risks losing the job. It was very disgustful to many in noting that the Ghanaian film marketers give their Nigerian counterparts a whooping sum of N1 million to feature any Ghanaian actor or actress before any Nollywood film would be accepted by the Ghollywood authority in Ghana. Thus, the question of who controls Nollywood and Ghollywood cropped-up.

“Investigation reveals that Nollywood producers have been given an order by Ghanaian marketers that for them (Ghanaian marketers) to market Nollywood movies in Ghana, Ghollywood (Ghana film industry) stars must feature in them whether they fit the bill or not. One particular marketer who attested to this is Abdusallam, Ghana’s most prominent movie marketer. Abdusallam, we learnt tells Nollywood producers to use Ghanaians and get a N1 million market order from him. He was said to have paid some producers even before they finish shooting sometimes,” said an article on Nairaland, a social website that has been doing many investigations especially as they relate to entertainment.

In what was termed foolhardy of the Nigerian marketers over not losing the money, they are not ashamed to work against their conscience but for the money that they are offered to feature the actors and actresses from the former Gold Coast region of West Africa in their films to the detriment of their home based breeds.

“So, for this N1 million Greek gift, our Nollywood producers are falling head over heels to use Ghanaian stars in their movies whether they fit the role or not. And to make matters worse, some of these Ghanaian stars have not been able to justify the trust reposed in them. Worse still, Nollywood stars have to wait of their Ghollywood counterparts in some instances. We learnt that Jackie Appiah kept a whole crew waiting to go and shoot a Glo commercial,” the article further said.

When the crew complained that why Jack should play on their integrity some Nigerians defended the action and say that Ghanaian actors are patriotic. Jackie came back and explained that she already gave the producer a condition that for her to act she must leave for the Glo advert anytime she wanted to. That was a classic example of how producers now have to literarily eat out of the hands of the Ghollywood stars. And many Nigerians in the film industry don’t see anything wrong in that flawed promise?

“I don’t see anything wrong in the arrangement; it is a sign of patriotism. This shows that we are doing something wrong. If Ghana which has a population of about 24 million can call our bluff that means our house is not in order. We ought to be the biggest movie market in Africa but here we are at the mercy of Ghanaians. Let me shock you, Ghanaian movies now sell more than Nollywood movies in America. That shows that we are losing ground,” said Ikechukwu Onyeka, one producer who does not see anything wrong in the N1 million Greek gift is.

However, many Nigerians are of the opinion that Onyeka may not be far from the truth. They see Ghanaian actors and actresses hijacking Nollywood right here in Nigeria because of monetary benefits Nigerian film marketers make from their Shylocks in Ghana, who must give them money for a pound flesh. One person who goes by the sobriquet, Princek12 bares it.

“The Nigerian movie industry benefits when Ghanaian actors play in Nollywood movies, particularly when Ghanaian producers pay Nollywood producers to feature Ghanaian actors in Nollywood movies. The following reasons support my theory. First, in addition to monetary benefits, that is when Ghanaian distributors supposedly pay Nollywood producers N1 million to feature Ghanaian actors, featuring Ghanaian actors exposes Nollywood movies to an entirely new market; it shows that the Nigerian movie industry is bigger than the Ghanaian movie industry, for their actors have to depend on our industry and “pay to play” in order to be featured in the Nigerian industry; the Nollywood brand still supplants the Ghanaian brand in such movies, since the film features more Nollywood actors than Ghanaian actors; and many more,” said Princek12.

Many Nigerians are adducing some credible evidences in support of that statement that Ghollywood movies are outselling Nollywood movies in the USA, but Princek12 sings a different song. To Princek12, he sees such statement as a blow below the belt of Nollywood, saying that there is no how Ghanaian actors and actresses will be famous than their counterparts in Nigeria, when it is Nollywood that made them what they are.

“It sounds highly improbable that Ghollywood movies are outselling Nollywood movies, particularly when Ghanaian actors are barely known compared to their Nollywood counterparts and Nigerians substantially outnumber Ghanaians, both in the USA and Africa. My only problem is that Nigerian producers are not exercising prudently their leverage against these so called Ghanaian producers. If your product is in high demand, you don’t have to succumb to the demands of some Ghanaian distributor paying you N1 million and instructing you to use Ghanaian actors as a precondition to marketing your products. But, again, maybe that is standard industry practice and the Ghanaian distributor may have customers who only buy movies that feature Ghanaian actors, and the Ghanaian producers are doing merely what they have to do,” said Princek12.

On the part of one Londoner, he cries out that all the jiffy should stop on who controls a larger film industry between Nigerian and Ghana. He questions that if Ghana controls, why must she pay for Nigeria to use her actors and actresses. Londoner sees those comparing Nollywood and Ghollywood as jokers, since it is not easy to compare the size of a purse with a scrotum.

“They are paying us to use their actors, and the films still have a majority Nigerian caste, sorry, but that is no shame. I don’t know why somebody would see Ghanaian movies outselling Nigerian ones in the USA., as some kind of leveller, just because it’s the States? Nigerian movies are more popular and have been evidenced by it being second largest in the world. If Ghana had overtaken us, why isn’t she even in the top five? When I went to Ghana, it was Nigerian films they showed on their TV, all day. Not even their own, except a few. All this is unnecessary emotion over nothing,” said Londoner.

Notwithstanding, there are indications that the cordial relationship once enjoyed between the Nollywood and the Ghollywood not hit the rocks over that mumbo-jumbo levies, even that the Ghanaians have said that the development is to give good opportunities to their local actors, and develop their movie industry to an enviable height.

The Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria, Prince Ifeanyi Dike and his executives, in reality, should be addressing the issue. The Ghana’s position on Nigerian film players should stop being news to him. Change, they say, is the only thing that is permanent. He should stop saying that “…I never believed such decision could come from the Ghanaians. Nollywood has done a lot to improve their movie industry and what they have done now is a clear indication that they are ingrates…”

The Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN should stop calling on the Nigerian Film and Video Marketers and stakeholders to avoid giving prominence to foreign actors at the expense of their local counterparts and curb the excesses of the foreign actors, as the number of foreign actors plying their trade in Nollywood continues to grow. Good should always surmount evil!

Many Nigerians should often stop wondering why Van Vicker (Ghanaian actor) is used in so many Nigerian movies. “…no wonder, mind you I have no hatred for Van, infact, I love him,” said one Rokiatu. “But, I think, he’s an absolutely smashing young man, who has no acting talent. At least, Majid Michael does justice to them, if not, I don’t think I would have even bothered watching Ghanaian movies.”

In supporting that statement, Londoner said “…you are right; some Nigerian actors and actresses use fake accents etc. Many people reject them because of it, not Nigerian movies. Many of them are disliked for that fact… But even if a Nollywood movie is crap, there will be a character that will entertain or grip you at least, even if it’s the village drunk… Using a fake accent in Ghollywood is an asset rather than a liability, that’s the difference. Look, I watch Van’s movies because he is fine… If a Ghollywood movie is on I will watch it, but I am hardly entertained by Ghanaians. You can be sitting for half and hour, go and make tea and even become engrossed in convoy with another person in the room, forgetting you are supposed to be watching a movie. Even then, the storyline has not moved an inch. All their top actors do it.”

In a nutshell, the AGN, movie marketers, producers, directors and other should support the star actor and National President of AGN, Segun Arinze, in saying that they are not opposed to the use of foreign actors in Nigerian movies, however, it should not be at the expense of the local talents.

“AGN appreciates the contributions of our foreign colleagues to Nollywood but when the home grown talents are wasting away, we should have a re-think because we are equally talented,” said Arinze.

Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author and Media Consultant, is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State, Nigeria.

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