In The Eyes Of Kidnappers, Acting Career In Nigeria Is Very lucrative 

By Sandra Ijeoma Okoye

As an Actress that also doubles as a Journalist, I am confident to say, without being immodest, that it is difficult to categorically assert that acting business in Nigeria as epitomized in the Nollywood sub sector of the entertainment industry is lucrative or not. For instance, it is difficult to categorically answer the question, “How lucrative is the Nigerian film industry?” The reason for finding the question to be a complex one is because it is possible for, say, Mr. A. and Mr. B. to be in the same industry where they earn the same amount of salaries, and rewarded with the same perks but paradoxically seeing one of them to be rich while the other would be seen to be poor, and literarily swimming in the pool of poverty. How come? Anyone may be tempted to ask. The foregoing question, which is aptly put in this context, no doubt, is what not a few people will find difficult to explain. After all, Ndigbo will say “Akalaka Nile Abulo Ofu” which interpretatively mean to say “All fingers are not equal”.

Proudly or naively portraying themselves to be stupendously rich and living big,not few actors and actresses want to be seen in their best light. Still, it is questionable where some social media participants draw the line. It can be easy for friends and followers of an account to forget that social media is not real life. Unfortunately, some practitioners in the Nollywood are wont to frame their lives as endlessly positive and exciting, leaving others feeling like they can’t compete. It is important to remember that any social media account can be manipulated. They may be like a sports highlight reel, showing all the accomplishments and proud moments while leaving the rest deleted and out of public view.

In fact, actors and actresses that live fake life have made kidnappers to erroneously believe that there is money in Nollywood. Against the foregoing erroneous belief, not few actors and actresses have been kidnapped over the years. For instance, in November 2009, Nkem Owoh was abducted on the Port Harcourt-Enugu road. According to reports, the kidnappers originally demanded for 15 million naira ransom to secure his release before they came to a compromise, and 1.4 million was allegedly paid to the kidnappers before he was released. He was reported to have spent almost one week in the den of the kidnappers. Pete Edochie was kidnapped on August 2009 on the road while he was coming from Onitsha where he had gone to a church to sell a film on Father Iwene Tansi. Eventually, the actor was released. However, he denied that a ransom was paid to secure his release, contrary to reports that the kidnappers collected a ransom of 10 million naira. Also on the list is Nkiru Sylvanus who was kidnapped alongside former Mr. Nigeria Kenneth Okolie in December 2012 in Owerri, Imo state. The kidnappers had then contacted the family and of Nkiru to demand for a ransom of 100 million naira. It is reported that barely hours after, an open letter was written to the Inspector General (IG) of Police on the matter by concerned friends of the kidnapped victims, before they were eventually released. It was not disclosed if a ransom was paid.

In the same vein, Prince Eke was kidnapped in December 2015 on Owerri-Port Harcourt road while he was returning from a movie location in Asaba, Delta state. He said he was ambushed and three men jumped out from the bush carrying AK47 in their hands and shooting sporadically, before taking him into the forest at gun point. The kidnappers later demanded a ransom of 15 million naira from his family, and that failure to provide the money will lead to the actor being buried alive.

In the same vein, McDonald Oti was kidnapped from his home in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state in April 2017 at about 8.30 pm. He said his abductors were a gang of three men who forced him into the boot of his own car at gun point.

zThey took everything he had on him including his ATM card and asked for his PIN. They took him into the forest in the dark and stripped him naked.

An argument ensued between the kidnappers as to whether he should be shot or not. As the argument continued, he took to his heels, and ran as fast as his legs could carry him in the darkness, sustaining injuries as he ran.

He eventually came out of the forest completely naked and traumatized. He saw a woman and approached her for help but she took to her heels. He met another man who also took off. He later saw a burial banner and tore it off. He wrapped it around his waist to cover his nakedness.

Just few days ago, not few Nigerians were shocked to the marrow when barely 24 hours after the abduction of two Nollywood stars, Cynthia Okereke and Clemson Cornel, otherwise known as Agbogidi that the President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Emeka Rollas, confirmed that their abductors have made contact with their families and demanded the sum of $100,000 to set them free.

It would be recalled that Okereke and Cornel were reported missing by their family members on Friday after they failed to return home from a filming they went to at Ozalla Town in Enugu State with AGN calling for prayers and urging members of the association to stop shooting in the outskirts of the city.

Rollas who confirmed the new development to Journalists disclosed that families of the actors have been devastated and worried since the abductors of the actors made contact with them on Saturday.

Unarguably taken aback by the humongous amount of ransom demanded by the kidnappers who must have erroneously been seeing the Nollywood industry as an industry where money literarily grows on trees, Nigerian award-winning film actress Hilda Dokubo and her colleague, Lizzy Gold Onuwaje reacted to the kidnap of their colleagues.

In fact, evidences that suggest that kidnappers see acting career in Nigeria as very lucrative abound in the number of Nollywood actors that have over the years been kidnapped. Just as Dokubo rightly commented, the abductors must have being misguided, and thus misjudged the financial status of the actors. She further explained that some actors paint the wrong picture on social media.

She added that the abduction of two Nollywood stars, Cynthia Okereke and Clemson Cornel, otherwise known as Agbogidi was a demonstration of how erroneously kidnappers see actors and actresses in the Nollywood industry and wondered, “One hundred thousand US dollars ransom demand for two decent hard-working Nigerians whose only offence is that they were returning from work”.

She lamented, “Nollywood is about moving from one level of begging for alms to save an ill or dying colleague to now facing the worse of fears over two of their colleagues facing God knows what in the hands of kidnappers!

Where will we turn to if not the public using our social media platforms?” She asked.

She continued, “Well… finally, the kidnappers have made their demands. They want money! 100m dollars! From where?

“Unfortunately, they misjudged the financial status of the actors they kidnapped! And think that as it is in the movies, that is how it is in real life. What a life! Where will we get one hundred thousand US dollars from? God save all of us from this pain and give us your grace for this period.

“I know some actors paint the wrong picture on social media all the time but it is only in line with the “Show” part of Showbiz. Hopefully, you’ll understand what I mean.

“I am pained because I know these two personally, have worked with them and I know the truth of how it is with them. Just been asking myself one question all day, how much does an average actor make in Nigeria?”

Also, Hilda Dokubo’s colleague, and former beauty queen Lizzy Gold, aired her opinion on the matter.

While reacting to the tragic case, she posted a picture of a blogging site that had written a biography on her, it could be spotted that the writer estimated her net worth to be $400,000. It also described Lizzy Gold to be one of the richest and most influential actresses in the Nollywood industry. The actress stated that the author of the article ought to be arrested.

She wrote,” This is one of the reasons actors are being kidnapped… They think we are so rich… I need to arrest the person behind these lies… I am working hard to be wealthy but am not current close to any of that amount mentioned there… I nor get money ooo. I be hustler ooo… I dey even find who go dash me money… Pls, do not believe anything you read on the internet.”(sic)”

Sandra Ijeoma Okoye (Author)

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