ACTORS GUILD HAS FAILED NOLLYWOOD -STEVE EBOH
Soft-spoken Steve Eboh is an actor of repute and currently the National Vice President (South-East zone) of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN). He hails from Enugu State, and has been in the movie industry since 1992 when he came into prominence with his performance in Dirty Deal. Eboh, who is the initiator of Feel Africa Initiative, a non-governmental organisation meant to re-brand the image of Africa to the international community, spoke with Reporter, Patrick Uwalaka, on his career and why the present leaders in AGN have not lived up to expectation. Excerpts:
We heard you have started a humanitarian body, can you tell us something about it?
Just like you said, I have started a new project, an NGO to be precise, it is called Feel Africa Initiative, and it is all about correcting the negative impression the West habours about Africa in the international community. To us at Feel Africa Initiative, the African weather is the best, our food is the best, an African person should be the best person in the whole world in terms of achievements, because we have been favoured by God in all ramifications, so people trying to bring Africa down with negative reports is not acceptable to us; we are all out to correct this impression. There are certain things we want to tell our people out there about us and also educate those within the continent and fight the ills and diseases ravaging the continent over the years such as malaria, breast cancer, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
What we want to do is to work out something big in the movies, here we are going to make films and documentaries that will showcase the dangers of these diseases just mentioned and when this is done, we believe it will go a long way in educating the people on how to live hygienic lifestyles in their everyday life.
A great plan, no doubt, in what ways is your own initiative going to be different from other projects we have seen in the past?
We are giving them something different this time with a touch of entertainment; we are going to put all this activities into a movie as it affects the lives of the African man and woman, we are going to use African artistes to do these movies, and these stars who are well-known on AfricaMagic and M-Net will be the ones to pass the message across to the African man.
Is this project of yours not too big for just one person to carry out?
If government wants to assist us, good and fine, but we will not want to depend on government totally for support of any kind.
Who are the actors and actresses you will work with since you want to use movies as a platform to educate Africans about health issues?
We are definitely not working with Nigerian artistes alone. This is an African project and we are going to explore areas where well-known African movie artistes will be brought in to make appearances in this project. In Nigeria, we have an organised Actors Guild, so every member is qualified to indicate interest if they so desire to make change and impact on the lives of fellow Africans.
What gave rise to this concept of Feel Africa Initiative?
I have been round the world and people's feeling and perception about Africa is all summed up as negative and backward, that Africa is the land of the devil. War and famine is what Africans are used to, but all these are not true, so we just thought the only way to counter all these negative issues about Africans is to come up with a platform that will give the outside world the true picture of what is happening in Africa, and the only way to send the message is for the ambassadors of Africa [movie artistes] to showcase their world to those who are not just happy with how Africa is doing at the moment.
Are you looking at the scenario where countries that don't speak English language can be carried along?
Yes, this is entirely an African project, every country in the continent of Africa will be represented in this work we are embarking on. Every language in Africa will get a fair representation. After doing the films, it will now be subtitled in all the languages spoken in Africa, be it French, Swahili, Creole, Ashanti, Afrikaaner. The various Nigerian languages we have will be represented in the project.
What is the involvement of foreign governments?
Currently, we are still at the starting point as regards bringing these countries that are ready to show support to such worthy cause or project, be that as it may, some international agencies have shown support. Soon we will be travelling to finalise discussion on how best to kick-start this huge project.
It will also interest you to know that some Nigerians in Diaspora are interested in the project, our nationals living in countries like South Korea, and South Africa have told us in very strong words that they would render any kind of assistance required to make this project a success; UNICEF is also interested in education and disease in Africa and they have shown considerable concern for this project and wants to partner with us.
As an actor, what is the greatest challenge actors face in this country?
The challenge, for me, is not a personal one, but the lack of concern and commitment by government in the affairs and running of the motion picture industry in the country.
Successive governments have not shown enough interest in what we are doing in Nollywood. Also, the corporate sector have not done enough for us, it is just recent that some banks woke up from slumber and realised that Nollywood could provide the right platform for certain things that could facilitate the growth of the banking industry. And as an actor, every script is a challenge for me, I just have to get it right or lose relevance in the scheme of things.
How long have you been in the motion picture industry?
I started as far back as in 1992 and when you do the calculations, you will get the exact period I have spent in Nollywood.
What was the first movie you took part in as an actor?
If I still remember well, it was the movie Dirty Deal by NEK Videos, it was shot in 1993, followed by Taboo, then Evil Passion, all in 1993, and since then it has been smooth-sailing all the way.
What is your level of involvement in Actors Guild of Nigeria [AGN] by way of position?
I am the National Vice President of AGN, South-East zone, and it has been very challenging because you get to know the problems of actors.
What is your assessment of AGN as a body based on your position?
The national executive of which I am a member has not lived up to expectations, we have not been responsive to our responsibilities, the welfare of our members have not been taken care of, and we have not listened to our members nor have we done anything in this administration led by Ejike Asiegbu to say we have done well.
A lot of things were supposed to have been done, but certain distractions from some quarters made us deviate and if we are to be judged by whatever project carried out by this administration we will fall below expectation.
What do you think is the way forward if the future of actors and actresses is to be safe-guarded?
The way forward is for us at the national executive to come together and look at our records, remember where we started, look at the promises we made to our members before we assumed office. We should look at these promises one after the other and see which of them we have fulfilled and what have we achieved, and if we have scored at least 60 per cent of these promises then we should make bold to say we have done well. If not, then we should cover our faces in shame as an executive that could not deliver to those we were supposed to serve.