If the FIFA World Cup was to be won based on bad reputations, Nigeria would have won the cup without any need to even play. That is just how bad the reputation of Nigerians are, unfortunately. So much so, that no matter were one goes in the world, people have taken to blaming Nigerians for everything bad that happens there. This, despite the reality that the majority of Nigerians should not be represented by a minority that clearly behave badly. For instance, someone I know once blamed Nigerians for all crime in the entire country of Ghana, forgetting that, at the time, the country sat between two insecure nations - Liberia and the Ivory Coast. Take South Africa, for instance, where xenophobic riots in 2008 resulted in the deaths of many foreigners including Nigerians. There, a popular film producer asserted that his abysmal portrayal of Nigerians in his film was because, in his biased opinion, "the most honest refraction of a crime group would be Nigerians". The producer, Blomkamp, ignored the fact that South Africa is one of the most dangerous places in the world and chose to blame that failing on Nigerians.
HERE WE GO AGAIN...
In a fresh attempt to once again use Nigerians as the scapegoat for everything negative, a writer in Uganda opined that Nigerian films, which entertain millions in Nigeria, across the African continent and the Caribbean, are the cause of that nation's increasing rate of crimes against children. Specifically, the writer, Nathan Were, explained:
"According to statistics... over 3,760 cases involving children have been reported and investigated. Most of these cases range from child neglect, abuse, torture, abduction, sacrifice, murder, kidnapp and abortion. Although some measures have been instituted to reduce these crimes, one area that has not been exploited is the contribution of Nigerian movies towards crime." [sic]
Were went on to state,
"the [Nollywood] scenes depicted are mostly those that involve violence, witchcraft, murder, child sacrifice, robbery, theft and breaking families. The images these movies portray are detrimental to our society and could possibly be one of the little known causes of increased crime in Uganda. Desperate people pick tips from these movies on how to execute crimes."Now, one cannot argue with Were about the fact that Nollywood films sometimes depict scenes that are disturbing. However, Were makes an assumption that these troubling aspects of society that are depicted in the films were not already a part of Ugandan society, with or without the existence of such films. He also conveniently ignores the fact that Nigerians were not the ones that taught Ugandans how to use children as soldiers or rape and abuse women the way Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) members have done mercilessly for many years. And all this before Nollywood became a staple in his country.
Plus, it must be stated that at no point did anyone force Ugandans, Were included, to watch Nollywood films. And one need not even begin a discussion about the unpalatable violence presented in American movies which are also widely watched in Uganda. For all the criticisms of Nigerian movies, it can at least be said that the movies try to include redeeming qualities even in the midst of presenting issues that are objectionable. Nollywood also constitutes the second largest film producing industry in the world and helps to hire many unemployed in Nigeria and also in Uganda. After all, many of those people selling bootleg copies of Nigerian films on Uganda's streets are earning a living off the blood, sweat and tears of the very Nigerians Were can so easily attack.
It is strange that Were could ignore the glaring realities of his own society and even go as far as blaming Nigeria for creating Ugandan criminals by saying,
"I have also read about cases where families and the public have blamed the Police for failure to protect children, yet parents are contributing to the bulk of criminals by breeding them in their homes [while they watch Nigerian movies]."As a supporter and fan of Nollywood film, I must state that it is categorically ridiculous and downright insulting to suggest that Nigerian films are only good for creating criminals.
A PREOCCUPATION WITH CRITICIZING MODERN ENTERTAINMENT?
One can only wonder if this anti-Nigerian sentiment has anything to do with his previously expressed concerns about Uganda's deteriorating quality of entertainment. In a piece titled, 'Is our music industry at the brink of collapse?', Were criticized Ugandan musicians, radio stations, tv channels and other outlets for failing to have "standards". He finished the piece by encouraging his Ugandan readers to "...advocate music that will shape behaviour and character of generations beyond our own."
This preoccupation with criticizing anything new is clearly a hobby of Were's and in the case of his most recent article, he has chosen to attack Nigerian entertainment as well. To do so is unnecessary. Simply advocating better treatment of children and a rejection of violence against others would have been enough. Were could also have encouraged the creation of a much more wholesome film industry in his own country. There was absolutely no need to bash Nigerian entertainment and thus, covertly strike out at Nigerians is unacceptable. It feeds into xenophobic paranoia which is rife in Uganda. And to do this even as Were's fellow Ugandans suffered and suffer the wrath of South African xenophobia is unconscionable.
If Were was truly interested in seeing an end to the problems in his society that he complains about, looking at Uganda's issues and facing up to their truths without using 'otherization' would have served him and his country well. To instead make Uganda's failings about Nigeria and Nigerians is a fetch, even if Nigeria's reputation is not the best.
From The Archives:
- Nigeria's 'Portrayal' & The Need To Be Proactive
- TIME Magazine's Nollywood Pictorial
- Nigeria's Generational Divide & Reuben Abati
- Speaking Frankly
- Economics of Nollywood: Price (written by guest writer, Oz)