–Maduekwe, Nigeria Film Corporation CEO
By Nkechi Chima, Abuja
Afable Chidia Maduekwe is the Managing Director, Nigeria Film Corporation/Nigeria Film Institute, a specialised corporation of the Federal Government responsible for training a growing population of students in film production skills for the Nigeria creative industry.
Through local and international partnerships, and with passion and excellent leadership style, Maduekwe is driving the vision of the corporation to provide support to all stakeholders in the Nigeria Film industry. In this interview, he bares his mind on issues relevant to the Nigerian film industry.
How was growing up?
For starters, I hail from Ohuafia in Abia State, am 66 years and still going strong. I’m married and blessed with seven children and they are all graduates. I grew up in the rural area where my father was a pastor. Thereafter, I left the town to the city, precisely, Ibadan, where I read medicine at the University College Hospital, and graduated in 1980. Thereafter, I worked in the public service, and got into politics in 1989, and later became the Managing Director of the Nigeria Film Corporation, Jos, Plateau State.
What have been your challenges in running the corporation?
It’s for the corporation to live up to the mandate, for which it was created, which is to develop, produce, distribute films and above all, to train Nigerian filmmakers. Commendably, I must appreciate my predecessors for the foundation they laid. According to statistics, over one million people are employed in the Nigeria motion picture business. It is regarded as the second largest employer of labour after agriculture. So, it has been challenging trying to move the agency to play a leadership role. It’s our goal to be counted among the best in the world in the area of making quality films. I must appreciate the Federal Ministry of Justice for its support.
How would you describe the Nigeria film industry?
It’s a very robust industry in terms of film production and taking the narrative of Africa and bringing it to the screen for the world to witness. Indeed, the Nigeria film industry is poised on the edge of defining the art of history telling in the global comity of nations. Appreciatively, Hollywood has recognized our work and even the French people are looking forward to investing in Nigeria. Netflix is screening Nigerian movies and selecting more; our partners in India are here. So, the Nigeria movie industry is doing well and we intend to create more jobs for our youths.
What are the identified shortcomings of the industry and possible solutions?
Lack of adequate knowledge and skills and that’s why training is very important. We have a very reliable film institute in Jos, Plateau State and we have trained a lot of people who are doing well. But, there is need for more people to be trained. We are very happy that many universities have migrated from theatre arts to film and theatre arts. We also have the private sector like the PEFTI Film Institute set up by Wale Adenuga. Also, veteran filmmaker, Lancelot Imaseun, is setting up a film institute in Edo State. Although, piracy has been the major problem of the Nigeria film industry, but I’m glad that my colleagues at the Nigeria Film Censors Board, the Nigeria Copyright Commission and the legislature are working together to find solution to piracy. We are also considering working with Google for everyone to safeguard their intellectual property. Again, there is need for us to have massive film festivals, because it’s what we use to celebrate as a culture in film industry, where hard works could be rewarded.
Would you say that the government is doing well to develop the film industry?
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has done well to support the Nigeria film industry, through the Nigeria Film Corporation and is ably supported by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
What changes have you made in the Nigeria Film Corporation?
I wouldn’t like to blow my trumpet. We are not yet at the permanent site in Jos. We were in a rented apartment in our Abuja office, where we owed a huge amount of money and I was able to secure office for us in Abuja at the Federal Secretariat. We also have office in Asaba, Aba and Yola. Before I came into office there was no bilateral cooperation agreement but under my watch we secured one with France. We are creating film entrepreneurs hubs in Umuahia, Lagos, llorin and Kano among others. Our staffers are happy because we do not owe them salaries. We are collaborating with the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics to do analysis in what the micro indicator should be in the Nigeria film industry. We are working toward publishing a journal for the Nigeria Film Corporation. We are also working with Google to develop NFC app where all Nigeria films will be uploaded. Since 1979, when it was created, it has been fully dependent on government, and we hope it will have a breakthrough, to become self-funding.
What do you need to do better in the industry?
I need the support of the stakeholders in my industry, but above all I need the grace and support of God.
What advice do you have for practitioners?
They should believe in themselves and know that the business they are doing is a global business. Every practitioner in the cultural, music or acting subsectors should have a sense of pride knowing they are contributing in growing the GDP of Nigeria as entertainers, so they have a stake in positively promoting Nigeria to the world.
Do you think women in the industry are living up to expectations?
Fantastic! They are breaking barriers beyond what one expects and they are poised to do more.
Are you looking at the area of partnership and collaboration with other agencies?
Of course! Without partnership we wouldn’t be where we are today. Recently, we signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Wale Adenuga Productions and there are more of such MoUs lined up. We have already signed one with the Defense Headquarters which will make Nigeria a destination for action movies by the time the Ministry of Defense with the Nigeria Film Corporation work together to shoot all the films we are planning, either television series or documentaries, which will involve action films showcasing the gallantry of our men in uniform. So, such partnership is necessary to make Nigeria a destination of one of the largest film producing nations in the world.
Could you elaborate on the official visit of the French Embassy to the Nigeria Film Corporation?
The visit emanated from the cooperation agreement signed on January 14, 2020, although it was a working visit designed to help commence the implementation of the recent agreement. I must say that the French official is satisfied with what we are doing in the corporation and he has promised to link us with the largest archaism institution in France. He also promised that the ambassador would also visit the corporation soon. However, the agency for film development has identified the Nigeria Film Institute as one of the sectors they need to deploy resources to help improve its capacity, because the institution is being considered in the nearest future as a reference university in the area of film making based on the already established funding relationship between Nigeria and France.
You are known for wearing your traditional Abia headgear. Is it your fashion statement or is there any other motive behind it?
Film is about culture and as the head of the corporation it is necessary to represent my culture through wearing of the Ohafia warrior cap as an Igbo man.
How do you relax?
I relax by listening to good music and I also enjoy riding bicycle.