I had posted on Facebook yesterday that MNET | DSTV are producing Big Brother Nigeria in South Africa. The contributions, opinions and positions have been diverse, as well as partisan, with everyone from industry experts, professionals and the general public taking positions. That’s as it should be. Open discourse and sharing of opinions is something we can all gain from. When issues arise that concern us, its good to contribute and offer some perspectives, and it nourishes our system, and alerts stakeholders to the feeling of the people and industry.
It would really be silly for me to imagine that as Nigerians we don’t understand the challenges of doing business in Nigeria. Multiplicity of taxes, corruption, greed, poor infrastructure, lack of qualified personnel, government roadblocks, and of course, lack of power. Add to this economic issues of inflation, foreign exchange rates, and government summersaults of policy and direction, and you get a brew that will drive most businessmen mad. These are challenges we all face. Those who are able to steer their business through these difficulties remain in business, those than can’t die. And, many have died and are dying. Businesses are collapsing under the weight of challenges in Nigeria. Those that can flee, are leaving.
Beyond this also is, what gives anyone the audacity to think they can compel anyone to run their business for anything less that profit. In any environment business is established to return the greatest margin, with ease and efficiency. Business is not charity. These are valid reasons why MNET |DSTV would commission Endemol to produce the show in South Africa. They did it with ‘The Voice”, Nigerian Breweries also did the same with their last Musical TV Show they sponsored. (it was a forgettable show, and I can’t remember the name).
Some Nigerians have eluded that Nigerians who helped South Africans into Nigeria, contributed to corrupting the system, and now having the food taken away from them by the same companies are complaining. Really? It’s easier to ignore those types of comments, because they have no basis in facts, and are emotional statements made to distort the picture.
Lets not deflect the issues behind false patriotism either, and values that have since left our country adrift. Let’s not underrate the impact of what’s happening in Nigeria, and how we got here. There are really some serious issues we need to deal with. We can no longer avoid them. The environment for business in Nigeria is BAD! FOR EVERYONE! Its getting worse, and as it erodes every aspect of our lives, the system becomes more pliant to abuse as government absolves itself of responsibilities to its people, its economy, and its people, especially in areas where regulation and policy is weak or non-existent. Our Senate leadership continues to send the wrong signals to their constituents, as if government is a place to loot.
If government cannot provide the environment for ‘friendly business’, they should not be compliant in killing local businesses. A lot of local industries are dying because of the reasons alluded to in the conversation that I had with a top executive of DSTV|MNET in Nigeria, which I have stated in the previous paragraph. Perhaps, he should not have gone as far as calling Nigerians who have a penchant for questioning issues ‘Ingrates’, but that’s what happens when everything you have worked for is being put under tremendous stress. When you do business in Nigeria, every single weed creeps out from all corners to strangle your business and ‘collect something’, and blackmail you. Who hasn’t experienced that?
My experiences in production in the pas7 27 years are not any different. During the production of Doctors Quarters, a proud Director, and irresponsible cast, made us loose more than N25 Million Naira, because I insisted on discipline and professional conduct. That was an MNET production, and what saved me was the fact that the position I took was a professional one.
When we shot Ambo I, working with Endemol in Nigeria, the client refused to renew the project because of graft. When the issue was taken to the client, we didn’t work for that client for more than 10 years.
I have also faced many of the issues raised by the so many comments on the said post. You cannot work in Nigeria, without being struck by the incompetence, lack of knowledge and unprofessional practices in the film and TV industry. That mediocrity and corruption have been the bane of our industry is without a doubt. No standards, and professional etiquette. Hence we have been working in a country where anything goes. But amidst this seeming anarchy are some great professionals who have all the right qualities, and personally I am glad to have worked with many. One of comments on my post talked about the inability of Nigerian Crew to keep to call time. I asked in what industry? My crews always come on time. You don’t come late for my production or project, it’s just the way it works, and everyone that works with me knows that. So a lot also is up to us, the way we work, and examples we set.
My discussion with the Executive at MNET |DSTV raised very pertinent issues and it’s only a fool that would push them aside. He makes sense. But here’s the catch, and whilst my post was about BBN being produced in South Africa, a lot of people missed the point. You cannot tell DSTV | MNET how to run their business that’s not our prerogative. They are a Nigerian company, but more importantly they are a business owned by shareholders, who they have responsibility to. Everyone says DSTV|MNET they are making money in
Nigeria. Everyone says I am making money too, but if you think so offer me a sizable sum, I would gladly sell the business to you. Everything is not what it seems. However, there are issues when a business not only repatriates its profit, buy is now also repatriating cost elements that could be seen as contributions to the local economy. But more importantly, we need to understand why that decision was taken and it should give cause for concern to a responsible government.
Our prerogative in my view is how do we as an industry create an environment for business to flourish in Nigeria. Chief Tony Okoriji said it all, that we need to organize ourselves. I am focused on the TV industry in which I have worked in for more than 30 years. An industry that has the potential for changing the opportunities that many young Nigerians have for employment; an industry that has the potential to change the mindsets of Nigeria; to teach our children their history; an industry that can contribute so much more to our country.
This is a call to anyone that’s listening out there. And I mean Government. There are champions in our industry today who have invested all they have in this industry; they need to be reached out to. Not people seeking relevance and government position, but those who have invested in the industry. Their investments are on the ground. They put the money where their mouth is, just like MNET|DSTV. Talk to them so we don’t continue to loose business. Its your duty to provide the right environment, we can do the rest, but provide the right environment!
The decision of MNET|DSTV to film the Big Brother Nigeria is South Africa is symptomatic of an industry in dire need of direction, of a country and citizenship that are loosing the plot. We complain about government, leadership, yet that government and leadership emanates from within us. We complain about industry indiscipline and work ethic, but yet continue to employ and work with people that show indiscipline and lack of work ethic. The companies that have flourished in this sector, look at them, are companies whose discipline and ethics are world class. So we can make it work
And if you look at the posts it’s also an industry turned against itself, requiring emergency help to get some direction. Whilst power and infrastructure issues will continue to be with us for a long time, our challenges are beyond that. We can start to help ourselves, by organizing ourselves. The comments made on the post are a sad reflection of how professionals see themselves and their industry. But the question is, who makes up and industry? Is it not the same people complaining? Us right?
You are what you say you are!
Beyond the rhetoric, posturing and at times ignorant comments, the time to set a policy and strategy that works for us is now imperative. The free market economy we practice has its advantages, and despite the slow inflow of off-shore investment, there is a need to look and understand how policies, regulation and business decisions work together to affect the long-term outlook for our industry and those who have invested in the sector. It is not enough to complain about the encroachment of the Nigerian space by foreign TV production companies, or that DSTV|MNET has taken another production out of Nigeria. What is now key is developing a strategic framework and road map that we can use to ask the right questions and provide the appropriate answers to move us forward. This is where I was going when I put up the post. Our challenges are not DSTV|MNET our challenges believe me are more serious than that. And by this I mean the Nigerian TV Industry
The questions are we need to urgently answer are:
• How do we grow and develop a Nigerian TV Industry where Nigerian owners and investors are encouraged and have leverage as a national policy?
• What do we need to do to assist creation and growth of Nigerian owned TV industry businesses and the generation of more commercially viable local content?
• How can we encourage and manage creative individuals and businesses to seek investment from a financial sector that doesn’t understand our industry?
• What do we need to do to promote Nigeria as a creative place at national and international forums and seek for international out sourced projects?
• How can we increase the number of employment opportunities in the sector for Nigerians?
• How can we engage and dialogue with local broadcasters to invest in commissioning
local programming and evolving a viable business model that places emphasis on content and scheduling that delivers good revenues and great viewership
• How can we increase the overall economic contribution of the sector to the Nigerian economy, thereby acquiring greater recognition?
• How do we seek ways to provide appropriate business support mechanisms, and promoting access to funding to support business growth?
• How do we assist local TV businesses/individuals to access national and international markets for their goods and services?
• What can we do to support networking, communication and collaboration within the sector?
• What do we need to do to showcase the creativity of Nigeria, and marketing Nigerian Content and TV Production companies as creative resources to receive international work and seek inward investors into Nigerian owned film and television companies?
• How can we encourage innovation within the sector, and support opportunities around new media and creative content.
• What do we need to do to influence local and national Government policy and funding sector initiatives to the benefit of the Nigerian owned business sector thereby encouraging them to activate at international levels.
• How do we provide support to innovative projects in a number of key sectors including arts and crafts, media, new media and music that provide support to the TV industry and provide employment at their own macro-levels.
While its a hard pill to swallow that ‘Big Brother Naija is being shot in South Africa, the truth remains that our business environment is killing us all, and we need to look beyond that to ensure that we put in place industry strategies and practices that make it impossible for it to happen again, not by being forceful, but by creating an industry that works for us all.