How Nollywood's complacency bred the Fabiyis & Ijeshas [Pulse Editor's Opinion]

As with everything else that is not box-office figures, Nigeria's film industry practitioners have turned a blind eye to the shocking revelations of the past months.

Baba Ijesha and Yomi Fabiyi [Instagram]

For years, sexual abuse in Nigeria's buzzing film industry has gone unreported by the media.

Every so often, allegations against famous producers, directors make headlines but are promptly shut down by press turned hired publicists, gatekeepers and the silence of their numerous victims.

In 2020, a string of sexual harassment allegations in Nollywood managed to trend on Twitter. Two veteran filmmakers had been accused of harassment and demanding sex in exchange for roles.

Days after the news broke, I embarked on a passionate search for victims of sexual abuse in the industry with the hope of sharing their experiences in an extensive report.

My research began with intimate interviews with nearly a handful of young actresses, many of whom had abandoned acting because they could not in good conscience climb the ladder to fame offered by these filmmakers. Some others shared the shame of succumbing to the demands for the promise of roles that never came.

Unfortunately, all my interviewees agreed to share their shocking allegations after I incessantly promised never to print their stories. With no tangible evidence to share, my story was dead on arrival.

Fast forward to the present day, and it appears that the effect of our decade-long silence has fueled what has grown beyond an industry problem. The Fabiyis and Ijeshas of today grew irreversible wings because of the silence of their victims.

For those who have followed the news of Baba Ijesha's sexual assault trial, the conspicuous silence of the industry's so-called veterans comes as no surprise.

The few who have lent their voice somehow find themselves on the opposite side of the truth. Unarguably, the complacency of these gatekeepers continues to enable degenerates like Yomi Fabiyi.

Fabiyi should by now be answering for his ignominious pro-rape campaign. But the man shamelessly parades himself unapologetically, bold enough to release a film depicting a 14-year-old as a consenting adult in a romantic relationship with a 48-year-old.

The stand that veterans have taken on the recent events leaves room for questions. Questions about how they have handled situations involving sex offenders. Have they maintained this deafening silence over the years or sought to mask the truth? While we may never really know, one fact is as clear as daylight - their methods have bred insolent sex offenders and rape apologists. Fabiyi and Ijesha are the monsters that they made.

Thankfully, young filmmakers are beginning to pay attention to the gatekeeping business of Nollywood. So, at what point will new Nollywood declare a Me Too in Nollywood?

Safe to say that it is impossible to tell. A vast majority would rather pay attention to box office science, turning a blind eye to the politics of leadership. This majority does not believe in the concept of unionism. So, they prefer to ride solo as long as it continually pays them to do so.

But Nollywood needs changemakers more than it needs fresh talents. If not for justice then at least for the future.

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