Listen to article

Sir, you don't seem to be associated with Nollywood?

Not really. I am one of the stakeholders in the industry. I am neck-deep in the industry. My only quarrel is with the name 'Nollywood'. 'Nolly' in the dictionary means nothing. We are now 'Nothingwood'. And like the Super Eagles, we have dropped from number three in the world of film-making to number zero.

The Super Eagles and the Nigerian film industry are now competing, because they dropped from number nine to number 34.

When Nigerians say they are the third in film industry, I laugh. What are they third in? Making home videos?

Let us not fool ourselves, let us be practical. Home video is what you sit at home and watch after your film has gone through the circuit of cinemas. Then, those who are busy, who didn't see the film, will go and hire it for extra money from the producers.

But because we are emergency people in Nigeria, we always like the shortcut to everything, we only do home videos.

You don't like the name 'Nollywood.' What name are you suggesting?

I am looking forward to starting a competition. Nigerian televisions have gone 'reality show' mad now.

I am starting my own reality show. I am challenging every Nigerian person with a huge amount of money for somebody who will give me a name the whole Nigeria will judge and approve.

Some people are calling themselves 'Kanowood', some say they are 'Yorubawood.” Tomorrow, I will start 'Deltawood'. So we are all 'wood' everywhere.

Please, let us stop copying the wrong thing. We don't have to copy everythings just to be like others in the world.

But the name 'Nollywood' is already popular. How do you think we will get used to a new name is you propose?

That armed robber who was killed, Anini, was he not popular? Was he not killed?

So I am killing 'Nollywood.' Don't you know that bad things are popular? If you want to become popular, just become an armed robber or you go and carry cocaine.

The actress they said carried cocaine gained more popularity after the incident.

How come your face is not so popular in home videos? Did your anger with the name also make you not to be a part of it?

That is where you got it wrong. I shoot one film every year. Last year, I shot 'Dessert Warrior'. Before that, I shot 'Black Gold'.

Because I am an adviser to the censors board, marketers blacklisted me and said nobody should use me in their films, and nobody should let me direct or produce movies.

I laugh at them because I am a complete man. I am a writer, I am a director, I am a producer. It took me 20 years to train in Hollywood and in Europe. They are the losers.

Now I am trying to shoot a video on Usman Dan Fodio. To me, it is an epic which I don't mind waiting three or four years to shoot.

If you watch the trend of my film, I always shoot authentic contemporary Nigerian stories.

You are an actor...

I was actually forced to become an actor. I didn't come back from the US to act. I was trained to be a producer.

Unfortunately, nobody wants to give you money to make a movie. Film-making then was like a mirage.

The Indians and the Lebanese who owned the cinemas did everything to discourage it. People were too busy watching American, Indian and Chinese films.

But I wasn't discouraged. I tried my best to get involved. But for nine months, John Chukwu was going to act in my first movie, but he kept on delaying. The so called big stars then were telling me they could not come for auditions.

That was when I got angry, I had to tell John Chukwu that nine months was two much to wait for a person.

That was what forced me to to get into acting.

Another bottomline why most people act in their film is budget. When you write, produce and direct, you are affecting that film.

Unfortunately, since the money is not there, you cut budget. You have to don't buy scripts, you don't pay for a director. It is sad, but it is a situation we cannot help.

That brings us back to the earlier question about your face not being regular in movies like the others.

I am not in their class. You are degrading me. How do you expect a whole veteran to mock alongside these artificial actors?

It is an honour when I appear in your film. I don't do it, because I am too busy trying to shoot my own. I am the papa of the industry. I am not going to be bantering words with all these emergency actors. For one, I am fed up with their monotonous acting. You will see one actor in five or six movies, he has not changed because he is doing either the fine boy or the bad man.

As soon as a Nigerian movie starts, you can tell the story from start to finish.

I don't want to wallow in that gutter. I am more of a consultant and an adviser.

God Almighty has been good to me. I have 14 kids, Nine graduates, three are about to leave university. I have my own home, what do you want me to do again?

Going back to the very beginning, how did you get into the movie industry?

I had nine friends during my childhood. Our senior was Olukoye. He was followed by Wole Soyinka, Fela, then me, Beko and the others.

We were very brilliant kids. In 1959, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe brought Charlton Hastings to Nigeria. I was 11 years then. I climbed the wall of Glover Memorial Hall with some boys to watch the premier of the film, Ben Hur.

So this American man stood up and said it is a pity that Nigeria does not have a film industry and that we had to bring him all the way from the US to come and premier his movie. People clapped for the nincompoop.

But I shouted from the wall, 'Oyibo, you won't come back to Nigeria again because I will be a great film maker.' They sent police men to catch me, so I jumped down from the wall and ran.

That was how it clicked. From that day, I knew the power of films. Everybody thought I would be a lawyer or a doctor.

That was just it, a childhood ambition which I took to America and Europe, and I came back with it and got into movies. Since then I have enjoyed everyday of it. The good, the bad and the ugly aspects.

How were you able to travel abroad to get trained?

When you are stubborn, you will always actualise your ambition. It is when you are a lay about that you end up like an area boy.

When we were kids at Onikan, we all had ambitions to beat our parents. Most of our parents were famous, so it was a challenge for us to beat them.

Unfortunately, my parents were not as rich as those of my friends. Wole Soyinka left for overseas. Olukoye had already gone. Awolowo's children were gone too. When I looked around, I was the only one left.

I already have a brother there. I begged him, he told me to get a passport and he sent me a ticket.

I didn't go to Europe as a grown-up man. I was just in form 3.

I got there, I found that there was opportunity for teenagers to go to school free, unlike in Nigeria. That was how I started. I finished my O'levels. I adored Wole Soyinka, I knew he read English, so I read English as well, But I did branch off to do Theatre Arts. Later, I found out that the best way to do it was to equip myself properly. I went to study cinematography, I studied films, television, cartoons, script-writing and all.

After I got all that kpali (certificate), I came home to Nigeria to meet an agonising position. I was not Igbo, I was not Yoruba, I would not get a job. I went for 13 interviews in NTA. they kept on posting me, they felt I was coming to take over their position since I was over-qualified.

I went back to my state, Bendel. The Benin man said I was Igbo and will not give me job.

I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to go back to the US. My mother was cried. It was a big challenge when she told me to try harder.

So what did you do?

My first wife encouraged me to set up on my own. That was when I branched into show promotion.

There was a mighty gap in the entertainment industry in the country. I went to Kano, people were carrying radio on their shoulder and listening to Indian music. I came to Lagos, they were crazy about Chinese movies.

I was sad. I got stuck with the film industry, to talk to people, to entertain, inform and advise people.

It is very sad that this industry is in a quagmire. It is on the verge of going down and I hope we can salvage it.

You are not satisfied with the state it is in now...

Satisfied is just too good for it. I am sad that a beautiful baby is being allowed to rot. Those people who are supposed to be churning out artistes have failed.

I am blaming universities. There are more than 36 universities that offer Theatre Arts as a course. But most of these young ones read it and come out and go to work in the banks or other establishments.

So what happened? Nonentities took over. And when nonentities take over an organisation, one day, it will crash.

If your know the academic background of most of our artistes, out of 10, it is only two that went to the university. It is just recently that most of them are going back to school.

I lecture in seven universities in the US every summer. They don't pay me much, they pay me 300 dollars an hour.

But here in Nigeria, LASU was offering me N20,000 a month to lecture. Imagine the insult, meanwhile those young lecturers are earning N60,000 a month. They want a grand father like me, with all my brain, to take N20,000. They are the ones losing.

Let us sit down and repair our home. Nobody is going to do it for us.

In those days, we used to sell 100,000 copies of a home movie. Now, they are not selling up to 5,000.

They should think about what is happening to them and not to fight Emeka Mba and the censors board. He is trying to sensitise us and they are shouting at him.

You are celebrating your 40th anniversary in the movie industry?

I am doing my own wake while I am still alive, so that I can know my enemies.

The sayins goes that you pretend to be dead, so you can know those who love you. I want to celebrate my 40 years in the industry so I can know those who love me.

It is nice to be alive. To be 65 and you are celebrating 40 years in one profession, it is a good feeling.

I want to be 97 or 100 years as long as I am not a nuisance, as long a nobody needs to carry me to the toilet or bathroom. Before it gets to that stage, God should please take my life.

If I can still go to disco at 80 or 90, I will go, Even if I can't wine, I can sit down and watch others boogie.

It is something special, it is something rare. It gives a good innovation that we are now celebrating ourselves now that we are alive.

I want to show how worthless the youths in this industry are. I have told the president of the Association of Movie Producers that my friends are gathering together to honour me. They have not done anything. I am the chairman of the board of trustees of the association, but he is not interested. Anybody who says his father is worthless will never be old.

I am getting other friends: Aliko Dangote, Film Corporation, censors board, copyright board, National Theatre. They are carrying the anniversary on their heads. It is my boys that should be doing this but they are not interested.

It will be successful. It is four days of happiness. On the May 24, we are having the opening ceremony, the seminar and workshop. My film will be shown at six cinemas from the 24th. It is an achievement and I am going to remain in the industry for life.

A lot of people have this feeling that you are controversial, how true is it?

If you are not controversial, then you are not a human being. I don't have to like what you like. It is a free world.

It is just that people cannot stand facts. I give it to you as it is, whoever you are. I respect everybody. I don't dare people.

The hypocrisy they live in, I can't live in it. That is why I cannot go into Nigerian politics. I am not controversial. I am just an everyday person. I appreciate good things.

Getting personal a bit sir, you married more than one wife …

I have been unfortunate with marriages and children. I have been married two and half times.

My first wife was an American. We suffered together and came back here to set up a film industry.

But I had a nuisance of a mother who was harassing the woman. One day we went on holiday and she (my wife) ran away. I sent my children, five of them abroad when JAMB was messing up, but I didn't know I was breaking my home. They have refused to come home.

I got married to a Nigerian, but she died five years ago. I am a 65-year old widow now.

You don't want to try again

It is just like you telling me that you love me. It is a lie. You can only love my achievement or my money. I will be the biggest fool to want to marry a young girl to have a baby. For what? So that the poor baby will grow up and will not know the father?

I have had enough and I don't think I want any woman to come and beat up these little kids I have.

I am not a happy man love-wise, because I was too ambitious to understand love. When I came back from overseas, I was more interested in what I was doing. My marriage suffered and my kids were suffered. But again, I am not regretting it.

If I want pretty girls as girlfriends, they will queue up. Nigerian girls are hustlers. That is why marriages are scarce nowadays. Boys are afraid to get committed, girls want already-made men.

When I do auditions, girls come wearing micro mini skirts, opening their legs, embarrassing me, telling me, 'come and get me.' Tomorrow, they will say they are being harassed by producers.

You have done quite much in the movie industry, what more do you think you can do?

I am aiming at two epics. It might take me three or five years. One is called 'Oil', the other is 'Usman dan Fodio' I will not touch it unless I have in my bank account, N400 million. I want to shoot a film that everybody will be proud to associate with it.