Sunday, 31 May 2009

Nigerian Books versus Nigerian Films

I am privileged to work in both industries. Yesterday I chatted with Eghosa Imasuen, a friend for whom my respect grows daily. His first book, ‘To Saint Patrick’ is a fantastic read. Unfortunately the book has sold very few copies. When he tells me how many copies have sold, I cringe. It is less than the number of copies ‘Reloaded’ sold in a day and ‘Jenifa’ perhaps in an hour. And so my question is why are Nigerian films selling so much and books not at all? Getting published in Nigeria particularly for new writers is almost as hard as crossing the ocean on foot.

In a brilliant interview by Eghosa here, he insists that Nigerians read. I share the same sentiments. Inspirational books, Business books, Novels, just name it, Nigerians are reading it, ask the boys at Yaba, how many Sheldon’s or Archers they sell in a day or stop by Laterna and watch the crowd. I think it’s been a very wrong notion that Nigerians do not read, unfortunately we have come to believe this, even the publishers which is why I think the books are not selling. The people behind it consciously or subconsciously don’ t really think that it will sell. They have created hurdles in their minds that don’t really exist. I also think they don’t see it as a business, perhaps they consider it charity. The marketing of books in Nigeria is terribly poor, I doubt that more than one percent of Nigerians are aware when a new book is released. All praises to Facebook. Farafina seems to have been waiting for the social network as that’s what they mostly rely on now. Take the 9writers tour, I have not heard it announced once on radio, nor seen it on TV nor read it on print, it is only online. While the online audience is huge, this is Nigeria, we do not have power supply, I personally have not had electricity in a week so how are we expected to access the net?

When one of Adichie’s books was released in England I happened to be in London and saw the posters in lots of places, train stations, buses etc. ‘Half of a yellow sun’ is recorded to have sold 40,000 copies in the U.K. alone. Farafina releases a book, sends the information to a few people on facebook and then waits for a miracle. It sounds to me like a crazy plan. I know that lack of funds may be a major factor but in business, you have to spend money to make money. Which is why I doff my hat for Nollywood guys particularly the Idumota guys who practically made Nollywood, They pumped their money in, pushed the movies out there and now several people are reaping the benefits. Several of my writer friends are trying to cross over because while our first love may have been prose or poetry, nobody wants to write a book that nobody’s going to read. Personally, I prefer to write screen plays because there I can be anything I want to be,I can choose to write about love, beauty, religion, anything at all but when writing literature I must remain guarded, I am forced often to write to type, in style, in language, in everything, constantly glancing over my shoulders to be sure that my (western) audience is following. Nollywood has set me free but I want books to do the same.

The publishers should repackage not just the books but the presentation of the books to the public, Nigerian writers and readers have been made to believe that our books must run social commentary or be historic to succeed particularly after the success of Adichie’s half of a yellow sun. While that is a good thing, it can get tiring and boring. Our novels are presented like academic books, the readings are so boring you wonder why you would spend 2 hours of your hard earned time getting bored. A book is a product like any other, it has to be well packaged, advertised and made available to the public.

It’s very embarrassing to hear about the poor sales of books particularly when one knows that it can do so much better. If we could read pacesetters, African writers series, I don’t see why we can’t read any other one that is made available.

Friday, 8 May 2009


A Unesco study has rated Nollywood as the second largest film producer in the world ahead of Hollywood.

This has generated much debate with some people arguing that quantity should not be a deciding factor but quality. While this may be true, it is also true that coca cola isn't the healthiest drink, yet its sales amount to billions daily. Quantity certainly is important.

Nollywood has done very well for itself and single handedly so. There has been no government support, very little bank support unlike other countries who don't even have an industry as large as ours.

The industry is ours to build, to nurture till we can beat our hands on our chests and say, yes we did it. Nigerians should stop taking the easy way out by constantly criticising but instead should task their brains a bit and profer solutions. The industry has been recorded as the largest informal employer of labour in Nigeria, at a time when a big telecom firm like Zain is laying off 300 staff in one day, and several banks have slashed salaries, we should be grateful that we have other industries and devise ways to build on them.

The industry offers huge opportunities for employment, for investments, and for Government revenue. Unfortunately, the outside nations are recognising these opportunities more than Nigeria is. Criticism is good but only when constructive. Nollywood has been reported to be a million dollar business, now is the time for us to work together and make this even bigger than it is. The capital market has crashed and the banking sector seems to be on its way down too, even the oil sector seems to be faltering. What may sustain us in the country may be the entertainment sector of which Nollywood is a major player.

Nollywood has major challenges: piracy, distribution and perhaps most importantly the lack of a film village. Businessmen, banks, conglomerates, govenment agencies should identify these challenges and profer solutions that would see both parties smiling to the banks.
Hollywood worked because Americans made it work, and Bollywood as well. It wasn't left to the practitioners alone, as many as could contribute did, with some building film villages, while others provided funds and others battled piracy.

This attitude of Nigerians to constantly reign negative attacks on almost everything is no longer fashionable if it ever was.

The whole world is in recession, now is the time to embrace anything(legal) that may keep us afloat. Agriculture remains largely untapped, instead of expending one's energy hating on Nollywood, one could try developing Agriculture.

Artsville congratulates all Nollywood practitioners and fans for building this amazing industry.
It can only get bigger and better. GO, NOllYWOOD,GO!

Monday, 4 May 2009

The book tour

I must be the last blogger to put this up but better late than ......

Friday, 1 May 2009

And we overcame.

A Nigerian Police station.

Bursting Out!

It's 2am.We are by a poolside. We have been setting up for almost six hours for this scene. The extras are all dressed, the music is ready, the director seems satisfied but just as his is about to shout action, it starts to rain. Heavily. The scene is cancelled. We'll have to do it another day.


The part 1 was shot last year, it was going to remain as a one part film but well wishers in the industry advised against it so we went back for a part two. The church we initially used has been dismantled. We improvise. It's not a high budget film so we film in Surulere and its environs. Not a very good idea as generator sounds are crazy. From 7pm it's almost impossible to shoot. Several times we have to beg the residents to hold out a few more minutes before putting on the heavy machines. Some comply eager to be of help, some think we must be crazy.

In lekki/Ikoyi, almost all the generators are sound proof. So many things divide the island from the mainland and it isn't just water.

Despite the challanges, we finished both shoots. Now I know why they write To God be the Glory as end credit.

'Bursting out' is a romantic comedy. 'Edikan' attempts to redress the issue of child witchcraft in Akwa Ibom state without sounding preachy.

I am happy to have been a part of both productions with such great cast and crew.