Nollywood Has Promoted Nigeria All Over The World – Dr. Ferdinand Ikechukwu Anikwe, Director General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization
Dr. Anikwe Ferdinand Ikechukwu is the Director General of Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation in Nigeria.
CBAAC is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation established in June 1978 after the epochal 2nd World Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77) charged with the responsibility of promoting public interest in the understanding and appreciation of African Arts, Culture and Civilization.
Dr. Anikwe holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science Education from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. He also has Master’s degree in Public Administration and Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies from Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Enugu State, Nigeria and National Open University of Nigeria. Recently, he completed Doctoral Research in Public Administration at the Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Nigeria.
In an interview with Adegbuyi, Adejare Olawale in his office, he opened up on critical areas, where he said the black man must look into to actually have independence. He believes the independence of the mind is more important than that of a country as he stated that once someone’s mind has freedom he or she is indeed free from the captivity of the colonialism, which makes him/her thinks better as a black man rather than taking everything thrown at us hook, line and sinker. Before his appointment as CBAAC’s Director General, he was a Director-General and Permanent Secretary at different Ministries in Enugu State, Nigeria.
Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
I’m Dr. Anikwe Ferdinand Ikechukwu, I came from one village in Enugu state called Amansiodo Oghe, the village background is quite necessary, quite useful for me, the development as a culture enthusiast, I must tell you that I was rigorously schooled in the norms and doctrines of village environment, festivals and feasts and activities. I was quite close to our history. I was close to my father who was a singer, a dancer, a community orator, a community leader and a powerful politician. So I learnt a lot of things growing under the tutelage of my father and as a community leader.
I was trained in western education; I went to primary school in my village; Nhoya Community Primary school and the secondary school I attended was in Imo State; Comprehensive Secondary School, Awomama. I went to the University of Port-Harcourt from where I had a totally different orientation about man and his environment, about knowledge, about Africa. I had a visitor from Vienna, Austria sometimes ago and he showed enthusiasm in this office and I took pictures of this place and we went into history of colonialism and liberal democratic scholarship as expounded by the Americans like Ford establishing business school in Lagos, and the rest of western finance intellectual development in Africa, where they want us to be perpetually linked with colonial ideas of their government. It is clear that we have been able to think about ourselves, about our indigenous development, differences and independent of other colonialism, on communism of the east. I told him that the best option for Africans is to return to their root, and be able to give the world what God has given to us. We should package ourselves in a manner that everybody will learn from us, and I think Nollywood is already achieving this, and its take off is traceable to FESTAC ’77, when 59 countries of the world converged here to show us their origin, their root, their development, their tendencies, their culture and the things they have known about the world and the way they packaged themselves, and the way they live in various countries.
Nigeria, being about the most gifted of all based on the number of ethnic nationalities, number of sub-cultural zones that are here in Africa, we are now saying these gifts should be totally annexed. I want to tell you that I have a great regard for former President Olusegun Obasanjo for funding the project through his government then, though he is a controversial fellow. This is the good we are waiting for, this is the gold Africa is waiting for, Nigeria holds the future of Africa by coming back to what God has given us through our culture, and through our history. Obasanjo was a great military leader; it may possibly be out of his personal likeness that he showed interest in gathering these cultures of nations together in 1977. He possibly didn’t know the treasure he had prepared for mankind. FESTAC holds the key to all kinds of development you expected in Africa, that the whole of Pan-African settlement wanted and I’m today the President of Pan-African, I became the President in May in Johannesburg, South Africa. I merely addressed them on potentials of both the contributions of FESTAC and Nollywood to the growth of Pan Africa.
When I was reading one of the editions of your magazine for 2013, I felt this young man possibly didn’t know what he was doing. When you see one man publishing and he’s publishing what is true, then you will understand what I am talking about. You have to probe more into our history; probe into what our culture can show the world.
it is clear that we travel abroad to learn about African Studies, it is strictly to develop the skill to research into African history, you cannot learn African studies in America, what they do is to show you the skill of going to study it in Africa. And we who know the origin of these cultures should rather show them what we have. When I attended the “Zemada” in Akwanga, I told them the only thing we can tell the world is to tell us what “Zemada” is, dig out the origin, and the aspect of “Zemada” that has not been shown to the world.
Let me tell you; you go to Mexico, Brazil, they call it Brazilian carnivals, these people only tried to recapture the festivals that we do here in Nigeria. Brazilians are from Yorubaland here in Nigeria. You’ll see our Ankara there, these people try to recapture the history of slave trade or whatever, they tried to see how much their memory could carry, that is why they came to build something, at times they carved their head one way and create a trailer that was not there in Africa as an imitation of our African festivals now called carnival. who is deceiving who. Let us come back home to Africa and originally package and manage our festivals and festivities and let the world see our unique endowments, which God has given to us. That is what CBAAC does, and we’ll go out harnessing what we have in Accra, Conakry, Kigali, Johannesburg and everywhere that we have our settlements such as in Trinidad and Tobago, in Jamaica, everywhere and even in the United States of America where our blacks are. We were in Dublin last October for black history month, where we showcased what we have.
During my presentation, when I was presenting cultural night in Enugu State, I used our music to show the history and political development of the country. In Nigeria for instance, the Yorubas have monarchy absolutism, the monarchs are powerful, the “Oba” though he has his member of councils, “the ogbonis,” which is the judicial arms and all other things. But because it is difficult to face the “Oba” and tell him where he’s wrong, the people deviced the theatrical devices, device drama, and all kinds of things indigenous to them, and that is why most of the Yoruba dances are wind in dance drama series, and of course the original professors of drama in Nigeria, Wole Soyinka, Femi Osofisan, and Ola Rotimi are all Yorubas and it is akin to their history. The Ibos have their republican nature, they have democracy and let me tell you, the democracy in Iboland was conceptual democracy, which was proposed to the majority and the minority right of the British, and because of this, the dances in Iboland are so vigorous because, when the Ibos want to dance as if they are going to war, they will agree to dance and when we are part of it, you will show the vigour, you will show the splendor and all kinds of things. That is why we have “Atilogu”, we have “Nkpromagbo” and the rest of them and they are graceful and beautiful in their own sect, but it has a tendency to showcase the political phenomenon, and explain our history. Go to Northern Nigeria, where theocracy is the order of the day, the Emir who has the power of life and death combines his position as the leader on earth and as the spiritual leader. So when the dancers come, they are distanced, they do very graceful movement, beautiful things without any noise like the Ibos, that shows you that the Emir is considered absolute. Our dances and our steps shows our culture and they are beautiful presentations, these things are not in Western Europe or North America, why are we confusing ourselves. Even in Eastern Europe, they don’t have these kinds of gifts that we have in our dances and presentations. I still say it; our growth is in our culture. That is the only area we have beaten the white man to it, they have technology, we can decolonize them through this because they have colonized us through technology, we will re-colonize them through our culture.
I don’t know what else you want to tell me, I have three masters degree. I did public administration, peace and conflicts resolution, PhD probably, those things do not matter, what matters is that I’m an African, unrepentant soul and unapologetically to the fact that I’m an African. We have to let our orientation, our leadership, and our state emergence, come from our original idea of governance. I have seen us tried this and that and have failed; we must come back to what we have and what God has given to us, and develop our tourism and our cultural prowess, our tendencies coming up from our roots and the whole world still shows a lot of interest in Africa because of our economies, our culture and everything God has given to us.
I thank you for your interest in this aspect; you are in the right place, this is the goldmine and you will reap from it and with your proper examination, and proper orientation and presentation of what God has given to us in this part of the world, it will elevate you. Whether they are talking about your standard, your standard is good, you are telling people what should be done, provided you put it in black and white, people will read it, that’s what we need, but you need to add ingenuity to it. And you have interviewed our Nollywood stars; the Nollywood stars have done a lot of work just like former President Obasanjo did for this country it will be pathetic if we do not to continue with we have done in these two areas; FESTAC and Nollywood, Nigeria is leading the world in these areas.
Nollywood has done so much for Nigeria and this has gone global as it has promoted our culture. Is there any plan by CBAAC to create a lasting relationship with this sector of the economy?
Nollywood is a sector we have identified, and we must not allow it to go low. Each time you travel out of Nigeria, you will see that people are asking you about our A-list actors because they have identified with the industry and the sector of the economy has done well in promoting the image of Nigeria outside the country than any other sector.
Last year, when we did our international conference in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State, we assembled some of them such as the likes of Mama Gee, Aki, Pete Edochie, Jibola Dabo, Charlie Inojie, Alex Osifo, Francis Duru and other notable faces.
The event became a centre of Nollywood, and during a meeting with the governor, his Excellency, he declared that Mama Gee was popular than any politician in Nigeria.
Nollywood has done us proud, and you see their impeccable English, beautiful working style, and their tremendous style.
Look at Olu Jacobs, Pete Edochie and the kind of English they speak. These people are more eloquent than even the British, who own the language. Nigeria has a lot of talents; in essence the government should actually step in and help Nollywood, create a bank of culture and Nollywood as applicable to Bank of Industry and others. These guys are struggling on their own to survive, they are working hard to get things and they have created a lot of jobs for the people, and it’s high time the government step-in and lend a helping hand. Though many of them are trained, some are not and they are just using the talent God has given to them. Let us give them a lot of rehearsals; you know all of them in America and Europe rehearse, but our people don’t have money for rehearsals, which is why the Europeans and Americans excel, when they come on stage.
Let the government step in by stopping piracy through the copyright commission so that the suffering of the sector can be alleviated and they would get the gains of their labour. It is necessary we give them protection by insuring them, giving them economic support, and through the creation of an affordable training facilities and the government can make the equipments they use in the industry available or make it friendly by making importation of film and music equipment duty free, and this will help grow the sector, which in turn will help the economy.
Our culture is a goldmine; we have seen beautiful music stars such as the late Sunny Okosuns, Ebenezer Obey Commander, Mike Ijehe, Celestine Okwu, and King Sunny Ade who can even compete with whitemen on instrumentation, these guys are wonderful.
Some of the young men too are also wonderful. I was in Cameroun, and I saw them advertising “Flavour.” I was in Yaoundé, as I said earlier that I’m the President of Pan African, so I go round the country. I just want you to know that Nigeria can harness what we have, and the government somehow is not fair to these people. We at CBAAC want to collaborate with the sector in several forms, one of such is that we are coming up with a policy, we have even invited one of their greatest script writers “Chidi Nwokabia” we invited him to do a script for us that will project our views and the mandate of FESTAC. We want it to come out as film and we will pay for it, also we want them to run series of programme with us to project what we have for Pan African cultural development, both in Nigeria and abroad.
Also, we want to travel with them, and show them that these great guys are from our continent, and they will do a lot by giving a positive image of Nigeria, and beyond the shores of Nigeria. They Nollywood stars are our greatest ambassadors. I want the government to inherit them, promote them and encourage other people to make it from there. When we say that necessity is the mother of invention, the Europeans, saw a lot of bad weather and they have been able to create things including heater and other technologies. Now, our economy became a necessity and Nollywood emerged, so there are many things we can do here.
Many things will transform with the right process, the government is battling with oil sector and Nollywood emerged and started showing a leading style in our economic development. What the government needs to do is to encourage and broaden that sector. We will make a lot of money from it, we can tax Nollywood, but we need to help them generate enough funds for the government to tax them. When we tax Nollywood we will have a lot of money to tax rather than tax Nollywood to death.
What is the problem with organizing another FESTAC since 1977, no other successive government or other African country has ventured into hosting it?
Don’t go there, it is too costly as a project for today’s world. For it to be funded now, we have to develop a synergy with a lot of companies that are interested. Hardly can any government sponsor such event now, if such will be sponsored, what we think we can do is to have partnership among government and private sector not just one government, let’s say West African Government should fund it and all that, and we then have partnership with private sectors, ,but let me tell you, when we attended the meeting of specialized technical committee in Addis Ababa late last year, we agreed that we will develop some of these cultural performances that are quite fundamental, very inevitable, and very necessary for our growth and development, we will develop a program with sporting activities, now that the world is interested in football, handball, volleyball etc. We will now arrange the program with football that is the latest technique we are going to use. So that those countries that are coming for football will send some other contingent that are artistes in every area of entertainment so that after sporting event in the evening, we can have artistic performance. With that we would be able to turn around many things and develop many competitions in this culture sector, which on its own can be competitive and interesting as a sporting event.
As part of your quest to promote the brand called art, don’t you think there is a need to collaborate with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) so as to create desk in schools, which will serve as a catch them young technique?
National Orientation Agency is also a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Culture & Tourism, every country has its own challenges. In as much as we are talking of building and re-building, packaging and re-packaging, interesting policies and programme in the culture sector, you know we also have the challenge of security, and our brother Mike Omeri, who is the of NOA has been dissipated a lot of energy to let the world know how we are surmounting the challenges of insecurity and how Nigeria is facing the threat on it as a nation. So, since he is saddled with all kind problems of letting the public know the direction of the government, he has more challenges in that sector. We are with him and he’s with us on this area, and we won’t leave it for him alone. We will package it and show the world what we have, while he comes up to pick it once in a while, we were with him few weeks ago, when the National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism had a convocation for their graduates.
The African culture and our values are gradually going on extinction, our language, our fashion and dress sense, respect for elders, and the preservation of what belongs to us. So, what is CBAAC doing to restore our dignity as a people?
Part of what we do is to organize conferences and seminar, and you know ours is multi-lateral in nature, it’s a Pan African thing, not just Nigeria, our other arms of culture sector in Nigeria are doing their best. For instance, the National Institute of Cultural Orientation (NICO) has slated a lot of lectures on Nigerian textile and attire and the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) also organizes very wide cultural programmes including National Festival of Arts and Culture, where everything is showcased, but let me tell you, other African countries, identify with our cultural values. An example is our attire and the Nigerian attire has evolved on its own. The long flowing gown of the north, the “Babariga” of both the North and the South West and the straight wear of the South East have now come together to one long flowing gown that has a national image, and they call it “senator.” You will now see many members of the senate putting it on. They want to show that ‘I’m a big man’ and all that. So, the Nigerian attire has emerged to the consternation and envy of other African countries.
I give you this story, the time I told you I was made the President of Pan African Countries Congress in Johannesburg, South Africa, when I made my speech, I told them that in spite of the language, I can tell you that the entire congress agree that come 2063, African language must be used as a means of communication in the programmes of African Union and I made bold to add that they should even wear African dress and I told them that it is wrong for you to talk of decolonization, while you are colonized by a French coat or a British coat, it means you have not had your independence. Believe me, many of them hailed me, when I came out because of my position. One of them, who pleaded anonymity, said that he became ashamed of himself and that after all he had his own beautiful African dress, but he was afraid of the weather and I told him I wear something that will protect me from cold, when I put on my Nigerian attire.
There is another area, you didn’t ask me which is very important, and that is using African techniques and methods for our mediation principles, for conflicts resolution and peace building. The entire African countries, as I told them, have very important traditional institutions that prevent outbreak of violence, that prevent all the kinds of conflicts. But I say that Africans should be bold to develop the spirit of brotherliness particularly most of them in the political sector. It is wrong for an African president to be in office for thirty years, when the constitution is well spelt out on the terms of office and to that extent, I also commended former President Goodluck Jonathan, who willingly handed over power after he was defeated in an election. Many would have gone to court and do all kind of things. So that kind of spirit of give and take should be allowed to reign among our political leaders because our elders have many ways of resolving conflicts. I tell them about the respect that we have for our elders. A Yorubaman, who is properly dressed in a white apparel would still prostrate on the ground, when he sees an elder even if the ground is wet, can you beat that? Nobody does that for the Queen of England, nobody does that for any other person, even for the president of the United States of America. If we can show that kind of respect in resolving conflicts, we will have lesser problems amongst ourselves. Though the Ibos don’t prostrate, they take the words of their elders very seriously. And this very structure gives us a very powerful opportunity to resolve our conflicts and I can tell you many of these protracted conflicts in Africa are externally induced and I can be quoted anywhere.
During my first encounter with you, you were very warm and welcoming, may I ask if that is your nature or is it the dictate of the job?
It could be both, ordinarily, the way we were brought up from the communities, we were taught by our parents to be humble, to learn from every experience, to respect our elders. In my village, till today, you don’t abuse an elderly person, even if he is a day older than you, you must respect him. It is very important to us and I told my children, though they grew up in the city, I tell them to go home and be part of our festivals and festivities. You’ll see how you will respect the other person, when you go out with your peers for one hunting or the other, you’ll see all the folklores and folk tales around it. Most importantly, the respect must come from there, no matter how wealthy you are. Now, I’m an Ozo, a titled man, it shows some kind of wealth in our place, but no matter how wealthy you are, there is a saying that you are as rich or as poor as your brothers, family and relations. So, If you think you have money and others are poor, you must be at the level where you’ll relate with them. And remember that the extended family in Iboland has compelled you to be almost equal and the same with all your relations. Therefore, you must first of all be humbled by the experiences of your environment. Though, you do it without knowing, secondly, when we were growing up, what we were taught in human relations in office is that the impression the person that comes to your office has, when he leaves compared to the one he had, when he came, matters a lot. So, why wouldn’t I show warmth to a restive and handsome journalist like you. You see, you may not know you’re handsome, but the opposite sex determines who is handsome and who is not. But your public relations counts, when you’re full of smiles and all that, if you had come in with a tight face, I would have been scared and feel that may be this man was sent by attackers, but it is a combination of both.
Most importantly, I was trained by my father who was an epitome of humility, of beautiful ideas about public issues. He was an orator despite the fact that he didn’t go to school, let me not go into that, it will appear as if I’m extolling my inherited policies. The fact is that I was prepared for all these qualities.
I’m highly privileged to have this information
…(Cuts in), you are very deep, if not, you wouldn’t be asking me these detailed questions, and I’m inspired and very happy for this interaction, I just hope it will be fully reflected in the publication.
This position is very tasking; I hope it’s not having any negative effect on your family?
No! You see, what brings a negative effect is when you are no longer at peace with yourself, where you don’t have peace of mind. I go out early and I have visited organizations, and we are reaching out to some other people, what we are trying to do is not to ask them for money, what we are doing is to develop a programme that is mutually beneficial to the people around the whole world, and it is in this process that you’ll see beautiful ideas. Originality, creativity and ingenuity at its best and this is why we are saying any situation you find yourself, be the best you can be.
From observation and relationship, I discover you resume very early, is that your style or is it the pressure of the office?
It’s not that the work is too much, but the morning temperature is very okay for me, I read and get things done on time that is number one, all the qualifications I acquired were during the period when I was Director or Permanent Secretary, which is not even what I’m talking about, but it is an inspiration for the younger ones, and nothing can be achieved except, when you wake up early. Oswald Longfellow says that the height, which men have reached and kept are not attained by a sudden flight, then while companion slept, he toils all through the night. He now said again that you should be the best in whatever you do.
There was an overwhelming relationship with the media during the eight years rule of the immediate past Director General of CBAAC, I hope this will be maintained and surpassed by you?
Yes, the issue if surpassing it has a lot of challenges, but the important thing is we’ll retain our relationship with the media. Media is another important sector because of the importance of the information it gives to the public. First of all, it is prompt, secondly, it is important, and thirdly it is accessible, and without them it means, in the first place, we won’t know a lot of things, also, you have to go and live in a village and it’s not everybody that can go there. So the media does a lot of education, mass education, that is why they call it mass communications, so you need the media. Again for us on the culture sector, if we don’t talk, nobody will know we are here, you see, the man in-charge of infrastructure will tar roads even if he doesn’t talk, you will see the road and you will clap for him. May be the people in the hospital sector, before somebody dies, he would be given some drugs and you would say that is okay. But in our own case, a lot of times we are felt indirectly, well good enough the Nollywood people are there we made our work known through them. Funnily, the Nollywood people are not even produced by us. But the culture has played one role or the other, but what we do has to be reported by the press, that is why we are promoting culture in Nigeria, Pan African and as well the whole world. It has to be reported by the press, therefore, the media is an inevitable partner to the culture industry. We are not talking of surpassing here but the most important thing is that we would maintain our relationship.