The former head of state of Nigeria, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, has joined his voice to those of people asking for a better Nollywood.
The military president popularly known as IBB said Nollywood is a phenomenon that should arouse the collective attention of all because of its enormous potential for the social, political and economic development of the nation.
Babangida made this assertion in Abuja on Wednesday at the conference of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA) hosted by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO).
Represented by Alhaji Ismail Ibrahim, a former board chairman of NICO, the former president said the conference was designed to stimulate valuable issues which under-pinned the nation’s development.
He said the theme of the conference: “Repositioning Nollywood for the Promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy and National Security”, would project and promote the country’s highly cherished cultural values through film production.
Babangida said it was his government’s Structural Adjustment Programme in the late 1980s that gave rise to the deregulation of the broadcast media, leading to the emergence of independent producers in the Nigerian film industry.
He said: “Nollywood can be deployed as a veritable tool for cultural diplomacy and social re-engineering. Through films, our rich and diverse cultural heritage and achievements can be projected and promoted to attract tourists and investors the way foreign films have been effectively used to promote India and American national interests.
“This policy opened up the entertainment space and massively encouraged creativity. Check the records of the industry between the pre-1986 SAP era and the post-1992 deregulation experience. Nollywood exploded in the Nigerian society and the economy crossing our national borders into the African continent, America and Europe.”
Babangida said the federal Government and private sector’s attention to the policy would sustain national integration, wholesome value templates and productive engagements.
Babangida said he established NICO and several other cultural agencies during his regime to grow and develop culture.
“That was to underscore the primacy of cultures in the sustenance of national livelihoods as well as the productive industries in our local societies and economies,” he said.
He said he identified with NICO in hosting the SONTA conference because of his deep appreciation of the importance of culture in national development which was part of NICO’s mandate.
“It is gratifying and heart-warming that the main focus of this conference is Nollywood, which is ranked the third largest in the world,’’ he said.
General Babangida overthrew the government of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, in a coup in 1985 to become leader of Nigeria from August 27, 1985 to August 27, 1993.