War rages among movie producers
The leadership tussle at the Association of the Movie Producers (AMP) has taken a new dimension, with the suspended president, Madu C. Chikwendu, insisting that some of those who allegedly ganged up against him were not members of the body. Some, he said, were not registered, while others were behind in their dues payment, against the stipulations of the constitution.
Chikwendu who has been president of AMP since 2003, was reportedly suspended on December 3, 2004, but he told Saturday Sun that he remained the authentic leader of the association.
The implication, therefore, is that the AMP now has two parallel executives led by Chikwendu and Zik Zulu Okafor. The interesting, yet very confusing thing is that they draw legitimacy from two different constitutions. Chikwendu says the Constitution that pronounced him president was the one lodged with the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC) where the AMP is registered. Okafor's power is derived from an amended Constitution yet to be effected by the CAC.
Okafor had, at a press briefing recently, announced his decision to take up the appointment offered him on December 3, 2004 by the Board of Trustees (BOT) as the interim president of AMP.
Chief, among his mandate, he said, “ is for me and my lieutenants in the interim executive to hold aloft the dream of AMP, manage its affairs and organize election in the earliest possible time. This we intend to do with professional precision”.
But the same mandate was equally canvassed by Chikwendu, a fortnight earlier at another media briefing. He had reiterated the need to move the industry forward as the reason why his executive decided to lift the suspension it had earlier placed on some of its members which included Okafor. April, he added, was the election month, to usher in a new executive for AMP. “We want to inform you that we have set up a committee to review our constitution.
Chikwendu had an easy tenure until late last year, when a 16-point allegation was levied against him through a letter signed by four members of BOT, Chief Eddie Ugboma, Chief Ken Nnebue, Zeb Ejiro and Joe Dudun.
Chikwendu was accused of being autocratic and undemocratic. He reportedly, at one point, appointed some officers single-handed; writing and adopting a new constitution without recourse to laid down procedures, unilaterally dissolving the BOT and reconstituting a new one, suspending and publicly insulting BOT members, etc.
Okafor even alleged recently that Chikwendu opened a new account in AMP's name without the members' knowledge.
In a chat with Saturday Sun, Chikwendu said nowhere in AMP's constitution was the BOT empowered to suspend the president. Mr Chike Bryan, his deputy, added that “the BOT did not just summon Madu to a probe which would have been quite normal, but they went ahead to suspend him, which is unconstitutional”. However, a copy of the BOT's letter he was suspended to pave way for a “credible investigation into the allegations” leveled against his office.
“This is wrong,” said Chikwendu. “The BOT has no power to suspend the president. Our constitution gives such power to the general house, which has passed a vote of confidence on me. So I don't know where these people are getting their ideas”.
Zeb Ejiro told Saturday Sun that he stood by the BOT's decision on Chikwendu's suspension. “Mr Madu C. Chikwendu and his executive has been sacked. They are no more recognized. And we've written a letter to the Minister. If the Special Assistant to the Minister of Information, Mr Ikechukwu, continues to deal with him, then the rumour that Madu is getting his backing from Ikechukwu is right. And if that happens, then we will take our case to the next level. The interim executive should go ahead and do an election.
Ejiro is angry that Chikwendu avoided answering the allegations levied against him but went round raising ethnic sentiments as cover up. “Look, if you don't know, Anya Igbo Producers Association came up as a result of this problem. Madu went about playing ethnic cards against the Isoko. Now tell me how many Isoko people are there in this industry by the way - Me, Chico Ejiro, Fred Amata and Kingsley Ogoro. Is it because an Igbo man has done something wrong, it is right? That's the question. Now why are they look, Madu is punishing the Minister of Information for nothing. I said that because each time he makes a statement, he tells you that he has Abuja backing, S.A. is behind him. You know why I believe him? As dreaded as Panti is, the man jumped bail three times and nothing was done. And then the case was moved to Zone 2. But that person behind him, I will expose. Because I don't carry pan in hand to any government to beg for something to eat, so when I hit, I hit hard. I mean, a man has done something wrong, because he happens to come from one part of the country, does that make it right? Did this man steal money? He was given N250,000 for Moviestac, till today, he has not given an account of that money. So why are people dodging the substance, leaving the meat of the problem. The BOT did not just wake up one morning and took a decision. Now, he said the minister or his SA is his backing. Good.
If so, then Madu is one of the people who will explain to us where the N100 million that President Olusegun Obasanjo gave to the industry has gone to. Whether in principle or in cash, it's for them to come and explain to us.
But Chris Ejekunle, who claims to be a founder of AMP, was surprised at Ejiro's turn- around. Ejiro had reportedly supported Chikwendu all along when the latter had a running battle with Mrs Roseline Odeh, head of the National Film and Video Censor's Board over her Board's modus oparendi. “He knew about the planned demonstration. He even supported us. But all of a sudden he changed and started fighting Madu. It's surprising to me”, Ejekunle said.
In a telephone chat, Odeh, the Censor's Board boss, first refused to confirm or deny Ejiro's allegation that Madu demaded N20 million from her. “All of you, don't drag me into this your trouble. It is embarrassing to this industry and the entire country. It is your battle. Don't drag me into it. It is disgraceful locally and internationally”.
When asked to comment on the allegation that she was behind Ejiro's actions, she became more pensive. “Who are you by the way?. The same you, again? Why do you like trouble? Two people are fighting, instead of you trying to settle them, you are creating trouble. I have been trying to see what I can do about it and you are now dragging me into it. Why are you fabricating this rubbish? Don't you know you are creating problem? If you have anything to ask, why don't you come to my office instead of sitting there fabricating nonsense? What do you want me to say? I have told you already that I have no comment. I have no comment”. And she hung up.