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WHAT EXACTLY DID LAI MOHAMMED SAY AT COSON HOUSE THAT IS WRONG?SATURDAY BREAKFAST with TONY OKOROJI


Have you stepped into Terra Kulture lately? I was there this past Monday and witnessed some truly breath taking live musicals directed by the almost shy Bolanle Austin Peters at her purpose-built theatre in Victoria Island. If Mrs Austin Peters with her classy production cannot wow you, maybe you have a problem that only God can solve.

You have not been to Terra Kulture? Maybe you have been to a Filmhouse Theatre somewhere near you. Where in the world have you seen cinema theatres better designed and built than what Kene Mkparu & Co have done in Nigeria with Filmhouse?

If you have not been to Terra Kulture or a Film House theatre, you certainly have seen the movie, the Wedding Party, a great collaboration of several talented young Nigerians which is on Netflix. The Wedding Party is reported to have grossed well over 400 million naira and the money is still being counted.

Despite the recession, there are many young Nigerians who are firing and powering on. They have refused to be overcome by the cynicism and self-pity that have immobilized many in the country. Where others see a road block, these folks see an opportunity.

In the creative industries which I belong to, you can see the great strides being made by many in entertainment and the media. Mo Abudu is revving it up with Ebony Life. No one can stop Jason Njoku’s Iroko. Ayo Animashaun’s HIPTV is as hip as they come and is trending. Do you know that Tajudeen Adepetu is a Nigerian? Adepetu’s Soundcity and ONTV broadcast brands continue to make positive statements.
 
Across the continent and beyond, there is significant demand today for Wizkid, Flavour, Timaya, 2 Face, Olamide, P Square, Davido and several others. Chidinma, the young singer is my good friend but I rarely get to see her these days because she is on tour of one country or another. There are many-many examples of Nigerians making waves despite our power problems, bad roads and the many agitations.

Last week, I was present at a round table for the creative industry organized by the Honourable Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in Lagos. I was impressed that a Nigerian Minister would sit down for nine unbroken hours to listen to the never-ending complaints and demands of artistes, actors, producers, directors and other stakeholders in our industry. Alhaji Mohammed did not just listen, you could see him passionately engaged in crafting quick actionable solutions so that the Nigerian nation can as soon as possible begin to get benefits from the immense creative energy in our country.

In the room, there was the usual recitals of doom and gloom: there is no power, the banks will not give loans for productions, there is no database to work with; government is not supporting the industry with funds, etc, etc.

It was in the heat of the discussions that I invited the Minister to visit the newly commissioned COSON House in Ikeja and see for himself what a group of Nigerians in the creative sector are doing in this period of recession without one kobo from the government. I wanted this government official to actually see COSON as it is without any hype or propaganda and to see what is possible in Nigeria. I know that the image that many government officials have of creative industry groups is that of a bunch of rascals always bickering and forever begging government for money which when they get, they will fight over.

I am not sure if I expected the Minister to say yes because Nigerian Ministers don’t come to you, you go to them and spend endless hours in their waiting rooms. They make decisions and craft policies about you from afar, without knowing you. Believe me, I have met many of them.

This Minister did not pose or ‘form’. He did not try to remind me that he is a Minister. Minister Lai Mohammed immediately said yes and in fact announced to everyone in the room that he would be visiting COSON House in a few days.

I believe that at COSON House, the Minister saw a world class building constructed by a Nigerian creative industry group without any foreign designer or builder, without any money from the government, any grant from any institution local or foreign and without any loan from any bank. While the Minister had been repeatedly told that there is no data base of any type in the Nigerian creative industry, he visited the COSON datatech department hosting a database with millions of valuable information on the Nigerian music industry. The minister was also at the COSON Library.

At COSON House, Minister Mohammed met very well-trained lawyers, accountants, communication experts, intellectual property managers, etc, employed full time for years by a Nigerian creative industry group and none of whom has been owed his or her wage for one day. What is happening at COSON is most likely happening elsewhere. Nigerians are capable.

I was right in front of the Minister at COSON House when he said that the Nigerian nation must do everything to make sure that our script writers, camera men, sound engineers, lighting technicians, audio and movie directors and producers are protected and kept fully employed.

Many do not know that part of the reason for the recent boom in the music industry in the country is that the Nigerian broadcast code made it mandatory for every station in the country to broadcast at least sixty percent local content. That is why our radio stations are no longer dominated by foreign music but by the music of young Nigerians like D’Banj, Adekunle Gold, Tiwa Savage, Tecno, Runtown, etc.  

I was there when the minister said that it is dishonest to produce a programme or movie completely outside the country and provide jobs for foreigners and boost foreign economies while Nigerians are unemployed and starving and the programme or movie is brought into the country as ‘local content’. What is wrong with what the Minister said?

I do not pretend that there are no difficulties in working in Nigeria. I however do not see how we are going to solve the problems by running away from them. It is like trying to eat omelettes without breaking eggs.

See you next week.

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