As Rivers State celebrates its 43rd anniversary with pomp and pageantry, it is pertinent to note the achievements, progress, challenges and prospects of the entertainment industry as partners in the growth and development of the oil rich state since its creation in May 27, 1967. There is however, no doubt that over the years, the industry has experienced the good, the bad and the ugly sides in its development strides.
The good aspect is the positive transformation of the industry from its obscure state to a position of reckoning. Today Rivers State is respected as “Nigeria’s home of entertainment. The bad aspect include paucity of funds, sponsorship, leadership tussle and poor distribution framework among others, while the ugly side has remained the nagging problem of piracy and the excesses of the movie and music marketers.
Despite these problems, the industry still remains a force to reckon with in the political and economic development of the country as well as its contribution to the rebranding of the country as well as the promotion of the cultural and social values of the nation among others.
To fully understand the achievements of the industry, its exploits will be discussed based on the various aspects which include:
The Movie Industry: The Movie industry in Rivers State since 1967 is a success strory. Apart from being a vibrant sector with lots of glaring achievements, it has produced the best crop of talents in the nation’s make believe industry called Nollywood. The state boasts of the best locations, hospitality outlets and other facilities for the production of standard movies that can stand the test of time both locally and internationally.
In the early days, we had popular Television series such as, ‘Bassey and Company,’ produced by late Ken Sarowiwa, Obigbo connection with artistes such as Adiele Onyedibia, Paul Worika, Columbus Irosoanga, Sam Dede etc.
Presently, the state has produced top stars who make waves in Nollywood. They include: Engr. Reginald Orlu, Chairman Assocations of Movie producers, Rivers State chapter, Hilda Dokubo, Basorge Tariah, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Gentle Jack, Larry Briggs, Columbus Irosoanga, Tonto Dike, Monalisa Chinda, Vikky Eeen, Alaso Wariboko etc.
The Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), which is currently headed by Ibinabo Fiberesima, has also produced many films which include ‘Snake Kingdom’, “War of Roses”, Double Trouble, ‘Battle of the gods’, ‘School Life’, Elegible Spinster, ‘Lost Glory’, ‘Who Cares and’ Sounds Of Love’ among others. It will also be recalled that apart from these achievements, most Nollywood stars who hold sway in the industry today were trained in Rivers State among whom were Ejike Asiegbu, Ini Edo, Sunny Mc Don, Clem Ohaneze etc.
Last year, the Rivers State government sponsored the ION film festival which was hosted here in Port Harcourt. It also happens to be the first time such an international event would be hosted in Africa. The event brought together all the top practitioners from Hollywood of America, Bollywood of India, Gollywood of Ghana and other movie industries of the world to partner with Nollywood, it was the biggest thing to happened to the Nigerian movie industry with a lot of positive developments to show for it.
That same 2009, the state government sponsored the ECOWAS beauty pageant which, was hosted here in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital with galaxy of beautiful stars from across the African continent in attendance. It was also a big boost for the tourism sector and opened new avenues for investment and corporation. It is therefore no gainsaying the fact that the entertainment industry has remained a dependable source of revenue for the state all these years despite its shortcomings.
Music industry: The music industry in the state is also developing at a fast pace. It is on record that Rivers State produced the legendary highlife King of Africa, late Cardinal Rex Lawson, who took highlife music beyond the shores of Africa. His music is still played in most of the civilized Western world such as Europe and America. After him, other equally very good lighlife musicians from the state took over. They include King Sunny Brown, King David Bull, late Jackwest Omodu of Garden City Band, the Great Sinya and his Seamasters band etc. We also have other modern musicians like Duniel Wilson, Duncan Mighty, Lexy M, Stone Cold, Muma Gee etc, who are doing very well in the music scene, among others.
Cultural entertainment: When we talk of cultural entertainment we refer to our various cultural dances and plays that not only entertain, but showcase our rich cultural heritage to the outside world. Our cultural dances, plays, and masquaerades like the Orukoro, Odum, Wokorogbo etc, have helped to highlight the acquatic culture of Rivers people and assisted in promoting the growth of entertainment in the state.
Nite Clubbing: This is another aspect of entertainment in the state. Apart from providing entertainment, it gives the fun seekers the opportunity to make new friends and exchange business ideas.
There is no doubt that Port Harcourt is one of the leading states in night clubbing with international standard facilities and the best of music, dance and other side attractions.
It will be recalled that in the ‘90s, the popular nite clubs were Blue Pelican, Chichi night club, Acquarius and later Dreams, which gave way to Parallax, Lulus, Chakas place and Friends Night clubs. Also on the list were Charlies, O.J. Maroni, Rollingstone, Bootleggers Morella, Studiz, etc. Today, most of them are out of business except a few such as Cassablanca, Boomerang etc.
There is no doubt that the entertainment clan in the state has come a long way and still dorminates. The nations entertainment business.