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Did Rotimi Amaechi Insult Nollywood?

If you’re a student of English or Sociology of Literature, you would want to make this argument that some actors and actresses are products of necessity. Read and watch his speech.

Did Rotimi Amaechi really insult Nollywood? Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi gave a speech last week at the BON awards which held in Port Harcourt. The speech however has been a source of controversy, from Linda Ikeji's post to all the controversial responses, it has indeed been an interesting one. Read and watch Rotimi's speech below.

“Let me state that this organisation is purely that of BON. If they were not my friends, they wouldn’t even have been able to use this hall because some government officials had planned to have a dinner or cocktail event in this hall, but I had to tell them to move across, outside. Not that I forgot or anything, but I thought you’re important to the Nigerian economy.

You won’t like what I will say, but if you’re a student of English or Sociology of Literature, you would want to make this argument that some actors and actresses are products of necessity. Do you agree?. I’ve made that argument, and luckily for me, I would be leaving office in the next six months. When I leave office and I start research because of further studies, I’ll make a study on Nollywood. From Kenneth Okonkwo who has joined politics, to the movie, “The Meeting.”  Watch “The Meeting,” you will see that it is the same line of the inability of the Nigerian elites to lead Nigeria out of the present comatose that we have found ourselves.

Graduates would leave university after studying Engineering and become actors and actresses; just because there’s no employment. If you go to seek for employment, people are not employed based on merit, do you agree? You would see a Nigerian who is well-dressed and knowledgeable in the job applying for a job, and then, one fine young girl walks in, ‘This is a note from Governor Amaechi sir.’ So even if the knowledgeable person speaks all the grammar he knows, they have already made up their mind.

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Even in the banking industry, they employ 40%-60% beautiful ladies; you know why? Because they’re encouraging prostitution. As a governor, hardly do I see a banker in my office, but as the Speaker (of Rivers State House of Assembly), I was seeing quite a lot. One day, someone who used to work in a bank, walked up to me crying, and I said what’s the problem? He said, ‘Speaker please give me any account at all; they’re about to sack me. All the girls in my bank have gotten accounts, except me.’ He had passed across his message, and the message was: Please don’t encourage me to be a homos*xual. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong; I’m just saying he said that, ‘Don’t encourage me.’

I had to look for all possible means of giving him an account to save his job. If you look at your Nollywood industry; it first started as a protest literature. That is when you people came in and said, ‘We are tired of the current leadership in Nigeria; we need change.’ Then funding of the industry became a problem. The Onitsha traders and…what’s the name of that market again? (Audience responds "Alaba") They were the ones that began to fund these films and determine the content you people were producing. You can no longer produce protest literature; if you do that, you’re affecting their market and they won’t sell. So you began to do juju, and for people like me, I stopped watching at that point. I watched “The Meeting” because Rita Dominic is a Port-Harcourt girl; she grew up in Port-Harcourt and she said to me, ‘Governor, please come. I knew Rita when I left University and was teaching briefly.

Even when she produced it; to her, she didn’t know that what she was doing was protest literature: A Minister taking advantage of his position. How do we put it? Is it that he was manipulated by a girl, Nse, right? In his office, the professor, and the community leader were sitting down waiting, but Nse was able to go in. And to be able to go in, you must corrupt the secretary. I’m sure when she was acting all that, they never saw this part of literature. You moved from all those Juju things you were presenting, and you started to present social issues; not necessarily politics, and you also lost some of us.

Occasionally, some of us would see one or two of those things you do in the movies, but believe me, Nigeria is not the same; it’s a very difficult country. It’s a country where there’s no middle-class; you think you’re a middle-class? A middle-class is a class that is sustainable after you have taken away your monthly expenditure, or a budget. There’s no Nigerian that has a Monthly Expenditure or a Budget. If you have a budget, raise up your hand. Let’s say I have a budget that I and my wife would spend N500,000 for the month, and then some friends would just walk in and say, ‘Hey, we came to greet you; we want to eat.’ Where they in the budget? (Audience laughs). So the man that you say is middle-class, after taking care of his immediate family, he still has the extended family to take care of, so he falls back immediately to poverty. In Nigeria, you’re either poor or rich. However, the good and bad thing about Nigeria is that you can be poor today, and tomorrow, you’ll be a millionaire.

I listened to Basorge at Kate Henshaw’s 40 birthday ceremony. He was telling her that he remembers those days when they used to trek, and when they couldn’t find jobs, they went into acting. Why am I saying this? If you have the opportunity to write a script and direct a movie, you owe the society the duty to be our mirror.

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I thought that the Federal Government was contributing N200m to assist all of you; well, if they’ve not done that, too bad. For me, as a graduate of Literature, from time to time, I’ve told my friend Mrs. Joke Jacobs…I gave her an assignment to go and produce for me, “A Man of the People,” written byChinua Achebe. That’s the best book I’ve read about the political class; he criticized the Nigerian elite.

I did not join politics because I wanted to change Nigeria; I joined politics because I was hungry and there was no employment. It was in the course of service that I now saw the need to serve Nigeria. Two years after I became Speaker, I felt it was enough, and had to focus on Nigeria. Now, we need to force people who are stealing our money out of office.

Yesterday in Abuja, I saw Nigerians queuing in front of the Malaysian embassy for visa. I asked someone what was going on, and the person said that some Nigerians are going to Malaysia to donate one part of their kidneys. God bless you. Thank you.”

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