Genevive Nnaji is a popular Nigerian actress and film producer. Her film, Lionheart, which received rave reviews by renowned critics shortly after its release, may also have acquitted itself in local box office takings.
Again, given the multiplicity of film festivals and movie award institutions, it is very likely that Ms Nnaji’s flick had also picked up some local and regional accolades. But about the most thrilling part of its success story thus far came when Netflix, an elite online movie platform, announced the film’s inclusion in its showlist.
Apparently encouraged by these early positives, the Imo State-born screen diva may have felt that her latest tour de force was already qualified to reach for the ultimate prize in the global movie industry – an Oscar. And so, in 2019, Lionheart was reported as the first Nigerian film to be submitted in the Best International Feature Film (BIFF) category of the Oscar Awards organised annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), USA.
Nollywood stakeholders and, indeed, other native film lovers who had looked forward to the Nigerian movie industry’s emergence at the Oscars were, however, devastated to learn that Lionheart had been disqualified for failing to use a predominantly non-English dialogue track as part of the requirements for films entered in that category. In fact, it was reported that the 95-minute film contains only 11 minutes dialogue in Igbo language, the rest being in English.
Some commentators had questioned why the film was submitted at all given that the terms of eligibility were clearly spelt out for that Oscar category. For the avoidance of doubt, any movie entered for the BIFF category must dwell heavily on culture; have predominantly non-English dialogue track; and present a 100 percent original story.
The Nigerian film industry is popularly referred to as Nollywood, apparently a mimic of America’s Hollywood. Going by what this industry has been able to accomplish in its relatively short period of existence, the above rules need not appear daunting. Ordinarily, that is.
Femi Odugbemi is a film maker of international standing. He is also one of the four Nigerians invited into the voting membership of AMPAS for the BIFF category. In an exclusive interview with a popular Nigerian online publication, and even before Lionheart’s ill-fated Oscar outing, he said of Nollywood: “We have made enough films to, at least, earn a nomination and we really do have excellent people and excellent talents. And yes, some of our films can definitely compete.
“The challenge for us is to systematise our excellence to create a factory line that ensures that every single year there is an Oscar nomination.
“Nigeria is powerful enough in global affairs to constantly have a film in the lineup and that is our challenge.”
One is not unaware of the fact that the BIFF category was recently adjusted to accommodate more entries from outside Europe and America. And so, came the expectation that Nollywood ought to have earned, at least, an Oscar nomination by now, being an industry leader in the entire African continent.
Nevertheless, Odugbemi said that it was now left for Nollywood to create works that were culturally defining. He spoke of the need to tap into the people’s history and heritage to script larger-than-life characters that would create stories for a global audience.
According to him, the local film industry also needed to strive for such technical excellence that would enable its products compete with other films of international quality and get nominated, especially now that the excuse of discrimination or the Oscars being an all-White affair no longer existed.
The movie-industry practitioner found solace in the fact that it took a long time for India’s popular and more experienced Bollywood to win an Oscar. South Africa, he said, also took as much time to have a nominated film; while China’s mammoth film-making industry had not translated to its creations getting on the Oscar nomination list every year.
Even so, my worry for Nollywood is that its practitioners appear to be too conceited to the detriment of the industry. They seem to be content with making clean sweeps of prizes at the annual African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and such other continental events. But not so for the Ghanaian film industry (Ghollywood) which, on realising that Nollywood was ahead of it and also had a larger market, permitted its actors to work with their Nigerian counterparts for experience and better exposure. And today, flicks from our West African neighbour are seriously narrowing whatever gap that may have existed.
Likewise in music, Nigerian singers had since gone into collaboration with some foreign megastars to boost their careers, a move which paid off at this year’s Grammys with Wizkid’s award. The story is not any different in professional football where local talents had consistently been recruited to play for some big clubs in Europe and elsewhere across the world.
Additionally, British-born Nigerian thespians like Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo are already household names in the UK and US (the last two starred in Selma with Oprah Winfrey). Imagine a Nigerian actor playing the legendary Martin Luther King Jr. in that film! Unfortunately, even as Nigerians, they cannot be seen as representing our film industry.
Of course, there are Nigerian movies which show some of our Nollywood greats performing in the streets of London, New York and other world cities, but hardly are A-list foreign acts involved in such outings. Our actors need to be seen in Western movies alongside some of the world’s best. That way, they may be lucky to win accolades for individual role performances at the Oscars and British BAFTA awards.
By: Ibelema Jumbo
Skill Gap And Nation Building
The issue of skill gap is traceable to the yawning gap in our educational system between paper qualification and capacity development in skills that are relevant to industry and general services in Nigeria.
According to professor Bitrus Bagegi in every five university graduates, there should be five technologists and in every five technologist there should be five technicians.
However, this reality has eluded Nigeria because of poor educational planning and implementation.
Nigerian educational system is still suffering from the hangover of British colonial Educational system which emphasised two basic skills of Literacy and Numeracy.
The colonial masters brought this skill regime to provide the needed manpower for their colonial administration. They wanted interpreters, court clerks, Clergy and security personnel to run their administration. These skills served their purpose of that time and the early days of our independence. However it does appear as if curriculum developers in the Nigeria Educational System are still struggling to get away with this philosophy of immediate and non- sustainable manpower needs.
When the six-three-three-four system of education in Nigeria was introduced, there was a strong vocational component to remove the system from this colonial need.
Old habits they say are difficult to die. Efforts at building vocational education centres to remove the skill gap at the lower rungs of technological development did not seem to make deep and sustainable impact in bridging skill gaps. Polytechnic Education also was created to grow middle level manpower to groom technologists that will provide industrial revolution. Sadly, polytechnics created none technological
Departments to satisfy other needs which universities and Colleges of Education should address. The Universities of Technology became the vogue in the nineteen . eighties with the establishment of Rivers State University of Science Technology in Port Harcourt. The Federal Government of Nigeria glorified it by establishing several Universities of Technology to enthrone a technological revolution. The idea in all these is to have a large army of Artisans, Technicians, Technologists and Certified Engineers.
Education Departments created vocational Department to produce teachers of these skills in technical colleges and vocational centers. Have these efforts made any sustainable and effective impact in addressing skills gap at all levels of technological enterprises.
It is sad to note that the current railway development project in Nigeria has exposed serious skill gap among the I Nigerian work force. Records indicate that five thousand welders are needed in the current construction of Rail tracks and maintenance in Nigeria but the numbers that were documented were only in their hundreds.
This is just a tip of the ice bag in the gap that exists in skill acquisition in the Nigeria conomy. Citizens of Togo and other West African Countries cross the border to Nigeria to do simple jobs of pipe fitters, plumbers and other building craftsmen.
In a country of over 180 million people, it is difficult to find good craftsmen to do simple electrical wiring in a house and good automobile craftsmen are hard to find.
Most times we find half baked technicians who end up creating more problems. Poor electrical wiring installations have often led to fire out breaks and electrocution. Car engines are easily damaged these days because of Incompetent Auto mechanics.
The problem emanates from poor training culture and get rich quick mentality. Some of these skills which are picked on the road sides can be better managed in well structured vocational training centers with the right curriculum and philosophy.
According to C. S. Lewis “Education without value is useful only to make man a more clever devil”.
Have we asked ourselves why buildings are collapsing? Lack of adequate skill is responsible. The Nigeria Polytechnics and Engineering as well as Environmental science Departments have produced more quacks than men and women with requisite skills, the rest are paper tigers. This is why there is serious reliance on
foreign skill holders in almost all the high tech enterprises in Nigeria.
Competent and well groomed craftsmen, technicians, technologies are very few.
Many quacks roam the streets with their tools of incompetence. Sadly, it is not their fault; it is a problem that starts from a flawed educational Environment. Nigeria is a
; mono cultural economy that relies so much on oil but possesses little skill value in the industry.
Foreign investors still control the bulk of man power needs. The hope lies in restructuring our educational system to produce balanced skill driven system. We must get rid of producing graduates with skills and craftsmen who are empty in capacity.
By: Bon Woke
Checking Illegal Oil Refining
It is worrisome that the sad event occurs almost on a daily basis. No week passes without a case of kpo fire explosion being mentioned in the society. These days, it is not only in the rural areas of the creeks, it is also happening in the urban areas that are heavily populated, due to storage of either kpo fire kerosene or petrol.
Despite heavy security checks and monitoring of those involved in the act of producing adulterated petroleum products, the menace has continued unabated. The rate of loss of lives and properties due to activities of illegal refineries has continued to increase despite all the surveillance mounted in various communities by community heads, community development committees (CDCs) and local vigilante groups whose responsibility is to safeguard oil installations in their domain.
Kpo fire or illegal refining does not just occur but is carried out by humans through illegal tampering of the oil pipelines by fraudsters. It is high time we looked into it by getting the relevant authorities to create more awareness. Government at all levels and all relevant agencies involved in crude oil production and refining should, as a matter of urgency, do something as it has caused a lot of harm in most communities.
About two months ago, it was reported that residents were concerned about the activities of illegal oil refineries which led to three separate fire outbreaks in different communities in a local government area. After a fire incident that occurred in Elele community, they were worried about the activities of artisanal crude oil refinery.
As the dry season approaches, it calls for concern because a little spark can lead to serious fire outbreak. Any lives lost can never be recovered. It was alleged that a case of fire outbreak that occurred at Omerelu and led to the death of a man was as a result of kpo fire. Residents of that area also alleged that those involved in the act convey the products in the open without fear of apprehension.
Those involved should be fished out because they are humans and are visible. A situation where such illegal business will be going on within a neighbourhood, while residents keep quiet calls for concern. Even when some of the residents are aware of the activities, they are afraid of victimisation at the end of the day.
Recently, it was also reported that a motorcycle carrying illegally refined products fell and spilled its content in Ubima community. That led to the razing of some buildings and properties worth millions of naira were lost to the inferno.
Eyewitness account revealed how in Omerelu community, a fire incident was recorded when a bus carrying adulterated petroleum products ran into a truck while trying to avoid security checks. It was also gathered that three occupants of the bus lost their lives to the fire and properties were also destroyed.
One problem associated with fire incidents in the rural areas is that of contacting Fire Service operators who are usually stationed in the city. One thing is to put a call across and another is the distance which may take a long time before arrival.
About a month ago, there was fire incident around Chokocho village in Etche Local Government Area. Although Fire Service from Mile 1 in Port Harcourt was contacted and they responded but properties worth millions of naira were already destroyed before their arrival. Their effort deserves commendation, though.
We are aware of the far distance between Isaac Boro Park Flyover in Port Harcourt and Chokocho. One amazing thing about that incident was that so many people in that neighborhood never knew what happened and even those who knew could not speak out.
It was also gathered that the fire outbreak was traceable to the activities of illegal oil refinery. The artisanal refinery was said to be owned and operated by a yet-to-be identified man who fled the area before the surveillance group got information about him. In fact, the man was accused of being behind the Chokocho incident. The head of task force on illegal bunkering activities who made inquiries about it discovered that the suspect left the area with his family before their arrival.
The issue of artisanal refinery has been on the increase in this part of the country and it is important that people are aware of the activities going on in their neighborhood as that will check the excesses of those who indulge in it. People should be able to identify their neighbours with their occupations.
Imagine a situation where security agents were not aware of such incidents until the members of the illegal bunkering taskforce got informed. There are speculations that law enforcement agents are involved and assisting perpetrators in indulging. It is high time the police defended themselves so that all eyes will not be on them. Lately, the Police had been doing great jobs. In fact, their relationship with the citizenry has been very cordial and anything that will tarnish the image of the Force should be avoided.
At the end of investigation, anyone found guilty of the offence should be arrested and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others. This is because the harm resulting from illegal oil refinery and kpo fire is alarming. Sometimes, it is either adulterated petrol or kerosene stored in the houses that go up in flames when it comes in contact with fire. Petrol as inflammatory substance is supposed to be deposited at the petrol filling stations and not in the houses.
It is common these days to see heavy and thick smoke resulting from kpo fire around creeks in the environment. The smoke, experts say is dangerous to human health. How long will ‘yet-to-be-identified persons’ continue to perpetrate evil in the society?
Some persons have argued that it is better to gather all the people doing the illegal refining since they have become local petroleum engineers. Then the government should set up refinery and sell the crude to them to refine legally without doing kpo fire that is harming the environment. At the end of the day, they distribute to their customers in a better and legal manner. I think that is a welcome development as it will save the society from the menace.
The issue of illegal refining or kpo fire should be looked into by governments and oil producing companies in Nigeria. Surveillance by both host communities where oil installations are sited and security agencies should be intensified so as to apprehend those whose stock-in-trade is to vandalise pipelines and cause loss of lives and properties.
Local Government chairmen and their councillors should ensure that those found in the act are punished according to the law. Community heads should communicate with the rural dwellers and more awareness created on the dangers of oil bunkering.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Violence Against Women And Girls
More apt is the definition of violence as behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill someone. Precisely, violence is about human behaviour which relates to emotional and physical force intended to hurt. The International Day for the elimination of violence against women was celebrated on the 25th day of November, 2021.
This global celebration is a wakeup call on the world population to remind them of the danger of gender based violence. In this case, women and the girl children are the victims of this absurdity. Indeed, any harm done to women and the girl children is harm against humanity. This fragile specie of the human society deserves to be protected because of their roles as mothers. Mothers nurture the present and the future of any society. It is therefore a thing of great global interest that the U. N. Body set aside 16 days of activism as part of this celebration to dig deep into the importance of protecting women and Girl children against all forms of abuse.
Records indicate that one out of three women has been abused at one time or the other. Indeed, 35 percent of women worldwide have been abused with respect to rape. The theme of this year’s celebration is Orange The World: End Violence Against Women Now!”
Orange in this concept is explained as a colour that represents a brighter future, free of violence against women and girl children.
Women and gender activists around the globe have remained awake and vociferous to raise the awareness that women around the world are objects of rape, domestic violence and other forms of gender based violence. Rape in particular is the most prevalent violent injury inflicted on women globally in India, UK, South Africa, Nigeria and the United States. In the United States, reports indicate that one out of six Americans has been raped or has been a victim of attempted rape.
“Rape is an unlawful act which involves sexual intercourse carried out by force and under threat of injury against a person’s will”. Research evidence across the globe indicates that reporting rape cases is a herculean task because many victims choose not to report as a result of the embarrassment associated with it and most importantly because of fear of reprisals.
Victims are most often threatened with serious repercussions if they reveal the encounter and the perpetrators of the act. Parents and adults, keep mute when their girl child is raped because of prejudices and attendant stigmatisation that may trail the victims. The conspiracy of silence is the greatest bane of the unfortunate pain the girl child suffers.
Defilement of underage girl child is the most unfortunate and demonic aspect of gender abuse. There are rampant reports about the adults and aged males forcing their genitals into the sex passage of infants. This absurdity further debases the human society and brings to question the moral authority of some persons who address themselves as fathers. Innocent children are victims of their depravity that sometimes have ritualistic intentions.
According to the Minister of Women Affairs in Nigeria, Mrs. Paulen Tallen, 30 percent of women and girls have experienced one form of sexual abuse or the otherin Nigeria. Women and girls between the ages of 14 and 49 years, experience different forms of sexual abuse.
Research reveals that 28 percent of Nigerians aged between 25 and 29 years of age have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 or below. Most of these revelations come up when the victims are liberated and free to speak out. Also 44 precent of divorced, separated or widowed persons have reported experiencing violence since early teens.
The case of married women in Nigeria and domestic violence is replete with tales of horror, pain and penury. 25 percent of married women experience violence which comes in different forms of abuses. Sadly, many married women die in silence struggling to keep their marriage because of societal stigma. Some swallow the abuses and pain for the sake of their children. In all, the girl children and women suffer sexual harassment, physical violence, harmful traditional practices, emotional and psychological violence.
The girl childen and women need to be rescued from this hell. They need sustained Advocacy and empowerment. The women need to be protected by the law through consistent and purposeful prosecutions of perpetrators of violence. Let parents speak out and let the girl children be taught to speak out too.
The female gender needs to be protected and given the confidence to shield themselves against sexual violence. The society, parents, law enforcement agencies, N. G. Os and the judiciary should rally forces together to protect the mothers of today and the future.
By: Bon Woke
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