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USAfrica special: NOLLYWOOD and African-theme Movies in the Diaspora. By Chudi Okafor

In this critical global information age, I salute the DishNetwork for adding a medium for balanced information sharing about Nigeria in particular, and Africa in general. This is an opportunity that should not be missed because it would allow Africa tell her own story, against the slanted, stereotyped and often uninformed views on African affairs.

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The Importance and Growth of Nollywood and African Theme Movies in the Diaspora.

Special Remarks by Hon. CHUDI OKAFOR, the Consul-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the

Hon. Chudi Okafor speaking at the Dishnetwork event. USAfricaPhoto2010

United States of America, at the DishNetwork launch of its African Bouquet channels, hosted by USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston, on Monday December 20, 2010 at the Hilton Hotels southwest.

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The Vice President of International Programming for DishNetwork Mr. Chris Kuelling,
The CEO of USAfrica multimedia networks Dr. Chido Nwangwu,
The General Manager of Afrotainment Family of Channels Mr. Yves Bollanga,
International Marketing for DishNetwork Ms. Valerie Kalala,
President of the Nigerian Foundation in Houston, Mr. Segun Vaughan,
Friends of Nigeria, and Africa, fellow compatriots, distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
It is indeed my distinct pleasure to be in your midst at this important event, after much rescheduling, given my crowded programme at this time of the year, when many Nigerians are travelling home for the holidays, with their attendant passport and visa requests.
My sincere thanks and congratulations go to the management of the DishNetwork (whose) African Bouquet Channels — in conduction with Afrotainment — we are launching today; with USAfrica as DishNetwork’s consulting partner. It seems to me that this is an initiative whose time has truly come.
1. Let me, therefore, hasten to give credence to Dr. Chido Nwangwu, CEO, USAfrica multimedia networks and the CLASSmagazine. I must confess that it is not easy to turn down a well-meaning request from such an enterprising, young, dynamic and workaholic personality that has succeeded in putting Nigeria first, and Africa, in general,  on the forefront of international media reckoning.
2. It would be recalled that only a week today, Monday, December 13th, Dr. Chido Nwangwu won the AfriPro award for 2010, as a recognition of his manifest touch of professionalism in global information technology, with particular reference to Africa, which not least, the foremost information global network, the CNN, has acknowledged.
3. In this critical global information age, I salute the DishNetwork for adding a medium for balanced information sharing about Nigeria in particular, and Africa in general. This is an opportunity that should not be missed because it would allow Africa tell her own story, against the slanted, stereotyped and often uninformed views on African affairs.
4. You are no doubt aware that Africa and her peoples are, even as I speak, portrayed in lurid colours, and the Tarzan image of negativism of never do-wells, because they are presumed to be sub-humans, always afflicted with wars, famine, diseases, and of all things, laziness. In this connection, it was during the 2006 World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, that world leaders and philanthropists showed concern on these biased and jaundiced views about Africa, and called for an immediate change, with a view to presenting a balanced and objective reporting. This explains why the Nigerian Mission in Atlanta is delighted to be a part of this epoch-making event.

Chido.Chris.Chudi.Valerie.Yves_USAfricapix2010

5. To underscore the significance of this launching, I have been asked to speak briefly on a topical subject ‘The Importance and Growth of Nollywood and African Theme Movies in the Diaspora’.
First, let me admit that I am not an authority on this subject, since I am not a professional filmmaker nor am I in the entertainment industry. I cannot therefore pretend to be didactic, but I am delighted to share some perspectives on the subject. I also believe that perhaps part of the reason for extending an invitation to me could be that my résumé showed that about a half of my public service time has been spent with the Diaspora communities, as I have worked and lived in virtually all regions of the world, beginning with Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and now the U.S. It is therefore reasonable to assume that I should have something to say in this raging discussion on Nollywood and the African theme movies in the Diaspora.
6. As you may be aware, in nation building, one of the core strategies of national expression and influence is located in the entertainment industry, in which filmmaking stands out, because it has the power to refashion a reality that exists, and attach to it new images that do not exist, and like an advertisement, bring people to believe in its existence. You may call it propaganda, but that is part of the reality of entertainment industry.  Indeed, the film industry appropriates the powers of perception, and is therefore able to determine behavior, taste and emotion among people. It amplifies and clarifies national influences that draw from cultural ethos, whereby social behaviours, economic and political beliefs are transmitted and imbibed most passionately.
7. As our take off point therefore, to assert that the ‘Video Movie Industry’, commonly referred to as ‘Home Video’ in Nigeria, is phenomenally successful, is to put it mildly. Talking about the growth of Nollywood and African Theme Movies, lest we forget, what is today known as the Nigerian Film Industry actually started in the 1960s, with ace filmmakers such as Herbert Ogunde and Ola Balogun. Their local productions were then patronized by the theatres, at a time when going to the theatre was in vogue.  They were also promoted by both Federal and State television stations.
8. Soon after, about the mid 1980s, filmmakers like Eddy Ugboma and others who studied filmmaking abroad, emerged on the scene to take film business to a higher level. It was however in 1992, to be precise, following the release of ‘Living in Bondage’ by Chris Rapu, that the industry recorded a blockbuster in Nigeria. By the year 2003, the release of ‘Osuofia in London’ which stared the popular Nkem Owoh, which was in many respects like Eddy Murphy’s ‘Coming to America’, catapulted the film industry into international fame, with the promise that the best is yet to come. Ever since, thousands of Home Videos with African themes, have been produced in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and a few other African countries.
9. By providing a platform for information, education and entertainment about Africa, with almost one billion people, and Nigeria in particular, with a population of 150 million people, and the huge Diasporan population, it goes without saying that the profound impact of the Nollywood is felt beyond our wildest imagination. In point of fact, Nollywood is one sector apart from the GSM – telephone industry that has had the fastest growth rate since the Nigerian economy turned the corner. This is supported by the numerous inquiries being received at the Nigerian Missions across the globe, to the effect that something good is indeed coming out of Africa and Nigeria in particular. It is common knowledge that Nigeria’s Nollywood ranks third in the world of motion picture production, after Hollywood and Bollywood.
10. To amplify this point, no one is in doubt that like football, the Home Videos not only unite Nigerians, but has to a large measure succeeded in helping the rebranding effort of the present Administration in Nigeria, as movies from Nigeria are watched in the living rooms and offices across the globe. With about ten million Africans now in the U.S alone, we have a joint responsibility to fill the huge information gap about Africa and her peoples, given our historical, cultural and close economic links with this great and beautiful country. Indeed, it should be said that there are by far many decent, responsible, cultured and highly skilled Africans in the Diaspora compared to very few irresponsible elements in our midst that are being projected on some TV channels as fraudsters and violent. It has to be admitted of course, that every nation has its own share of irresponsible and violent elements.
11. Clearly, given the primacy of information technology, the question about the importance of these African theme movies in this globalizing world, is that they to a large extent determine Africa’s next level of global relevance. With millions of viewing audiences inside Africa and in the Diaspora, Nollywood has created the largest platform of socio-cultural interaction for Africa, as their African themes penetrate and create long lasting memories in the minds and hearts of its viewers. Indeed the effect on the Diaspora is electrifying both for the young and the old.
12. In terms of revenue, the film and video industry in Africa is estimated to have the potential for billions of dollars in foreign exchange. It has also been argued in some informed circles that if properly harnessed; the possibilities that this holds for Nigeria, is even more strategic than the black gold –petroleum, which is not only perishable but also exhaustible. With the progress that Nollywood industry has made so far, it has to be said loud and clear that the 21st century economic progress has to be determined through ideas, I mean, brain power rather than mere reliance on natural resources alone. For example, take China, a globally acknowledged octopus on the economic plane, she still had cause recently to extend invitations to over 500 professionals to assist her translate her huge natural and material resources into ideas. Make no mistake about it, the 21st century is about information technology and market square of ideas, period. Any nation that ignores this does so at its own peril.
13. I tell you, there is a prevalent infectious quiet confidence that Nollywood will open a new and refreshing vista for Africa in the global marketplace, by creating a haven for investment in the continent.  This is the opportunity Nollywood should capitalize on, and seize with both hands.
14. It is gratifying that Nollywood and African theme movies are in the ascendancy of positive rating by the global film industry. The talents from Africa in the entertainment industry cut across filmmaking, comedy and music. Again, like football stars, their talents have shut them into international limelight as they are usually given recognition wherever they go. It is common sight at the airports and other public places to give cynosure of attention to top movie celebrities as veritable ambassadors of their countries. It is no wonder therefore, that the time magazine recently reconfirmed the rating of Nollywood as the third largest film production industry in the world.
Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen
15. Like all good things, it is not all sunshine with Nollywood and African theme movies, as it is today being confronted with a lot of challenges. There is the hydra-headed issue of piracy, resulting in low sales. This, I understand, has attracted the concern of the Music Copy Right Society of Nigeria, the Nigerian Copy Right Commission and other similar agencies abroad. It is evident that unless the pirates are checked, they will continue to reap from where they did not sow, and Nollywood will continue to sow without reaping. It is well known that from the European, American, Asian and African cities, piracy of Nollywood movies are on-going and is affecting the dwindling revenue of the artists and producers.
16. Again, there is concern about the quality of production of some of Nollywood movies, in terms of poor packaging and illogical story lines. There is obvious need for appropriate training and retraining of practitioners, to improve quality through technical know-how and setting of minimum standards. It is true that it is an industry that started its trade from VHS to BETACAM cameras and now HD cameras, but Nollywood can do better by bringing in cutting edge technologies.
17. Evidently, every producer in the film industry needs money to make good films, which has been lacking until now. With the recent grant of $200 million to Nollywood by Mr. President, H. E. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, it is hoped that the Nigerian OPS, will compliment this wonderful gesture, from the Government, to ensure that this growing golden industry will put Nigeria where she aspires be in the year 2020. With the value being added to the film industry, I am confident that the 21st century will be the African turn to accomplish the much awaited dream of economic freedom.
18. In light of above, Nollywood can and should portray the fact that Africa is the genesis of civilization and that her wealth, which is largely unexploited, remains the richest of any continent on earth. Nollywood should continue to celebrate Africa and her heritage, her diversities, her many brand names, her history, culture, literature, music and art, and you can add to it. This will enable Diaspora Africans and their many friends to experience the resourcefulness and dynamism of African icons, the beauty and sweet spirit of the continent. Friendship and goodwill apart, no nation, no organization, no one, can tell your story better than yourself.
19. I enjoin Nollywood to celebrate Nigeria’s contributions in building Africa, especially in the liberation struggles of African States of South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Let Nollywood celebrate the stabilization of sister countries of Liberia and Sierra-Leone, which would have disintegrated as States, but for the fact that young Nigerian soldiers paid for their unity with their blood.
20. The time has come that as Africans, we can no longer afford to be apologetic, but walk tall and tell stories of our heroes and heroines, despite our challenges and our struggles. This is especially in respect of unacknowledged contributions of Africans, for the development of the various regions of the world, and in particular, Europe and the Americas, from the 17th  century to date. Nollywood should speak to these historical realities, because the history of Europe and North America cannot be complete without the African umbilical cord connection of blood and sweat.
21. Before I take my seat, let me thank you for listening and for a sumptuous dinner.
22. As I begin in earnest to wind up my affairs as Consul General by end of January 2011, I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
23. God bless.
Hon. Okafor, a career diplomat, joined the Nigerian Foreign Service in 1981; he was appointed Nigeria’s Consul General to Atlanta, Georgia, in January 2007 with Consular jurisdiction over seventeen (17) Southeastern States of the USA. He holds a B.Sc degree with honors (Second Class Upper Division) in Political Science in 1980 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; post graduate diploma in International Relations & French Language Course in 1983 from the Foreign Service Academy, Lagos, Nigeria. He also obtained his Master of International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos in 1988. In December 2010, he earned another Master’s degree in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, Georgia. 636 pictures of the event on www.PhotoWorks.TV http://photoworks.tv/dishnetwork-afrotainment-usafrica-2010dinner-houston
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Nigeria’s bin-Laden cheerleaders could ignite religious war, destabilize Africa. By USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu.http://usafricaonline.com/chido.binladennigeria.html
310 killed by Nigeria’s ‘talibans’ in Bauchi, Yobe n Maiduguri; crises escalate. USAfricaonline.com  on  July 28, 2009.

www.usafricaonline.com/chido.ngrtalibans09.html

Special News Insight by Chido Nwangwu, USAfrica multimedia networks, Nigeria360 e-group and CLASSmagazine, Houston.
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http://usafricaonline.com/2009/07/07/chido-obamaafrica09/
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Special News Insight, USAfrica multimedia networks, Nigeria360 e-group and CLASSmagazine, Houston. http://usafricaonline.com/2010/09/08/jonathan-firing-servicechiefs-onovo2010-by-chido/
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World SOCCER SHOWDOWN: South Africa backs Morocco; U.S under pressure

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  • USAfricaonline.com  •  @Chido247  @USAfricalive

“It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity, and naysayers should stop using the political argument. Africa hosted the best Fifa World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa,” said the SAFA president Jordaan.

Johannesburg – South Africa Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan has promised Morocco that South Africa will give its unqualified support to secure another World Cup on the African continent in 2026.

Morocco is vying to stage the world’s biggest football prize against a joint bid by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

The Moroccan delegation comprises ex-Senegal and Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf and former Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell.

Jordaan said it would be great for Africa to have a second bite of the World Cup cherry, adding Morocco’s bid was Africa’s bid.

Jordaan assured Morocco that he would personally lobby for the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) and the rest of the continent to rally behind the Moroccans.

In his remarks, Antoine Bell said Morocco had all the ingredients to host another spectacular World Cup.

“South Africa showed the way and I am confident Morocco will follow suit. The country has international standards, from the stadiums to top infrastructure. Morocco can compete with the best in the world,” he said.

By giving Morocco its support, South Africa’s voice would make all the difference on the continent, Bell said.

“When South Africa talks on the continent, the rest of the continent listens hence it is vital for South Africa to support Morocco. South Africa has the experience and Morocco will use this experience to win the 2016 bid,” added Bell. African News Agency

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USAfrica: Catholic priest Etienne killed by militia in DR Congo, after a wedding mass

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  •  @USAfricaLIVE

Goma – A Catholic priest was found shot dead hours after he said mass in Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive North Kivu province, a member of the church told AFP.

“Father Etienne Sengiyumva was killed [on] Sunday by the Mai Mai Nyatura (militia) in Kyahemba where he had just celebrated a mass including a baptism and a wedding,” father Gonzague Nzabanita, head of the Goma diocese where the incident occurred, told AFP.

The Mai Mai Nyatura are an armed group operating in North Kivu, in eastern DRC.

Nzabanita said Sengiyumva, 38, had had lunch with local faithful before “we found him shot in the head”.

North and South Kivu provinces are in the grip of a wave of violence among militia groups, which often extort money from civilians or fight each other for control of mineral resources.

Last week unknown assailants kidnapped a Catholic priest in North Kivu, demanding $500 000 for his release.

Eastern DRC has been torn apart by more than 20 years of armed conflict, fuelled by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of the region’s mineral resources, and rivalry between regional powers.

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AFRICA

USAfrica: Nigeria’s LOOTERS LIST and Buhari’s selective corruption targets. By Majeed Dahiru

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PDP vs APC Looters List and Buhari’s selective corruption targets

By Majeed Dahiru

Special to USAfrica {Houston] • USAfricaonline.com • @USAfricaLive

 

Timipriye Silva, a former governor and PDP chieftain, who became a founding member and financier of APC, had his corruption charges quashed by a federal high court and Buhari’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed to appeal the N19.5 billion fraud case.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to Nigeria’s First and Second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, the PDP appointed former managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from [Buhari’s Information Minister] Lai Mohammed’s list.

For a party that has been accused of destroying Nigeria by squandering accrued oil revenues estimated at over $500 billion in sixteen years, it is confounding that Lai’s list is not only exclusively comprised of PDP looters but also captures the last two years of PDP’s last lap in power and included just Goodluck Jonathan’s associates, who supported him against candidate Buhari, while also relating only to funds used in the last electioneering campaign of the PDP.

Whenever the obviously abysmal performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration appears to be gaining sustained attention, and leading to murmuring within the rank and file of his supporters, a tale of humungous looting by opposition elements is usually spun and thrown into the public space to distract people away from the core issue of the failure of governance.

Like a fit of deja vu, the recently unveiled list of looters by Lai Mohammed, a fellow who comes across as more of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief propagandist than a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria in charge of information and culture, didn’t come as a surprise. The list is all too familiar as the unveiling was a summarised rehash of politically exposed individuals who are members of the opposition party, close associates of former President Goodluck Jonathan, particularly his appointees in government, who have been named and shamed several times in well-coordinated media trials.

First on Lai’s list is Uche Secondus, the chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Lai had this to say of Secondus: “On the 19th of February 2015, he took N200 million only from the office of the NSA”. An unidentified former financial secretary of the PDP was similarly accused of “taking” N600 million from the same office of the National Security Adviser. Lai Mohammed also re-revealed that frontline member of PDP and media mogul, who deployed his media power to promote Goodluck Jonathan by de-marketing the Buhari candidacy in the run up to 2015 presidential election, Raymond Dokpesi, is on trial for “taking” N2.1 billion from the office of the then NSA. Lai also reminded Nigerians that his shouting match and former spokesman of the PDP, Olisa Metuh is on trial for “collecting” N1.4 billion from the same office of the NSA.

Lai Mohammed’s expanded follow up list included the usual suspects – former ministers, PDP state governors, service chiefs, presidential aides, associates and family members of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who were collectively accused of looting Nigeria of close to $2.1 billion through the office of the former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.).

The choice of words like “took” and “collected” deployed by Lai to describe the manner in which those named received these monies was deliberate for the maximum effect of propaganda, portraying the accused persons as looters who broke into NSA vault and catered away boxes of cash at something akin to a gun point.

While the clamp down on PDP looters who supported Goodluck Jonathan and are still members of the former ruling party has been heavy handed, others who decamped from PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the eve of the 2015 elections and supported candidate Buhari’s campaign with their share of loot have been forgiven. For example, former NSA, Sambo Dasuki is being treated as an apostate for his role in the disbursement of funds that were used to oil Goodluck Jonathan’s electioneering effort. He has been kept in detention illegally and in defiance of several judicial rulings. Judging by the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption standard of an accusation being tantamount to guilt, in clear contempt of court proceedings by the resort to the naming and shaming suspects even before investigations and criminal prosecution are concluded and convictions obtained, it becomes curious that Lai’s list didn’t reveal any new name. Rather some names were either missing or omitted from what is a familiar list. This appears so because the bulk of PDP bigwigs who “destroyed” Nigeria in sixteen years of national rule are firmly in control of the APC, from its elected national executives to the National Assembly and appointed members of the federal executive council. The majority of APC-elected governors were also former members of the PDP. Even recently decamped PDP members to APC, such as Musiliu Obanikoro and Sulivan Chime, who have been prominently named and shamed in the recent past, were conspicuously missing from the released list of looters.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to the first and second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, a former PDP appointed managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from Lai’s list. Also missing on that list is Bola Shagaya.

Arguably one of Africa’s richest women, with a reputation for close business and political ties to all first families in the past two decades, Bola Shagaya was exceptionally close to the Goodluck Jonathan family. Often described as a bosom friend of former first lady Patience Jonathan, she has been accused, in numerous instances, allegedly, of acting as Patience Jonathan’s front for the laundering of illicit money estimated at over N13 billion, while engaging in other fraudulent activities involved in state capture. All that may be in the past now as she has found her way back to reckoning with the marriage of her son, Seun Bakare to Damilola, the daughter of Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo. Little wonder then, Bola Shagaya’s name is not on Lai’s looters list.

In a clear display of the arrogance of ignorance, the Buhari administration has narrowed its war on corruption to the hounding of members of the Jonathan administration, other individuals and organisations that were known to have worked against the emergence of the President [Buhari] in the 2015 presidential elections. This is clearly evident in the selective nature of the current anti-corruption effort.

The tone of generalisation of the PDP as the problem of Nigeria, as an indicator of corruption, should make all members of PDP (both former and present) and their collaborators in other parties guilty, hence qualifying them for naming and shaming, while being liable for criminal prosecution.

Therefore, Buhari’s list of looters is devoid of integrity, because his selective war on corruption is indicative of corruption in itself. All that is required of a former PDP looter is to get baptised into APC and profess Buhari as the saviour of Nigeria. This is precisely responsible for the failure and ineffectiveness of the war on corruption. Nothing has changed as the current APC looters continue to loot Nigeria, while the redeemed former PDP looters continue to enjoy their loot in hibernation under the abundant grace of the infallible Buhari.

• Dahiru is based in Abuja 

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