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AFO, Donaldson Ushie: Repositioning Nollywood through Behaviour Change Communication

Repositioning Nollywood through Behaviour Change Communication: A Quest for Promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy and National Unity

Donaldson Ushie AFO

Department of Theatre & Media Studies

University of Calabar, Calabar



The Nigerian Movie Industry, Nollywood, like other industries in the country is not only a steaming engine that amplifies the movement of Nigerian culture, but also plays an important role in boosting the Nation’s economic viability since it creates job opportunities and helps young and vibrant Nigerians to develop their God-given talents. Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) is a process that motivates people to adopt and sustain good behaviours and lifestyles. Meaning that developing and sustaining good behaviour requires a continuing investment in BCC. Therefore, as part of effort to motivate the development of Nigeria’s cultural engine, called, ‘Nollywood,’ every Nigerian with Governments at all levels inclusive must work not only to change her negative perception of Nollywood, but project constructive criticism targeted at not tarnishing the image of the asset, but motivating the speedy development of the industry. The objective of the paper, therefore, is to examine the influence of Nigerians’ perception of Nollywood with a view to proffering Behaviour Change Communication aimed at curbing the menace.

Keywords: Behaviour, Change, Culture, Curbing, Communication, Nigeria, Nollywood, Unity.


It is difficult to debunk the fact that the Nigeria’s film industry-Nollywood is one of the largest film industries in the world. Grainger opines that,

only Bollywood surpasses Nollywood in film releases per year, while Hollywood lags way behind – their production values may be enormous, but they pay for it with a comparatively paltry output. Arguably, the Nollywood film industry helps enormously to put Nigeria ahead of the game when it comes to building a worldwide perception of the nation. Just as the US in the 1930s utilized its budding cinematic industry to export awareness of its culture and issues to the rest of the world, [the target of Nollywood may not be different] (page?).

Nollywood movie industry, from ab initio, has progressively projected not only the Nigerian Culture, but African cultural heritage to other parts of the world. This encompasses both good and bad aspects of the culture. Today, it is not out of place to say categorically that many Africans in Diaspora tend to feel at home when watching any of the Nollywood movies, but how Nigerians display enthusiasm in promoting this same cultural engine-Nollywood form the central concern of this paper.

           Alamu remarks that Nigeria’s Nollywood has been viewed as cultural products of the Nation, and the global attention currently enjoyed by it is due to efforts by producers to create a distinct film tradition (page?). The industry has advanced by virtue of the individual efforts of dominant producers and marketers in spite of its burgeoning challenges such as the problems of unabated piracy and the indifference of the government which has denied it the status of a foreign exchange.

Suffices to say that since the early 1990s, the Nollywood movie industry has churned out thousands of titles and has successfully brought to limelight many talented Nigerian actors and actresses. Through an amalgam of Nigerian narrative techniques (African storylines) and Western technology, the industry documents and re-creates socio-political and cultural events that occurred within and beyond the country borders. The industry has also provided employment for the teeming Nigerian population especially the youth (Ojukwu 22), not neglecting it enormous effort in knowledge production and wealth creation. However, in order to exude the continued enhancement of productivity and at the same time project the image of the country – Nigeria through this steaming cultural engine, Nollywood. Nigerians themselves must learn to view the industry in a positive light.

Statement of the Problem

This study reviews Nigerians’ perception of Nollywood. The problem of the study is occasioned by the attitude of many Nigerians patronizing other film industries around the world and tends to downgrade their own fabulous asset – Nollywood through severe perpetual criticism. These criticisms are hinged on the fact that Nollywood movies are often drawing attention to negative elements intrinsic in Nigeria’s culture. These according to Haynes (qtd in Ojukwu & Ezenandu 24) include: occultism, cultism, fetishism, witch-craft, devilish spiritualism, incest, violence, [extreme dislike and attempt to poison each other, corruption, human emasculation, political hooliganism, elections manipulation among many]. Indulging in the production of such movies with negatively based themes in an effort to advocate social change has unarguably won the industry negative patronage and criticism from many Nigerians who think perhaps, that the interest of the industry is hinged on excessive desire to make quick profits to the detriment of a sense of social responsibility and relevance and the true Nigerian cultural value. As a result, many Nigerians nowadays prefer to watch foreign movies and would rather spring into succinct effort targeted at disenchanting the effort of Nollywood towards addressing the ills of the Nigerian society through her arts.

Objectives of the Paper

  • ·To review Nigerians’ perception of Nollywood with a view to using this paper to advocate for behaviour change towards Nollywood movies.
  • To highlight certain impressions that the industry creates in an effort to utilize her craft.

Understanding of Basic Facts about Nollywood for Behaviour Change

Requesting Nigerians to change their behaviours toward Nollywood movies requires making them understand basic facts about the industry and adopt key attitudes. They have to perceive the industry as advocating behaviour change and the maintenance of safe behaviours, as well as seeking appropriate treatment of people for prevention of certain hideous experiences in the Nigerian society.

         Kukah, Nanda and Warm identity thatculture deals with the issues surrounding the identity of the daily lives of individuals or communities and that the preservation of any peoples’ culture has always been central to their very existence and survival and whenever or wherever this culture is threatened, people have always risen up to defend all that they cherish (page?). Perhaps, this is why many Nigerians rise up to challenge the dexterity of Nollywood for emphasizing the dire aspects of Nigeria’s culture in movies. But I feel that Nollywood methodology of cultural and historical retrospect is not directionless, but an approach to correcting the incorrect aspects of the culture for a change capable of inviting peaceful coexistence.

           Discernibly, virtually all nations have attributes of negative cultures and traditions which probably were handed down by generations before them. Some nations keep working assiduously to write off such culture by evolving and injecting modern ideas into their systems, this practice is not quite pronounced in Nigeria where retrogression seems to be the order of the day. Nollywood’s efforts in blowing out negative Nigerian culture and traditions which the society is supposed to look at as a drive towards the direction of advocacy for change has rather, severally been subjected to criticism. Alamus and Akande have pointed out that “…critics have questioned among other things, the content of Nollywood films which are always revolves around topics such as, conflict between mother-in-law and their son’s wives, scenes dealing with police battling criminals, burial and consultations withnative doctors” (page?).

Alawode and Uduakobong believe that Nollywood portrayal of Nigerian negative attitudes like witchcraft, occultism/cultism, ritualism, violence, thuggery and hooliganism, corruption and get-rich-quick tendencies amongst others seem to be overrepresented and exaggerated in the films and could be contributing to the increasing embarrassing actions and attitudes meted to Nigerians (especially honest and decent travellers) outside its shore (110). The question is if Nollywood is supposed to be investing her arts in the glorification of these attitudes? Akeh (qtd in Alawode and Olayinka 115) posits that, … now is the time that Nigerian situations as presented by Nigerian actors and actresses are seen not only in Nigerian homes but all over Africa and the rest of the world. Furthermore, Ekwuazi asserts that a film industry that aspires to be in the vanguard of national development must do the following as rightly eulogized by Osofisan:

  • Raise the level of consciousness through liberating the spirits and strengthening the minds of its people;
  • Educate, that is - educate to bring out that which is already within, and ‘give knowledge and truth;
  • Clarify issues, by enlightening [people] as to why so many negative conditions and images exist in their community in order to eliminate the negative condition and strengthen the positive condition; …

This explains why Nollywood movies highlight the ways of life and happenings of Nigeria like other film industries. Surprisingly, all that the industry get is severe perpetual criticism from Nigerians who are supposed to champion promotional campaign targeted at enhancing the speedy development of the industry.

           Akaoso reacted to Professor Akunyili’s assertion that the Nigerian film industry has contributed to the nation’s poor image, saying it is misplaced and out of reality. He rather opines that Nollywood has done a lot … to place Nigeria on the map of international film industries (www.iosrjournals.org).

         Looking at the activity of Nollywood from the perspective of Igbo society, the industry’s succinct portrayal of the Igbo as a people that are diabolical, violent in nature with excessive yearning for quick wealth may not be out of place based on countless evidences that could be projected to back such portrayal. Ojukwu and Ezenandu lend their voices to support this claim thus:

To be precise, most of the films set within the cultural environment such as Okpechi’s (2001) ‘More Money’; Nwabueze’s (2006) ‘Illegal Brother’ and Nnaji-Ude’s (2000) ‘Blood for Blood’ portray attributes of poverty, negative means of creating wealth (such as fraud and occultic means), attitudes of the people to the widow, unadulterated village setting (such as mud houses) and dressing code. Though some of these elements are still operational in some Igbo communities perhaps, as result of poor or lack of political education, cultural orientation… (24).

This approach to exploring or unveiling the uniqueness of Nigeria’s social ills by Nollywood that has unfortunately met with severe perpetual criticism by many Nigerians to a sense, is meant to amplify social change for the growth and development of the Nation and not to rather place a question make on the image of the Nation as asserted by some critics.


Nollywood movies remain a powerful instrument for the transmission of cultural values. As a propaganda apparatus, it embodies the characteristics of being employed by government and private organizations among others interested in the art of subtle diplomacy. This is predicated on the fact that its popularity as an entertainment medium has made it easy to convey and reinforce information meant to advance a certain truth or reality. It is horrendous therefore, for the industry to face endless severe criticism from Nigerians in spite of its role in helping to shape perspectives on the Nigeria's culture. Nigerians should therefore, be proud to show appreciation for the significance of their cultural elements by acknowledging and patronizing the Nigerian movie industry, because movies that are made in Nigeria and about Nigeria help to establish a link between continents and the people who live on them and as observed by Onuzulike, “providing critically important points of reference for immigrant people who are struggling to reconcile dual identities as citizens of their countries of origin and the new society in which they are trying to adapt and build new lives” (page?).


  • It should be noted that the development of Nollywood as Nigeria’s cultural engine cannot be amplified by severe perpetual criticism, but through our collective exertions to support the effort of the industry and in a manner completely lack of bias in terms of projecting our criticism.
  • Nigerian producers of films should take cognizant of the fact that they owe the Nigerian society a duty to promote the good of the society, and not only highlighting the dire aspects of our culture especially behavioural idiosyncrasies.


Works Cited

Akande, Victor. “Upping the Prospect of Indigenous-Language Films.” The Nation, 24 Aug. 2009.

Alamu, O. “Narrative and Style in Nigerian (Nollywood) Films.” African Study Monograph 31.4 (2010): 163.

Alawode, Sunday Olayinka & Uduakobong Sunday. “Home Video as Nigerian Image Maker.” European Scientific Journal 9, 11(Apr. 2013):110, 115.

Ekwuazi, Hyginus. “The Communicative Import of Film in National Development.” In Unoh, Solomon (Ed.), Topical Issues in Communication Arts. Uyo: Modern Business Press, 1991: 160.

Grainger, Juliette, Nollywood and the World - How Nollywood is Viewed outside Nigeria, 2014 .

Kukah, Matthew H. Religion, Culture and the Politics of Development. Lagos: CBAAC, 2007.

Ojukwu, Chris C. & Ezenandu, P. E. “A Paradigm Shift from Tradition to Modernity in Nollywood’s Projection of African Narratives.Global Journal of Human Social Science 12.5. USA: Global Journals Inc. (2012): 22, 24.

Onuzulike, Uchenna. “Nollywood: The Influence of the Nigerian Movie Industry
on African Culture.” The Journal of Human Communication: A Journal of the Pacific and Asian Communication Association 10.3 (2007).

Putsch, Christian. “Welcome to Nollywood: Nigeria's Film Industry is more Prolific than Hollywood – and Faces even more Piracy.” Times World, 2011.