The above tweet succinctly captures the disposition of many young Nigerians today. And this mindset is largely responsible for the pervasive moral decadence and criminality that is fast becoming the norm across the country.
Recently the Federal Government stated that it will ban money rituals in our movies. Lai Mohammed said that some arrested suspects of ritual killing confessed that they learnt from the social media thus precipitating the need to sanitise social media. This is coming after the House of Reps passed damning culpability on our dear Nollywood for the rising spate of ritual killings. The lawmakers called for the declaration of a state of emergency on ritual killings in the country and tasked stakeholders to begin a national campaign to change citizen orientation towards the crime.
The National President of Directors Guild of Nigeria, Victor Okhai, laughed off the accusation thus; “…when newspapers report about rituals does that make them responsible for rituals or when radio and televisions speak about rituals does that make them culpable? You want to know where the real problem is, it’s the National Assembly, every time you compromise and fail in carrying out your responsibilities. Every time you sit there and share loot you’re responsible, leave Nollywood out of it”
He found ready support in Yul Edochie who attributed the increased ritual killings to poverty and asked the lawmakers to fix the country if they want crime to disappear.
They are right. It is factual that poverty and economic hardship contribute to the increased crime rate we are witnessing. It is also a well-known fact that politicians from diverse ethnoreligious backgrounds believe in the supernatural and the efficacy of rituals to sustain their positions of power. In 2010, a former Jigawa state commissioner was convicted of the ritual killing of two children.
I may not be a great fan of Nollywood, but I watched the early blockbusters like Living In Bondage, Rattle Snake and others. Nowadays baring comedies like Mr Ibu and Ada Mbano I don’t watch much. Yet I appreciate the industry. It greatly contributes to the economy through job creation. And in fairness, one can argue that the responsibility of producers is limited to the content they dish out. They cannot be rightly held responsible for the varying heuristic and context-dependent interpretation of different consumers. In simple terms, movies depict the producer’s message but the consumer’s perception is dependent on varying factors.
Yet shifting the responsibility solely to the leadership typifies the thought process of the average Nigerian. I am not in any way trying to absolve the leadership of complicity but we like to believe that only the government has responsibilities. That’s a lie, our leaders are not from Mars, they are fellow Nigerians, products of our society. Moreover, poverty shouldn’t be an excuse for making criminal choices because many are engaged in menial jobs, begging and other legitimate means of survival. Therefore, poor leadership and poverty should not diminish social contract or civic responsibility.
I have earlier questioned the audacity of flaunting wealth with no verifiable source of income among the youth when rapper MI glorified fraudsters. Now we have metamorphosed into a society of ritual murder, organ harvesting and even cannibalism. We have completely discarded humanity for vanity.
And we cannot dismiss the influence of the little screens seemingly glued to our palms. Families rarely watch movies together now because the children have mobile phones. What moral lesson do they learn from Kanayo O Kanayo flinging a white fowl around? He has explained that acting is different from the reality of daily hustle, but this is hardly enough in a society that is increasingly embracing the ‘get rich quick’ mania. Moreso when he is often seen off the screen promoting opulence with chants of “je chuba ego” (go and make money).
My uncle once told me that money doesn’t discriminate in its destination. Even a nincompoop can suddenly make money but wisdom can only be acquired gradually over time. Thus, growing up, the maxim used to be “je cho aka olu” (get a job) because our wise parents understood that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop while a vocation keeps you busy. Busy brings money. An ideology behind the decency that ruled our screens back then. Programmes usually conveyed messages on proper societal values, morality and discipline. The Village Headmaster, The New masquerade Bassey & Company and Hotel de Jordan all contributed to shaping us and the values we hold dear to date. Zebrudaya will end each episode with advice while broadcaster extraordinary Boma Erekosima who popularised the news in pidgin English rarely fails to admonish his audience during the interlude.
In the 90s, only about two female students had the guts to smoke publicly in Unizik. Cultism was largely a thing for tertiary institutions. Today the shisha Goddesses display on social media while young boys have become dangerous cultists in secondary schools. It is the so-called gram era of few texts and plenty of visuals. Posts that extol nudity, addiction, fraud, rituals, slaying, crossdressing, fake clerics and many more unvirtuous acts have become the order of the day. It gets worse to think these are usually done to gain traction or as we call it; for clout.
Yet we share with little regard.
The current generation will be leaders in time to come and it scares me what the future holds. How will youths who chant the “school na scam”, “thousand jeans zero pant” slogans popularised by Zlatan and Naira Marley wield power? I try to imagine the fate of any teenager caught in such delinquency back in the 80/90s when Okotie and Mike Okri preached love and “time na money” daily on our screens.
The recent government directives are welcome, but we have heard similar blether repeatedly in the past. Policies around insecurity, violence and killings have remained as reactive as they are reductive. If abductions dominate our media space for a week the state governors will shut schools down. So now that ritual killing trended for weeks, our Reps deliberated for some hours and voila!, they reached a conclusion that Nollywood is responsible and a state of emergency will solve the problem.
Surely we cant reshape an unstructured industry that churns out movies at the whims of members and non-members alike with this strategy. A judgement that is based on naive empiricism and wrapped in an ineffectual resolution will always end on newspaper pages.
So beyond passing resolutions and giving directives to the movie censors board, a developing nation like ours should and must have a philosophical direction anchored on a set of guiding principles. These tenets should be exemplified in the government and leadership. Agencies like the NOA, VON should be funded at all levels to propagate these principles. We need to hear more jingles promoting the things we hold dear. It works and continues to work.
And finally, please, please if you don’t want social media regulated, mind what you share, validate, endorse and promote publicly. Because this rising culture of nihilism and zero introspection among the youths today is also traceable to undue publicity and validation of morally decrepit individuals that we elevate to the status of ‘influencer’. We are all answerable for this, and it is a collective responsibility to do more if we must halt the trend.