Ahead of next week’s launch of the animated film based on her corruption-themed story book Halima’s Vote, Content Nigeria caught up with Nigerian author Onyinye Ough to hear about the film and her other work.
Halima’s Vote is an anti-corruption story book written by Onyinye Ough that has been adapted into an animated film and will premiere on June 3.
The film, from Lagos cartoon studio Basement Animation, encourages young girls and women to speak up against bad governance and also tries to show the negative consequences of vote buying and selling on Nigeria’s public goods and services.
The Nigerian author, speaker and activist and the executive director of Step Up for Social Development and Empowerment in Nigeria (aka Step Up Nigeria) spoke about the film, its relevance in our society today and its upcoming launch.
Step Up Nigeria aims is to build bridges to tackle corruption and improve service delivery in Nigeria. What inspired you to create this initiative?
I recognised there was a problem in Nigeria with many corrupt practices having become culturally acceptable. I set up Step Up Nigeria to begin to tackle some of the social and cultural behaviours that enable corruption. The Catch Them Young initiative was launched in 2018 to educate children on the real cost of corruption, build their confidence to speak up against corruption and promote integrity in their communities.
How much positive impact do you think children can have from reading your books or watching your animated films?
We have started seeing some encouraging results. We are getting feedback from schools about children beginning to act with integrity and trying to be like the anti-corruption heroes in the stories. That is the beauty of using storytelling because it is helping to create some fictional trendsetters around fighting corruption that children can look up to. We now have children who want to be young anti-corruption champions.
For example, in some of the schools that we have engaged with, students would use sweets or presents to get other students to vote for them in school elections. After reading some of our story books, like Emeka’s Money and Halima’s Vote, students now focus on getting the children to vote for them by committing to change things for the better. For me, this is encouraging and needs to be sustained so that we can get the next generation of leaders and politicians that will act with integrity during elections.
The Halima’s Vote book was launched in 2018, and now it has been turned into an animated film. Why did you see the need for this?
Halima’s Vote has been turned into a film to expand our stories to a wider audience who may not have easy access to books. Also, it is a short family movie that parents can enjoy with their children. In addition, our objective is to spread anti-corruption education, which requires different methods and approaches so that we can reach a wide variety of audience.
How was the experience of working with Basement Animation?
It has been an interesting experience working with Basement Animation. They are great partners and believe in the issues. This makes a big difference. They have shown what great partnerships and results can be achieved with creatives and development practitioners.
Corruption is a big problem in our society today. Can it ever be eradicated for good?
Tackling corruption effectively requires a holistic approach. We need to go beyond the obvious, like prosecutions and convictions or even making systems tougher. If we are going to stamp out corruption in Nigeria, we need to go deeper and change how our society treats corruption. The first step towards building a society that is less tolerant of corrupt behaviors needs to start with what we teach our children.
Halima’s Vote is your second children’s book about corruption and vote-buying in Nigeria. Are there plans to have further books centered on these themes and hopefully convert them into animated films?
I have written two other books: Tosin’s Story and Ansa’s Speech. The first focuses on ‘brown envelope’ journalism, while the second looks at different types of petty corruption faced by Nigerians daily.
Halima’s Vote will be available from June 3 on the Step Up TV channel on YouTube.