Naij: A Documentary on the History of Nigeria
I’ve been on a black film buzz recently, I shall qualify that by saying that I have been to see two film screenings in the last month (I know, some buzz huh!), but I’ve also found out about other films and film festivals (London African Film Festival) which I hope to attend.
I started by watching Diaspora Diaries which is a series of interviews with Africans from different parts of the continent talking about their experience in the diaspora. As you can imagine, it was really interesting to watch, especially as a lot of what was being said naturally resonated with my own experience. In the panel discussion that followed, the film maker said he was making a point of promoting positive educated Africans (first, second and third generation) who relate to, are aware of and believe in their African heritage rather than the possibly more widespread myth that you can be black but not ‘African’. Trust me, I’ve heard this from people’s mouths so go figure!
The second film which I saw more recently was called Naij: A Documentary on the History of Nigeria. It was made by a guy called Jide Olanrewaju who interestingly enough is a city investment banker with no formal training in film making. He made the film in 2 years, in his own time and with his own money (according to him, it helps to work in the city!).
I have to say that it is a damn shame that he has not got this film on DVD and no distribution arrangement because it is a MUST see for any Nigerian and anyone looking for why practically all ex-colonial states have failed to have stable governments.
The film is essentially a collection of archive footage since 1947 showing BBC news broadcasts and special interest programmes and American news stories all talking about and interviewing real Nigerians saying things which are not surprising if you know the current state of affairs but hearing them makes it sink in and hurt all the more.
You get to hear the voices of Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Funmi Ransome-Kuti, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Murtala Muhammed, Ibrahim Babangida, MKO Abiola, Sani Abacha and a lot of others whose names I didn’t know. All of the above are saying things which were serious eye openers to me and explain why things went and continue to go the way they do.
The soundtrack is pretty spot on as well, using Jay-Z’s I’m a Hustler for Sani Abacha and Fela Kuti’s International Thief Thief (ITT) for people like Babangida. An excerpt of an interview with Fela was particularly horrible when you see the scars he got from a severe police beating which even he says he was surprised to have recovered from.
The clear opinion that I got from this film is that Nigeria was doomed from the start by the British and their hand chosen leadership and governance structure for Nigeria, but this generation of young successful Nigerians might be able to save something that had a seriously bad start.
Agree or disagre with Jide’s opinion, the film tells the story in terms of real footage, real voices and real opinion meaning you get to hear things right from the horse’s mouth. It’s hard to watch in some places when you hear leaders betraying each other in the name of wealth and the particularly disheartening footage of white mercenaries who are leading Biafran troops casually discussing the war and saying when they leave that one, they’ll just move on to the next African dispute.
I couldn’t even start to mention all the things I saw in this film, primarily it showed me that I know more about British and American politics than Nigerian. This is only fair seeing as I was educated in England, but now it’s probably a good time to start finding out more. The film did have flaws, like mentioning but glazing over the whole Delta dispute that led to the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and there were naturally gaps in the history telling, so it is by no means a defacto source, but for me and from the opinions of the packed audience at the British Library, it was an eye opener and that’s good enough to send me on an information seeking frenzy!
It’s a shame I can’t say when this film will be shown again or when/where it can be purchased, but here is the trailer from YouTube which hopefully gives you a sense of why the 2 hours 30 minutes of it are well worth watching!