Nollywood As An Instrument For Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy: Reflections Of A Cultural Administrator


Professor Ayo Akinwale Dean, Faculty Of Arts University Of Ilorin


4th Edition Of The Annual Public Lecture Of National Institute Of Cultural Orientation (NICO), Abuja, On Friday, 16th August, 2013



It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, venue of the NICO Public Lecture 2013, the 4th in the series. Today is another significant day in the annals of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), in the sense that the activities we had modestly lined up to mark its 20th Anniversary have not been forgotten in the pipeline; they have manifested.

Firstly, arising from our Management Retreat in January 2013, we purposed to organise the 1st Matriculation programme of the Training School, to give students the right mental attitude to adapt to their new environment. We did it for the 75 students currently registered for the Diploma and Postgraduate Diploma programmes on Saturday, 23rd February, 2013.

Secondly, we decided to hold the 1st Convocation programme on the 17th August, to commemorate the day the Act setting up the Institute was signed in 1993, and that it should be preceded by the Public Lecture on the 16th August. Today, we are all gathered here to listen to the lecture, as a prelude to the Convocation programme tomorrow. We planned; and God, in His infinite wisdom, is executing it for us. To God be the glory!

Distinguished Guests, I recall that the first Public Lecture in 2010 was on the topic: “The Culture Sector and Nigeria’s Democracy,” delivered by an erudite scholar and university don, Professor Emeka Nwabueze, of the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The 2011 edition was presented by Professor Segun Ojewuyi of the South Illinois University, Carbondale, USA, on the topic, “Katanfuru: The Illogic of Culture-Nomics in Nigerian Cultural Administration;” while the Vice-Chancellor, Nasarawa State University, Professor Shamsudeen Amali, delivered the 2012 edition on the topic, “Culture, Good Governance and Nigeria’s Democracy.”

Looking at the 2013 edition, with the theme, “Nollywood as a Medium for the Promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy,” being presented by the Dean of Arts, University of Ilorin, Professor Ayo Akinwale, a total theatre artist by international standards, you will agree that the NICO Lecture Series has become a fertile ground for alternate Inaugurals by the academia, especially in the Humanities.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the outcomes from the NICO Public Lecture and National Workshop on “Repositioning Public Officers for Improved Productivity” series would be invaluable in charting policy directions in order for the culture and tourism sector to factor appropriately into the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, twenty years is a time-line, appropriate to mark a milestone, either in the life of a man, an Institution, or a system. For key players in the culture sector, management and staffers of NICO, in particular, this indeed is a reminder that whatever achievements we may have recorded in the last 20 years, especially in the last four years of The Barclays Force, has been collective.

This, therefore, in more ways than one, is part of activities marking the fourth anniversary of The Barclays Force, since my appointment as Executive Secretary/CEO of this esteemed organisation, on the 3rd November, 2009. Indeed, I can say that for the first time, NICO is celebrating, what we can call, “Four Years of Peace.” I will not want to bore you by presenting our Score Card because our many publications have aptly captured most of the positive developments.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as one tree does not make a forest, let me state here that the relative success of this administration, in the past four years, can only be attributed to the cooperation from the management and staffers of the Institute, at the National Headquarters, Abuja, the Zonal and State Offices across the country.

I want to use this occasion to thank the former Governing Board of the Institute, under the chairmanship of His Excellency, Ambassador Abubakar Ibrahim Ganyama, for supporting us to conceptualise this veritable intellectual platform, as an Institute. In the same vein, I wish to congratulate the newly appointed Chairman of the Board, Alhaji Ibrahim Ismaila.

The Executive Committee of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUCPTRE), NICO chapter, led by Comrade Onyekachi Promise Nwanguma, needs to be given due appreciation. I am always overwhelmed by the sense of maturity displayed by the union and know that under the prevailing atmosphere, there is no way the devil will brew industrial crisis in NICO.

Finally, on behalf of the Board, Management and Staff of this Institute, I extend my profound gratitude to our amiable Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism & National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke, and the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele, for being there for NICO always.

It is on this note that I welcome you all to the 4th NICO Public Lecture. I thank you all for your kind attention!

Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, PhD
Executive Secretary/CEO
National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO)
Abuja, Nigeria




It gives me enormous pleasure to be here today on this auspicious occasion of the 4th NICO Annual Public Lecture, on the theme, “Nollywood as a Medium for the Promotion of Nigerian’s Cultural Diplomacy.”

I wish to commend the Executive secretary, Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, Management and staff of the Institute, for the conceptualisation and inauguration of the Annual Public Lecture series and for ensuring its sustenance over the years.

I am particularly pleased with the choice of topic for this year’s edition, which is not only apt but also in consonance with our vision and aspiration of harnessing the vast culture and tourism potentials for the socio-economic transformation of our dear country.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to reassure you that the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the Leadership of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is committed to the repositioning of Culture and Tourism sector, to serve as a catalyst for the economic growth of our country.

You will recall that, only recently, we launched our tourism brand identity, “Fascinating Nigeria,” as part of our vision to reposition Nigeria, as the preferred tourism destination and cultural capital in sub-Saharan Africa.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s approval of the N3billion Intervention Fund for Nollywood and the proposed National Cultural Heritage Fund attest to this administration’s commitment in this regard.

It is noteworthy to state that Nollywood, Nigeria’s film Industry, has witnessed phenomenal growth in the last couple of years. It is now ranked the second largest film industry in the world and there is no arguing the fact that it has the capacity to serve as a dynamic tool for the promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy objectives.

Distinguished Guests, films are cultural products and assets and are considered the most influential medium for entertainment and education today. It therefore behoves us to take advantage of it, not only to launder our international image, but also to draw attention to Nigeria, as a fascinating tourism destination.

In this regard, it is vitally imperative that stakeholders in the film industry see themselves as our cultural ambassadors and work assiduously to use the film medium to project Nigeria positively to the international community.

Finally, I wish to state here that the Federal Government is very much concerned with the challenges confronting the industry, especially the nagging issue of piracy and copyright infringement and is doing everything possible to check the menace, so that stakeholders can fully reap the fruits of their labour.

I wish you all a stimulating lecture. Thank you for your attention.

High Chief Edem Duke
Honourable Minister
Fed. Min. of Culture, Tourism & Nat. Orientation
Abuja, Nigeria



It gives me pleasure to welcome all of you to this great event organized by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), which is in line with its mandate, aimed at the promotion of a better understanding and appreciation of the place of culture and arts in the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

When the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer (ES/CEO) of NICO muted the idea of my chairing this lecture, I had no hesitation at all in accepting the invitation; and this was for three reasons. First, I consider the topic of the lecture to be of great interest to me; second, the Guest Lecturer is a scholar that I have known over three decades; and, the third is my tremendous respect for Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, the ES/CEO of NICO, who as a scholar of repute, has contributed so much to Nigeria’s Cultural Development and the Film Industry.

The title of today’s lecture: “Nollywood as a Medium for the Promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy,” is not only timely but significant. In fact, I totally agree with Jonathan Haynes’ description of Nollywood as the major contemporary Nigerian art form. He further asserts that “Nigerian video films are the leading form of Nigerian popular culture.” This is true given that Nollywood has continued to make waves around the world.

A search for “Nollywood” on the Google search engine would immediately reveal over 8.3 million entries in 0.18 seconds. Nollywood has become a major phenomenon in the art circuit, shown in major cities of Africa and among the African Diaspora around the world. It has equally become a potent tool for Nigeria’s cultural diplomacy. Nollywood has also continued to feature in the various works of African scholars and literary giants, especially in the works of Jonathan Haynes, Hyginus Ekwuazi, Onookome Okome, Foluke Ogunleye, Akinwunmi Isola and Duro Oni.

Of particular significance are the several dimensions that the name, Nollywood, has also taken, to the point that eminent scholar, Akinwunmi Isola now asks: “What is Nolly? And from where comes the wood?” That notwithstanding, there are also variants of the name for the industry across Nigeria including, Kannywood, Kallywood and the recent Bennywood from Benue state!

The choice of Professor Ayo Akinwale to deliver today’s lecture is equally apt. Of course, he is one scholar that effectively combines scholarship with practice. His foray at the Department of Performing Arts, University of Ilorin, in the past three decades has produced generations of performing artistes and scholars. I have no doubt in my mind that he would do justice to the topic given his dexterity and the fact that it affords him an opportunity to bring to bear his decades of academic and practical theatre experience.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me once more to welcome all of you to this occasion. A careful look at the audience immediately shows that it reflects the major stakeholders of Nigeria’s film industry, which in recent times has become the pride of Nigeria, as well as culture enthusiasts. I sincerely appreciate your presence here today especially considering that you had to shelve several other important engagements to attend. I can assure you that we will all leave here enriched with fresh ideas and strategies on how to move this all important industry to greater heights.   

Please relax your mind and savour the lecture. 

Professor Duro Oni
Deputy Vice-Chancellor
(Management Services)
University of Lagos



Nollywood As An Instrument For Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy: Reflections Of A Cultural Administrator


Professor Ayo Akinwale


This lecture will examine the content, form and structure of Nigerian Nollywood films, in order to state clearly which of these films are positive to the nation’s cultural diplomacy and those that are not. The main focus is to state clearly what sort of films we need to export abroad so that the nation’s diplomatic terrain can be boasted. As the world’s second largest producer of films, a lot of films are now produced in Nigeria on a daily basis. Some of these films address mainly issues in Nigeria and should not be transported to the countries close to Nigeria, while some have proved their professionalism beyond doubt. This is why, at this point in time, we need to examine which films we want to export and those that we do not need to export. Using the descriptive methodology, we shall describe in detail the content of Nollywood films in order to ascertain their usefulness in terms of cultural diplomacy and the transfer of our culture to other nations beyond the shores of Nigeria. In our findings, a lot of factors contribute to production of films in Nigeria. These include the budget and the calibre of actors, producers and directors of the film. Such films with adequate provisions of these three areas enjoy a high-class of final production and are positive to the cultural diplomacy of Nigeria. The reverse is the case when a low budget film, in terms of these areas, is shot. We, therefore, recommend that the Nigerian Video and Films Censors Board should wake up to it duties so that only good films are exported out of the shores of Nigeria. Secondly, Government should develop a system whereby films going out of Nigeria could be assessed before such films can leave the shores of the country. This may be difficult at the beginning, but later, it will be found to be not only effective, but what the country needs for a positive diplomatic exposure.


It is with a deep sense of honour that I stand before these august guests, in the month of August, to deliver this lecture as the 4th edition of Annual Public Lecture Series of the Nigerian Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO). Let me congratulate the Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, for this lofty achievement of keeping alive the Institute. Congratulations! My thanks must go to the Executive Secretary of (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, who happens to be my colleague and brother, right from our University days at the University of Ibadan, the Premier University in Nigeria. Thanks for exhibiting the good ethics and traits of the University of Ibadan by giving the Institution an academic outlook. I read quite a number of the previous lectures delivered at the Institute and I was quite pleased with my findings. Again, I say congratulations!

Several lectures have been delivered here on cultural issues. They have dealt intensively with the issue of culture and its relationship to Peace, Education, Dress Code, Cultural Diversity, and so on. Today, we are opening yet another chapter in the development and growth of Nigerian Culture, as we discuss the issue of Cultural Diplomacy and Nigerian films, otherwise known as, “Nollywood.”

For the purpose of this lecture, we shall make use of the name, “Nollywood,” for all films produced in Nigeria. This is because Nollywood itself has other children and grandchildren, as we now have “Kannywood” in Kano, “Yoriwood” in Yorubaland, “Igbowood” in Enugu, and so on. In the South Western part of Nigeria, several films are produced on a daily basis. Several locations now exist in major towns in the states. The films vary from one to the other. Similarly, in the Eastern part of the country, especially Enugu, Calabar, Onitsha and Port-Harcourt, several films are produced on an annual basis. The same is true of Kaduna and Kano in the north.

However, some of these films are found to be lacking in one thing or the other that do not make their exportation outside Nigeria desirable. What they lack that is disqualifying them is the focus of the lecture today. Needless to say that, some of the films possess the needed quality in content and form that will expose us as a decent country outside the shores of Nigeria. Yet many of them do not get transported outside the country. We shall also examine why this is so.

In this lecture, we shall make use of the descriptive method to describe Nollywood films and what they possess that are making them exportable or not. As a practitioner in the Nigerian Film Industry, a few decades ago, I had observed the growth and development of Nigerian films from the beginning to date. Secondly, having participated in the filming process for over three decades, I think it is time I lend my voice to the debate on the issue of filming in Nigeria as an observer-participant. Again, as one who had been in the culture industry for quite some time, I am sure I will be able to handle this topic effectively. I have been the chairman Oyo State Council for Arts and Culture, the South-West Zonal Co-ordinator for Abuja Carnivals, a chief judge for National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST), a judge for the Calabar Carnival, and an actor, producer and director for several programmes on Radio, Television and Home Movies. My experience, therefore, especially in the South West of Nigeria, where I functioned effectively, will be found very useful in this lecture.

A lecture of this nature, I am sure, will make an impact on both students and scholars in the industry, as well as members of the society, who are interested in the industry. A lot of questions are being asked by members of the society from the practitioners. Some of these questions will be answered in this lecture, while some are likely to be perfectly laid to rest before they are asked. As a matter of fact, I found it difficult to choose little excerpts for this lecture from my array of participation in the industry. However, for a few minutes, before I end this lecture, I shall show a few clips from those films that can be exported and those that will have little or nothing to contribute to our Cultural Diplomacy. In some instances, where we need to show films and we cannot lay our hands on such films, we shall be explicit in our presentation, so that my opinion on such films will be safely driven home.

In most parts of East Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda Kenya and Tanzania, Nigerian films are selling fast and they are reaching these countries as soon as they are released. As a visitor from Nigeria, the people are so interested in our films, such that that is what they will request from you on your acquaintance with them. Why is this so? Secondly, I was shocked at a point when a cleaner in an hotel in America asked me if I brought along Nollywood films for her from Nigeria. Such is the popularity of these films outside Nigeria. The question is: Are all these films contributing at all to our Cultural Diplomacy? If they are not, then how do they get to these countries? Why do these people prefer our films to theirs? As an artist, I know that the people will take whatever we give them.  But, are we making sure we are giving them the best all the time? This is the talking point of this lecture.

Let us quickly define certain terms and concepts that we will employ severally in this lecture. They are (i) Culture; (ii) Cultural Diplomacy; and (iii) Cultural Administrator.

Culture: The word, culture, was first used by a German anthropologist, Edward B. Tylor (1871:1) to mean, “the totality of the ways of life of a people over a given period of time.”   Two issues to note here are the fact that culture embraces all that we do from one society to the other. It is what can be used to distinguish a society from the other. Because it embraces all that we do, we can divide it into two broad based categories: material culture and immaterial culture. Material culture concerns things that are concrete and we can see, like architecture, utensils, dresses and so on. The immaterial culture consists of abstract things like religion, ethics, aesthetics or sense of beauty, and so on. These two areas must be combined in every individual so that his growth and development can be taken as being complete.

In one of my classes, at the University of Ibadan, my lecturer, late Professor (Mrs.) Zulu Sofola, asked us a question. She said: “There are two farmers; one is planting yam the other is planting flowers; which one is relevant?” As students we all said, “Yam.” Then she said, “Are you saying we should uproot all the flowers and burn them?” We said, “No, but it is after eating that you can think of flowers.” She then explained to us that yam represents material culture; while flowers stand for immaterial culture. That the two must combine in any human being before his growth can be complete. If we therefore look at Nollywood films, do they obey this golden rule of the essence of this combination in their production? Are they such that when you watch a film the material and immaterial aspects of our culture are adequately taken care of? Next is the issue of time. The definition earlier stated shows that culture is dynamic. Hence, Nigerian culture during pre-independence is not the same as that of post-independence. Do we find this dynamism in all Nollywood films or in just a few of them? This lecture will answer this question very soon.

Professor Mabel Evwierhoma (2001: 6), in her World Culture Day lecture, stated clearly that, “Culture has ethical cognitive roles contingent on morality, beliefs and even superstitions.” That is, culture is one that must be spread with the one spreading taking care of his modus operandi. This is because there is no culture whose base is not rooted in morality. Are Nollywood films spreading the Nigerian culture at all if one tries to examine these films and the issue of morality? Are Nollywood films portraying our belief systems well?  In my view, culture is something that is to be learnt from one generation to the other. We have political culture, economic culture, social culture and religions culture. The media culture is one through which our children can learn of our culture in the past, the present, and make projections into the future. Are Nollywood films engaging in this teaching and learning about culture? Are they transferring to the younger ones our culture in the past? We shall dwell on this in detail in this lecture.

Cultural Diplomacy: The issue of Diplomacy is a very big one, for we are all aware of the reason why a government will develop diplomatic relationship with another country.  In some cases, it is to develop bi-lateral relationship between both countries, such that the two countries will definitely benefit from the relationship. In terms of cultural diplomacy, therefore, we mean the boosting of the image of one country in the presence of the other, such that, the two countries are presented in their totality of ways of life as one that is morally and intellectually sound before the other. According to Onions (1970: 514) diplomacy refers to the “skill or address in the conduct of national intercourse and negotiations.”  Therefore, cultural diplomacy is to negotiate a comparable image in the eye of the other country with whom one has gone into the process of diplomatic relationship. The point we are making here is that any film that will be exported out of this country must be one that will negotiate the nation very well in the perception of the other country. Are all Nollywood films doing this? We shall soon get there in the course of this lecture.

Segun Oyewo (2002:106), a scholar and expert on cultural diplomacy, sees cultural diplomacy as:

a structured relationship between culture and its manifestations and international relations. It is the use of cultural expressions and activities in the conduct of official relations among nations.

Similarly, Michel (1956: 71) defined cultural diplomacy as:

the involvement of culture in international agreements; the application of culture to the direct support of a country’s political and economic diplomacy.

A Nigerian, who worked extensively in the culture sector, Frank Aig-Imokhuede (1991: 4), sees cultural diplomacy as a concept that seeks to “establish the atmosphere of friendly persuasion and to use the attraction of the arts and artistes to win people over.”

Again, these definitions show clearly that through whatever media one is employing, the issue of negotiating the country properly in the presence of another country with whom one is establishing a bi-lateral relationship is of paramount importance, while considering the issue of cultural diplomacy. To what extent these Nollywood films are doing this will be closely examined in this lecture.

Cultural Administrator: This term, cultural administrator, should refer to an expert in the area of culture work, who had been so engaged in the nation’s cultural activities for quite some time. Such a person must be aware of the nation’s arts and crafts, drama, dance, music, media arts, as well as cultural behaviour in the area of sports, cooking, religion, and so on. He must be a highly respectable person, who is ready to sacrifice all he has in the pursuit of the nation’s cultural development and growth. He must be a hardworking person, who can perform within a very short time when the need arises. Unfortunately, in our country today, such experts are not the ones heading some of our State Arts Councils, where arts and culture are supposed to be highly developed. The position is now by promotion and not by merit. When such a person is asked a pertinent question on the nation’s culture, he begins to stammer. The Cultural Administrator is not supposed to be a well-read person, but someone who has spent the major part of life and living within the cultural sector. It is such a person that will understand why some Nollywood films should be exported and why some should not be exported.

Review of Relevant Literature

That the academics are now taking interest in “Nollywood” films is a very welcome development. Before now, the academic dismissed Nollywood and its operations as a class of people, whose minds cannot engage in any serious work. The criticism was very relevant at a point before now, that academics will not even slot issues on “Nollywood” in their conferences. But today, the situation has changed. There is now a barrage of literature on Nollywood, beyond what one expected. We shall review a few of such relevant literature here, in order to show where we are going as well as our starting point. It will also show work done, so far, as well as our own take-off point.

Barclays Ayakoroma (2010) stated clearly that countries are now selling their cultural values and images though their films. He then congratulated the producers and actors of Nollywood for doing something that is actually salutary to the image of Nigeria.  He argued further that in spite of the heavy criticism, “our children have come to identify with not only Hollywood stars but Nigerian video stars” (2010:12). In his conclusion, he stated clearly that these videos are promoting the social, political, economic and cultural developments of Nigeria. They transmit and reflect Nigerian culture, which is a reflection of our social identity. We want to agree with his position in the sense that, thanks to technology, Nigerian films would not have been able to go that far. However, my fear is that not all the films are good enough to meet this postulation. As a matter of fact, if one takes a statistics, they would be one in every twenty or thirty films.

John A. Afolabi (2008) in an article, titled, “The African Video Film and Images of Africa,” raises concern over the content, themes and synopsis of many home video films in Nigeria. He gave the negative and positive sides of the stories told on Nollywood films in Nigeria. In the same manner, Onokome Okome (2010) stated clearly that the themes of Nollywood films revolve around infertility or childlessness, polygamy, inheritance issues, prostitution, philandering, and infidelity. He stated that these films have not done enough in the areas of equity, justice, problems in education and medical services. I want to submit that there are several other areas yet to be covered by these films beyond what Okome stated. Yoruba films have covered more areas than films from other parts of Nigeria.

The criticisms against Nollywood have been more pronounced and heavier from Nigerian scholars. Some of these scholars base their criticisms on what they see in the films. Some of such criticisms, though very true, can demoralize the practitioners, while some may evolve in them a new ethos towards their production. For example, at an Annual Conference of Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists (SONTA), at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, with the theme of the Conference was “Nollywood and Theatre for Development (TfD): Exploring The Bridges of Interaction,” some of these highbrow criticisms were mentioned at some of the session. For example, Law Ikay Ezeh (2011), quoting from an interview he held with Gbenga Okeowo, another artist, stated clearly that Okeowo is of the view that:

Nollywood has not done well in terms of representing, promoting, propagating and developing Nigerian Culture (Ezeh, 2011: 170).

According to him, the fact that they borrow a lot from foreign cultures, it has not shown much in terms of Nigerian culture especially when it comes to the issue of language, costumes and emotional interactions. Another artist Ezeh interviewed, Udo Udoma, stated clearly that:

Accepted that culture is dynamic, is that why Nollywood producers inundate us with obscene foreign culture? How could producers allow the wearing of sagging jeans and tops that show it all, including their sagged members?

Udoma concluded that he had to ban the African Magic channel in his house as a result of such obscene scenes that one finds in two out of every three films (Nollywood films) one watches on the channel. As much as I agree with these criticisms, I want to defend my colleagues and write that not all Nollywood films are guilty of this offence. As we go along in this lecture, we shall see that though some films are not promoting the Nigerian culture, yet, some are doing exactly that. However, what do we need to do now so that all our films will be positive to and enhance our cultural diplomacy? That is our concern in this lecture.

The Past

According to Wole Soyinka, in his 1960 play, A Dance of the Forest, he stated clearly that a nation whose past has nothing to write home about, whose present is chaotic, the future is bleak. Unfortunately, the opposite of this is the development and growth of the Home Video Industry in Nigeria. The past was robust. The transformation from television serials and series to Home Video was not smooth at all. In the past, nothing was known of Home Video. What were on the ground were television serials and series. The Yoruba Travelling Theatre troupes made extra money from their performance for Television.

We want to recall here that late Hubert Ogunde’s Dance Hour on WNTV/WNBS was a key production in the 1960s and 1970s. Also, the number of participants in the past was quite few; hence, there was minimal number of indiscipline among the participants. At this point too, the passion for the job was more than the money that we were paid. In Inspector Adegboye, a series by Adebayo Faleti, I was paid a total of N250.00 (Two hundred and fifty naira) per episode in 1973. The same can be said of all the major productions of the 1970s until 1978, when we acted Boomerang for NTA Ibadan; and Akin Sofoluwe, who was our producer then, paid all of us, students of University of Ibadan N35.00 (Thirty five naira) for one single episode. The celebration of this payment was heavy.

For a performance of Efua Sutherland’s Edufa, playing the lead role in 1977, I earned N19.00 (Nineteen naira) only. People were responsible for their own costumes at this period. No camping was necessary and no feeding on location was involved. Yet, we all really enjoyed participating in television productions then. During this period too, artists were highly respected within the society. But for a few misgivings arising from either ignorance or lack of knowledge on the dimension of the job, artists had a very nice time both in rehearsals and in productions. Such criticisms, as we have today, did not exist then.

In terms of content of the scripts, during this period, this would have been properly debated at the production meeting of the stations. At this point, however, the television stations were owned by Government, either at the state or federal level. Hence, nobody wants an NTBB (Not To Be Broadcast) material to go on air. Producers were aware of this and they will go extra length to see to the success of their productions. The audience too were ready to receive a good package whenever it comes. For example, during the broadcast of Fopo Moyo, by Jimoh Aliu, a series in which Fadeyi Oloro was quite dominant as a character, the streets of Ibadan will be devoid of vehicles during the one-hour performance of the play. Such was the response of the crowd to a good production in the past such that the artists soon became celebrities within the society. As a matter of fact, Fadeyi Oloro became the subject matter of several films in the South West until the people again got tired of the Fadeyi syndrome. At this period, there were no Nollywood films. So, people must stay glued to their television sets to watch the productions.

The growth of Television Drama to Nollywood was not a smooth transition. This was because Nollywood came out of an inevitable transition occasioned by several factors. First is the nation’s economy that was no more buoyant. The price of celluloid raw stock rose beyond normal. The television stations were no longer well funded by government. Hence, they could hardly pay artists’ fees or even initiate new productions. Actors, therefore, had to leave these stations in search of greener pastures. At this point in time, one wants to remember the major television drama series and serials that were very popular. In the West, Village Headmaster; in the North, Cockcrow at Dawn; and in the East, The Masquerade.

Let me reiterate here, however, that productions of this period, within available resources, in terms of equipment, were aesthetically pleasing. We moved from live performances in the studio to location-based shootings, when new set of equipment arrived. Koko Close on NTA Ibadan and Bello’s Way were also productions that one can never forget. The same is true of Sura De Tailor produced by Kunle Bamtefa, starring Tunji Oyelana and late Sunbo Marinho, our teachers then. At this point in time, just as we learn from these people, the Yoruba too were learning from their leaders and one can say that the period was quite rewarding to the artistes and the viewers of Television. The nation’s economy at this period looked seemingly buoyant. Hence, things seemed to be in their proper places.

The Present

Today, the production industry has been transformed considerably into an industry that not only accepts all sorts of artisans but makes them prosper. The industry has changed completely from being an enterprise under government entrepreneurship to one that is now handled by individuals. The Association of Nigeria Theatre Practitioners (ANTP) has also shifted their concern away from the theatre-on-stage to theatre-on-television, which is quite commendable.

Presently, because everybody is now a film maker, attention is no longer paid to content, artiste’s welfare, artiste’s payment, and even professional production practices. Everyone knows what to do, whether he has learnt it formally or informally. With the insurgence of academia into the industry, it has not helped the situation much since the owners of the films are in charge. Hence, once they get few friends to treat the story of a film script, the script is ready for shooting. A lot of details are always forgotten, while a lot of cultural issues are relegated to the background. Here, let me commend two of my friends, Adebayo Salami and Muyiwa Ademola, who did a lot of work on their two films in which I participated. These are Agbara Obinrin by Oga Bello and Iranse Aje for which I was given an Award as the Best Actor in an Indigenous Film at the Africa Movies Academy Awards (AMAA) 2008. The film was written by Adebayo Tijani. The audience again will always buy a good job. This is why VCDs of the two films are usually not easy to come by. 

At this period too and even until presently, there is no hard and fast rule as to actor’s payment. The producers are into business. So, the cheaper the production cost, the better for them. But, the issue is, while substituting commerce for quality, a lot is left undone in the promotion and propagation of the nation’s culture. Here, I want to commend a few Nigerian actors, who have showed clearly that the industry can be depended upon and have stayed glued to the job. They include Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello), late Justus Esiri, who passed on recently, late Sam Loco Efe (the comedian), Akin Lewis Jnr, Olumide Bakare, Victor Deka, Professor Emeka Nwabueze, and Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD). Others include Joke Muyiwa, Fatai Adireloja, Yemi Adeyemi, and Kunle Bamtefa, whom I had performed with at one time or the other. Also, let me congratulate Uncle Olu Jacobs and his wife, Joke Jacobs, for their doggedness to the profession. These are people who have stayed steadfast to Nollywood and are still actively engaged in the industry. The few people I have mentioned here have done everything other professionals did in other fields, such as owning their own houses, cars, companies, and so on.

Also, within the Nollywood industry, certain “Caucuses” now exist. All members of the caucus must be seen in any film that is being produced by the caucus. They will get well paid. To an outsider to the caucus, you are on your own. This is now a serious matter between actors of Eastern extraction and those from the West. Similarly, no producer signs a contract with his artists except productions using English language. Once the producer pays you, that is all. He can do whatever he likes with the film. Again, it is the artist that will suffer, not the producer or even the marketer that is promoting or sponsoring the film.   

In a recent publication, Tribune of Saturday, 9th February, 2013, Yinka Quadri was asked about what the veterans are doing to ensure best practices, and quality control of scripting, storyline, right interpretation, and technical quality in Yoruba Movie Industry. He had this to say:

The industry is growing every day. And when something is growing, you can’t run away for some teething problems. Bad interpretations of our movies are a major concern as we have raised a group of learned professionals who would vet our movies before it is released. All these things cannot be achieved in a day. We will get there. This was not where we were ten years ago.

I quite agree with this statement but the question is: what do we need to do to get there? How are we going to move away from criticism that commerce has overtaken quality? Some of these problems that we have raised, including the issue of piracy as well as lack of discipline on the part of the practitioners, are reasons why films that cannot promote our cultural diplomacy find themselves on the shelf. Many Nollywood films come from the Eastern part of the country. To many of them, village life with its flora and fauna must be shown to the public. Such a film, one will feel, is going to be good for our cultural diplomacy. But at the end, the film is destroyed out of terrible acting style of some of the villagers, who are ‘sons of the soil’ from the village and must feature in the film. Producers are just growing out of this issue.  

With the arrival of the film, Living in Bondage, by Kenneth Nnebue in 1992, as well as Glamour Girls, Nollywood started its steady rise to where it is today.  Again, these films have nothing to show about Nigerian Culture. Mixed with a bastardised form of foreign culture from the West, the film does not really represent us as we are today. The costumes are not Nigerian, neither are the decorations and adornments. The tops “show it all.”  Several Nollywood films are guilty of these criticisms. From both sides of the divide, the West and the East, there are several films that do not take cognizance of our cultural diplomacy and so should not, under any circumstance, qualify to be exported outside this country. For example, several films in Yoruba, shot by members of the Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners (ANTP), lack texture in content, theme and structure. Even the Yoruba language that they employ, some actors either could not speak it well or they do not even know how to read the language whenever the films have scripts. Some of these films and their negative criticisms need to be reviewed in this lecture.  

In the film, Etekete, by Corporate Picture, the film talked mostly of reproductive issues in the most banal of all forms. It made it look as if the Yorubas love to discuss issues of reproduction so freely among their families without restraint. This is not true. The same storyline can be seen in the films from the English producers of The Holy Harlots by Chyke Movie Production and The Secretary by Konia Concept Ltd. Here, also, sex talk was engaged in openly. Mr. Lecturer by Chico Ejiro showed some of such sex orgies too. Such a film, I believe, does not augur well for Nigeria’s cultural diplomacy. Several films were shot within the Yoruba enclave conceptualised as detective or anti-robbery films. Such films show a bit of violence that they finally end up not representing the Yoruba man.

Another factor here that destroyed the cultural diplomacy of these films is the booming technology. With the arrival of new technology, the Yoruba film maker discovered that they can conjure the Ifa Oracle such that the client will see his problems on a wall. This is done simply either by super-imposition or the focusing of a projector on a wall. As a matter of fact, there is no client that can see what the Ifa man is seeing. If anybody must see anything at all, the person must be an uncircumcised lady of between 6-12 years of age. We can find an example of this kind of using technology wrongly in the film, Eni Foko Sale, by Foto Care Production and Ipade Eleiye by Point One Film Production.

Several films of the Yoruba extraction have very little story to tell. So, they engage in what we can refer to as, Picture Bridge. This picture bridge will last for so long. It will be assumed that it has covered several months or even years, when they insert a caption on it. But, this method has not presented us as a people, who have a deep story to tell and so such films will be grossly lacking in terms of qualifying for exportation, let alone improving our Cultural Diplomacy. An example can be found in the film, Eni Foko Sale, by Foto Care Production.

Another major reason why films are badly produced is the lack of formal training on the part of the cast and crew of the Yoruba films and, in fact, Nollywood industry, in general. Many of them who are not formally trained will want to perform as if they are. Eventually, they start their own drama and film schools, admit many students and expect them to train by just watching what they, as the owners of the schools, are doing; that is, just following them to location. This I find as a major obstacle to their producing films that will uplift the cultural diplomacy of the country. Many of them pass through informal training as active participants in the filming process. Yet, they want to train young Nigerians in an art on which they know very little.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, hope is not lost. As we are having these films that are destroying our cultural image, we have those that are promoting our cultural diplomacy within the Nollywood industry. Three years ago, we shot a film, titled, Tightrope, for Tunde Oloyede of Media International Limited. It was sponsored by USAID and The Ford Foundation. The programme was built around artistes that were quite experienced in terms of television acting. Among these actors were, Olu Jacobs, Joke Jacobs, Kelvin Ushi, Tunde Oloyede and myself. At this point in time, Nollywood films had filtered into the market and it was the main source of selling films. As a former producer of NTA Lagos, Tunde Oloyede was not happy with the quality of films produced by Nollywood. As the former producer of The Village Headmaster, he felt that we deserve a film industry that can promote and refresh our cultural diplomacy. So, he wrote the pilot script. After we shot the pilot, he waited for over one year before he could get USAID and The Ford Foundation to sponsor the production.

During this period of waiting, planning was going on. The planning took about a year. During recording, a whole house was rented at Ikorodu, such that artistes were resident there. A whole week was earmarked for reading, while shooting of the first thirteen episodes lasted two months. The director, Jimi Odumosu, was not only a versatile director; he had headed a Television Station as General Manager before the serial was shot. Hence, he knew and was clearly prepared for the shots to take. The story was quite deep. It concerned a rich pharmaceutical company that was ripped off financially by the Managing Director, in collaboration with the General Manager. Unfortunately, it was the General Manager, who clearly started the rip off, simply, because he wanted to take his position. The Managing Director was arrested but the General Manager was not given his post. Rather, a lady, who was the company’s Public Relations Officer, got the post. All the intrigues of the General Manager, to disrupt the activities of the new MD formed the theme of the serial for more than twenty-six episodes. In this film, we will see perfect acting, good directing, good choice of locations and a story with such a suspense that will make one feel happy that Nigeria is moving forward in terms of film production. The costumes were also well-chosen to represent the Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba characters in the film.

Another Nollywood film, One God One Nation, by Collins Productions, reveals the serious objection of two parents, one from the Eastern part of the Country the other from the North for their children to marry one another. The intrigue was so much that, it took the State Commissioner of Police, time to settle the quarrel. Here, also, in terms of storyline, costumes, locations, actors and acting style, we can say that the production was a huge success. In this film too, one can see seasoned and tested Nigerian actors like Olu Jacobs, Late Justus Esiri, and so on. The sets and camera work were superb. The producer, P. Collins Production, did a nice work and so the success accorded to the film came from the hard work of these role models in the field of film production in Nigeria.

In Iranse Aje, earlier mentioned, the scriptwriter, Bayo Tijani, had won eight AMAA awards for the film, Apesin, the previous year. This spurred him to write another script that was chart-bursting in 2008. Simply, Iranse Aje tells the story of a business man, whose business had collapsed and he was seriously in need of money to carry out his basic responsibilities. His only car also broke down and paying the school fees of his children became a big problem. So, he decided to go to a herbalist to prepare a ritual so that money can begin to flow again. Unfortunately for him, the herbalist said he does not make money rituals. But, he can beg the messenger of wealth to stay with him for three years. From that time on, he will become rich again. Luckily for him, the man empowered him so that if he sees the messenger of wealth, he will recognize him or her. A set of youth corpers were sent to his office. He saw the messenger of wealth among them in person of a young girl. To make her stay for three years in his company became his big problem. After a lot of intrigues, the lady was forced to stay with him for three years and he became prosperous again.

In this film, seasoned actors and actresses were used. The production time was one month. The designer, Biodun Abe, the Technical Director of the National Theatre, Lagos, did a nice job on designs. The artistic director, Muyiwa Ademola, settled down to do his job in pieces. Playing the role of Olaosebikan, I gave in all I have, in terms of interpretation. This film won three awards in 2008 and this is one film that can promote the cultural diplomacy of our great country.                                              [Film Inserts]

The Future

I can see a bright future for the Nollywood industry, a future in which relatively all the films will contribute greatly towards the improvement of our cultural diplomacy. I made this statement because producing a film in Nigeria is capital intensive. The economy I am sure will soon improve to a level where everybody can relax and be able to carry out his daily ventures with ease. At this point, all film producers will have the wherewithal to work without problems. However, to get to this peak, we have to take the following advice:

There is a need to correct all errors that we have noticed in our recent productions. Such errors that came as a result of putting commerce before excellence in production must be corrected. This is because, for a film to sell, it must address and be aware of its exportation capabilities or else it will not contribute anything to the nation’s cultural diplomacy.

I foresee a future, where all stakeholders in the Nollywood Industry will be well-trained formally. This is because such people will understand criticisms and be able to correct the errors pointed out to them. It is at that time that we will find more films paying attention to the nation’s cultural diplomacy.

I can see a future where government will, through the Censors Board, be able to purchase films that address the nation’s cultural diplomacy from their owners and see to their distribution to other countries. As of now, it is those who can afford it that take their films abroad. A film, like Apesin, that was shot in the traditional mould needs such an exposure more than many films that one sees abroad.

I can for see a future, where the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board will wake up and carry out their business without fear or favour. At that time, only films that merit being on our shelves will be allowed there. We will by then be able to congratulate them for a job well done. There are a few criticisms against the Board, which include the issue of piracy and favouritism.

The issue of piracy has not allowed many film makers to want to release their own films in Nigeria again. Tunde Kelani laid this complaint recently. The Nigerian Copyright Commission is doing a lot to stamp this out. But, we all need to join hands in seeing that piracy does not kill our art. We should learn from the experiences of Moses Adejumo (Baba Sala), for what he suffered in the hands of pirates who got hold of his film and made him to exit the industry. He is contented with his pastoral work in his hometown, Ilesa.

Unless we artists begin to change our attitude to productions, there will be no change at all in the quality of our productions. A situation where an artist is taking part in four films being shot at the same time is not the best. It disrupts the storyline of the film; it gives a lot of headache to the director and may eventually render the film useless in content and form. Many Nollywood films that have beginnings but terrible endings or no endings at all are the derivatives of such indiscipline among actors. Such films will not address our cultural diplomacy.

The major associations in the culture sector need to come together to brainstorm on the criticism against Nollywood productions and how to correct them. When this is done, I strongly believe that the whole environment of film production in Nigeria will be a fruitful one and most of our films will be exportable because they will then take into consideration our cultural diplomacy objectives. Such associations like Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners (ANTP), Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Dance Guild of Nigeria (GOND), National Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), and a host of others, must come together to transform Nollywood.

And I can see a future when the Federal Government of Nigeria will form a Commission for Nollywood, so that the progress we are making will reach the government directly. The money made available for training is commendable. But we need more than that.


In this lecture, we have examined the growth and development of Nigerian Film Industry, Nollywood, from the very beginning to date. The focus was to answer one question: Are the films produced by Nollywood paying attention to Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy? Our answer has been, Yes and No. Yes, because some of the films are paying due attention to our Cultural Diplomacy, while many are not. We also stated clearly the difference between the beginning of television drama in Nigeria and what it is today.

Our conclusion is that all hope is not lost. If only we can work hard and make sure we produce our films with the needed attention, in terms of content and form, then the future is quite bright for Nollywood. We recognize the work of former NTA producers, like Tunde Oloyede, Kunle Bamtefa, Tade Ogidan, and Tunde Kelani, for their invaluable contribution to Nollywood Industry. It is our hope that others too will join in this crusade to produce films that are Nigerian films in content and form.

With the present grant from the Federal Government to workers in the industry, in line with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda, it is my hope that such people who cannot train in Nigeria will seize this opportunity and get trained outside the shores of the country, so that our films will get the kind of recognition that we are hoping for.   Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for listening to me.                            



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About the Author – Professor Ayo Akinwale

Born to Pa Moses Adebayo Akinwale and Ma Fosaline Jadesola, on the 30th day of April, 1951, in Ibadan, Oyo State, Ayobami Olubunmi Akinwale attended St. Luke’s Demonstration School, Ibadan, Methodist High School, Ibadan, and Molusi College, Ijebu-Igbo. He proceeded to the University of Ibadan, where he obtained the Diploma, BA (Hons.), MA, and PhD in Theatre Arts.

He worked with Radio Nigeria, Lagos, as Presenter/Newscaster, Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), as Producer/Director, Ibadan Polytechnic, and is currently a Professor in the Department of Performing Arts, University of Ilorin.

A versatile performer, Ayo Akinwale featured in the Nigerian Ensemble Production of Flash in the Sun, at many International Festivals between 1981 and 1984. He has played “Agbako” in Wale Ogunyemi’s Langbodo, Nigeria’s entry to the Commonwealth Arts Festival, London, in 1984; “Old Akara Ogun” in the Unilorin Convocation production of the same play; “Ezeudu” in Bassey Effiong’s stage adaption of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, directed by Bayo Oduneye; “Oba Ovonramwen” in Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, written and directed by Ola Rotimi; “Superintendent” in Hopes of the Living Dead, written and directed by Ola Rotimi; and “Sanmi Ajao” in Wale Ogunyemi’s The Divorce, directed by Bayo Oduneye, among others.

He is not only an accomplished actor; he is also a director of no mean repute, having directed most of late Professor Zulu Sofola’s plays, including, King Emene, That Life Might Survive, Love of the Nymphs, Eclipse and the Fantasia, and The Ivory Tower; Wole Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero, Duro Ladipo’s Oba Koso, and Ben TomoloJu’s Jankariwo, apart from being Producer/Director of several plays on Radio and Television.

Professor Ayo Akinwale has published several articles in reputable journals, contributed chapters in books, and edited many works. His Inaugural Lecture at the University of Ilorin in 2012 was titled, And the Journey Begins: The Travails of a Theatre Sociologists.

A one-time President, Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA), Professor Ayo Akinwale has been the Chairman, Oyo State Council for Arts and Culture Management Board, from 2006 to Date, and is currently the Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ilorin.