By Chuks Nwanne, Guardian
GOOD product sells itself. This could be the best way to describe what transpired at the special presentation of the Nigeria: The Series, where two Nigeria's former leaders; General Yakubu Gowon and Chief Alex Ekwueme, publicly threw their weights behind the TV drama series aimed at telling the true Nigerian story to the rest of the world.
After listening to a detailed presentation by the production team at the Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, the two former leaders, alongside the Information and Communications Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, who was represented by a top officer from the ministry, were convinced that Nigeria: The Series, will play a vital role in the re-brading Nigeria project, which the federal government is presently pursuing.
Co-produced by The Serengeti Network headed by America's Lloyd Weaver and Storm 360 led by Obi Asika, the project will take as its subject, the 150 years of unrelenting struggle against European forces, who appeared on the shore of Nigeria first as traders and missionaries, but later, with superior arms, destroyed the centuries old civilisations established by the ancestors. The 13 episodes drama, which is being put together to mark the 5oth Anniversary of Nigeria, will also re-enact in details, the continual wars of resistance waged by our forefathers and mothers, first with guns and cannons, bows and arrows and later with pen and words.
The series will bring to life the events and the personalities that brought about victorious declaration of the free and independent nation called Nigeria. The intention is to debunk the notion, especially from the western world, which posited that Nigeria as a nation was not fought for, and reveal for all Nigerians the common heritage represented by the inspiring deed of the forefathers of the country.
Speaking at the official presentation, former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon commended the initiators of the programme, which he believed, would make young Nigerians take interest in the country again.
"This is a welcomed series that will tell the history of Nigeria by Nigerians. It will show the true history and quality of Nigeria as a country. It's time for us as Nigerians to begin to sell the country properly and correctly to the entire world. "
Gowon, who was the chairman of the occasion, called on all well meaning Nigerians to support the initiative.
"I believe in this project and I call on my colleagues, the older generation to support it. We need to start re-making this country and the only way we can re-brand is by removing bad things from ourselves. We need to correct our own ways and move towards the part of good. But producers of this programme should try as much as possible to get in touch with the older generation and get interviews about this country from them, it's very important. We need to get their stories for this series. This programme is worth supporting," the elder statesman charged.
Observing that most members of the production team are from the Eastern part of the country, the former leader used the opportunity to clear the air on why Nigeria went to war against Biafra.
"The war was not a fight against the Igbo race, but a fight against the then leadership of the Igbos, who wanted to breakaway from the country. As the leader of the nation then, we wanted to find other means of resolving the problem, but by the time the declaration (of the sovereign state of Biafra) was made, we had no option than to fight. We fought not to kill the Igbos, but to keep Nigeria together; I had an Igbo girlfriend then, so, I couldn't have declared a war that will kill the Igbos. Nigeria would have been a failure, if we had let the Igbos go then. We know their contributions to the growth and development of this nation," Gowon declared.
In his own remark, former Vice President, Chief Alex Ekwueme observed that the project will play a vital role in keeping intact, the true history of Nigeria as against the ones usually told by the western world in history book.
"I remember those days, the only thing you hear about history in Nigeria is how Mungo Park and Landers Brothers discovered River Niger. I really congratulate the initiators of this project for thinking it wise to come out with a project that would define the true history of the country. I will join in asking all Nigerians to give this project their full support."
Earlier in his opening speech, the CEO of Storm 360, Obi Asika informed that the project is very important to the crew than anything else.
"We've been involved in so many TV productions in Nigeria, but nothing is important to us than this project; it's the story of our lives. If you are truly a Nigerian, you need to see this project; I cannot imagine any media that will be more engaging than Nigeria: The Series."
Asika is of the opinion that the project would go a long way in shaping Nigeria as a nation, calling on corporate organisations to support the initiative.
"We are going to bring to live people that helped shape this country. It's about us as a people and we believe that we deserve the best. This is a global story and we will run it in America, UK and other international platforms. Nigeria is 50 years this year and we are ripped to unlock other projects."
In his presentation, the co-producer and scriptwriter of the series, Lloyd Weaver, recalled how the idea of putting down the history of Nigeria on paper came to him years ago.
"As an American, I've lived in this country for 29 years now. I remember those days, my children used to bring their homework to me to help them out, but I've never seen anything about history in their whole work; that got me thinking. From my secondary school days, we knew how America became America through history. So, I decided to put down a script on the history of Nigeria, which we later developed into Nigeria: The Series."
According to the filmmaker, who took the audience through the production schedule for the project, every nation needs history to get to wherever it's heading to.
"We need the past to get to our target. History is about who we are and this show will clarify misconceptions, teach important lessons and celebrate the country.
The objective of the series, according to Weaver, is "to enlighten Nigerians, uplift their spirit of patriotism, inform and educate them about this nation. How many times have you seen the lives of the founding fathers of this nation in a story? You see such things in other countries, but here, you don't get to hear about them. This is a story of a nation molded from different tribes with distinct language and custom."
The 13 dramatic episodes will begin with the glorious and advanced kingdoms and nation states that prevailed from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Nigeria: The Series will tell of the thousands of brave men and women, who resisted the canons and maxim guns of the Europeans whose intention was to claim our lands as their own. The story will then move to the twentieth century to depict those valiant, brilliant and determined men and women, who ultimately outwitted the British and boldly declared Nigeria an independent and free nation among nations.
In presenting the 150 years for freedom, Nigeria: The Series will create for all Nigerians an acute understanding of the true heritage of the country, by depicting the forefathers from early childhood through their moments of confrontation with the British colonists.
Meanwhile, The project will be film on location throughout Nigeria with key scenes filmed in London, The United States and Ghana, using absolute state of the art high definition technology and will gather together the most experienced Nigerian technical crew from home and the Diaspora. The crew will meticulously recreate five different historical eras with attention to historical detail in costumes, building, music, and settings.
The production will also involve Nigerian actors, who will portray characters ranging from Al Kanemi, Caliph Attahiru1, Nanna of Itsekiri and Oba Overanwen N'Ogbaisi, to Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Margaret Ekpo, Herbert MaCaulay and others.
To achieve this target, the crew has involved the services of an Advisory Committee headed by historians, Prof. J.F Ade-Ajayi, who will guide the crew in the production, as well as make contributions in the scripting of the storyline. Other members of the committee include Prof. Obaro Ikime, Mahdi Abdullahi, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Mrs. HID Awolowo and other key witnesses and participants.
It would be recalled that the project had already received the endorsement of the Information and Communications Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, who had pledged the support of her ministry. The programme is also open to corporate organization, government agencies and individuals, who would want to use the platform to showcase their goods and services to the world.