ALTARS OF MEDIOCRITY

Moloch, Baal and Tlaloc were some of the evil gods that ancient civilizations sacrificed their children to. The promise of a bright future for those progeny was destroyed due to ignorance and the consequence was that most of these races were wiped out by more enlightened people.

Watching a good movie takes you through a spectrum of feelings; it is usually an evocative experience that may never leave you except if it is a Nigerian home video that is. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I would have to say that some of the worst acting you would ever see is usually displayed in Nigerian flicks (I had said in one of my earlier posts that there should be a caution sign on the screen aside from the usual ratings). Some of their thespians should be jailed and not celebrated (compared to them Muppets should receive Oscars), most plots are shallower than a thimble and a huge number of the directors cannot direct themselves to the rest room in their homes. I dare say subjecting oneself to these videos would ultimately turn your brain to mush. They leave the mind addled. Of course, there are a few good ones like Jenifa, which substantiates my claim that most of the ones that catch your attention are those made in our traditional languages. The best cosmopolitan production I have seen in this country recently is Tinsel and you can see it is painstakingly made with attention to detail.

I grew up knowing some Nigeria programmes, like “Cock crow at dawn”, “The Village Headmaster”, “Checkmate”, “Mind-bending”, “Second Chance”, ‘Things fall apart”, and some others. They were world class in their sublimity.  Even the groundbreaking home video “Living in bondage” was very good. With the improvement of technology, one would think that we should have gotten better; unfortunately this has not been the case.  The whole thing got me thinking and I realized that the difference between then and now is profit and commercialization. Back in the day, there was a touch of excellence because directors like, “Tade Ogidan”, “Amaka Igwe”, “Lola, Fani-Kayode (these folks were masters of their craft) were more interested in the beauty of their work than in making money from their creations. A true creator is always concerned about the product his name is attached to. One of King Solomon’s timeless proverbs says that a good name is better than silver or gold. The man would know, his works of excellence gave his name fame and made the Queen of Sheba come looking for him with all the gold in the world. After creating the Titanic, James Cameron wanted to make Avatar but he felt the technology he needed to produce the movie was not yet available so he held on for more than a decade. If he had produced it immediately, he most likely would have still made a lot of money from it, at least riding on the waves of his previous success.  But this producer cum director was more about exceptionality than profitability. Avatar turned out excellent. In contrast to this, Nollywood churns out movies in days. That is why you would find someone currently wearing the same hairdo and clothes, he or she wore five years ago in some of their productions.

The argument might be that the blame should be laid at the feet of the Nigerian Public and not Nollywood since they consume the shabby works voraciously. But works of excellence is first about the manufacturer, then the consumer. Another argument might be that Hollywood is far older than Nollywood but like we have already established the movies made in the past are better than the current ones and anyone making that argument should check out some of the movies made fifty years ago in Hollywood. “Dr Who” is more than thirty years old but it still has a cult following today.

The challenge with the Nigerian movie industry is greed but this is not limited to Nollywood alone, the problem is like cancer cells spreading into the vital organs of this nation. Most Nigerians worship money and would sacrifice their tomorrow on its altar of mediocrity like an Aztec offering a child to Tlaloc to summon rain (in this case, naira rain). For a fledgling business, this is a recipe of disaster. An average Nigerian would have seen many enterprises start up and shrivel off over time. Mediocrity is high up on the list of discouraging factors in our part of the world that cause the demise of businesses. In the bid of hitting the big times faster than speed racer hits the finishing line, we take up jobs we cannot do and even if we can do the job, we take on more than we can handle and spend little time on them. At the end of it all, the production turns out to be a disaster and the disgruntled customer walks out the door taking future business elsewhere.

Our artisans are some of the worst in the world because immediately they get the cash advance from you, they do not care about the job anymore and even when they come through, it is usually with the stuff nightmares are made of. This bars the customer from coming back to them. Their mediocrity swallows up their future.

The greedy jaws of the altars of mediocrity keep wolfing down the promise of what would have been and for the culprit, life becomes like dew drops on a rose petal that gets sucked up by rays of harsh sunshine, ephemeral at best.

Steady plodding on the path of excellence eventually leads to wealth while hasty slip-shod work ends in penury.

Don’t rush, give that manuscript another look over, try another scene with the movie, another brush stroke with additional colour might be all your painting needs, give the dress another trim, do something new with that cake, polish that punch line, it might take time but it will be worth it. Believe me!

Excellence is what will make our name and our creations outlive us. C.S Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, Michael Jackson, Winston Churchill, Michelangelo, Versace, Heath Ledger (he was exceptional in the dark knight, absolutely top notch) are some of the people that give much credence to this.

God did such quality job with the earth that despite man’s habit of wrecking things with war, nuclear inventions, and flagrant bush burning, e.t.c the earth is still so beautiful after aeons (check out the setting sun drowning in a deep blue sea sometime). It is not a surprise though since it was recorded that after God had made the world, he looked at it and saw that it was EXCELLENT in every way (LB)! YOU CAN NEVER BEAT CLASS!!!

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