Find the tribute below:
A couple of days ago the IREP team in collaboration with a few friends celebrated the occasion remarkably with a symposium on “Content and the Digital Age.” We huddled to discuss the dimensions of reality that content and storytelling can attain with the cross-pollination of distribution channels that the digital realm offers. It was exactly the kind of conversation about possibilities and realities that Emeka Mba has fostered in the creative industries of Nigeria and Africa over the course of the last 20 years. That singular passion drove his interventions as Director-General of the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission where he championed Nigeria’s transition to digital broadcasting. It was also his agenda as Director-General of the National Film &Video Censors Board for more than seven years before that.
And here’s the thing, Mr. Mba has always made a critical connection between storytelling and nation building. Our stories are us. The good, the bad and the ugly. That is why Nollywood has done more for Nigeria’s image internationally than all the millions we have ever paid to PR firms to burnish our image. People connect emotionally to stories. Stories shape actions and reaction. Stories travel at the speed of light. But more than anything else, stories reveal deep truths about ideas, visions, ideals and ideology. Emeka Mba created a channel called “Choice TV” whilst a senior manager in the early days of Multichoice and filled its programming with Nollywood films of the 80s and early 90s variety. He knew regardless of the technical deficiencies of the films of that period that in the end the “stories” would become powerful tools to expand and reshape the narrative of Nigeria internationally. When he became DG of Censors Board he pursued a distribution framework to push further and with more clarity the connections between Nollywood films and audiences across Nigeria whilst empowering the content creators. As DG of NBC he did exactly the same thing, laying the groundwork for Nigeria’s transition to digital broadcasting.
Seven years ago at the inception of the iREPRESENT Documentary Film Festival, one of the critical enablers of the festival was Mr. Mba because he always knew how important it is, in our march to nationhood, to interrogate memory because films about memory are really about the future. We inherit in our DNA memories of the past. He not only supported the festival with his personal funds but more importantly supported with his time and his ideas. Over and over in the last seven editions of our festival, he has attended, presented, engaged and encouraged our team. And he continues to challenge and provoke a continuing debate about how we build a creative industry that is driven by innovation, brave in its storytelling, entrepreneurial in distribution and technically forward-leaning in its digital exploration.
We say all this to underline the fact that the sum total of Emeka’s life work has been devoted to building and growing a ‘creative space’ that can contribute to a national narrative of Nigeria that is positive and proud. A space that empowers our best and brightest young people to dream and be their best innovative selves. And hopefully to foster prosperity of the creative sector to contribute significantly and strongly to the economy of our nation. That is the legacy of a man whose worth to our nation transcends the pettiness and small mindedness that tends to attend occupiers of the exalted positions in regulatory agencies, that he has occupied with the confidence and competence beyond his years.
We owe Mr. Mba a lot as an industry and today, on his special day, we ask that all of us say a simple word of thank you, for the passion and for the purpose. The future we all seek will always be connected by a thorny highway of hope that bears his name.
Femi Odugbemi, fta, rpa.
iREPRESENT Documentary Film Forum, Lagos.