Lillian Amah Aluko is a veteran Nollywood actress, a movie producer and an author of many literatures. In this interview, she speaks of her passion for a more united nation with an entertainment driven economy. Excerpts.
Our traditional quest is. What is your definition of a true Nigerian?
To me, a true Nigerian is that Nigerian who loves Nigeria. One who is ready to sacrifice for Nigeria. I am talking about that Nigerian who is ready to put Nigeria first before self.
Can you die for Nigeria?
Surely, I can die for anything I believe in. for me conviction is not just a word. If I believe in the Nigeria project. Yes I can die for it.
If you were to be a special adviser to Mr President. What kind of advise will you be giving him?
In the first place I will rightly inform Mr President that the entertainment industry is a major income earner for so many countries and over time in Nigeria, the government had paid lip services to the entertainment industry and that had dumped it at the level it is today. Striving on its own amidst countless vices and disheartening economic sabotage from pirates unchecked. This pirates activities has grossly discouraged hard work in many ways. This is adding up to many other bedevilling factors such as lack of good studios and movie locations and grants. When you go to some countries of the world; they have these grants for movie makers because they understand that you are projecting their cities and they will even ask you to please return next time.
Here in Nigeria we are just on our own. When you check some of our movies, we are having sound problems. This is because we lack good studios to do movies, and each time you just shoot at any locations, you will have a problem of getting very quality sound because of the generator nose and others. It would not be the same if you have a very nice and large studio that you can use for shooting. I am not saying that the government should provide such free. No, let it just be at an affordable cost and that will go a long way to boost the industry. For the entertainers, they are just being used by the politicians like toys and dumped after the electioneering window.
Once it is time for election, they come to the entertainers to endorse them and after their victories; they push them aside like puppets. They so forget the many rich values of the entertainer. While many countries who understand this industry is seriously making fortunes out of it to better their gross domestic product. If I were to advice the President, I will advise him to take the entertainment industry and entertainers very seriously so as to harvest the many good potentials of the very engaging entertainment industry. We really need to put infrastructure in place because it is very key to these successes we are talking about.
Take for instance, piracy is everywhere, but the penalty for piracy in Nigeria is a joke. You pirate something and then you are made to pay a fine of a hundreds thousands naira only, when they have made hundreds of millions from the act. That alone is encouraging to the pirates because take for instance, I pirates someone intellectual hard work and racks in millions and then, the law is demanding that I pay just a token of hundreds of thousands. It creates no pain at all to deter any pirate because it’s a very good deal. This is what happens day in day out in this country, while the entertainers are paying so pathetically for these gross injustice done to their intellectual products. We need to strengthen our laws to make them harder on pirates and also the various concerned agencies to heat up the fight against piracy.
What kind of penalty do you recommend?
Well, I think that life is sacrosanct but anyone who pirate should be severally dealt with and made to forfeit all proceeds from the piracy and serve a minimum of fourteen years mandatory time in prison. If this is done and strictly enforced, people will defiantly think twice before taking to piracy.
Sometimes when these pirates are raided, they simply put a call to one highly placed politician in Abuja and they are released. How do this make people like you feel?
Very terrible and I can confirm to you that it do happen just like this. Sometimes, they will openly tell you to the face that they will be out the next day and surely they do find their way out. I recall that sometimes many pirates were raided at the Alaba International market by a joint body comprising of various guilds and associations in Nollywood. The marketers association invaded Alaba International market several times and got some kingpins and surly, they found their ways out and back to the business of stealing other people intellectual products. Until those in authority realize the damage, this is coursing to the entertainers, the industry and the Nigeria economy; things will just continue the way it is going.
As an author, have any of your books been pirated before?
Sure. On Amazon, there are a lot of people selling my book there and I do not know where they got them from.
Nigeria appears to be in crises. Talking about the headsmen, Boko-haram and others, how do this make you feel, considering how peaceful things use to be in the past?
That is a tough call because the world itself is in crisis. Terrorism has become a part of our lexicon all over the world, but for me the saddest part of the Nigeria story is the fact that we have become so fractured that everything is seen from either ethnic or religious perspective but that is new to our system. I remember that it was much different in the past. I attended a unity school and then we talk and relate so well with each other never minding ethnicities or religions affiliations. Not until now that we are beginning to realize that you are from here and I am from there. Then it was never part of our lives, and we did not care where you are from. Whenever there arise a subject matter to discourse, we usually do so without looking at it from ethnic or religious point of view.
Then all that mattered to us was that we were friends and at the holidays, we go to each other homes to spend really good times. I mean those days where so comfortable, but suddenly, we are now realising that o you are from this ethnicity and I am from that other ethnicity. Things I must say have gone so bad with us and we really need to stop the division because it is killing us as a nation every day. A leader will do something wrong and you will just choose to defend him just because he is of certain ethnic divide.
You have two candidates to choose from and rather than choose the one that is sounder and will serve the purpose for all more better, you will opt for the least qualified one simply because you share same religion or ethnicity with him or her at the expense of the entire society including your very self. This are the cankerworms that ate up all our good old days leaving us now with so much hate and dislike of others ethnicity and religion. Our leaders and we the citizens must learn to build bridges that foster unity. It is for the overall good of our country. We must only see ourselves as Nigerians to make meaningful progress and collectively kick out all the wrongs we see today. I always wonder each time I hear, o no you cannot have a Christian, Christian or Muslim, Muslim ticket; why not provided that they are the best at the given time. I have always asked, would the infrastructure built by someone of a certain tribe refuse to accommodate you simply because you are of a different tribe. I mean you drive your care through a well constructed road, and then the road denies you access because you are of a different ethnicity?
The headsmen that are killing people here and there today are no headsmen because the headsmen we use to know do not carry fire arms. The ones that are doing the killings are pure terrorist in disguise. We must learn to call a spade, a spade and not painting wrongs just to hit at another ethnicity. I so like what the President is doing in bringing Nigeria back to track again and you know that foundation is always key to good structure. You can never have a good structure on a bad foundation and I think this administration is just putting up some good foundation for a meaningful growth.
Yes, they have made some mistakes, but then I feel that they are making good foundations and should be commended on such areas they have done well. You do not expect such move to be as smooth and easy. We just need to be patient with them and I pray that the next administration would consolidate on the scarifies of Nigerians who has endured this very important but painful change period of our life as a nation. This remind me of former Lagos state governor, Akiwumi Ambode who for the sake of consolidation bowed to his party decision and urged all to support a successor to further consolidate on the gains of his administration even when many of us felt that he was cheated out of the race.