Tinubu, ‘A Tribe Called Judah’ and the power of creative economy

By Temitope Ajayi

While extolling Funke Akindele, the Nollywood filmmaker for her recent box office accomplishment, President Bola Tinubu lauded the growing contribution of the Nigerian creative industry to the economic growth of the country. He acknowledged its pivotal place as, not just a medium for artistic expression but also a source of enormous soft power and viable cultural export.

In his effusive praise of the industry; creative ingenuity, and enterprising spirit of young Nigerians, President Tinubu said that, “the creative industry is one of the high-employment sectors, providing jobs for our able and talented youths. It is an industry that is crucial to my administration. I salute Nigerians for their enduring support and patronage of home-grown creative efforts. We will provide the conducive environment for the industry to thrive further.”

On the heels of that generous presidential endorsement, it is worthy to say that, regardless of what anyone says, Funke Akindele has cracked the code for successful Box Office run in Nigeria. Her films, till date, have remained the highest grossing in cinema runs in Nigeria’s film industry.

Her recent flick, ‘A Tribe Called Judah’, grossed over a billion naira in revenue, a landmark of no mean feat. The interesting twist to this number is the fact that within a month, Akindele’s film grossed the unprecedented amount in a country with 91 cinemas and 303 screens.

For clearer understanding, available data shows that as at 2022, China has 65,000 cinema screens followed by United States (35,280), India (11,962) and UK (3,402). It is very easy to see the link between the number of screens and the material prosperity of Americans in hollywood and Indians in bollywood.

By comparison, English-speaking West African countries, including Nigeria, as at December 31, 2023, have 95 cinemas with 321 screens. Out of this number, Ghana has 4 cinemas with 18 screens.

For a country of Nigeria’s size and population, the third largest film producer in the world after United States and India, the paltry 303 screens reveal a huge opportunity for private sector investment, which the newly-created Ministry of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy is poised to drive.

Akindele’s ‘A Tribe Called Judah’, was watched by film lovers in 71 cinemas across Nigeria during the holiday season. Despite these limited screens, the title still raked in N1.3 billion as at January 10, according to promoters.

It was not only Akindele’s ATCJ that recorded massive box office hit. During the same period, Toyin Abraham’s film, ‘Malaika’ grossed over N250million, while ‘Ada Omo Daddy’ by Mercy Aigbe made over N140 million.

In series of well-deserved commendations for her extraordinary achievements, some of Funke Akindele’s colleagues in the movie industry showered encomiums on her for blazing the trail in box office revenue. United Kingdom-based Nigerian filmmaker, Obi Emelonye praised Funke and her team:

“First of all, let me congratulate Funke Akindele and her team, including my brother and friend JideKene Achufusi. What they have achieved with ‘A Tribe Called Judah’ is unprecedented in our history. I don’t want to get bogged down in the crass argument whether the N1 billon plus figure is inflated, padded or not. The important thing is that the film has galvanized Nigerian cinema audiences.

“And if we are arguing about the billion marks, which is double what the previous record is, then we are talking uncharted territory here. For that Funke and her team deserve respect and praise. Whichever way you look at it; it is great win for the industry that no one believed can make cinema work when we pioneered it 13 years ago. If Funke can do N1 billion with the number of cinemas in Nigeria today, just imagine the possibilities for our industry.”

Kunle Afolayan, award-winning Director and actor whose films are also known for their artistic and commercial success, attributed the runaway success of ‘A Tribe Called Judah’ to hard work.

“I congratulated her and the team when the film was released and encouraged people to watch it. She and her team really worked very hard with the promotion of the film,” Afolayan said.

Describing the recent commercial success of Nigerian films at the cinema as the ‘golden era’, Deputy Managing Director of Filmhouse Group, Moses Babatope noted in a statement, “We are witnessing a golden era for Nigerian cinema, and Funke Akindele’s ‘A Tribe Called Judah’ reaching the 1 billion Naira mark is an indication that the creative industry despite the stiff competition from international streaming platforms, our local content continues to thrive, engaging audiences on a grand scale.”

If nothing else, the revenue from the three movies that exhibited, during the yuletide, hints of huge potential for the industry. We can imagine what the industry can make with having, in Nigeria, just 1000 screens, not to talk of 3000 screens. The possibilities are truly huge for filmmakers and other players in the industry. This is apart from the multiplier effect on the economy.

With the right infrastructure; more collaboration among government; private sector players and the motion picture practitioners, Nigeria can actually produce billionaire and multimillionaire film makers and allied professionals like their counterparts in hollywood. Funke Akindele and some of her colleagues have shown us that this is possible.

President Bola Tinubu understands the immense economic potentials of creative industry as an enabler of wealth creation and growth driver. The current administration’s intense focus on the sector will significantly galvanize it as a major contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The decision of President Tinubu to establish a full Ministry to superintend over the creative industry was not by happenstance. It was borne out of deliberate planning and critical evaluation of the socio-economic importance of the sector to national development.

The good news is that the Minister in charge of the sector, Hannatu Musawa, has the full support of President Tinubu to expand the capacity of the industry as one of the main enablers of economic growth. The Minister is passionate too about activating sustainable and enduring growth in the creative industry. At a recent industry stakeholders’ meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima, where the Vice President revealed that the creative industry will benefit hugely from the $650million Investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises (I-DiCe) programme his office is supervising, an elated Musawa reinforced the Federal Government’s commitment to strengthen the sector and enable the professionals to achieve more.

“We want to create the conducive environment for you to operate in the way you need to,” Musawa declared.

From all indications, the hard work of our creative professionals, backed by a conducive environment and sound policies provided by the present administration will unleash glad tidings for the sector this year and beyond.

-Ajayi is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

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