Sunday, June 5, 2011

Kannywood Was Fully Transformed Under My Tenure – Mu’azu

By Al-Amin Ciroma

Malam Sani Mu’azu is the outgoing National President, Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), who is about to complete his second consecutive term in office as its chief executive. MOPPAN as the umbrella of filmmaking business in the North has a wide spectrum and membership across the Hausa film industry practitioners and stakeholders.

Just before the commencement of the transition process into new MOPPAN executives in the forthcoming national convention of the association, Mu’azu comprehended some of his laudable achievements in office. He said, although his tenure was full of ups and downs and legal battles between various members of his association and the Kano State Censorship Board (KSCB), he was able to take the Hausa film industry to the next height, adding that his cabinet dedicated its time in protecting the interest of members of MOPPAN, where they fought the Director-General, KSCB, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem in various court cases. Notable among them were cases between Hamisu Lamido Iyantama (Producer) and the case instituted by the Kaduna Filmmakers Association against Malam Abubakar Rabo for alleged defamation of character. He said, “Although, we came in at a time, at the Kannywood was facing a lot of controversies and hullabaloos, we succeeded in taking the industry to the next level. What we did at our foremost mandate was to create awareness. You know a filmmaker ought to have at least a fair bit of intellectuality. So, we embarked on trainings. Also, a series of capacity building has been taken care of, since 2007, MOPPAN engaged it’s members in so many workshops, conferences and so on. Notable among them was development filmmaking organised by our association in conjunction with the French Embassy, who sponsored professionals from across the globe to train the stakeholders in modern filmmaking.” He said.

Mu’azu reiterated that his team also played an important role in making festivals relevant to the stakeholders. According to him, a lot of filmmakers enjoyed mass campaign by his team to attend festivals and professional skills acquisition workshops. “Before we came in, there was hardly a Hausa filmmaker attending festivals, workshops or other film-related events, where hosts of filmmakers come together to share opinions, but with our campaigns and continuous interactions with MOPPAN affiliate members, they have come to understand and since then festivals and events have become very much pertinent to them. A lot of them are now attending BOB TV, shoot training series, and so on.”

In a related development, the outgoing MOPPAN scribe, also commended his cabinet for giving him all the support needed to discharge his duties. He acknowledge the fact that under his regime, MOPPAN was fully recognised by the two top most regulatory bodies in the entertainment industry in Nigeria; the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), adding that, “We have identified with the NFVCB’s national distribution framework where we enlightened our members on the importance of the framework. MOPPAN has also promoted Kannywood to a national brand by working hand-in-hand with NFC and all other government agencies in film related matters.

The most outstanding achievement recorded by his regime according to the MOPPAN chief executive was the African International Film Resource Centre proposed by his cabinet. “We are very happy to announce that in our bid to see that Kannywood becomes one of the greatest industries in Nigeria to meet up global challenges, we did a thorough survey and study to come up with a proposal for establishing a film resource centre in Kano where we identified Tiga as the proposed site for the project, considering the serene environment and peaceful atmosphere and we hope the Kano state government will now revisit the proposal which suffered set back from the DG-KSCB, Malam Rabo, who feels it is a waste of resoruces.”

Apart from the proposed film village by MOPPAN, Sani Mu’azu also reflected national issues covered by his administration, he said, MOPPAN has written its name with golden pen at the national parley by Nigeria’s movie stakeholders, which took place in Lagos, last year. He said, “In making Kannywood a national player, MOPPAN has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Association (CONGA), which aims at bringing all professional and non-professional guilds and associations in the motion picture industry in Nigeria under one roof to fight a common objective. Kannywood is now one of the members of this great union.”

The most lucrative and beneficial stride of his tenure, according to him was collaboration of MOPPAN with National Primary Health Care (NPHC) last year, to embark on mass campaign on primary health care diseases, “It was during our tenure that MOPPAN gained yet another recognition to sign an MoU with NPHC in the quest of creating awareness to health issues pertaining primary health care. We invited movie scripts from producers within MOPPAN, which will create awareness to the public on primary health care. The scripts were screened and sponsored by NPHC to commence production. Without saying much, this is quite a step forward for Kannywood,” he said.

Asked whether he encountered limitations or restrictions in the two four year terms, Malam Sani said, the most challenging aspect of his administration was lack of funding with little or no sponsorship. “We have suffered lack of sponsorship. At a point, we continued operating from our. The only support we got was from the cultural department of the French Embassy. Apart from that, the most exigent was the fact that we were being surrounded by court cases here and there and above all, some misconceptions by other stakeholders in the game,” he pointed out.

What are his aspirations and ambitions after this? The eloquently spoken Mu’azu, who is also an actor said he would dedicate himself to his personal project after this mission and if possible, register himself as one of the founding fathers of MOPPAN. “After this mission, I would have enough time to execute my personal projects, which suffered when I was MOPPAN president, you know, you can’t be everywhere, as a leader then, the activities of MOPPAN must have consumed my time, but when I am relieved, I would concentrate on my personal projects and field works,” he concluded.

What are his goals as the outgoing national president of MOPPAN? Mu’azu said his major concern is who will succeed him, “I am very much confident that MOPPAN will go places if, and only if the administration that will succeed us will continue from where we stopped and even go beyond us positively. So, I would want the members to think twice in electing the next president. They should look for a credible and trustworthy person to continue from where we stopped.”

To this end, there is so much 'tub-thumping' and scheming going on about the MOPPAN presidency. Will the delegates adhere to the primary decision agreement of zoning as it was before or will the show be a pied-a-terre format? The biggest question still remains, who is going to succeed the throne at the forthcoming MOPPAN national convention scheduled to hold in Minna, the Niger State capital soon? Only time will tell.

Published in my weekly Kannywood Column in (Leadership Weekend) of Saturday June 05, 2011.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

NOLLYWOOD IN CANNES: World’s Second Best, Zero Impact

“The value of a man is what he does expertly and the mystery of existence is the connection between our faults and our misfortunes.” -Imam Ali bn Abi-Talib (as)

The celebrated Nigerian motion picture industry, Nollywood is currently the second largest film producer in the world with stars that cut across the shores of the continent yet, unable to join their counterparts from Hollywood, Bollywood and other notable film industries from other countries in participating and competing for the coveted prizes and other attractions of the prestigious Festival de-Cannes. None of Nollywood’s movies were accredited for screening at the main bowl of the world’s most populous film festival.

Every year, the Nigerian government spends huge amount of money and resources to rent a pavilion plus ester codes for the powerful delegation to represent the nation. Although it has successfully acquired a grand stand at the international village with its flag flying. From inception, one may quickly say it was a significant thing that happened to the giant of Africa for obtaining the unique Pavilion 111 at the International Village. The pavilion which is located next to the Cinemas du Suud of the Southern French Cinema was acquired by the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and became home to the all other regulatory bodies, stakeholders and practitioners in the country’s motion picture industry.

However, with all these structures on ground, none of the movies or practitioners made breakthroughs to the great event or even outside the competition. Movie stars and stakeholders from Nigeria are simply unknown at Cannes as none of their products were available at the Marche du Film (film exhibition centre). Of course Africa and other Nigerian communities in the Diaspora celebrate with optimism and cheer Nollywood stars everywhere they go but what really counts is breaking the ice and making heads turn at the Cannes International Film Festival or Oscars and not at the usual local Silverbird galleria in Abuja or Lagos.

Nigerian filmmakers therefore need to aim at shattering the highest glass ceiling as South African stars have done for decades by winning Oscars. Cinematographer, Ted Moore (1914–1987) was the first South African to win an Oscar in 1967, when he also won the BAFTA for Robert Bolt’s magnificent film, A Man for All Seasons. He was from Benoni, the same town as actress Charlize Theron the first South African actor to win an Oscar in 2004 for Monster, her gripping role of serial killer, Aileen Wuornos was described as “one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema” by the highly esteemed American film critic and screenwriter, Roger Ebert, the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Other Oscar winning South Africans are: Ronald Harwood who won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the multiple award winning movie, The Pianist in 2003 and his other screenplay The Diving Bell and The Butterfly had four Oscar nominations in 2007. And Gavin Hood who got the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film with Tsotsi in 2005.

To say the least, going to Cannes for the Nigerian filmmakers and its contingents is nothing but sight-seeing or as mascots of their respective organisations. The visitors to the pavilion 111 do not even get a catalogue of Nollywood movies there and no Nigerian product qualifies for accreditation at the competition. Nollywood buffs boast that it is now the world’s second largest, but unfortunately nothing can qualify its being at the competition. The most infuriating thing is that each year, Nigeria tosses an extravagant party at the end of the event. One may wonder what the rejoicing is for? Do they celebrate their failure to meet up conditions by the festival jury? Unknown to many of them, the country has been a laughing stock at the prestigious event.

The filmmakers have excelled into showing the world its mediocrity and carelessness about professionalism in the entertainment world. It is rather piercing for countries like Niger, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and so on to unseat Nigeria in the race of world entertainment professionalism. But nothing can be done when a Malian famous director and filmmaker, Souleymane Cisse was crowned with Cannes coveted Prix du Jury in 1987 for his film, Yeeleen (Brightness). He is the first African to receive this award from Cannes.

The story continues, it is invented and re-invented every year and at the same time, the festival team and the city of Cannes prepare to greet artistes and professionals from around the world. But to our dismay, the great festival continues with zero impact from Nollywood and the Nigerian players. Why, how and when do Nigerians want to make the decision that Nollywood become known not only in Cannes, but other similar events like the Oscars? Consider what is required: the enthusiasm of our filmmakers to produce world class projects that would meet international standard, the seriousness of the actors and above all making stories that will appeal to all.

In addition to this and as to the weather or unless government and other corporate bodies come to the rescue by rendering support is an old song, series of conferences and workshops were done to make it perfect. Countries like Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa have signaled to the world their desire for film transformation in their various countries, making the African continent bigger by the day.

Looking at the frequency at which Festival de Cannes operates, the 63 year-old festival was originally set to be held in Cannes in 1939 under the presidency of Louis Lumière. However, it was not until over a year after the war ended that it finally took place, on 20 September 1946. It was subsequently held every September – except in 1948 and 1950 – and then every May from 1952 onwards. Every edition, the appearance of stars from around the world on the Festival’s red carpet and increasing media coverage quickly earned it a legendary international reputation.

Many African films have been screened at the Cannes and among them are films from Morocco, Les Yeux Secs by Narjiss Nejjar, Le Silence de la forêt by Didier Ouenangare and Bassek ba Kobhio from the Central African Republic and Cameroon in 2003, Khorma by Jilani Saadi from Tunisia in 2003, Heremakono by Abdherrahmane Sissako from Mauritania in 2002, La Saison des Hommes by Moufida Tlatli from Tunisia in 2000, La Genèse by Cheick Oumar Sissoko from Mali in 1999, Kini et Adams by Idrissa Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso, Le Destin by Youssef Chahine from Egypt in 1997 and Po di Sangui by Flora Gomes from Guinea Bissau in 1996.

But the Nigerian film industry which is 104 years old, with its first film Palava, shot in 1904, is yet to be in the contest. I think the apex body of filmmaking in Nigeria must be questioned for such international embarrassment or seize. We are tired of old songs!

For the Records: Awards of 64th Edition of Cannes 2011

1. Feature films
•Palme d’Or: This most outstanding award goes to The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick

• Grand Prix Ex-aequo: This years Grand Prix was lifted by Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da (Once upon a time in Anatolia) and Le Gamin Au Velo (The Kid with a Bike) by Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne

• Award for Best Director: Nicolas Winding Refn for his marvelous movie, Drive

• Award for Best Screenplay: Joseph Cedar for Hearat Shulayim (Footnote).

• Award for Best Actress: This award goes to Kirsten Dunst for her stupendous role in Melanchola, directed by Lars Von Trier.

• Award for Best Actor: 2011 most super star goes to Jean Dujardin for his performance in Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist.

• Jury Prize: This award goes to Polisse (Police) directed by MAÏWENN

2. Short Films
• Palme d’Or: For short film goes to Cross (Cross-country) directed by Maryna Vroda

• Jury Prize: Badpakje 46 (Swimsuit 46) directed by Wannes Destoop

3. Un Certain Regard:
• Prize of Un Certain Regard Ex-aequo: Goes to Arirang, by Kim Ki-Duk

• Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize: Went for Elena, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
• Directing Prize of Un Certain Regard: The movie Be Omid E Didar, directed by Mohammad Rasoulof

4. Cinefondation:
• 1st Prize Cinéfondation was won by Der Brief (The Letter) directed by Doroteya Droumeva

• 2nd Prize – Cinéfondation: Drari, directed Kamal Lazraq
• 3rd Prize Cinéfondation: Ya-Gan-Bi-Hang (Fly by Night) directed by Son Tae-gyum

5. Golden Camera
• Caméra d’Or: The coveted golden camera awards goes to the movie, Las Acacias, directed by Pablo Giorgelli

Nollywood Here I Come – Ify

Ifeyinwa Concepta Duruji is one lady making waves in the modeling industry. The beauty queen hails from Umuaka village in Imo State. Graduated from Imo State University in 2005 where she read Government and Public administration, served in Katsina State in 2006 and later left the country to return early 2010 to take the mantle of Miss Peace pageantry. A soft spoken and delectable Ify, discussed with AL-AMIN CIROMA on a number of issues surrounding the showbiz she is in, challenges and her aspiration as a peace advocate. Excerpts.

You are the current Miss Peace; could you tell us the road that led to your being crowned?
The road to my success has not been easy but I would say it was a gift from God because I never expected it. I knew I was going to contest, I also had a feeling that I might emerge top three, but I never knew I was going to be blessed by being crowned as the winner.

As a matter of fact, when I returned to the country, I met a couple of ladies, they facilitate us for the pageant and they talked me into buying the form but I did not see the need for that because I knew I won’t be in the country at the time of the pageant. I was supposed to go back to school for my masters but it just happened that I was still in the country and was not really doing much at the time because my school was almost lapsing so I decided to pick the form, since my sisters also encouraged me to do so. That’s how i picked the form and entered the race where I eventually emerged as the winner of the Miss Peace Nigeria 2010.

Who are the facilitators of the pageant?
Miss Peace is organised by Laber Peace Pageant. It is a very credible contest I must say because I have been into a couple of contests while in school and to me, contests are not all about being beautiful, you have to be intelligent but you don’t need to be so draining like the need to get to know if you are credible enough or disqualified enough to be a queen. Miss Peace is different because it is unique and we were tested in every way, in speech, in reading, in meeting people and being able to cheer others because that is what peace actually entails.

Why do you think Miss Peace pageant is distinctive and exceptional?
Unlike every other pageant, it is not just a beauty pageant, it is a social platform for championing somebody who can be encouraged or who should be encouraged by the country to preach the mission of peace since the world at large is going through some kind of crises. If you look at some parts of the world, not only Nigeria, there is chaos and crisis everywhere. And the uniqueness of Miss Peace pageant has gone a long way to addressing social vices in the society and also thought about the progress and problems the country is facing. Hence, trying to participate in making or contributing to a sustainable peace in the country.

Why did you subscribe into pageantry at this stage of your life when you are supposed to be in school?
I have always known I would end up in showbiz. I was involved in a couple of pageants, and I could recall people call me finest girl or Miss hot legs and so on, so I knew that when I leave school I should do something more serious in modeling or pageantry.

So much has been said about the way facilitators of these competitions conduct the contests like how models go out of their way to get a winning ticket. What can you say about that?
I must confess, Miss Peace is actually unique and I think government should look into it and see how they can support them because unlike every other contest I have been in where it always looked like the winner was foretold and every other person was just there to make the number, but Miss Peace was different and am a witness, I never knew the organisers. I happened to meet somebody who briefed me about the pageant and I eventually went to the bank and got the form and I won. Those who watched the event live would testify that I was shocked and even cried. It was free and fare.

I think girls who know they are beautiful should not have to give something up or offer anything to be in any contest. If you know what you have you go for it and if you have to offer anything in exchange, you don’t have to do it, it is not necessary to go any extra mile because most time when they have done that, they still don’t succeed.

From experience as a model and contender of many pageants, did you ever experience a situation in which people ask you out before or after such events?
Yeah. In all the contests I have been in were all good except Miss Tourism Nigeria. It was not a good story at all because while in camp, contestants were so much you would know that the pageant had been determined. There were these groups of people that always go out in random. In camp, you were not supposed to go out and it happened that those that go out won. So it was very obvious and clear that they had sacrificed what they had to win. It did not bother me much because I enjoy the fact that I came all that far to represent my state. Some pageants are not worth it, some make mockery pageantry by making it look like you have to offer something.

Please I want you to be very honest. What if you became desperate to get the title, would you have succumbed to any request by the organisers to help you out?
I believe that life itself is a struggle, once you have what it takes to be the queen, just keep struggling, you might get a breakthrough. You have to also be confident, because if you loos composure, you won’t even remember your name on stage, but if you have all the qualities, then do your best, get good costumes, clear speech, you win without belittling yourself.

What is your mission as Miss Peace Nigeria 2010?
As Miss Peace, I preach and mediate for peace. From time to time, we go out visiting people, most especially in crises areas to encourage them and support them in whichever way we can. The last time, we were in Minna to visit the bomb blast victims. Apart from that, we complement many crises and violence that occur in this country by sympathising with victims and also advocating for peace.

As a stakeholder in the peace mission, what are the possible ways Nigerian government can adopt to meet up the millennium development goals before year 20: 2020?
I think Nigerians should begin to understand that we are one big family. As far as I am concerned China is bigger than us but they don’t have these sectarian or religious crises. We don’t need to always fight because we don’t speak the same language. I think most of the crises are political and quest for power, there is greed in it too. When leaders begin to address youths and not use them as a tools for whatever negative thing they want, they will live in peace and embrace each other. For example, I am Christian from Imo State but I was born in Kano State, I had all my childhood in Kano, I also had my secondary education in Jigawa State, so I have most of youth stage in the north. All my friends are Hausas and Muslims and we have a good relationship. I think it can always be that way with everybody enjoying it, when I say things in Igbo and they say it in Hausa, we enjoy the fact that we have different cultures and values and it is something that we should see as a gift that most countries don’t have. It is something we should use as tourism tool, it is something we should celebrate.

Suppose you were given another tenure as Miss Peace, what would you focus on?
I will focus on youths’ orientation. We had credible elections this time around which is a sign of a better future since the elections did not involve so much thuggery, rigging and so on like in the past. The fact that it was minimised this time show that people have begin to have a different mindset and are beginning to know they should vote for who they want, so I would like to work with the youths and make them understand in their own little way that we are the future of this country. And the leaders will not be there forever, we are going to grow to be the leaders of tomorrow.

I would want to ask you personally in a lighter mood, what are your favourite colours?
I love combining colours, sharp colours, but my favourites are black and white.

Is Miss Peace still searching?
(Laughter) Yeah, I am single, mingling but not searching.

Then who is your ideal man?
My ideal man has to be good looking, have a good heart and be ready to take care of me. Loving and very very romantic... hmn, I am a very emotional person and I won’t like hurting people, I also want my man to be very intimate with me, show compassion and love.

What is your sign?
I am Sagittarius.

How compatible would you want your match to be?
I would want it to be very very good.

Miss Ify, can you please say it because it is important to know if you are in a relationship...
(Cuts in) I don’t have anybody in mind seriously. That’s the truth!

Then am I right to say you are now searching?
You want to use the word searching... but at my stage, I am not searching, when I make up my mind, I will start looking around.

What if somebody came knocking at your door, would you give him a chance?(Laughter) You know I am a friendly person, I can sit him down to interact with and give him reasons why I am not ready to settle down.

How do you unwind?
If I am less busy, I love to have a sound sleep; I love to watch movies, to play table-tennis and sometimes swim too. That’s how I unwind.

What are your aspirations after Miss Peace?
After Miss Peace, I am looking at the movie industry. I believe I have the flair to act. Then in future, I am eyeing the polity, I see myself as a politician, I would want to be a senator of the federal republic.

What would you tell the younger ones that may wish to emulate you?
For the upcoming ones who want to be celebrities, stars or something, you don’t have to give anything up to be anywhere. Good you can give something to receive, but it should not be something you might regret. You just have to be hard working to receive results.

Published in Leadership Weekend

Kano Will Be Accomodating Again —Danja

Sani Musa Danja is one of the few multi talented actors and the only one who sings in English in the Hausa film industry (Kannywood). Recently, Danja spent millions to produce his new albums, New Guy In Town and Mai Nasara. Danja is known to be one Nigerian artiste who stood firmly behind President Goodluck Jonathan and Kano State Governor-elect, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in the just concluded 2011 general elections. In this brief chat with AL-AMIN CIROMA, Danja quashed rumours that he was attacked at the post-presidential crisis that erupted in some parts of the north. Excerpts:

Do you think Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso will give filmmakers a ‘Stiff cheddar,’ considering the unending feud and entrenched laws by the state censorship board that resulted in their migration to neighbouring states?
I assure that Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was the mastermind behind all reforms in the industry. We cherish the way he operates because he gives us an enabling environment as well as a listening ear. Nobody is against positive transformation but when it comes with frustration and hatred, nobody will take it. When Kwankwaso was there in the first place, he summoned all of us and after a series of interactions, he came up with some reforms that was sure to strengthen the industry because he is a man of vision. He appreciated our effort in creating jobs to teeming youths in the society and so encouraged us to come up with guidelines that will be used to score good works of a hardworking artiste and also to serve as regulatory ethics of operation. That is what metamorphosed into forming a censorship body. So, I can authoritatively tell you now that filmmakers were among the powerful body that created the Kano State Censorship Board under the able leadership of Dr. Kwankwaso. I am very happy to announce that we are very law abiding citizens of the federal republic and will work with any government that is ready to support us and not kill our business. On the issue of those who fled the state due to stiff conditions by the government of the moment, I would not want to disclose their fates, but, like I said, Kano is a home for everyone and I think they will gradually see the light and come back to their home state.

You were one of the artistes who campaigned for the ruling party at the just concluded 2011 general elections, now that elections are over, what is your focus?
You see, from inception, the ideology behind my being in show biz is not unconnected to my intention to serve my immediate community. I joined the motion picture industry to be able to transform and affect people’s lives in a positive way. I don’t only act because I want to be known but also to educate people and address their problems. It is just like politics, you have to know what your immediate community needs so that you can give them proper representation. I jumped into supporting candidates of my choice in politics not just to feel among, but also to represent my people and look out for a way of delivering their yearnings to appropriate authorities. That also reminds me of when I was anchoring the actors train in Kano.

As the chairman of the Actors Guild, I encouraged my colleagues to contribute money and relief materials every now and then and they welcomed the idea. And by the proceeds, we visited hospitals and orphanages to extend our friendship to them. Not only that, there was a time when disaster befell Niger Republic, I single-handedly organised artistes to produce a musical album which we launched. After redeeming the pledges, we bought foodstuff and relief materials which we presented to the Niger Republic consulate as a token contribution to our loved ones in their country. So, film is my profession and I will always stand by it.

Do you have a candidate for the now empty seat of the DG Kano state censorship board?
You see, that is the beauty of democracy. The political party I am supporting has mandates and the man behind it in Kano State, who is also the governor-elect is a man of vision like I said earlier. He operates an open-door policy. First and foremost and personally, I am not willing to contest for any post in my state but as a good citizen, I would suggest that the government considers those who worked hard at ensuring that Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is back.

Let me tell you, when we started the journey, nobody supported us, they thought we were just bluffing. I was on crutches then because of the serious accident I had, but all the same, I stood firm to see that I render my support, not for anything, but for the fact that we were subjected to series of humiliation by the ruling government at the time. That is the history of our timely support for Kwankwaso. Some of our fellow artistes, I could recall went on air to abuse and sabotage our efforts, they called us names but at the end of the day, we are now laughing. Therefore, I am of the opinion that, whoever is going to vie for this post or any other seat in the state should be thoroughly screened.

What is the stake of the 20m dollars promised in support for the motion picture industry in Nigeria by the president?
The fund is being processed by appropriate bodies and very soon, all stakeholders in the industry in Nigeria will benefit from it. Mr. President has reiterated his stand to see that the giant industry in Nigeria grows to become the best in the world. After his pledge to fight piracy, he has worked-out modalities in which the fund will be actualised through appropriate quarters. Many committees are gradually being launched to manage the fund and distribute it accordingly.

Finally, were you attacked during the post-presidential crisis that erupted in Kano?
(Laughter) I was well and healthy throughout the period. I want to use this medium to say that, all these were just rumours ostensibly purported by mischief makers, but nobody harmed me, they only succeeded in burning our family house. I think they feel as one of the great supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan, I may be harmed or threatened but thank God, nothing happened to me. I was able to survive it. As we all know, violence and these sectarian crises are caused by joblessness and poverty; government should therefore create jobs to the teeming youths in the society, so they are not used by mischief makers.


We Are Still One –Danja, Yax

Sani Musa Danja and Yakubu Mohammed have been friends and partners in the filmmaking business. They were believed to be Kannywood’s Dominico Dolce & Antonio Gabbana since their debut into the industry. Their giant 2Effects Empire is listed among the top movie ventures in the North. Not only that, they were able to break the jinx beyond the shores of Kannywood. While Danja specialised in acting, producing and partial music, Mohammed became a certified playback singer, lyricist and director. To this development, they became Kannywood’s perfect and most adorable artistes.
Their success, however, is gradually becoming caged; Leadership weekend gathered that the two partners have both gone to various endevaours. Sani Danja is driving his political machinery and a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Nigerian Artistes in Support of Democracy (NAISOD), while Yakubu Mohammad, popularly known as Yax, has become a full-time journalist and publisher. He is anchoring the publication of his monthly magazine, ‘The Noble Icon.’ Danja, spoke with Al-amin Ciroma briefly.

Could you shed some light on why your giant 2 Effects Empire is now redundant as tongues are wagging that you have both deserted it for independent fields?
I can assure you that all these allegations are mere insinuations. Our company is still in business, as well as our partnership. The reason why people feel we are having a disagreement is that I am now partially into politics because of my NGO, and I feel there is a societal burden on me. That is what motivated me to become a full-fledged political analyst and supporter. Yax on the other hand, is also busy on his pet project, which he has been nursing for quite a long time. He publishes his monthly magazine, but then we are still as close as people know us to be. And whenever we feel like going to location to shoot, we keep our aggrandisements aside and come together. We are still the owners of the 2Effects Empire.

Why did you opt for politics this time when there is so much competition in the industry?
I got this inspiration through the loggerhead we had with the Kano State government, how they grossly tarnished our image. We sat down to think whether it was because we were not in the system and had no godfather? I mean, what they did to us was uncalled for. That is the main reason why I anchored this mission to show the society that politics is everybody’s game. We are Nigerians and have a full right of association.

Why are you supporting President Goodluck Jonathan when there are many aspirants from the North?
Politics is an ideology. I have been one of the supporters of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. We did a lot of missionary activities for his political aspirations, and having known the laudable missions of President Goodluck Jonathan, we decided to fully support him, not minding his geopolitical background. We are all Nigerians and this country is greater than an individual. We don’t engage in religious or ethnic preference in politics. People need to be fully sensitised. What we need in this country is a truthful leader that can address our immediate problems and be there for us, irrespective of ethnicity or religion. Goodluck Jonathan, in this short period of time, has succeeded in proving that he is the messiah Nigerians are yearning for.

My support for him is an obligation, which I owe my fatherland and my community. As an actor, I have an obligation not to mislead my fans and supporters. I am into this game to render my own quota to the society. That is to say that we intend to give back to the society what it gave to us. What am I trying to say? You see, we have our ways of information dissemination to our communities, and since our fans and supporters have been very loyal to us, we have to represent them in all ramifications.

Are we right to assume that you have joined your counterparts from Nollywood to the political train of Goodluck Jonathan because of the pledge he made to the industry?
No, no, no! Not at all. The entire practitioners of the entertainment industry in Nigeria are supporting the Goodluck/Sambo movement, not because of the pledge or the anti-piracy war he promised. It is because of his commendable missions. Nigerian artistes are no fools; they are people of outstanding intellectuality, so nobody can woo them for nothing. The words are written on the wall for everyone to see. Nigerian youths need a man like him, not because he is Goodluck, but because he has good plans for the country, and he plays his cards with an open mind. If you talk of the intervention fund, it was only announced and made public few weeks ago. But we have been his supporters since inception because he can deliver this country and make reforms as promised.

Do you think it is professional to leave the industry for politics? What if the person you are supporting does not scale through?
Remember, we are in a democratic era, nobody has any right to reprimand you, simply because the person you were supporting could not scale through. As a matter of fact, a true democrat should have it at the back of mind that he can win or lose by a vote. It is not a do-or-die affair. If my candidate fails, I will take it with good faith and continue propagating his mission, as well as ginger him for another time, simple!

Published in my Kannywood weekly column (in LEADERSHIP WEEKEND)

INTERVENTION FUND: Goodluck’s Pledge To Fight Piracy

Hausa Filmmakers Wants Fund Without Stiff Conditions

In a bid to support the motion picture industry in Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has reiterated his intention on how to chart a new road map for the creative industry as well staging a war on pirates in order to support hardworking Nigerian artistes reap from their sweat. This was part of the message delivered by the president when he hosted all Nigerian artistes, sportsmen and women at Eko Hotel, Lagos recently.

Other requests from the artistes to the president includes setting up of a film village, accessing the $200million intervention fund, setting up of endowment fund for the art, enacting regulatory bills and distribution network.

President Jonathan, who said he did not call the artistes together because of the elections, called for the review of the existing laws on piracy, which he said, must be made effective to curb the nefarious activities of pirates in the creative industry. He noted that except the piracy problem is effectively tackled, the artistes’ community would not make any progress in the chosen career.

“Totally, I agree that without handling piracy, we cannot make any progress. I believe some existing laws need to be made stronger and effective. We need a special body that can handle it,” he said.
He said the government has lots to gain if it supports the industry because the sector is a key one every President should identify with. He observed that the government is too far from the sector and that it needs to be closer to know what is happening in the industry.

A brief presentation of the late reggae King, Bob Marley’s tune, Redemption song by West African idol star, Timi Dakolo was all the Senior Special Assistant to President Jonathan on Research Documentation and Strategy, Mr. Oronto Douglas needed to set the tone for the interaction that lasted till 11pm.

Douglas described the interaction as the first of its kind in any administration in the country. “This is the first president that will be calling on the masters of the creative industry for an interaction. And to have this session is to set an agenda for the future. Those in charge of laughter and happiness cannot be undermined…This is not the time to think regional or ethnic, but excellence. This sector must be supported so that Nigeria will grow,” he told stakeholders at the dinner.

From veterans such as master visual artist, Bruce Onabrakpeya, film legend, Eddie Ugbomah, popular poet, Odia Ofeimun, juju singer, Dele Abiodun, lecturer and culture promoter, Emmanuel Dan Daura, multi-talented culture activist, Ben Tomoloju, seasoned producer, Zeb Ejiro, ageless actor, Olu Jacobs, to Nollywood and contemporary music as well as comedy stars such as Segun Arinze, Stephanie Okereke, Daddy Showkey, DBanj and Ali Baba, the hundreds of the industry players had tabled their fears before the president, who promised to take prompt action on their requests, especially if he returns to office after the April elections.

Others include the Kannywood team, led by Alhaji Sani Mu’azu, the National President, Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), Ibrahim Sheme, founding member, Kaduna State Producers’ Association, Ahmed Alkanaway, administrative Secretary, MOPPAN and Sani Musa Danja, Chairman, Kano State Artiste Council, also the president of Nigerian Artiste in Support of Democracy (NAISOD). Others include: Yakubu Mohammed, famous movie director and host of Hausa film actors like Malam Isa Bello Ja, Hauwa Maina, Rahmatu Hassan, Ubale Wanke-wanke, etc.
Among other industry leaders, Mr. Bond Emeruwa called for prompt action on the revised Nigerian Film Policy which, according to him, is at the Ministry of Information; the President of Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria, Busola Holloway, enjoined the President to check the trend in which production of choice commercials were being taken out of Nigeria while most production crew are being sourced from abroad. In specific terms, the producer of Moments with Mo, Mo Abudu urged Jonathan to upgrade the capacity and operations of the Nigerian Television Authority(NTA).

While the Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Sunny Ododo, called on the President to assist in the building of its proposed Writers’ Village in Abuja, President of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, Greg Odutayo, revered producer, Amaka Igwe, among other requests, want the Presidency to make it possible for filmmakers to shoot films at public places such as the Aso Rock, the National Assembly and airports – without hindrances.

Kannywood’s Sani Mu’azu, expressed the need to access the intervention fund without stiff conditions. Also, while the President of the Society of Nigerian Artists, Uwa Essien, called for the building of befitting exhibition halls, Onabrakpeya pleaded with Jonathan to make it possible for artists to display their works at strategic government offices whenever international programmes were being held there.

Footballers such as JJ Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Victor Ikpeba, Austin Eguavoen and Peter Rufai were also in attendance, with Eguavoen urging the president to look into some debts of promises the Federal Government owes players and the retirement dilemmas that sportsmen face.

Thanking Jonathan on behalf of the artistes and investors in the sector, a former Minister of National Planning, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, commended him for what he described as the cerebral approach to life, which, according to Gbadamosi, Jonathan had cultivated for long.

As several other speakers acknowledged at the dinner, the Special Adviser to the President on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Mr. Oronto Douglas, also noted that it was the first time any Nigerian President would sit down and talk with the entertainment workers. He assured them that the way Jonathan had kept his promise on power and electoral reforms, he would act on the various demands they had made.
Some of the Kannywood stakeholders, who expressed their views on the intervention fund by the president, were of the opinion that the Jonathan-led government is the best that ever happened to Nigeria. They expressed their satisfaction with his government and pledged their support for his continuity. Sani Musa Danja, urged his colleagues in Kannywood as well as his teeming fans to see to the truth and support the Jonathan movement.

“I am delighted with the support Mr. President is according the industry with this intervention fund, I was also impressed when he announced his intention in drawing the battle line between his government and the pirates, who, for decades have frustrated the hardworking artiste by pirating their works, leaving them with nothing. Therefore, I am calling on my fellow artistes in Kannywood and Nollywood as well as my fans and well-wishers, to support the continuity of this government, because it aims at rejuvenating this promising industry.”

Published in my Weekly Kannywood column (in LEADERSHIP WEEKEND)