The Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Associate Professor Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, has described Nigerian filmmakers as one of Nigeria’s foremost cultural ambassadors, who contribute to good governance in line with the change agenda in Nigeria.

Stating this in a paper he delivered at the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA) Annual International Conference held recently at Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, Ayakoroma said that the contemporary Nigerian film industry is a veritable platform that interrogates the leadership question in Nigeria; and in doing so, the industry has contributed positively to Nigeria’s democratic structure.

In the paper, entitled, “Contextualising Change in Nigeria’s Leadership Question through the film Medium: A Critical Reading of Jeta Amata’s Black November,” he noted that, “there is nothing permanent in life except change. Change becomes positive when it is progressive”.

Prof. Ayakoroma averred: “Over the years Nigeria has been in search of credible and people oriented leadership. It is important to note that leadership is all about using people to achieve predetermined objectives. Nigerian filmmakers and the industry otherwise known as Nollywood are really making Nigerian proud in this regard. They are cultural ambassadors of change in Nigeria. Film is actually a viable medium for managing change in Nigeria’s search for democracy. ”

He disclosed that, what informed his reading of Jeta Amata’s Black November was the need to capture the theme of the conference, “Theatre, Culture and Change Management in Nigeria”, especially as the film portrays a community in the volatile Niger Delta area that is ravaged by oil exploration and exploitation activities of an oil multi-national; and the people fight against the evil of machinations of corrupt government and oil company officials that collude to impoverish them.

He gave the narrative structure of the film thus: “The film directed and produced by Jeta Amata opens in Warri, in the oil rich Niger Delta of Nigeria, where a gallows is being presented prepared for the execution of a young female activist, Ebiere (Mfong Amata). The scene changes to Los Angeles, California, USA, where in a Gestapo-like operation, members of the United Front for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta People of Nigeria, led by Tamuno Alaibe (Enyinna Nwigwe), cause mayhem, taking Tom Hudson, the Managing Director/CEO of a multinational oil company in the Niger Delta, Western Oil (Mickey Rourke, with Mark Kubr as his double), and other innocent persons hostage. Their demand is the unconditional release of Ebiere, who had led the struggle. They are told point blank that the United States Government does not negotiate with terrorists.”

The Visiting Associate Professor at Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK), maintained that various militant groups in Nigeria influence the ideological inclination of the people to a large extent, and that Black November reflects the Niger Delta struggle, adding that the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), which was the brainchild of late environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, blazed the trail in the Niger Delta.

In his view, the actions of militant groups like Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Supreme Egbesu Assembly (SEA), Movement for the survival of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality of the Niger Delta (MOSIEND), and the new militant group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), were all meant to champion the struggle of the Niger Delta, as they feel marginalized, their resources are being used to develop other regions in Nigeria, while they are impoverished; thus, their desire for the status quo to change so that they can enjoy the resources that their land produced.

Many reputable theatre scholars in Nigeria, including, Prof. Shamsudeen O.O. Amali, Chairman, SONTA Governing Council, Prof. Henry Bell-Gam (UNIPORT), Prof. Sam Ukala (DELSU), and Prof. Tor Iorapuu (UNIJOS), among others, were present at the plenary session, which was chaired by Prof. Emmanuel Dandaura, the immediate past president of SONTA.

It would be recalled that the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) hosted the 28th edition of SONTA Annual International Conference in 2015, and the NICO Boss, Prof. Ayakoroma, was highly commended for hosting a superlative conference that attracted, for the first time, the participation of Federal Cultural Agencies, as well as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, who was represented then by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism & National Orientation, Mrs. Nkechi Ejele.

Nwagbo Pat Obi

NICO Training School

Abuja Study Centre