Prof Dora; Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.

Ma’am,

I just got back from watching District 9 in my local cinema. To be honest with you, I probably would never have bothered with the film if I didn’t hear that you and some other government officials had already seen it. After seeing it, you then decided that the best action to take was to ask cinemas to stop screening the film in Nigeria. 

Ma’am, with all due respect, I think you are serving in a rather unserious government. You graduated top of your Pharmacy class in 1978 from the University of Nigeria Nsukka. You were also awarded a prize for your work when you completed your PhD from the same university. 

No one will deny that you are among Nigeria’s finest pharmacists…which is exactly why this government, in it’s glorious wisdom, decided that the best way for Nigeria to benefit from your talents was by making you Minister for Propaganda.

Talking about District 9, let’s look at some numbers.

The movie cost $30m (N4.6bn) to produce. So far, according to the definitive box office mojo, it has grossed $126m (N19bn) worldwide in the 6 weeks it has been released. It is currently being shown in over 3,000 theaters in the USA.

It was also produced by one Peter Jackson. You might know him as the chap behind the Lord of The Rings trilogy. If you remember, the Lord of The Rings trilogy grossed just under $3bn worldwide and cost $285m to make. Peter Jackson is a big boy and the makers of District 9 did well to get him involved in their project.

The special effects for the film were done by a company called Image Engine. They also did the effects for Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and The Day The Earth Stood Still..among other films.

The point I am trying to make with all of the above is a simple one; talk is cheap.

Ma’am, I do not think any Nigerian will watch District 9 and not be offended by the unwarranted and unnecessary slur directed at Nigeria and Nigerians. Even if you do not like President Obasanjo and cannot stand the Nigerian government, you will find the portrayal of Nigerians in this movie offensive.

It added nothing to the movie’s plot and I could not help but conclude that it was brought about by some kind of beef for Nigeria and Nigerians on the part of the scriptwriters. I may be wrong.

As a result of your government’s unseriousness, Nigeria does not really have the capacity or wherewithal to hit people where it hurts when they slur us in this way. So far District 9 has made $96m [N15bn] in profits and based on projections, it’s very possible the movie will gross $200m worldwide. 

Assuming it costs N1,000 to watch the film in Nigeria, we will need something like 15million Nigerians [the entire population of Lagos state] to go and watch it just to achieve the current profit figure of $96m. 

To be honest with you, aside from the portrayal of Nigerians, it was a very good movie so it’s understandable it would make money. It’s also the reason it’s dangerous for Nigeria because in as much as the ‘Nigerians’ in the film only featured for a few minutes in total, a lot of people will remember us deranged alien flesh eaters if watching District 9 was their first introduction to Nigeria and Nigerians.

I dont mean to be rude, but right now, I doubt if the producers of the film really care about how you feel. The underlying motive of their movie is/was to make money and right now they are coining it in, without the help of Nigerians.

This is why the idea of banning the film is an altogether laughable one. Actually, I think you should subsidise the cost of the movie and get as many Nigerians as possible to go and watch it. I am not quite sure why you don’t trust Nigerians enough for them to make up their mind about the film.

You might even have unwittingly created a black market for the pirated copy of the movie to flourish. Your censorship has probably piqued the curiosity of movie loving Nigerians.

Ma’am, the only language these corporations understand is the language of money. If you cant hit their bottom-line, you shouldn’t bother with blowing hot air at them.

As a Nigerian, I would dearly love for my country to send them a loud and clear message that the portrayal of Nigerians in District 9 would not be tolerated. However, what you have done so far is no more than navel gazing.

Are there no South African businesses making bucketloads of money from Nigeria? What do you think would happen if Nigerians decide to boycott MTN for a single day or even just a couple of hours in protest?

Recently when the Scottish government released Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, a group of outraged Americans quickly set up a website encouraging Americans to boycott all things Scottish from whiskey to drugs used to treat syphilis among other diseases. You can bet your last polymer naira note that if this campaign starts to hit the bottom line of Scottish companies doing business with the USA, some sort of ‘compromise’ will be reached.

Last time I checked, you were the Minister for Information, surely your remit must include putting information in the hands of ordinary Nigerians and asking them to make a decision about it? Why don’t you set up a website with a list of various South African companies and products in Nigeria and encourage Nigerians to boycott such products after you have given them a chance to see the movie? Let’s see how you get on with that.

As much as there does not appear to be any link between the South African companies doing business in Nigeria and this movie, I know of no other effective way to hit back than directly affecting the bottom-line of these companies.

You need to send a clear message out that it’s not acceptable to make money from Nigeria, while big budget movies from your home country slag the same Nigeria off. As the late MKO Abiola was fond of saying, that is the equivalent of urinating in the very well from which you are going to fetch your drinking water.

Please lift the ban on this movie as soon as possible. Our filmmakers in Nigeria might even learn a thing or three from watching a movie with a plot that actually makes sense and engages the viewers intellect!

Nobody is going to die from watching this movie. On the contrary, arguably the biggest selling and most popular film in Nigeria in 2008 was Jenifa. In the second installment of that sorry excuse of a movie, in one scene a ‘Doctor’ asserted to a patient that gonorrhea causes AIDS. Imagine an illiterate man in the village watching and hearing that. He then contracts gonorrhea and believing that it causes AIDS, a disease he knows has no cure, he decides not to seek treatment. You might think the scenario I just painted is far fetched, but you must never underestimate the power of ignorance.

I don’t remember hearing you take Olasco Films Ltd [the producers of Jenifa] to task over their spreading of dangerous misinformation about what is a deadly disease.

The way you have handled this matter as well as the Sony PS3 advert has left much to be desired. I am distinctly unimpressed as a concerned Nigerian. And you come across as being rather bored in this thankless role you have been assigned.

I’d go as far as saying you should resign from this unserious government of ours who recently nominated a polygamist [with 2 wives living in America] as our Ambassador to the USA, blissfully unaware that this was against American law.

I challenge you to hit the South Africans for 6 on this one. All the tools are available to you.

Prof Dora, this is one for you to explore.

FF

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