AGAIN, ACTORS RETURN TO TRENCHES
SOME actors led by the Director of Guild Services of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, Emeka Rising, would this afternoon at the National Council for Arts and Culture, NCAC premises in the National Theatre annex, Iganmu, Lagos, hold a meeting that the president of the body, Ejike Asiegbu, has described as an attempt to commit "mutiny. And it amounts to insorbodination which the present executive would not condone because we have laws guiding the Actors Guild of Nigeria."
Today's meeting is coming barely a week after the association's executive at a national congress in Enugu, Enugu State met and passed a Vote-of Confidence on the Asiegbu for what they described as his exemplary leadership since he assumed office "despite all odds stacked against him."
Rising, who was one of the principal characters in the over one year feud that rocked the body is being condemned by many actors as one who nurses "inordinate ambition" to become the chairman of the Lagos State chapter of AGN. Ironically, it was the sack of the same Director of Guild Services by former chairman of the Lagos chapter Chief Remi Ohajianya and his recall by Asiegbu that pitched the later against Ohajianya.
That was one of the allegations, in addition alleged corrupt practices, official high-handedness among others, levelled against the former Lagos chairman.
Asiegbu's national executive team consequently sacked Ohajianya who ran to the then very powerful members of the Board of Trustees led by Prince Ifeanyi Dike. The board consequently 'sacked' Asiegbu and that was the beginning of the holocust that threatened to decimate the actors' body. Asiegbu went to court accusing the board of fraud as related to the alleged doctoring of AGN's constitution that arrogated so much power to them. After months of feuding, Chief Joseph Odobeatu, proprietor of celebrity hangout, O'jez; Chief Abogo, the Managing Director, chief executive of Downtown Salon, Bode Thomas, Surulere among others stepped into the matter and prevailed on Asiegbu to withdraw the case from the court, but not without a Memorandum of Understanding entered into by all the parties which technically left Ohajianyan and Hakeem Rahman who was 'appointed' president during the strife, in the cold. By the MoU, the duo remained suspended or sacked as the case may be "unless they show remorse and apologise to Nigerian actors for dragging them into an unnecessary fued." They have not done. And since Ohajianyan who had held sway as Lagos chapter chairman for eight years had served his tenure, he was according to the MoU, relieved of his chairmanship position. Peace once again came to the actors' fold, until recently when sources said Emeka Rollas, who lost in the presidential election that brought in Asiegbu; and who the serving president appointed as Special Adviser on Political matters, started nursing the ambition of becoming Lagos State chapter chairman. He reportedly formed an alliance with Emeka Rising and found a new friend in Ohajianyan who, sources claimed, is the main agenda of today's meeting-his recall. Rollas has since denied ever plotting to topple Asiegbu or planning the recall of Ohajianyan.
But the president in a swift reaction called Rollas an "ingrate" who has never since he was appointed Special Adviser, "attended any meeting of the association and now he is planning to become Lagos chapter chairman, and what better way to do that than to want to recall a suspended member of the association using a Director of Guild Services who by the virtue of his position, has no right to call a meeting. Emeka Rising's duties is just mere protocol, buying mineral during meetings, making sure that all goes well. But now he feels he is king-maker and wants to take on too much."
Asiegbu who assured that he would be present for today's meeting scheduled to hold according to the leaflet signed by Rising that was made available to The Guardian, by 12 noon. "I will be there for the meeting and listen to all the lies they will try and tell to other members of the association. I am going for the meeting with documents to defend myself, all the financial dealings of AGN are open, just go to UBA (United Bank for Africa) and the records are there for you if you prove that you are a financial member."
For calling a meeting without following due process, Emeka Rising, Asiegbu said, may be sanctioned by the national executive in an emergency meeting scheduled to hold tomorrow in Lagos. "The era of lawlessness is past in AGN, the national executive would meet tomorrow and deliberate on what to do to Emeka Rising and others who may be remotely involved in what I term a rebellion, so that appropriate sanction could be applied. The decision is not mine solely to take, the executive would decide on what to do," he submitted.
The president of AGN accused officials of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Lagos, of meddling in the affairs of the association. And he has written a petition to the Director General of the NCAC in Abuja. "I do not understand why top officials of the NCAC in Lagos has jettisoned their roles as civil servants and are meddling in the affairs of AGN. Fine, they locked up our Lagos office with the claim that we were owing. I have asked them, please put it in to the national executive so that we know how to go about paying the money owed by Remi Ohajianyan while he was chairman, up till now, they have refused to do that. And I have it on good authority that they are planning to open up the office on Thursday (today) to give Emeka Rising some form of credibility. I ask, where did Lagos chapter suddenly come up with N300, 000 that was claimed to be the rent owed NCAC? Or is AGN not owing again? You lock up our office and yet use agents to collect N2,000 to enable auditions to hold! I have written to the Director General.
He assured that elections would hold soon in the Lagos chapter and anybody wishing to contest would do that freely, "but I hereby warn that anybody trying to foment trouble with be dealt with in accordance with the law. I call on all law abiding members of AGN nation-wide especially Lagos chapter members, not to allow some people with evil intentions for the association to use them for their selfish ambitions."
He thanked his executive for passing a Vote-of Confidence on him at the Enugu meeting where the body's new constitution was also adopted.
A communique signed by all the executive and state chapter chairmen had the National President addressed the House on the state of the Guild and the challenges ahead. Thereafter, he invited the chairmen to address the House on the problems and prospects attendant to their various states of jurisdiction or chapters.
"The chairmen extensively briefed the house on the problems and prospects of their respective states of jurisdiction or chapters. Thereafter, the new Actors Guild of Nigeria 2007 Constitution, was read to the House by Chuma Onwudiwe, the secretary of the Constitution Review Committee, and was deliberated upon and adopted after minor adjustments were made.
"The house was informed of the recent decision of the national executive to review the cases of the indicted officers and members who were expelled. Consequently, their expulsion has been reduced to two years suspension, with effect from the 1st of July, 2007."
The highlight of the meeting, the communique read was the passing of "a vote of implicit confidence on the national executive and gave it one year from the date of adoption of the new 2007 Constitution within which to conduct the states chapter elections, national election, stabilise the Guild and continue the good work of repositioning and reforms."
The state chapter elections as resolved at the Enugu meeting have been slated for commencement, with effect from the end of August, 2007 after due compliance with the provisions of the Constitution and the electoral guidelines even as the States Chapter chairmen sought for clarifications on several issues which were given by the National President.
Asiegbu at the meeting advised all state chapter chairmen to stimulate and reposition themselves to become investment friendly, write scripts for productions that will reflect diverse cultural heritage, in conjunction with the aspirations of government.
"The congress congratulated the National President and the national executive for their perseverance and commitment in the face of distractions. The house particularly commended the national executive for the mature but firm manner with which they guided the Guild during the last crisis. The House noted the progress that has been made on so many fronts since then, and urged the national executive not to rest on their oars," the communique read.
The Memorandum of Understanding, which finally brought to an end the recent crisis in the Guild, was read to the House and applauded.