On 29th January 2022, at the Freedom Park in Lagos, members of the artistic community, returned for the third edition of the Freedom Vibes. The hybrid (physical and virtual) advocacy event series by Unchained Vibes Africa, featured conversations and performances that highlighted the state of artists’ freedom of expression with increased momentum in the advocacy for reforms in policies that hinder freedom of expression. The theme for the January edition was Public Morality Rules Vs Artistic Freedom with a particular focus on recent cases of censorship of Nollywood movies. Participants addressed the allegations of promoting immorality and glorifying crime in Nollywood movies, common excuses being used to justify censorship rules and policies that stifle freedom of expression.

The event featured veteran actor and producer Jide Kosoko as the keynote speaker.  Other speakers included actor Hilda Dokubo, filmmakers Myke Pam and Tee Jay Dan as well as human rights lawyer and Deputy Director at the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) Kolawole Oluwadare.

In his keynote address, Jide Kosoko dismissed the allegations and described them as ridiculous excuses to justify censorship. He said, ‘’Nigerian filmmakers do not produce films in isolation, but rather our productions are a mirror of the realities and happenings in the society’’.

‘’Nigerian filmmakers do not celebrate crime, as has been alluded to in recent times. It is on record that every film made about crime always end with the criminal or criminals meeting their waterloo, suggesting that crime does not pay and of course, discouraged. Our role, as artists, is to mirror the society, dramatise happenings to educate the viewing public about such and proffer solutions in an entertaining manner.’’

Kosoko emphasized the need for government at all levels to learn more about censorship.  He advocated for film classification and articulated the positive impact of the movie industry on the Nigerian economy. Kosoko advised authorities to stare clear of policies that could further restrict the freedom of an industry that has empowered young Nigerians to be useful to the society.

‘’In the first place, censorship goes against the spirit and letter of artistic freedom and must not be encouraged. What we need is active and proper classification and public education to allow viewers know what films are suitable for them. The Nigerian movie industry has proven to be a good addition to the Nigerian economy, providing jobs, taking youngsters who would have been drawn to a life of crime off the streets and making them productive, responsible members of the society. Such a thriving industry must not be hanged on alter of misconceptions. When we make our films, our target is to make every viewer gain something. If you are a thief and you see the nemesis that happens to a thief, you should change your ways.’’

The case of filmmaker Aminu Umar Muktar, popularly known as Aminu Nasara, who was declared wanted by Kano State Censorship Board for allegedly promoting immorality through the trailer of a drama series he released about sex education and advocacy for girls’ reproductive health rights, was the focus of the panel discussions. Actor Hilda Dokubo decried attempts by authorities and censorship bodies to ban the Nigerian realities and the truth depicted in films. SERAP Deputy Director Kolalwole Oluwadare argued that even if a work of art offends anyone, he/she should rely on the law and not what the individual has based on his/her own morality. Filmmakers Tee Jay Dan and Myke Pam both emphasized the need for artists to be at the same table where policies and regulations about artistic expressions are being decided. Filmmaker Aminu Nasara, whose case was the focus of the discussions, participated virtually via Zoom due to security reasons. He narrated the threats he had faced since the trailer of the drama series was released and maintained that the production was about sex education and girls’ rights. The panel discussions were moderated by veteran journalist and culture advocate Jahman Anikulapo.

Ricqy Ultra, a Kano based rapper performed his popular track National Crisis, addressing the state of the Nigerian nation and issues around freedom of expression and democracy while Lanre Adams, the winner of the 2021 Freedom Vibes Contest, showcased his talent.

The Artist of the month spotlight segment celebrated Hilda Dokubo in recognition of her contribution to the advocacy for good governance in Nigeria. There was a special appearance by Hip-hop icon and activist Eedris Abdulkareem.

The event was attended by artists and civil society actors including Ambassador Ayoola Olukanni, a former Nigerian High Commissioner to Australia and current Director General, National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).


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