It is with great pleasure I stand before you all to welcome you to the 28th edition of the Annual International Conference and AGM of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA).

This year’s conference is special and unique to us in SONTA. Since the formation of our dear society in 1982, this is the first time our conference is being hosted by a government agency – the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO). This is an experimentation we hope would endure and further open up the floodgate of more robust and engaging relationships with other relevant government agencies and institutions.

When the academia and government agencies partner and synergize on collaborative ventures, the benefit is enormous. There is no greater way to see government policies in action than this layer of collaboration. I believe that our President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, would explore this kind of synergy to fast track his three-pronged agenda on security, youth employment and transparency.

Mr. President, it is our belief in your change mission in these three areas of national life that informed the choice of the conference theme this year: Repositioning Nollywood for the Promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy and National Security.

Simply put, Nollywood is a goldmine that has not been fully exploited for gainful impact in our socio-cultural system in Nigeria. Indeed, interrogating Nollywood and National Security opens up a fresh vista on how the current security challenges in Nigeria can be addressed. Repositioning the Nigerian film industry to play key role in character transformation, national consciousness and security sensitivity shall be in the overall interest of all Nigerians. The film is a very potent medium with very wide reach and with mass mobilization appeal.

Permit me to state that, if the present Government was to go far in her change mission and national reorientation, the answer is Nollywood. Also, we affirm that Mr. President’s determined fight against corruption is commendable and it should not start and end with government officials only. Corrupt practices in the private sector should receive due attention. As it concerns Nollywood, piracy is the industry’s greatest headache that needs to be specially tackled to a halt. When this battle against piracy is won, Nollywood and its economic benefits shall have stronger footing and genuine impact on our economy.

I want to also express my sincere appreciation to former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd), GCFR, for graciously accepting to chair the opening ceremony of this conference. This gesture is an endorsement of the ideals NICO stands for as the capacity building arm of the culture sector.

As we look forward to exciting conference deliberations, I acknowledge the large presence of the stakeholders of Nollywood at this conference and we are glad to have you together to interrogate a national discourse that should ultimately improve our national outlook in the eye of the world.

On this note, I heartily welcome all SONTA members to this conference, knowing that many of us contended with extreme difficulties to be here. As you participate in this conference, offer this nation a new direction as the gadflies that we are.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to SONTA 2015 in Abuja.

Prof S.E. Ododo, fSonta

University of Maiduguri