Always represent 

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Omoni Oboli

I am Omoni Oboli and I represent Naija! I’m back from the STOCKHOLM FILM FESTIVAL, and my movie, OKAFOR’S LAW was well received by the audiences! It’s such a blessing to truly represent your country in anything, and I don’t take it for granted the responsibility that it demands from me. I believe that wherever we are, our conduct should be seen as positive for the whole nation. We all have our individual issues, but when you’re before another nation, your home country is always being assessed through your behaviour whether you like it or not. If all they know about Nigeria is what you display, then what you do should be what would bring honour or dishonour to the nation. This is that attitude that would help develop our country.

The Stockholm Film Festival was another experience for me. We were greeted with probably the worst snowstorm for many years. None of them had ever seen the type of snow that we experienced, and so they were ill prepared to deal with it at first. I was stuck in traffic because the roads were blocked from all the falling snow, that I nearly missed the premiere of my movie at the festival. Thank God that wasn’t the case. Ufuoma McDermott and I, along with my assistant, Tomi Adeoye, prayed to have the road cleared for us. We weren’t going to let a little thing like snow dampen our spirit, and so we made the most of it, and the snow became our friend. Hehehe! We (though only Ufuoma actually did) built something that looked like a snow man. It came out more like an African snow juj́u´. Hehehe! we had our fun and made the most of the snow experience as a welcome addition to our festival showing.

We tend to be uptight so often, and feel like our problems would get the better of us, even when we have so much to be thankful for. Not me! We had a great time at the festival, and the roaring laughter from the audience made me smile knowing I was representing Nigeria by bringing a homemade product to the rest of the world that they would remember Nigeria by. The audience asked questions and got the answers that would make them curious about our movie industry. They loved the ‘Africanness’ of my movie. The fact that the movie was packaged with a global appeal summed up, for many of them, their first impression of what Nollywood is all about, and their only introduction to what Nigeria is and who Nigerians are. In other words, we represented Nigeria well.

There are opportunities given to us daily to always represent Naija in the light we want to be identified, but many of us miss them. We are so fixated on ‘being ourselves’, individually, that we fail to score those well needed points for the group. I don’t expect anyone to sell Nigeria better than I do, and so when I see opportunities given to me, as with TIFF 2016, I use it as an occasion to let the best of Nigeria shine through in the eyes of the world. We demand respect by first respecting ourselves, and our recognition pivots around the behaviour we exhibit to others. I know we like to have our voices heard, but let them hear intelligence, like I know we are, let them observe civility, like I know our culture demands, let them see brotherliness, like we speak about daily. We don’t have what the world does not see. We can tinker around what we believe we are, or what we believe we can achieve, but unless we show it in our conducts wherever we are, we shouldn’t expect the rest of the world to hand it to us on a platter.

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, and most of us aren’t either, but we had something in us that was instilled by so many of our parents that when we finally got the wealth or affluence we sought for, we resorted to our default behaviour demanded by our cultures; we give alms freely, we take care of our elderly, we have a sense of community that ensured that we were in each other’s businesses, so that your child was somewhat safer because there were many aunties and uncles that were watching them in the neighbourhood. This is not the ideal picture we see today, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be. It doesn’t t mean that the old days perfected it either, but they spoke about it so often that we almost believe they lived it. I believe we can. It starts with each one representing the ideal nation in whatever they find their hands to do. Don’t be slothful at work. It doesn’t help to demand from your job (whether as an entrepreneur or working for others) more than you’re willing to put in. Your contribution should be such that you’re taking care of another man’s business as if you owned it. The employers also must see the people under them as important, and so their welfare should always be considered.

It’s not easy today in the country, owing to the recession, but there shouldn’t be any excuse good enough to support a lazy, pilfering, lackadaisical work ethic that can’t support the businesses or the salaries demanded by those working in those businesses. Let our attitudes change to suit the growth and lifestyle we want. I try to present my work and myself in such a way that makes it easier for me to be considered in the future, and also for the nation or group I represent to be seen in that light. This is what brings favour to the group.

I can’t see how we can move forward as a people when we fail to represent those values and ethics we so want people to identify us with. Our blessings are tied to the message we send out daily through our behaviour and words. Let’s begin to make a deliberate effort to rise above the ‘self entitlement’ syndrome, and begin to see ourselves as the true builders of the nation we want to see. We can show it through our diligence at work and relations with the rest of the world. Till next week, keep smiling!

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