My first contact with a Nigerian movie was in 1977. I grew up near a Cinema Hall and the Urban Community School I attended was also located behind the Central Cinema in Abakaliki. The movies trending then were foreign movies like: Enter the Dragon, Game of Death, Heroes Two, Blacula, Saturday Night Fever, Longest Day, One Arm Boxer, and The Ten Gladiators amongst others. Early in the morning, we used to deploy the promotional signpost “Showing Tonite” at strategic locations which accounted for our gate fees. It was then surprising to see on the coming attraction promo board a Nigerian movie titled “Bisi Daughter of the River” starring Patti Boulaye, a Nigerian celebrity who we had watched severally on LUX soap commercials courtesy of the Lever Brothers’ market activation team at Hosanna hill. 

I have journeyed down memory lane to connect with the title of this book review, which is all about trends. But first, what is a trend? It is a gradual change or development that produces a particular result. As the human society develops, trends emerge. Life evolves in diverse ramifications, creating trendy patterns at every point in time. In short, trend is a function of change, and change itself is a mirror of the dynamics of human civilisation. Nothing is ever static in various aspects of life. So it is with the film industry in modern times. Today, the film industries in America, Europe, Asia, South America and Africa have evolved dramatically unique from what they were in centuries and years past.

It is common knowledge now that the most popular of the film industries in the world are Hollywood, Bollywood and, of course, Nollywood. However, Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, has been ranked by UNESCO in 2006 and 2012 respectively as the 2nd largest film industry in the world, producing a staggering 872 films in 2006 alone. This is just shy of Bollywood’s 1,091 and many more than the 485 movies produced by Hollywood during the same period. Today, the number of movies churned out by Nollywood is quite staggering. This is all in spite of the fact that the first true Nollywood film (Living in Bondage) only appeared in 1992, making Nollywood less than 25 years old today. Well, the burst of development can be attributed, largely, to the unique industry-audience relationship on which Nollywood thrives. This, one could argue, is also defined by Nigeria itself.  

There is no doubt that an industry as dynamic as Nollywood has become a phenomenal factor in our national consciousness as well as a formidable force in our economy. This creative industry generates thousands of employment and even ranks among the highest revenue-generating industries in Nigeria, second only to the extractive industries like oil and gas. As Nollywood is burgeoning in leaps and bounds, there is the compelling need to track its evolution and record its dynamics in an organised scholarly context in order to educate contemporary fans and enlighten posterity. 

It is in the light of the foregoing imperative that Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma’s Trends in Nollywood: A Study of Selected Genres comes as a timely, relevant and important treasure of insights. As much as there have been some scholarly texts written on the pre-home video film industry in Nigeria, few have been written on Nollywood as a modern enigma beyond public lectures and newspaper articles. Fewer texts have even been written by authorities who know Nollywood inside out. In his own authoritative way, Ayakoroma, an erudite scholar, examines the Nollywood industry from the lens of a historian, an intellectual, a critic, a participant, a policy maker and a fan. And as the current Executive Secretary/CEO of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Abuja, the author has contributed a very significant compendium of high cultural value to our national culture repository with his book. In fact, Trends in Nollywood is like an attempt at immortalising Nollywood in a society with short memory.    

Now, Ayakoroma’s book confidently recommends itself as a product of rigorous and comprehensive analysis. It is not a lazy man’s gloss-over-it effort at all. Well written, easily accessible and generously illustrated with colourful pictures of the most iconic Nollywood films and actors/actresses to date, Trends in Nollywood explores the beginning, growth and thematic fixations of Nollywood movies in the industry’s early years.

The book is a bit hefty in the hand, but the reader will find it quite interesting, enlightening and approachable to read. It is essentially organised in five major parts with adequate number of carefully indicated chapters. In

Part One, we are introduced to the context of the evolution and development of Cinema in Nigeria. It is a historical perspective of Nollywood. It begins with the dawn of the Cinema industry in Nigeria, the emergence of TV drama, the soap opera as the forerunner of video films, framework of production, censorship concerns, marketing and of course, piracy. We learn that Nollywood is an incidental outgrowth of the negative socio-economic atmosphere that engendered the decline of locally produced television soap opera and exorbitant cost of producing Nigerian movies in the celluloid era. Also, the reader will discover from the book that the hostile policies of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in the 1980s helped spur the first generation of Nollywood’s experienced independent television producers and directors to collaborate with some adventurous Igbo traders who embraced the home video format and gave the new industry its explosive take-off.

In Part Two, entitled Studies in Genres in Nollywood, the book shows the robust scholarship in the author as he critically explores a theoretical framework for his work. He examines the genres in Nollywood and analyses the generic developmental trends. He also deals with a wide range of issues including the evolution of iconography, national and international markets, and film awards.

Moving to Part Three, we read through a collection of eleven poignant subjects which dwell on the significance of the Epic and Historical films as a revisionism of the Nigerian past. To lend intellectual depth to this discourse, the author engages in a comparative analysis of two landmark Nollywood films – Igodo and Egg of Life – which most Nigerian home video viewers would still vividly recall. Part Four goes on to explore the failure of societal Policing System and the emergence of Vigilante Genre movies in Nollywood, detailing the rise of criminal activities and vigilantism as reflected by the author’s re-examination of the Issakaba series as a case study.

The final Part Five of the book extensively analyses the Nollywood depiction of Politics and the Political process in Nigeria. Here, the reader is exposed to a comprehensive revelation of the intricacies of politics and politicking in Nigeria, and how these issues are reflected in Nollywood films. Interestingly, most of those political issues are still germane to contemporary Nigerian experience as the Nigerian politicians are still the same characters playing the field today. A comparative analysis of two Nollywood films, The Senator and Masterstroke, vividly bring the political drama home. In essence, Parts Three, Four and Five of Trends in Nollywood comprehensively encompass the author’s classification and critical evaluation of the diverse genres in Nollywood through apt case study illustrations.    

In the end, the reader of Trends in Nollywood will come away thoroughly informed, enlightened and educated by the systematic way the author has dissected Nollywood. With the book, one can vividly appreciate the past, present and even envisage the future of Nigeria’s most productive, ebullient creative industry.  The overall importance of Ayakoroma’s excellent work is that it is not just a panoramic reflection on the Nollywood industry; it also mirrors the cultural, social and political history of Nigeria itself. For instance, the book’s analysis of Igodo and Egg of Life give us a grasp of the concept of leadership in the traditional Nigerian societies in juxtaposition with modern Nigerian political leadership and institutions. Today in Nigeria, political leadership is no longer a true heeding of the call to serve the people but a fast lane to self-enrichment and domination. We can infer veritable examples from the recent fierce electoral campaigns between the PDP and APC, Nigeria’s two major political parties. The struggle for power between the two parties is, beyond hackneyed campaign platitudes and promises, more self-serving than selfless.

Also, the author’s exploration of the Issakaba Series earlier referenced under Part Four, reveals the failure of Nigerian state institutions in securing the lives and property of its citizens as robbery, kidnapping and terrorism among others spike to new heights of notoriety. Now, as in the Issakaba film, Nigerians have no choice but to resort to protecting themselves in our modern dangerous society. 

Indeed, Dr. Ayakoroma’s Trends in Nollywood is a riveting work of intellectual value that transcends mere entertainment. Most Nigerians usually watch Nollywood movies for their entertaining, gripping drama and tales of the good, the bad and the ugly. But with Trends in Nollywood, the reader will see a sobering mirror of contemporary unpalatable Nigerian realities. Beyond sober reflections, the book is also a challenge to the Nigerian government, economic players and arts patrons to appreciate the prime position of the Nollywood industry and how they can help steer it to its deserved position in our national political economy. The 365-page book is an incisive treasure of insights for all Nollywood stakeholders as well as an engaging reading delight for every book lover.
-Onwumere is a cultural activist, book enthusiast and brand management consultant based in Lagos. 

Ernie Onwumere

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