Opinion: DStv and the politics of Igbo channel – By AZUH AMATUS
It was fun and amazing watching the recently held second edition of the annual Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA).
In fact, I still doff my hat for the organizers for giving Nigerians and the entire African continent the true feel of what a continental award should be and look like, despite the many trials and errors from different awards.
However, my joy of watching a truly world class award ceremony painstakingly put together by a team of serious minded organizers later turned into sadness.
How and why you might want to ask?
My heartache started when the duo of Mercy Aigbe and Abba Muko Yakassai, were separately announced on the big stage as winners in the Best Indigenous Language Movie/Series for Yoruba and Hausa categories, respectively.
As both entertainers happily exited the very beautifully designed stage, I patiently waited for the organizers to announce same in the Igbo category, but painfully, it never happened.
This unfolding episode further increased my pain, anger and disappointment.
But my main grouse is why would the organizers of such a huge award meant to celebrate the very best of filmmakers in Nigeria and the rest of the continent choose to ignore the pioneers of modern day film industry (Nollywood) in our country?
Even a Kenyan film, Mama Duka, got an award on that glorious and historic night as the Best Indigenous Language Movie/Series in Swahili.
Sincerely, this is not fair on Ndigbo and its teeming filmmakers who took the huge risk of investing their resources, energy and creativity in what is today known as Nollywood, which the globe is now celebrating.
All these would not have been possible without the release of the monster hit flick, Living in Bondage, in 1992.
I know some ill-informed pundits and arm chair critics will call me names and even remind me that Igbos didn’t do enough in the year under review to be considered for nominations let alone awards at the AMVCAs.
But I beg to disagree. As someone who has religiously covered Nollywood for almost two decades now, I’m aware from a very reliable data made available to me that over 200 quality Igbo movies were released between 2012 and 2013.
Are the organizers of AMVCA and its team of judges telling us that none of these movies; including the Theodore Anyanji-directed blockbuster, Ada Mbano, which has sold over one million copies, didn’t merit an award?
I beg to disagree once again. May be, the organizers and her team of judges didn’t do their research and home work very well. Or ab initio, they vowed never to look the way of Igbo filmmakers in the discharge of their duties ahead of the awards.
Sincerely, I see the deliberate failure to recognize, reward and celebrate Igbo filmmakers at the AMVCA (since inception, last year) as an insult on the entire Ndigbo and a grand plot to marginalize and sabotage their efforts as the founders and creators of Nollywood, which was ignited by Kenneth Nnebue and Okey Ogunjiofor.
Out of the three major tribes in Nigeria, you singled out two for honour and left one lurking in the dark, even when deep down you know they are actually the most qualified to be celebrated and honoured at the AMVCAs.
In all facets of all our national lives, the Igbos are daily being marginalized, even Nollywood, which they creatively kicked started, you have turned them from prime players to helpless spectators.
And this takes me to another injustice and disdain for Ndigbo by Multichoice and her sister companies.
Since its launch on March 1, 2010, DStv Africa Magic has not deemed it fit to dedicate a 24/7 channel to Ndigbo.
It has one special channel for the Yorubas, another for the Hausas, yet, they have not thought it wise to create a channel for the Igbos despite their huge patronage (investment) on Multichoice, which began business in Nigeria some 20 years ago.
Again, ill informed pundits and arm chair experts will come forward again to fault my claims by insinuating that Igbo filmmakers do not have enough content that would guarantee them a full channel on the DStv bouquet.
I boldly say no to that balderdash and “creative blackmail” from those who feel threatened by the ingenuity and creative force of Ndigbo in Nollywood.
Statistics recently made available to me by a group of revered Igbo filmmakers said they release an average of ten movies every month, since the last three years.
Please multiply the above figure and help me give John Ugbe and Multichoice the answer.
Are these films and the existing ones not enough to kick start an Igbo channel on DStv?
Must the leadership of Ohaneze, Aka Ikenga and other leading Igbo organizations and personalities storm Multichoice office to kneel and beg before they will acquiesce and finally roll out the long awaited and overdue channel?
Truth is that most times, when I ponder over how Ndigbo are contemptuously treated by Multichoice, the one and only word that comes to my heavy mind is; injustice.
And Leonard Nolt once said that: “You can’t get rid of injustice by being quiet about it.”
The above reason is why I have finally come out to speak after several years of watching and waiting for a change that has refused to come the way of Ndigbo from Multichoice.
A recent research conducted by some concerned Igbo filmmakers revealed that over 3000 indigenous language movies/series had been produced and released into the market by filmmakers from Igbo extraction, yet Multichoice and its sister company, DStv are still neglecting and treating them with disdain and disgust.
An average Igbo family has a DStv dish in their home and equally pays regularly and promptly for the monthly subscription.
However, they and their children are painfully denied that golden opportunity of being entertained in their indigenous language, because some people in some cosy offices feel, they can never be heard through their impactful platform.
I know a number of urban kids that have learnt their indigenous languages by constantly watching Africa Magic Yoruba and Hausa, respectively.
I doubt if any city-based Igbo child can ever boast of learning his mother tongue on DStv, because of this marginalization and sheer injustice.
On the contrary, even if they don’t have enough content to guarantee them a 24/7 spot on DStv, can’t Multichoice assist by funding Igbo filmmakers towards making that dream a reality.
After-all, they have done it for several filmmakers from other tribes and doing it for Igbo filmmakers should not be politicized.
Besides, it should also form part of their corporate social responsibility to a nation that has given them so much in the last 20 years financially and otherwise.
With all sense of responsibility, I want to categorically state here that Multichoice has not been fair to Ndigbo by ignoring and deliberately failing to provide them with an indigenous channel like their Yoruba and Hausa counterparts, since 2010.
Painfully, Biola Alabi, the former boss of M-Net, who localized Nigerian languages with the introduction of the two channels, Africa Magic Hausa and Africa Magic Yoruba on its platform, has left after five years, without keeping to her promise of giving Ndigbo Africa Magic Igbo.
Speaking during the launch then, Mrs. Alabi said that the two new channels (Yoruba and Hausa) were designed to reflect the cultural diversity of Africa’s most populous nation.
How I wish Alabi could tell us her motives for singling out two out of the three major tribes in Nigeria, for promotion and projection on DStv Africa Magic?
Ndigbo, especially her team of creative filmmakers will keep crying out over this injustice from Multichoice Nigeria and its sister companies until this well orchestrated marginalization and wanton neglect are redressed. The Igbos should not be subjected to the role of spectators on a continental platform such as DStv, where ordinarily they should be front-row participants and prime time players.
“Fairness means treating people equitably, without bias or partiality. It means actively working to set aside self interest or group loyalty when rendering a judgment,” said an anonymous quote.
NB: I wrote this article in 2014, to protest the non inclusion of an Igbo channel and Igbo award category on DSTV and AMVCA, respectively.
I am glad, they finally listened.
First published in March, 2014
Azuh Amatus is a top journalist and the publisher of leading online newspaper, DAYLIGHT (www.daylightng.com) and founder of DAYLIGHT TV.
He lives in Lagos and can be reached on 08099400130.