It is a fact that Nigerian movies are the most widely watched all over Africa. In Gambia, for example, most people who own television, perhaps... watch only Nigerian movies. The Gambia is said to have only two major television stations that service a very small part of its population. So, most people watch Nollywood films which, thankfully, are ever so many. This only goes to show that Nigerian actors and actresses are really talented.
Many of our actors have gained much recognition in and around Africa, where they are mega stars. Viewers from many countries like Niger, Congo, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Bukina Faso, Guinea, Uganda, Chad, and many other are addicted to Nigerian movies, and Nollywood actors and actresses are treated like demi-gods when ever they travel to these countries. But their fortunes are about to change, remarkably; right at the home front.
Nollywood is currently under siege, and the fierce competition is coming from Ghana, the same country that is described as the second largest market for Nollywood's products. Names like Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Richard Mofe Damijo, Emeka Ike, Chidi Mekome, Jide Kosoko and others used to bring bright smiles to the faces of Nollywood lovers. But, these days, some strange names have begun to appear, and they are gaining ground steadily. They include Van Vicker, Yvonne Nelson, Jackie Appiah, Nadia Buari, Nana Ama McBrown, and the list keeps rising by the day.
Who are these people? Though a regular movie watcher will be familiar with them, they still remain alien in Nollywood movies. They are Ghanaian actors and actresses who have come to take over Nollywood. Due to the relatively low quality and less quantity of Ghanaian movies, many Ghanaian actors have found a haven in the ever growing Nigerian movie industry. Today, you see their faces on the cover of movies, even in Yoruba movies.
How did the Nigeria-Ghana movie collaboration begin? Nigerian movie makers have been collaborating with movie makers in Ghana for as long as Nollywood has existed. Many great movies have been products of such collaborations. Perfect Picture a movie shot in Ghana and Nigeria by both Nigerian and Ghanaian actors is a block buster. Many of such movies are expected in the sub region as Nigeria and Ghana are the closest English countries on the sub continent.
However, what obtains now is more than a collaboration. It is an invasion. This is coming at a time many Nigerians are taking their businesses to Ghana. Ghana at a time had barred Nollywood movies from circulating in its territory. It is as if, the country is afraid of an invasion on their economy. Even Nigerian businessmen in Ghana are complaining about hostilities from their hosts.
What if Ghanaian actors take over Nollywood, who is complaining? Not the movie makers and definitely not the marketers. During a research, the Nigerian Compass discovered that many Nollywood movie producers prefer Ghanaian actors to their Nigerian counterparts. According to them, this allows their films to make more sales in Ghana. Sales, they say, have gone up since actors like Van Vicker started featuring in Nollywood films. Many others do not share this view.
According to Nollywood movie producer, Fidelis Duker, Nigerians always want new things in their movies. The introduction of Ghanaian actors is therefore good for the industry. He describes the movie industry as an open market and anybody from anywhere can be a part of it. “It is the market that determines how long they will stay in the industry. It's business. Movie producers are making so much money from these guys. Ghanaian actors today are hot cakes and they sell movies, why won't they get roles?” Fidelis said.
Nigerian actors are also divided on the issue, despite that their jobs are on the line. Some said that it is a welcome development while others want the Ghanaian actors to be chased out immediately.
To earn money from any country, one has to be given a work permit. Immigration officers who are in charge of such matters are not doing anything to checkmate foreigners working in Nigeria without permits. Ghanaian actors in Nigeria are working without permits and they are not being checkmated. Even the producers do not look at the legal aspects before working with foreign actors.
For any expatriate to work in a country, permission from the professional body of his or her profession in the country must be sought, and certain dues will be paid before they are allowed to work. This happens even in the entertainment industry. In the music world, for example, no foreign artiste can perform without the knowledge of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN). These artistes will pay a certain amount to the association before they perform. 50 cent, Awilo, Jay-Z, and all other artistes that performed in the country, paid dues to PMAN.
“This cannot be said about foreign actors. The guild is to be blamed. Rather than protecting the interest of their members, they are fighting over positions. What you see is foreigners doing what they like, and the government and other regulatory agencies are there doing nothing about it,” a top Nollywood actor, who craved anonymity told Compass Entertainment.
It is illegal for Nigerians to evade tax. What then can we say about foreigners who do not pay their taxes at all? Many of these Ghanaian actors do not pay taxes despite the high fees they charge per movie.
We cannot track them – AGN President Ejike Asuegbu
The president of the Actor Guild of Nigeria, Ejike Asuegbu also aired his views on the issue. He told Compass Entertainment that it is okay for foreign actors to take part in Nollywood movies but they need to be registered.
“The problem is that these people cannot be tracked. We don't know when they are on set and when they are not. All we see are the movies. We don't even know when they are in the country. Nigeria is losing a lot of money from all these things. A bill is in the National Assembly now, and we hope that when it is passed, all these things will be ironed out.” We are not intimidated – Oby Edozien speaks for actors
Oby Edozien is one of the modern-day Nollywood actresses who are making waves. She has also starred alongside Ghanaian actors and actresses. In her views, it is impossible for Ghanaian actors to take over Nollywood, she says that producers will always come back to Nigerian actors.
She said: “I know why they (Nollywood producers) are using Ghanaian actors, it is because they will make more sales. I have also done some movies like that. You know that Nigerian movies are watched all over Africa.
These guys are making a lot of money. Some even get more money per role from producers. Yet that does not mean that Ghanaian actors are taking over Nollywood. We cannot be pushed aside. Our actors and actresses should know that they are the best. There is no competition. We are not intimidated at all by actors of any nationality. We are the best.”