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IYAV, Ben Due: Nollywood, Cultural Diplomacy and National Security in Contemporary Nigeria: Problems, Challenges and Prospects

Nollywood, Cultural Diplomacy and National Security in Contemporary Nigeria: Problems, Challenges and Prospects

Ben Due IYAV, PhD

Department of Theatre Arts

Benue State University, Makurdi


GSM: +234-703-680-0107


This paper x-rays the movie industry in Nigeria otherwise known as Nollywood and its role in the cultural diplomacy sector of Nigeria. The paper also looks at the place of Nollywood in the area of national security. Indeed in the last six years, Nigeria has witnessed an incredible rise in security challenges. This has had an adverse effect on the country’s image abroad, resulting in numerous problems including foreign investors scare. With Nigerian movies being exported in their thousands by the day to the countries of the world, the industry has become a force to reckon with at the international level. However, most nations of the world may be interested in investing only in peaceful environments and would not tolerate the reign of terror of Boko Haram in Nigeria. The paper looks at culture and what cultural diplomacy entails, examining the theoretical base for International relations orchestrated by the cultural policy of an ideal state and society. There is no doubt that there are numerous problems and challenges associated with Nigeria’s Nollywood, the practice of cultural diplomacy in Nigeria and national security. The paper reviews and links these accordingly and concludes with various recommendations.  


Nigeria’s Nollywood has gradually become a household name across the globe. It is an indisputable fact that in every country of the world today, Nollywood has established a respected presence. With Nollywood go the antecedents of culture and the packages that go with the indigenous heritage of African societies captured in Nollywood movies. Every society indeed has a cultural heritage of some sort, Nigeria not an exception. These cultures have over the years been mirrored in the theatrical movie productions of Nollywood. These movies showcase the life stories of the various communities and their people who struggle to survive and fulfil their life ambitions and aspirations.

Stories of love, hate, ambition, struggles, conquests, wars and victories are featured in these movies shot across the length and breadth of Nigeria in the last thirty or more years. Today, Nollywood has featured nearly every tribe/ethnic nationality of Nigeria in its films. Each of these nationalities is already blessed with a culture, tradition and archetypal systems spanning centuries which captured in Nollywood movies becomes public and popular. The world audience gets to see and appreciate such cultural assets by watching such movies which are shipped in their millions by the day across oceans to every nook and cranny of the world. The global reception of these movies is rated good, but there is a problem on ground where these movies emanate which is threat to peace.

Entertainment is usually more valuable when there is peace. It is not possible to enjoy a full length movie in a war torn region with missiles, grenades and bomb-blasts simultaneously occurring by the minute. Nollywood is an entertainment tool showcasing Nigeria through the instrumentality of movies. If there is terrorism such as the one which is a challenge to Nigeria today, the Boko Haram evil, it renders Nollywood redundant, useless and a waste as people hardly can watch movies when bomb-blasts are hitting them by the minute, or they are being kidnapped such as the experience of the Chibok girls numbering about 250 were taken away by the Boko Haram militants, and who are still at large till date.

As if the mayhem unleashed on Nigeria and her citizens by Boko Haram is not enough, another sect, has surfaced to add to Boko Haram in Nigeria. This new sect is another threat to people in Nigeria going by their agenda which is to work towards a Nigeria where Western Education is not to be allowed. The new Boko Haram like sect is yet to fully unleash its terrorist vent and poison on Nigeria since it is yet too early to determine what it is like, but suffice is to say that both culture and traditions of the indigenous people of Nigeria suffers setbacks when sects arise challenging the status quo that has been enshrined in society so as to promote peace, unity, wellbeing and progress, such sects setting out to do damage to the country through their terrorist activities.

National security is hinged on peace and peace is derived from a national positioning of a society. Peace is a critical element in the process of Nollywood development since without peace, there can be no effectual Nollywood.

Statement of the Problem

Nollywood is a vibrant industry in Nigeria which has gradually developed and advanced well enough to become a household name in the world. Though Nollywood is good, with a great potential, thus industry cannot grow in an environment where national security is questionable.

The cultures and traditions which Nollywood promote through the movies and theoretical productions of the industry are threatened with lack of peace and security. Several research studies have been carried out before in the area of appreciation, assessment and potential gauging of the Nollywood industry. The various problems and challenges of Nollywood have been critically appraised before now. However, the synergy between Nollywood, cultural Diplomacy and National Security, through crucial, has not yet enjoyed the needed attention.

Indeed there would be no future for threat of annihilation, terrorist devastation and retardation in addition to other security related problems. This relationship between Nollywood, cultural diplomacy and National security needs to be scrutinized clearly in order to bring out issues underneath it for probing, assessment and possible recommendations for national Development in Nigeria.

Nollywood And Peace

The pursuit of peace is expected to be a collective enterprise for Nigerians. Peace is key to all development and it provides the needed atmosphere for human activities to thrive with little or no distractions as the case may be. However, according to Member George-Genyi, The dominant news item in the 21st century is that violence orchestrated by individuals and groups in pursuit of different goals. This violence is experienced by individuals, groups, communities, countries and perhaps globally. The intensity of violence oscillates from low to very high level with deep pains. Violence is indeed widespread. Reports of violent conflicts that destroy lives and material resources, disrupt entire communities, states and affect regions are common place (1).

The above description of society today calls attention to the need to pursue peace vigorously through cultural diplomacy. Elsewhere, Yakubu Nguemo and Ben Due have averred to the fact that “the pursuit of world peace has led to the establishment of organizations and councils charged with the responsibility of establishing it. The World Peace Council (WPC) was formed in 1949 and at about 1971; the council had about 600 members from 104 countries (Peace Courier 4, in Yakubu & Due 125).

Peace advocates carry out vigorous campaigns against war and conflicts. They employ diplomacy to facilitate this, working hard at making parties or groups to see the need for dialogue, compromises and united fronts in the pursuit of common goals of social progress. Economically speaking, investors especially the big time ones who look out for areas to establish industries and big time companies avoid localities where there is no peace.

Nigeria as a vast country with numerous natural and material resources could have been a good area for investors but due to the Boko Haram terrorism threat in addition to other security challenges including the ever increasing cases of kidnappings especially of expatriates, investors are avoiding Nigeria. Peace across the country on a continual basis could have been the solution but such peace is lacking. Nearly every day witnesses a bomb blast in Nigeria with killings, maiming, rape, and other evils against innocent citizens.

With this situation of general insecurity in addition to the other ills that are characteristic of Nigeria such as corruption, 419, political instability, bribery, insecurity, Greed, indiscipline, drug abuse and trafficking, injustice, economic sabotage, lack of accountability, poverty, etc. the international community maintains a general negative image of Nigeria since Nigerians who travel abroad are molested at International Airports. Nigerians abroad generally suffer the consequences of the bad image of Nigeria as they are deprived certain privileges and are looked upon as bad people.

A positive effort towards solving some of these image problems at the international level which affect Nollywood too, was the rebrand Nigeria campaign which was popular with Dora Akunyili, a former Minister of Information in Nigeria. According to Agnes Ojoma Paul, The indigenous rebranding vision, a nationalistic developmental campaign of Professor Dora Akunyili, a vociferous Honourable Minister of Information and Communication is timelessly timely. The huge level of socio-economic, politico-religious, cultural and moral rot among Nigerians is frightening, appalling and leave much more to be imagined. No nation thrives on bribery, corruption, laziness, myopia, visionlessness and ineptitude (Introduction xvii).    

The above describes the realities that have over the years given Nigeria a bad name and a bad image which Nollywood as a movie industry has the potential to help correct through the instrumentality of cultural diplomacy.


Theoretical Framework

Diplomacy is a critical instrument of society especially in the contemporary times. A. Appadorai in providing a background to the origin of the state assets that, The state is the result of an agreement entered into by men who originally had no governmental organizations. The history of the world of this divisible into two clear periods; the period before the state was instituted and the period after. In the first period, there being no government, there was no law which could be enforced by a coercive authority, men lived, it was said in a state of nature, in which they were subject only to such regulations as nature was supposed to prescribed, but there was no human authority to formulate these rules precisely or to enforce them… but they agree on its essential Idea, viz that the state is a human creation, the result of a contract (19).

It is the above stated contract that naturally and automatically warrants the cultivation of diplomacy and the diplomatic spirit. This is necessary because man, humanity and his society is by nature lawless and in disorder and disarray. Thomas Hobbes in his book, The Leviathan, explains that: Man is essential selfish; he is moved to action not by his intellect or reason, but by his appetites, desires and passions. Men living without any common power set over them i.e. in a state of nature, would be in that conditions which is called warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man… (quoted in Appadorai 22).

The point of concern from the above is basically the idea of “every man against every man,” which is anarchy. If across the globe, there is anarchy, every man against every man, the world would have no future. Rather, it will be poised towards destruction and annihilation. In a state of anarchy, it will not be possible to realize Plato’s words in his book, The Republic, which are: Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in storytelling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes.

By all means.

And what shall be their education? Can we find a better than the traditional sort?

And this has two divisions, gymnastic for the body, and music for the soul (Dukore 12).

The above is the reference to the state of things and atmosphere where Nollywood can thrive. Diplomacy is an activity of managing relations between different countries or people (see Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 410). It is a skill in dealing with people in difficult situations without upsetting or offending them. Derived from a Greek word that means making a deal with other countries, it is an art involving the calibration of relations through negotiations carried out by certain anointed ambassadors or representatives of the interested countries or societies. Diplomacy is key to abating wars and conflicts. By putting forward each other’s states of interest, the goal of enhancing relations is achieved. The essence is to establish mutual relations that promote the interest of the partners for their common good.

Diplomacy is the engine room which has for decades now sustained the key pillars of societies especially trade, cultural exchange, economic growth, educational pursuits, religion goals; tourism and social advancements, and general search for solutions to common challenges of societies. Sun Izu’s The Art of War provides insight in to the roots of organized diplomacy in history. As early as 496 BC, societies had become aware of the importance of diplomacy and its role in curbing war.

Diplomacy efforts in history cut across the world and from Asia to Europe, Africa to America, peoples of all societies have over the centuries practiced diplomacy in order to enhance unity, peace and mutual progress. It is clear from available literatures such as these that the importance of diplomacy has been known and used by man as far back as civilization had taken roots.

International Relations Theory provides insight into the core values of diplomacy and its place in human affairs. It is clear that every society has something to offer to the other, and every set of people are blessed with a peculiar heritage which is relevant to the other who has not got that same blessing. That variation is the spice of life is a true fact which underlies the very foundation of the societies of the world. It is in this respect that it is important to appreciate nature’s strategy of variations factored into the racial types, tribal differences, cultural differences, skin colour types, language differences, agricultural produce and natural resources variations based on geographical settings and otherwise. International Relations Theory is usually viewed from the major areas of realism, liberalism, constructivism and Marxist perspectives. For the purpose of this discourse, Interdependence Liberalism would be adopted for analysis within the confines of Nollywood, cultural diplomacy and national security in Nigeria.

Interdependence Liberalism theory posits that increased interdependence between certain societies and countries both aligns and unites them and increases their chances of mutual co-existence while reducing and even eliminating their chances of engaging in war, disputes or clashes. This theory promotes and supports modernization as societies link up with one another through business, trade, exchange of goods and services, cultures, sports, educational exchange programmes and anything else of importance.

It is important to state here that globalization itself thrives on the ideals of interdependence and exchanges of everything of importance. Nollywood being about movies from Nigeria for the global audience finds it’s bearing of importance here as societies of the world buy, watch and appreciate Nigerian cultures features in these Nollywood movies. Nigerians who are the owners of this Nollywood industry themselves enjoy and patronize movies from other parts of the world too. Hollywood, Bollywood and movies from other parts of the world can all be found in the Nigeria market. The movies from other parts of the world are already household entertainment instruments in homes in Nigeria just as Nigeria’s Nollywood is in those same parts of the world, an exchange exercise in place for mutual benefits for all. It must be stated that movies from the other parts of the world such as USA, UK, Germany, and ASIA have been here in Nigeria since the 1950’s.

Nollywood and Cultural Diplomacy

Indeed Nollywood has become a global phenomenon in the contemporary times. According to Tochukwu J. Okeke, The industry has grown so big today that it is considered a cultural export for Nigeria as it selects most of its themes from the culture of the people, not minding the multiplicity of Nigerian cultures since film can be used “as a catalyst towards the integration of the various ethnic cultures in Nigeria (Kofoworola 209) to the extent that it now commands a wide viewership across the African continent and beyond (25).

This is true especially that the same continent is blessed with thousands of cultures and ethnic nationalities which point to the virgin resource before the Nollywood industry. There is therefore so much yet to be tapped resources for harnessing into the Nollywood industry for the world audience. A closer look at what culture is reveals the various dimensions of the culture resource before Nollywood. According to John Macionis, Culture is the values, beliefs, behaviours, and material objects that together form a peoples ways of life, when studying culture, sociologists of the distinguish between thoughts and things. Non material culture includes symbolic human creations ranging from art to Zen; material culture refers to physical creations of a society, everything from armaments to zippers (36).

The above reveals the various and numerous aspects of culture in Nigeria which lies largely untapped and efforts by Nollywood remain commendable as more is still yet to be done. The survival of Nollywood is however largely dependent on the patronage of the rest of the world which is their target too. These cultures and the rich variety of heritage of the Nigeria people is the resource base for Nollywood to the rest of the world since cultural diplomacy is paramount in the process towards achieving desired successes.

Cultural diplomacy is a strand of diplomacy that dwells on cultural exchange. It focuses on those things that are at the core of each other’s culture, in order to develop them for mutual benefits. Under cultural diplomacy, ideas, general issues of the particular society and her culture and the aspirations of that society are shared in an exchange method. The shared experience builds relationships and opens doors for further explorations, enjoyment of each other’s blessings and heritage and peaceful harmonious existence is consequently enhanced.

Cultural diplomacy is equally a fundamental key in security issues the world over. Consequently, national security in every society in the world is today promoted and enhanced through the instrumentality of cultural diplomacy. Nollywood has already achieved a commendable feat having showcased the cultural stamina of Nigeria to the world within the last thirty years or more. This is a positive contribution as the eyes of the world are now open to the reality of Nigeria being a vast, complex and fully blessed country with a heritage that still lies largely untapped.

Challenges and Problems

Lack of Love for Motherland and Low Patriotism: It is clear that the idea of patriotism in Nigeria is questionable going by the history of the country and the antics of her politicians. The first key to national development is patriotism. However, this is a serious challenge as most Nigerians seem to care about themselves and themselves alone, constantly looking forwards to what they can get from Nigeria, and not what they can do for the country. This is a challenge to Nollywood and its stakeholders who should find ways to use their films to address patriotism issues among Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.

Boko Haram and General Terrorism:Nollywood can only thrive in a peaceful environment since the problems posed by Boko Haram in contemporary Nigeria are a real threat to the progress of the Nollywood industry. The bombings of mosques, churches, markets, hospitals, and other criminal activities of the sect is hereby condemned. The onus is on Nollywood stakeholders to find ways to chart a pathway for the country through the vehicle of cultural diplomacy.

Poverty: The problem of poverty in Nigeria is a big challenge. One school of thought asserts that most youths join the Boko Haram sect because of poverty. With survival in Nigeria becoming increasingly difficult, and the gap between the rich and the poor ever increasing, the Boko Haram sect takes advantage to recruit the youths who join them to carry out terrorist activities in and around Nigeria. Poverty concerns are a real challenge before Nollywood and the industry needs to find ways to address the challenge through their movies.

Global Terrorism Agenda: Terrorist organizations such as ISIS have openly declared war on the world unless the world conforms to their variety of Islamic ideals. Their terrorist activities across the globe point to a real threat to Nollywood. Such organizations have links with smaller groups such as the Boko Haram in Nigeria. A challenge is that the bigger ones (ISIS) could finance the smaller ones (Boko Haram), making terrorism a real and continuing threat to peace which Nollywood depends on so much for survival and progress since peace is the platform for the growth of the entertainment industry.

Corruption: At the heart of nearly every project in Nigeria is corruption. Nollywood has its own share of corruption experienced within its industry over the years. A sincere commitment to the overall Hollywood project agenda could do well but officials of Nollywood are often caught in corruption allegations. Such bad eggs jeopardize the mission of Nollywood all for their personal gains and enrichments.

Lack of Clear Policies: Government policies should be made to promote and favour Nollywood with an understanding that it is a tool for cultural diplomacy. The government of the day should appreciate the place and role of Nollywood in national security issues. Deliberate policy formulating in the direction of cultural diplomacy through the instrumentality of Nollywood can go a long way.


  • Nollywood stakeholders should establish a Nollywood institution dedicated to promoting Nigeria’s cultural diplomacy to the world. It will be okay to emulate the British Council for example by establishing a Nigeria Council to carry out the same objectives that the British Council carries out. Nigeria should therefore establish her own Nigeria Council with offices in all continents of the world devoted to her cultural diplomacy agenda.
  • Clear cut policies through National Assembly bills designed for enhancing cultural diplomacy through Nollywood should be pursued vigorously.
  • Nollywood stakeholders should explore ways of educating Nigerian youths on the dangers of joining terrorist groups in addition to educating the generality of Nigerians through their movies on the ways that terrorists operate so as to educate, inform and conscientize Nigerians.
  • The Rebrand Nigeria project and campaign which was popular with Dora Akunyili was a positive development and it should be revived and integrated into a Nollywood cultural diplomacy effort before the countries of the world.


It is imperative to note that Nollywood has received a lot of acclaim the world over and much needs to be done as the countries of the world are looking forward to seeing much more from Nollywood. Cultural diplomacy efforts need to be initiated afresh and policies should evolve to cater for the workings and progress of this agenda of using Nollywood as a tool for cultural diplomacy for enhancing national security. The pursuit of peace is paramount especially in these contemporary times when humans are in a keen contest over resources. In this wise, peace ambassador projects can be embarked upon by Nollywood through collaborations with relevant organizations and bodies.

Nollywood stakeholders have a critical role to play in making their contribution to national development. It is on this premise that they should sit up and live up to their responsibility which is important to Nigeria. Government support and encouragement to Nollywood is equally important since this call for increased funding of Nollywood by the Government.  

Works Cited

Appadorai, A. The Substance of Politics. New Delhi: Oxford University press, 2004.

Jeremy, Black. A History of Diplomacy. Chicago: Chicago Press, 2010.

Macionis, John J. Society: The Basics. 8th Ed. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.

Member, George-Genyi. Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies. Makurdi: Gwatex Publishers, 2014.

Okeke, Tochukwu J. “Culture and Societal Change: Implications for the Sustained Growth of Nollywood.” In Samuel Ayedime Kafewo (Ed.), Nollywood and Theatre for Development (TFD): Exploring the Bridges of Interaction. Book of Proceedings, 24th Conference of SONTA, 2011.

Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary. 7th Ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Paul, Agnes Ojoma. “Introduction.” In Bob Ekarika & Godwin Onuche. Rebranding Nigeria for National Development. Makurdi: IQ Media Books, 2010.

Plato. “The Republic.” In Bernard Dukore. Dramatic Theory and Criticism; Greeks to Grotowski. London: Rinehart & Winston, 1975.

Roeder, Larry W. Diplomacy, Funding and Animal Welfare. Springer: Humburg Press, 2011.

Yakubu, Angell & Due, Ben. “Culture and Global Peace: Lessons from Playwrights.” In Emmanuel Samu Dandaura & Alex Chinwuba Asigbo (Eds.), Theatre, Culture and Reimaging Nigeria. Book of Proceedings, 23rd Conference of SONTA, 2010.


Ben Due IYAV, PhD is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre Arts, Benue State University, Makurdi. Benue State, Nigeria. He teaches Playwriting, Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Gender and Feminism and Theatre and Good Governance courses. He is published in various Journals and has chapters to numerous books in the area of Drama and Theatre.