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ASUQUO, Nsikan Bassey: Transforming Positive Nigerian Cultural Values into Audio-Visuals for Nollywood Films

Transforming Positive Nigerian Cultural Values into Audio-Visuals for Nollywood Films: As Panacea for Curbing Crime

Nsikan Bassey ASUQUO

Department of Theatre and Media ARTS

Federal University Oye-Ekiti

Ekiti State, Nigeria

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Abstract

Before the incursion of foreign cultural practices into the Nigerian cultural space, the pre-colonial Nigerian society enjoyed a great deal of peace and order. But now, there is no gain saying that the world is going through a state of moral profligacy; and as a result of these, crimes are threatening the security of lives and properties more than ever. The alien cultural practices brought by colonialism and the electronic media such as the television, computers and mobile phones have come to create some sort of environment for man; as their contents exude very strong influences on the human psyche; especially on children at their formative-ages - as they tend to emulate what they watch on screen. This study adopts a qualitative research methodology, which includes examining existing literature to investigate and project the potentials in transforming the positive Nigerian cultural values into audio-visual elements as dominant constituents of Nollywood films for the purpose of curbing the current crimes. This paper situates its argument within the context of Emile Zola theory of character to summit that: since man’s attitude can be influenced by his or her environment, such as Nollywood films, the positive Nigerian cultural values should be revived and transform into Nollywood films in order attuned the viewers/audience to eschew evil and embrace that which is good; as such, crime menace will be curbed.

Key Words: Positive Nigerian Cultural values, Audio-Visuals, Environment and Nollywood

Introduction

The word today is in crisis due to the increasing rate of criminalities. Obafemi and Ayakoroma confirm this assertion by stating that, there are “… growing security and insurgent crises on our land with a crying demand for the traditional institutions to rise to the occasion and participate more effectively in finding ending and durable solution to peace and the security travails in our country…” (13). This study therefore seeks to project the revival and practice of the positive Nigerian Cultural value as the panacea for curbing these plethora of crimes in our society.

By specifically identifying the phrase, “positive Nigerian cultural values”, this research admits that not all cultural practices or values that were previously practiced in the pre-colonial Nigerian society are here considered to be revived for proliferation. Therefore, it is pertinent at this juncture to define the context of the “positive cultural values” as implied by this researcher. According to the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the word, “positive,” is defined as that which is “directed at dealing with something or producing a successful result; good or useful.” Against the background of this definition therefore, the phrase, “positive Nigerian cultural values” is implied in this study to mean: the ways of life that constitute particular community’s rules, principles and norms that regulate the conduct of its members to be acquiescent with moral rectitude. In other words, these are those Nigerian cultural values or practices which produce effects that are good or useful for the existence of man and the cooperate existence of the society. Therefore, this research explores the possibility of reviving and transforming the positive Nigerian cultural values into audio-visual forms and proliferated in our environment via Nollywood films; in a bid to stem the social vices that are devastating the Nigerian society today. Some of the positive Nigerian cultural practices that are vital in ensuring moral rectitude (for stable homes and societies) are seen in: Morals in child-upbringing, Dignity in courtship and marriage, Sense of respect for elders and authorities, Sense of dignity in dressing, among others.

Today, Westernization in Africa and globalization via technological devices (such as the internet, satellite television) are contributing immeasurably in the alterations of the pre-colonial Nigerian culture of checkmating crime; hence, the upsurge of crimes. In support of the above assertion, Ollorwi Osaro (qtd. in Community Policing and Crime Control in Pre-Colonial Eleme: Issues and Perspectives), avers that:

Today, cherished values are threatened and utter disregard for legitimate and lawful sense of possession is elevated. Culture conflict, protective anonymity which neutralizes law enforcement agencies, heterogeneity, strong feeling of relative deprivation and socio-economic frustration has changed the face and complexion of crime. Dexterity and sophistication in criminal practices are constantly displayed and reenacted by criminals. This situation is brought about by the advent of ‘Western Civilization’ as loopholes have been created with the provision of modern legal system for manipulation by criminals to free themselves from the very crime they have committed wherever the victim or aggrieved parties cannot prove their cases beyond reasonable doubt. This was not the case in pre-colonial Nigerian traditional society [Emphasis mine] (culled from www.ollorwi.com.ng).

Madukwe and Madukwe (cited in African Value Systems and the Impact of Westernization: A Critical Analysis), corroborate the above assertion as they state that:

Africans from the pre-colonial era have their peculiar culture which is evidenced in their ways of life. Their value systems as elements of their culture are depicted in marriage relationships, communal living, religious practices, and legal system and so on. However, the eventual contact with the western culture through colonialism and, with the subsequent upsurge of globalization, these values are not only being challenged but also eroded.

Still in support of the above assertion, Ogbonmwan (cited in African Value Systems and the Impact of Westernization: A Critical Analysis), states that:

every society has rules, principles and norms that regulate the conduct of its members. In different communities, people are rooted in their customs and values that make them distinct from others. However, the impact of westernization has brought about changes.

Lamenting about the current dwindling fortunes of African culture, Adeseye states that, it is the area of integrative role that the African indigenous culture has suffered the greatest disadvantage following the introduction of elements of Western and other foreign cultures into the black Africa (1). Also, Mohammed A. Sadiq (in the “Foreword” of Perspectives on Cultural Administration in Nigeria), states that culture has been defined as:

… the totality of the way of life evolved by a people in their attempt to meet the challenges of living in their environment, which give order and meaning to their social, political, and economic, aesthetic and religious norms and modes of organization thus distinguishing a people from their neighbours [Emphasis is mine].

It is important to note that the African cultural values were basically handed down from one generation to the other. Sadiq, in corroboration with the above assertion states that, “as it were, culture is transmitted by learning; and learning requires social interaction” (8). The major social interactions that was responsible for transmitting the African culture from one person or generation to another was by oral tradition – through story-telling, a soiree (where the people gather to share experiences), and by observation of how parents or the older generation handle issues. The problem today is that the present young generation seems not to have the older generation to learn the African culture from (as it used to be); since almost every older persons such as parents, are too busy trying to earn a living and with too little or no time for social interaction (such as story-telling) with the family. So, the young generation is left with the social media such as face-book, WhatsApp, the You-tube via the Internet; which is easily accessible by smart phones and computers. It is from such social media that kids and youths are exposed to foreign and harmful cultural practices, such as pornography, use of foul languages, disrespect for authorities and elders, use of hard drugs, disregard to the sanctity of human life; illicit sexual affairs without fear of reproach or reprisal effect(s), use of guns or other dangerous weapons as the easiest way to settle scores (even at the slightest provocation) and other harmful attitudinal dispositions that are alien to the real Nigerian value system. There is no gainsaying that the world is today replete with moral decadence – prostitution, teenage pregnancy, homo-sexuality, cheating, stealing, armed robbery, murder, even terrorism and now, same sex marriage and pornography.

As it is, the gradual but steady embrace of these foreign cultural practices is leading or as almost led to the extinction of the real Nigerian cultural values. According Ogbonmwan, the general belief is that many aspects of Nigeria’s culture are fast losing relevance (2). And the perception is that something needs to be done urgently to save the situation. In recent times, some of the ills trailing the nation have been blamed on the lack of cultural values. This has virtually left everyone with the desire to go back to the days of yore, when culture balanced most citizens’ psyche about good and evil (http://nationalmirroronline.net/new/bringing-cultural-studies-to-nigerian-classrooms).

As clearly pointed out above, westernization and globalization have inadvertently brought about serious changes in African beliefs system and practices. Despite the increase in the spread of western education and advancement in knowledge and technology, the rate of crime and criminalities seem to be on the increase. In confirmation of the increased rates of crime in our society, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention, carried out a survey in 2002 on the rate of crimes in the world; bellow are ten countries that top the list:

  1. United States (11.88 million),
  2. United Kingdom (with a crime rate of 6.5 2 million),
  3. Germany (with a crime rate of 6.51 million),
  4. France (with a crime rate of 3.77 million),
  5. Russia (with a crime rate of 2.95 million),
  6. Japan (with a crime rate of 2.85 million),
  7. South Africa (with a crime rate of 2.68 million),
  8. Canada (with a crime rate of 2.52 million),
  9. Italy (with a crime rate of 2.23 million),
  10. India (with a crime rate of 1.76 million) (http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Total-crimes).

It is clear from the above that, the United States appears to stand out in this statistic, having four times as many crimes as Germany which is next on the list. However, this may be misleading as the population of the United States is about four times as high as the population of Germany. As a country with a high population is likely to have more crime (since there are more people to commit crimes), In per capita ranking, the United States falls to number 8, between the United Kingdom (No. 6) and Germany (No. 12).

By the 2015 statistics, the wave of crime rates became more prominent in African countries. The percentages of crime/safe rate of the top ten countries indicate as follows:

S/N NAME   OF COUNTRY CRIME   RATE PERCENTAGE SAFETY   RATE PERCENTAGE
  South Sudan    85.32 14.68
  Venezuela        84.07 15.93
  Guatemala 79.34 20.66
  South Africa    78.44 21.56
  Afghanistan     77.34 22.66
  Guyana            76.88 23.12
  Nigeria             76.60 23.40
  Trinidad and   Tobago 75.28 24.72
  Honduras         74.91 25.09
  Bahamas 72.93 27.07

                       

In a view to finding solution to the glut of vices plaguing the world today, some of the positive Nigerian cultural values which the pre-colonial Nigeria upheld to ensure moral rectitude, peace and order, are here considered to be projected via Nollywood films. But before delving into the discourse on transforming the positive Nigerian cultural values into Nollywood films as panacea for curbing crime, it is pertinent at this juncture for us to understand the significance of this (positive Nigerian/African) culture. According to Adeseye, “the most important aspect of culture for man is that which concerns the integrative role which it plays in society and the integrative values that derive there from” (1). In addition, an artist, Archie Abia, esteems the African (Nigerian) cultural practices as he states that:

Nigeria will benefit a lot in the study of cultural studies, the type that used to be handed down informally some years back, because African culture is full of morals. ‘When we were growing up as kids in the village, we were taught the culture, in an informal mode which usually came in the form of folk stories. Essentially these stories teach morals and good values. And that is what the nation needs at this point. If there is a way such can be brought to school, why not?’ (http://nationalmirroronline.net/new/bringing-cultural-studies-to-nigerian-classrooms) [Emphasis is mine].

Lawore confirms the invaluable importance the pre-colonial Nigerian society attached to moral rectitude, as he adds that:

Yoruba people [Nigerians] approach moral moulding education at different fronts for the purpose of having peaceful homes and society. This is aimed at rearing obedient children in homes where they will eventually grow up to be law-abiding citizens. This method they adopt is to enact different societal ordinances to guard and guide all facets of life (80).

Emile Zola’s Theory of Character:

According to Brockett, “…character is determined in part by environment….” This, therefore, means that what humans (especially children at their formative ages) are frequently exposed to, do determine how they (humans) behave. If the environment in every home (which is a microcosm of a larger society) is saturated with values that are acquiescent with moral rectitude, every man in every home would consciously eschew evil; and the lager society will enjoy peace and order – a safe world.

The Positive Nigerian Cultural Values as Panacea for Curbing Crime:

Some of the positive Nigerian cultural values to be considered for resuscitation and transformation into audio-visuals for Nollywood films in order to serve as panacea for curbing moral rectitude include: the strong attachment to raising children with sound knowledge of moral rectitude (which are learned via modes like folktales); sense of Respect for elder and authority; sense of integrity in courtship/marriage; and sense of decency in dressing.

Child-character Moulding (via Folklores): the pre-colonial Nigeria society attached so much importance to the character moulding of every child; in order to ensure a safe future for both the child and the society. According to Ofonime Iyang:

In pre-colonial Ibibio (Nigerian) society parents were very particular about the kind of training their children received right from infancy since the future of the child depended on these. The parents chose the kind of …tale to be told to their children as a critical process of auditing the emotional and moral underpinnings of the tales so as to, carefully, leave out corrupt stories, that could pervert the child (10).

Sense of Respect for Authority and Elders: Respect is one of the important pillars upon which good manners rest in the Nigerian culture – great importance is attached to it because like in the military setting, it helps to maintain orderliness/decorum in interpersonal relationships and in the African society at large. Some of such relationships include: elder-youth relationship, husband and wife relationship, parent(s)-child relationship and so on. In most Nigerian cultures (the Yoruba for example), the sense of respect begins with the use of language. In corroboration with the above assertion, Lawore avers that:

Like the French, who have “tu” and vous to mean “you” in the plural and respect form respectively, the Yoruba also have iw and yin or ‘o’ and ‘’ to mean ‘you’ in singular or familiar and in plural forms. Thus the “banal you” (iw or O) is applied by an elderly person to a youth. Example: iw ni mo fri. That is, “it is you I want to see”. Conversely, if a youth should speak the same sentence to an adult he will say, yin ni mo f ri (21).

Since the Nigerian culture views respect as a behavioural culture that is indicative of proper home training, so when it is implied even in conversations, it first of all stimulate an enabling atmosphere for interpersonal interactions between the parties involved; because of the polite behaviour and high regard accorded the elderly person. This way, decorum sets in and the younger person stands the chance of befitting from the elderly (and vice-versa). Lawore goes on to state that: it is morally wrong for a younger person to be rude to an elderly person for any reason whatever, even if the elderly person is perceived to be at fault (22). In the same disposition, the holy book (the Bible), in Exodus 20 verse 12, God commands that children should accord their parents honour. Lawore goes further to state that:

…if a junior person insults an elderly person either for the fun of it or for some perceived wrong doing by the later, whether or not the offending youth is punished he has placed a curse on himself. So his punishment could be in any form either in the near or distant future (23).

Lawore’s assertion above is validated by the biblical account in 2 Kings chap. 2 verses 23 and 24, which records that when forty-two children insulted Elisha by calling him “bald-head,” Elisha “cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears,” which appeared from the woods and tore the forty-two children to pieces. This is indicative of the fact that the Lord was on the side of Elisha and against the children who insulted an elderly person (Elisha).

The respect between husband and wife was another form of cultural practice which the traditional Nigerian society adhered to; to ensure decorum in the family and the society at large. Just like the Holy Bible in Ephesians 5 verses 22 to 25, recognizes the husband as the head of the family, and admonishes “the wife” to honour her husband, the African culture also demands that the wife (irrespective of age difference or financial advantage), should accord her husband due respect; which includes not undermining his authority. In line with these assertions, Lawore opines that:

Culturally, the wife is junior in rank to the husband even if she is actually older. She respects her man by performing all her tasks that fall within her responsibility… the husband also shows respect for his wife by assisting her if the task on her hands is crippling (25).

Based on this treaty of respect in marriage, wives knew where their rights began and where they end. As such, there were little or no instances of divorce on the
basis of insubordination; because it was ingrained in every woman (before her marriage) that she must be submissive to her husband. As against this cultural practice, a lot of marriages have suffered wreckages because of disrespect in marriages; especially marriages that have to do with today’s celebrities.

Sense of Dressing: though teens in the pre-colonial Nigeria era could be seen in complete nudity, the ornaments worn by those who have attained puberty were for other reasons apart from being provocative as it is now (Lyndersay 8). According to Mallam Yahaya Abdulaziz, a Muslim cleric also stated that,

No good Muslim woman will dress indecently because it is clearly written: ‘Tell the believing men that they shall subdue their eyes (and not stare at the women), and to maintain their chastity. This is purer for them. God is fully cognizant of everything they do (http://leadership.ng/features/386775/dangers-indecent-dressing).

In confirmation of the dangers of indecent dressing, a retired school principal and mother of five, Mrs. Hilda state that:

It is unfortunate that standard has fallen in the society and parents are not helping because they don’t have time for their children. There are many reasons why young girls come out in indecent dresses but the most important, I think, has to do with self-esteem. When a young girl feels inadequate, lacking in self-confidence, she will do anything to draw attention to herself and wearing indecent clothes could be her way of doing that. They forget that for every action, there is a reaction; and that is why we have series of cases like rape. Most young women have fallen victims to rape because of the provocative dresses they put on. I believe that, indecent dressing debases womanhood because it tends to expose parts of the woman’s body that forms her treasure. Our pride as women lies in hidden and protected treasure; but when a girl exposes it to the public, it reduces her worth in the sight of everyone in society and it makes the man to lose respect in her; there won’t be anything left for the man to explore. Any man that will come after her will only be doing so out of lust, and just to devour what she has displayed for him. Even if you are decent but decide to wear indecent clothes, people will insult you… (http://leadership.ng/features/386775/dangers-indecent-dressing).

Mr. Peter Abbass, a Psychology lecturer in Nasarawa State Polytechnic also states that:

I think it‘s time a course on immorality or indecent dressing is introduced in schools. I think it is low self-esteem that is making young girls to dress indecently… Indecent dressing portrays our society and institution as immoral; if it’s in the church, it portrays the pastor as weak and not spiritually sound. Parents and adults must dress well and honourably as an example for younger generations. The mass media should promote good moral values and religious leaders must strongly preach against indecent dressing because you will be addressed by the way you are dressed (http://leadership.ng/features/386775/dangers-indecent-dressing).

Sense of Integrity in Courtship and Marriage: courtship and marriage in the cultural context is viewed as a very important affair that must be treated with utmost integrity; hence, the process that culminates in marriage is treated as such. It is a taboo for any intending couple to have carnal knowledge of themselves before marriage. In the Yoruba tribe, for example, Lawore states that:

… it is the boy or his agent that woos a girl for marriage. The search for an intended wife (or future partner) used to be largely by proxy. The proxy method is in two forms. In the first type, it is the father that sees a young girl whom he wants to court for his son. Before arriving at the decision to court and marry her for his son, he must have, as a mature person, studied and approved the family of the young girl as one to be associated with. He would come home to tell his son, of the ‘jewel’ and later arrange how the boy would go to the family so that he could spy on the girl. If he [the son] approves of the girl, the parents of the boy would then visit those of the girl to announce their intention. After the consent of the girl’s parents has been obtained, courtship begins (2) [Emphasis mine].

In the second proxy method of courtship, Lawore goes further to state that:

It is the boy that sees the girl of his choice and then hands the negotiation over to a close and trusted friend of his. In such an assignment the friend is doing the job of alárená is a go-between or intermediary between a boy and a girl in love. During this period the family of the girl sees only the alárená with their daughter whom they watch closely. These methods of courtship were very useful in ensuring sanctity in the relationship – the boy/man and the girl/woman had little no direct contact with each other; when they do, it was under close watch of parents or other elder(s). If the lady wants anything from her man, she sends her own friend to alárená. The relationship continues till close to marriage. On the other hand, the Western culture (which has now infiltrated into the African cultural space) allows the boys/men to openly and directly court the opposite sex and (recently even same sex). In the Western culture, direct contacts such as overtly, kissing, and even smooching are considered as normal expressions of love. But the negative effects of practicing these Western culture’s “normal expression of love” include: pre-marital sex (even on first date), unwanted pregnancy, sex-induced marriage/pregnancy-induced marriage (which often result in later realization of incompatibility), divorce (even at first disagreement) and single parenthood; which in some cases lead to depression, poor-parenting, improper upbringing, drug addictions and other criminalities that threatens homes and the cooperate existence of the society (2).

Virginity: unlike the current trend of illegitimate cohabitation by people of opposite sex and indiscriminate sexual affairs (especially among youths in the tertiary institution), the first lawful sexual contact was somehow celebrated in the pre-colonial Nigerian culture. Therefore, virginity was highly esteemed. According to Lawore, “until recently, it was a pride for the bride, her husband and her mother for the lady to remain a virgin till marriage!” (7). The parents of the bride would take pride in the fact that their daughter kept her virginity. Lawore adds that: “If the husband indicated that his wife was a virgin, the two families and their neighbours would quietly rejoice and give great respect to the lady …women who brought virginity to their husbands gained honour and respect in the community” (7). This culture of taking pride in virginity encouraged chastity; hence, guarded against the occurrences of unwanted pregnancy, sex-induced marriages (which often result in realization of incompatibility) and call for divorce (as it in the Western world). It is common to see in foreign (especially American) movies that illicit sexual affairs between teenagers are not viewed as serious crime – some parents who find their wards in such immoral act would merely advice that the fornicators should use condom next time. This is abhorrence in the pre-colonial Nigerian culture because virginity was celebrated.

The Significance of Nollywood Films in Projecting the Positive Cultural Values

  1. Pictures paint a thousand words: this is to say that what would have required a longer time and space for a resounding communication will only entail a lesser effort if imageries are employed – Nollywood, being a global phenomenon is such veritable platform.
  2. Due to the entertaining and alluring effects of movies, it is a potent medium for information delivery to targeted recipients.
  3. Viewers (especially the youths) easily and eagerly identify with and emulate movie actors (especially the “stars”) whom they see as role models. Therefore, character moulding messages can best be delivered through role models.

Curbing Crime and Proliferating Positive Nigerian Cultural Values:

  1. The Nigerian government and the National Film and Videos Censors Board should encourage (in monetary and policy terms). Filmmakers who veer into cartoon-making, in a bid to ensure that the positive Nigerian cultural practices such as are found in folklores meant for children, are transformed into cartoons and viewed on satellite television networks.
  2. The Nigerian government and the National Film and Videos Censors Board should also encourage (in policy and perhaps monetary terms too): playwrights/screen writers, producers, and the film directors and producers who ensure that the subtext of their movies contents are in congruent with the ordinances of the positive Nigerian cultural value system.
  3. The Nigerian movies which project the positive African cultural values should also be posted on the internet platforms like the You-tube, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, 2go.
  4. Contrary to popular saying that, “time is changing so we must change with time,” and as such, indiscriminately embrace alien cultural trends, this researcher argues that time has never changed (it has always been the same 24 hours in each day); rather, our environment is what is changing due to the way the Africans easily and indiscriminately embrace the alien cultural practices that have infiltrated into the African cultural space. In order to eliminate harmful cultural practices from our environment, everybody must be wary of any foreign practice that negates the sanctity of human lives and the cooperate existence of a safe society; frown at them and have them jettisoned!
  5. Since media tech and tots have come be as companions (and the content of the tech influences the child’s environment), it is therefore germane that moral modules should encapsulate the content of their tech games; so that the environment would yield positive (instead of negative) results.

Conclusion:

This study establishes that the pre-colonial Nigeria had several cultural values which it observed to maintain peace and order in her society. It also establishes that the electronic media (such as the internet and satellite televisions) are strong carriers of alien cultural practices into the Nigerian cultural space; therefore the Nigerian (African) cultural values are almost in extinction; hence, crimes rate are on the increase in our society; more so, on the African continent. The study goes further to establish that crimes and insecurity only thrive in morally bankrupt societies, therefore what the world needs now, are the positive Nigerian (African) cultural practices; because these practices teach morals. Therefore, in a bid to checkmate the rate of crimes wrought by the rapidly morphing multi-media system and their attendant influence on human space and psyche, it is germane that these multi-media be turned into platforms for projecting positive values that will bring about positive changes in Nigeria and the world at large. Nollywood, being a global phenomenon (having being ranked as the world’s second largest movie provider) serves as such a viable platform for propagating these positive cultural values for a wide coverage.

Works Cited

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“Dangers of Indecent Dressing.” http://leadership.ng/features/386775/dangers-indecent-dressing

Inyang, Ofonime. “Performers’ Training in the Uko Akpan Traditional Theatre of Akwa Ibom State.” Unpublished MA Dissertation, University of Calabar, Calabar, 2003.

Lawore, Olubayo. Cultural Ethos of the Yoruba. Ibadan: University
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Lyndersay, Dany. The Body Honoured. Lagos: Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization, 2011.

Obafemi, Olu & Ayakoroma, Barclays. Culture Peace and National Security in Nigeria, the Role of Traditional Rulers and Local Government Chairmen. Ibadan: Kraft Books, 2013.

Sadiq, Mohammed A. “Foreword.” Olu Obafemi & Barclays Ayakoroma (Eds.), Perspectives on Cultural Administration in Nigeria. Ibadan: Kraft Books, 2011.

“Total Crimes.” http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Total-crimes

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