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Nigeria’s movie industry (Nollywood) struggles with internalized homophobia

As one of Nigeria’s biggest exports, Nollywood prides itself on expressing the stories that reflect the cultures and way of life of its citizens. It is however disturbing that the industry has failed to accurately or even partially reflect the struggles of its LGBTQ community, this hasn’t stopped Nollywood from suffering the effects of Nigeria’s nationwide homophobia, both internally and externally. Recently Nollywood’s internal struggles can be seen in 2 cases involving the Actors Guild president; Emeka Rollas who was perceived to be a gay man after undergoing anal surgery, twice. And the former President of the Association of Movie Producers in Nigeria, Paul Obazele, who bitterly put the Gay, lesbian producers ruling Nollywood on blast and threatened to out them in his anger.

In the case of AGN’s Emeka Rollas, he finally addressed speculations suggesting he is gay following his anal surgeries. Speaking in an interview with DAILY POST, Mr Emeka stated that he enjoys having sex with his wife who has seven children for him. He explained that he had anal surgery after detection of ‘Anal Fistula’ and had to be operated on in India.

Mr Emeka went on say: “Let me address the sexuality issues I heard sometime ago. The ignorance level of some people caused this as some of them failed to check up the name of my ailment. “First of all I had anal fistula which is a skin problem that can happen to any parts of your body and needs to be cut off through surgery.“I had the first anal surgery in 2012 after I suffered from hemorrhoid, someone told me to take herbs to cure it which later made it worse and made me fly to India for surgery. “But after four years later, I had a relapse but this time I chose to go to America to have the second surgery. Most people talking about me did not know what happened because they heard anal they started questioning if I was gay.

In a community and an industry free from homophobia, well wishes and prayers would be offered upon hearing his health condition but instead his recovery is shadowed by speculations and rumors all because his illness was anal related. Homophobia clearly distracts people from main issues, this affects both straight and gay persons and that’s why getting rid of it benefits us all.

The case of Paul Obazele, the former President of the Association of Movie Producers in Nigeria. Shows hows homophobia gets internalized in Nollywood’s industry and how this brings about cases of negligence, discrimination and violence. Mr Obazele who spoke with The Punch said that he tried to curtail homosexual activities in the Nigerian movie industry when he was still the President of the Association of Movie Producers in Nigeria.

He said, “I would not lie, we have gay producers and lesbians in the Nigerian entertainment industry and they are the people in control. Why are we hiding it? “When I was president of the Association of Movie Producers, I was against them. Why are we pretending that it does not happen? The same way it happens in Nollywood is the same way it happens in the medical field and other fields.

He went on to say; “The truth be told , it happens across the board. If you mention the names of some producers, I would gladly tell you if they are gay or not ; they cannot do anything to me. If they bring a war to me, I would take it to their doorsteps. I do not give into gossips but I have got to a place in my life when some unsolicited piece of information come to me. They must tell me. I am an elder in this industry and that is why I said if you mention names, I would tell you if the person is gay or not. It does not elude us; it happens within our rank and file.But like I always say, sex is not the ultimate step to attaining success, it is hard work.”

Mr Obazele, didn’t just address homosexuality as a thing of lust that actors use to gain favors with producers but also went on to threaten to out the LGBTQ persons in the industry. In a bid to misdirect his homophobia, he has addressed only the sexuality of gay people in the industry whereas it is no secret that sex and sexual abuse is a popular concept of favoritism in the movie industry both home and abroad. One could easily say Mr Obazele is trying to shift the spectrum to apparently paint his sexuality as the industry standard for sexual favors.

Also, somehow Mr Obazele confuses being an elder in Nollywood as being able to automatically detect if someone is gay or lesbian, this is the same poisonous thinking that put Mr Ebuka in a situation where he had to explain the gay away. The truth is that comments like this have a dangerous ripple effect on the industry and shifts focus away from more pressing issues to people’s privacy.

Dear Mr Obazele, if you are reading this please know that there are people who see through your misdirected attempt at homophobia and recognize it for what it is; A CANCER. Hopefully as Nollywood grows its art, hate speech and internalized stupidity will give way to a generation that better understands the dangerous effects of homophobia and what really matters in the industry.

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