I never threatened to sue RCCG —Ope Banwo
Today, we bring you the concluding part of the Ope Banwo interview which we started last week. In this no-holds-barred interview, the former CEO of Dove Media spoke on the RCCG politics that drove him out of Dove Media, his deals with Charles Novia and other issues.
What went wrong with Dove Media?
First, I will like to say that I have nothing but love and appreciation for Dove Media and Redeemed Christian Church of God because they gave me the opportunity to get into the industry where I'm getting a lot of benefits from now. But I would say I made mistakes and everything was my fault because the CEO takes responsibility for everything.
The mistake was that I trusted people I shouldn't have trusted. Moreso, I knew nothing about the entertainment industry and I didn't play the politics the way it was supposed to be played. Fourthly, business and religion don't mix too well and I did not understand that very early. Dove was a great idea; Daddy G.O (Pastor Adeboye) was very supportive, contrary to what some people were saying. He never muscled me when I was running Dove Media, except towards the end based on what people told him. I have no problem with him to be honest.
People expect me to come out and criticize him, but I'll never do that because he's a man of God and my spiritual father and I respect him a lot and appreciate him. Now, could I have done a lot of things better? Certainly yes. I would have played the politics better, and probably not have gotten myself to a situation whereby I became an employee because I came into Dove as a consultant to raise money for them, not to come and run the company. I came in to raise the fund which was my special area, I didn't know anything about the entertainment industry.
Somehow, I ended up being the Managing Director of the company after raising funds for them. We were getting powerful and prominent. Like every set-up, it had its own politics, intrigues and I think I did not play it right because really, my problem with Dove was not what we were doing, contrary to what people thought. The chairman did not give us problem, he allowed us do whatever the vision was, even though he kept changing plans at the board meetings we had, we would be told to do a particular thing.
But beyond, that I was given a free hand and needed not seek approval from anyone before I did my things. But unfortunately, I basically picked a fight with the wrong guy.
That is the CEO of Dove Media, USA. He was my boss, my Provincial Pastor and there were things he was doing that ultimately led to where we were which I was not happy with. I was vocal about it and unfortunately he was much stronger than me within. He played the politics better than I could play it, and had access to the G.O and had ways of doing his things because he's been with the Redeemed Church over the years, coupled with the fact that he's an older man. My biggest mistake was that he played the politics than me.
Some people tried to capitalize on the Charles Novia saga. They said I was reckless, mis-managed funds by giving so much money to Charles Novia and I just laughed. To be honest, people did not know the true story. I felt sorry for Charles Novia and myself because I was naïve and I should have known better because I was better trained. I've been to management school, so what happens with Charles Novia? I was accused of giving him N19 million to make movies. Yes, I gave him that much, but not in the way they said it. As a matter of fact, I think Charles Novia was not even paid enough. Because N19 million was not enough for the movies, it was about 26 movies.
How could you do 26 movies with N19 million? That was what people did not get. Charles Novia was introduced to me by another pastor. I never knew him from Adam. He was brought to me by a pastor I trusted and we started talking. Along the line, I agreed I could work with him. I wanted to use a central person because I didn't know the whole of Nollywood. So I thoughtthat if I could use somebody I trusted, he could be the link.
We got talking and a lot of ideas kept coming up. I was so excited, and new in the industry. We made Covenant Church with about N6 million and I think we made more than three times of what we paid him because on the first day of the film's release, we sold about 67,000 copies. We didn't have enough copies. We only went with about 70 000 copies. Nobody had ever done that in the industry, the movie was fantastic. It means day one we made about N7.6 million profit and we had an endorsement of about N6 million before it was released.
Intercontinental Bank gave us money and there was a management company which paid us N3 million for the right to market Covenant. That was how I promoted the movie. They actually paid me to do the markettting right. The point about Charles Novia was that we started talking and an idea came because we felt that the strongest asset that Dove Media had was Daddy G.O and the Redeemed Christian Church of God and we felt we could leverage that into the product. There, we would dramatize the spectacular miracles that came out of the Holy Ghost service.
It would be an evangelical movie, commercial and truly Redeemed, it meets all the criteria. I thought I was being smart, that was why I was called being naïve. Remember, one of the objectives of Dove Media was to build a satellite television network. The rest of the idea came as a means of income to service that vision because I realized even after being given the job that in 20 years, it will still be profitable, I mean the Christian television base. While we were at it, we only had N510 million which was peanuts in the TV business. We now said rather than going straight for that channel where we may not be able to re-coup more money, we should create income streams. We would then be putting that into the channel development.
That was the strategy I came up with that brought about the idea of movie distribution, having a studio, Internet; we have the Dove Link. People don't even know about that. Coming back to Charles, we now came about with the idea of the encounter with the Holy Spirit and that it would be in series on Dove TV. It would run for 13 weeks for a quarter, but there will be a one hour movie, a soap. I now had a deal with Charles that there would be an hour movie dramatizing miracles that came out of the Holy Ghost service. After finishing the movie, it would show as a series on Dove TV and we would market it because it came in different names.
Out of it is what we called The Ovary, The AIDS patient, we released three before I left. So there was supposed to be 13 movies and I told Charles that one of the ways we could make money on it was that if we shoot all the movies at once. Perhaps, one month, get the cast, mix up the casts but for different story lines. So when we do that, we don't need to pay them for individual films. He now agreed they could do the encounter for the Holy Ghost for N800,000 per movie. To me, I thought I was scoring a spectacular deal, because then I thought good English movies were made for between N2 million and N3million.
We had just agreed to pay N6 million for Covenant Church. All of a sudden, I was going to get equivalent of 13 movies for an average of N800,000 and that to me was a bargain and that was the problem. If I were to do it now, I would pay him more because you can't make a very good movie for N850,000 . But Charles Novia, whether out of naivety on his own side or greed, I don't know, agreed for 13 movies at N850,000 each. He now said for that to work, he would need 70 percent of the money up front which makes sense and that was what I paid him. We paid around N9 million for the Encounters with the Holy Ghost. We were supposed to come there with 13 movies, not a series neither soap. 13 individual movies with different titles, story lines; The Ovaries, Aids Patients, The Blind Man. He wrote them out and I have a copy with me.
So, that was that. He came to my office virtually daily. There was a day he came, which was like about four days after that, he came up with idea of making parables, making movies from the parables of Jesus Christ. For example, the parable of the sower, parable of the prodigal son. We could do a 70-minute movie on the parables of Jesus Christ which we could use on the TV channel for a whole quarter. Parables also were supposed to be 13 movies that would be shot as parables series and we agreed that would cost about N650,000 per movie and that was about N9 million in addition to the first N10 million for the first movie and that was where the N19 million came from.
Did he get some percentage from that?
Yes, he also got 70 percent of it. So the idea was that at the end of the day, I thought I was making a kill because when you have a wonderful idea and it doesn't work, you will look stupid, but when it works they would have been hailing me as a genius because we would have gotten 26 movies for the price of N19 million, which is at an average of N750,000 per movie. These are movies that have big stars in them. He did a good job, not these chicken change movies. But now, I think where the whole thing unraveled was when it was time for delivery and Charles did not deliver. And this is where my naivety came in and I said I made a mistake.
Rather than fighting him, I could have reached a compromise with him. I kept holding him to the contract. I should have been realistic as a business man by giving him more money provided he was out of cash that is why he was delaying. He delivered two and started telling stories because apparently he gave the remaining movies to different directors that did not deliver.
Did Pastor Adeboye speak to you all through the saga?
No. They never let me see GO. They kept telling me he was busy. I wrote him a letter and told him I was sorry if I disappointed him in anyway because to me, the man gave us all the support we could ever hope for in terms of raising the money and promoting it. If there is anybody that should be angry, it should be the GO because he put his name on the line and supported us. I felt bad about that and wrote a heartfelt apology for that. I never got a response. I even copied Elder Ohiwerei because I believe I should take responsibility for my actions as the CEO. I let them know things I did were not out of malice or recklessness. I did my best and if I made a mistake, I was sorry. I even travelled back the second month from the US to Nigeria to see the GO but couldn't see him, after sometime, I just gave up.
Have you been able to see him since then?
No. But I know that one day I will. I don't have issues with him and I don't believe he has issues with me other than Dove Media did not go the way it was supposed to go. Dove is not dead, it is still there. It is just that it has different focus from the way I was taking it. Towards the end, I heard they complained that we were making too many secular movies. I heard people said Two Brothers and The prodigal son was too secular. But please if you are going to depict the story of a prodigal son who came back to the Lord, how are you going to do it other than smoking and carrying women? Which is what we did. Some people criticised it, wrote petition to the GO.
Did you have issues with Pastor Adeyokunnu?
He was chairman of Dove Media, US and he was Daddy GO's brother-in-law, he could do anything he liked. I was a nobody in the Redeemed Christian Church, but I felt he caused Nigeria a very big opportunity with Wal Mart in US by writing that letter he had no business writing. The whole idea behind the deal was to control the means of distribution after which you can now control the content. We were almost on the way to controlling the content of Nollywood. We had started telling producers what we wanted and what we did not. I have no regrets. I did the best I could. There is nobody who worked then that won't tell you I did my best. I was there 18 hours a day.
But some people were alleging financial misappropriation.
No, I don't think anybody is alleging that, if they are, they can come out, the records are there. What they said was recklessness, that I spent money anyhow.
Did you speak with the new MD, Patrick Abraham after you left?
We did. We were exchanging texts and he was the one that went to tell GO that I was going to sue RCCG. I don't know where they got that from. How can I sue The Redeemed Church? For what? I will never do that. I will not join issues with him or anybody. Like I said before, I have nothing but love, thankfulness for Daddy GO and Dove Media for giving me an opportunity to get into the industry.