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Who owns Face of Nollywood? Ejike, Chike and Nwachukwu at war!

Source: http://www.nigeriafilms.com
Ejike Asiegbu AGN president
Ejike Asiegbu AGN president

The movie industry is agog with the story of a war between the AGN president Mr. Ejike Asiegbu, and the organisers of the first ever Face of Nollywood event. One side of the divide is Bryan Chike and his team at Total TV and on the other side is the AGN and Mr.Obi Godwin Nwachukwu the man the actors guild is backing as the originator of the Face of Nollywood.

Both parties have been trading words over whose right it is to host the event. We spoke to the warring factions and this is the result of the encounter. First we started with Obi Nwachukwu and this is his story.

It's a fight to finish with Ejike Asiegbu— Bryan Chike

Bryan Chike the man at the centre of the Face of Nollywood spared nothing in defence of his right to host the event. He took swap shot at the AGN President accusing him of insincerity and greed.

If the AGN and the other body started their project since 2005, when did you start yours?

Oh! I'm hearing for the first time that there are people behind Ejike and that there is another team from you.

Ejike says he is standing by the other team because they approached him first and as a man of integrity and honour...

The question is if some people had approached him way back in whichever year, what did he tell me when I started? What did he tell me in February when I wrote a letter to him and up till two weeks ago when he began to play the mischief he's playing now.

If he had any agreement with another body in 2005, why did we carry on and why did he go into an MOU which was not signed?

He gave reasons why he went into the MOU which was because he thought he could get both parties to work together..

How can I work with a party I never knew, I'm hearing about another party for the first time. All this while, he didn't tell me there was another party other than the AGN. Before now, all he had said is that the trade mark belongs to AGN.

What he is saying is that somebody had already come to them with the proposal to host Face of Nollywood and which they endorsed ...

I'm not aware of that. When I started the Face of Nollywood also way back in 2006, I had to do my homework and planning. When I was ready to reach the public, I approached the AGN, the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Script Writers Guild, Directors Guild of Nigeria and ANTP which is the Yoruba association for movie makers, I approached almost all the guilds. It was the same letter I wrote to all this other guild that I wrote to AGN.

All we were seeking was for support and endorsement. I never sought for anybody's collaboration. The other guilds wrote back giving their support but Mr. Asiegbu said he cannot give us support rather he can collaborate with us. And I asked him what kind of collaboration he was looking at. And he asked me what we are going to offer to the guild.

I reminded him that I was the Secretary General of AGN eight years ago and if the association has a programme and my company feels that we should get involved in it then why not, we can support the project or whatever they want to do.

But when he's talking about collaboration that I don't understand it and the discussion broke down at that point and we went our different ways.

Later one of my partners and colleague said he spoke with Ejike and that we have to resume that discussion again and I asked him if he fixed any time and he said yes.

We came to O'Jez restaurant and started talking about it again. In that discussion he asked what we can offer AGN, so I went outside to discuss with my colleague and when we came inside again, I told him we're offering 5% but asked him what AGN is bringing into the event. He said they are bringing their name or is their name not enough?

First, when I told him we were offering 5%, he laughed and said that I'm insulting him. And I told him that 5% is not the issue, but 5% of what are we offering.

At this point my colleague called me aside again and told me that he knows Ejike, that he has a feeling Ejike is not satisfied with what we've offered that we should give him (Ejike) 5% and the guild 5% making it 10%. I told my friend that I don't like this idea of offering this and that so we went back to him and my colleague told him what we've decided.

As far as Total TV is concerned Mr. Asiegbu is greedy. At the point of writing up our MOU which he refused to sign, he was asking for 20% to himself and 10% to the AGN and in the end Total TV will go home with 70%. We drafted the MOU through our lawyer and gave to him which he said he'll go through it and give to his lawyer to go through before all this game started.

And before the MOU, he said that we can go on, on the ground that we have always been friends. Initially we printed posters which didn't have Ejike's name on it and even the TV commercials didn't have his name too.

But when we got to the point of MOU where he said we can go on, we then asked for his name, phone number and the AGN's since he said he'll bring all the corporate bodies and banks who were ready to do business with AGN.

He gave us his name and phone number that day but their logo was not available but he said we should go and cut the Logo from the paper they used in launching the office which we did. We put his name, phone number and their logo there, but it's so unfortunate that we didn't record all these things.

Uptill this point, did he ever mention another body to you?

No. He has issued press releases about this event and talked about it on TV. Ask any press man whether he mentioned anything like another body to them. He told some of his colleagues also that we've settled the matter that we can go on. Even on the day I went to his office to deliver the MOU, I met Sunny Macdon who said to me, thank God that you've settled with Ejike. He also told me that Ejike told him that we've agreed to give them 30% and I was surprised because he claimed that I am the one who has been telling people that he's taking 30% from us.

Inside the MOU, there's a non discloseable clause that we must not tell anybody about percentage, we should just say we are working together. On getting to his office I told him to stop talking to people about our agreement because they don't need to know the basis at which we are working. We went on and discussed the project.

He even gave me lists of hotels I can stay in Abuja and I told him I don't know them so he called them in my presence. When I got to Abuja, I used one of the hotels.

He called to say he was coming to Abuja the following week and when he arrived, I called to know where he was staying and I went to consult with him.

In our meeting I told him we are having hitches with the FCT ministry, the NTDC and Rochas foundation. He told me he couldn't do anything about the Rochas foundation and mentioned people he said can help me in that regard. I asked him to help us talk to theFCT minister if he's close to him because our proposal has been on his table for the past four months.

Few minutes after our discussion, he called to tell me that the man said he was not willing to do our project this year and I asked why. He said he doesn't know. At this point I started feeling that Ejike's interest is not in this project.

The same day I visited the CEO of Abuja film village international Segun Oyekunle in pursuance of my proposal and he said he had told Ejike last night that the ministers have said they may not be able to do two closely related Nollywood events in 2008.

I asked him which other Nollywood event the minister was interested in and he was like am I not aware that Ejike submitted a proposal to host a Screen and Stage Actors Award? And I told him I wasn't aware.

He said both of us should go and work out details of both events and tell them which one can wait till 2009 and which one can hold this year. Then I told the man that we are not doing any collaboratiohn with Ejike since he has decided to push our own event to next year. The man insisted that we must work out a date for each event because the minister was waiting for him to do a memo on that.

I went to see Ejike after I left him and asked him how he would welcome the idea of holding our event and his the same night (I put the question that way because I wanted see his reaction since it's a Nollywood thing). He told me that he wasn't the only one involved and so will have to discuss with other members of his Exco.

At this point I told him that I'd met with Segun Oyekunle and this is what he told me. He (Ejike) said well that the minister loves the project and he's taking it as his special project, that he holds the project very close to his heart and has said that if it is the last thing he will do before he leaves office, he'll do it. I said ok, if you want to do your project, we are also doing the Face of Nollywood..

So the issue at stake is not about another body that wants to do Face of Nollywood?

Yes, that's not the issue. The issue here is greed and because he has his own project with the minister.

The kernel of the story is that I succeeded in getting appointment with the FCT minister and Ejike fought tooth and nail to make sure that I did not see the minister. We saw the man that day and he pledged to support the Face of Nollywood. He also pledged to be physically present on the day of the event.

Meanwhile Ejike had heard about the meeting and he swore that the project will not hold. He started making calls and threatening me.

That evening I tried severally to call him but he refused to pick my calls. Later he called me and said that he warned me not to go to certain places without his permission (he meant the minister). And I was like what the hell is all this? I am running a private company, what I have with you is your endorsement. If you (Ejike) feels that you don't like the way things are going then sit me down and tell me the way forward and not threatening me that you'll stop the event.

Of course he cannot stop the event. He said he's giving me up till the next day to tell him the details of our discussion with the minister or else I'll see what he'll do. The next day he called me when I was taking my bath and told me he heard that the minister promised us N20 million and that we should give him 10% of that money before he signs that MOU. Secondly he wanted 50% share and not 30% as we initially agreed because this and that had happened.

I told my colleague to forget Ejike and his threats because by then I was prepared. That same week I was travelling to Delta State and somebody called me from Ejike's office and asked if I'd seen the Presido. The person said I should leave whatever I'm doing now and see Ejike in my own interest. I asked why but the person couldn't say more because he was in the office. I told him I'll see him in the evening but I didn't get to see him. The next day again somebody called from Abuja saying there is need for me to call Ejike right away because my project is under serious threat if I don't call.

The next Monday we heard that Ejike had written a letter to the Censors Board disclaiming us and saying that we are defrauding Nigerians and making all sorts of allegations.

So because of all this controversy we decided to hold on and came back to Lagos to see to the end of all this trouble.

If Ejike thinks there's an issue then let's meet in court. If he thinks I'm taking his event, he should go to court to stop the event and not to start scandalizing my name on the pages of the newspaper. I think that is very unfair and after this whole thing, I'll take him up for scandal.

I'm not the first person he's doing this kind of thing to but I promise him that this is the last mischief he'll do to people organising events. This will be the last battle Ejike is fighting as President of Actors Guild of Nigeria. I've said it to a lot of people and I'll maintain it.

I own the right — Obi Nwachukwu
My names is Obi Godwin Nwachukwu a.k.a, Pontiffo. In 2005 Pontiffo initiated the Face of Nollywood to run as annual event and to produce a face for the advertising sector to use in promoting brands in Nigeria and beyond.

And that's what the concept is all about. In January 2006, we signed a pact with STV stating that they'll be co-sponsor and media partners.

Who did you speak with at SilverBird TV?
We spoke to the then COO of Silverbird TV Mr. Oscar Udofia who instructed the late GM Afam Emordi and the head of marketing, Mr. Tunde Thomas to draft a letter to that effect.

I still have the letter which states that Silverbird TV is ready to partner with us and give this Face of Nollywood all the publicity it deserves.

On that note we held a press conference where the AGN was well represented by Achor Ogenyi, the secretary general.

After that we struck another pact with NTA and they also gave us their support. From there the programme went on air. In this programme, we have been working together both with the AGN and Image and Profile to get sponsorship. The other angle which is to tidy up the Face of Nollywood was done by the AGN in the person of the President Ejike Asiegbu.

All of a sudden, we began to hear rumours that another bunch of people are having the same concept. When they approached the AGN. they were made to understand that they are already in partnership with Pontiffo and Image & Profile on this same project, but would they want to go into partnership with any other body?

The parties involved (all of us) eventually met but didn't reach any agreement and so no MOU was signed because the Total TV people were claiming the original concept and we disagreed with them.

Let him dare and face the law — Ejike Asiegbu
AGN Presdent was upbeat about whose right it is to host the Face of Nollywood. While pointing accusing fingers at Total TV for daring to steal what he said rightfully belongs to his organisation, Ejike dared the organiser to go ahead with arrangement to host the Face of Nollywood and face the wrath of the law.

Did you register this Face of Nollywood concept from inception?

When we mention Face of Nollywood, we mean those lovely faces of Actors/Actresses in the motion picture industry. Having adopted this name, we've been working hard to ensure its growth. Part of the ways to project Nollywood is through some of this collaborations and events that can take us to the next level and entertain the viewers.

This will be done via the voting system where the viewers can vote who they think should be the Face of Nollywood.

In 2005 when this present administration came into existence, Pontiffo the original initiators of this concept approached us to discuss this together with the CEO of Image and Profile, Mr. Jeffrey Anwa.

However, we told them that we are the legal and natural owners of the faces in Nollywood because these faces are members of the Actors Guild of Nigeria.

A good example is the Sexiest Woman in Nollywood recently organised by Vanguard Media Limited where the AGN was properly represented and endorsed it. If we hadn't endorsed it, there would have been a credibility problem somewhere.

The issue here is that Face of Nollywood has been publicised in different Nigerian dailies to Nigerians since 2005 and we have documents to prove it.

Can you tell us when this Total TV people approached you?

They came into the picture around May/June 2008. They met me at Rita Lori Hotels in Surulere and handed a letter to me which I opened when I got home. I quickly responded to their request to collaborate with us by reminding them (Mr Bryan Chike and Ifeanyi Ikpenyi) and making them realise that AGN was already in partnership with Pontiffo and Image & Profile on the same issue. I handed over the letter to them personally at O'Jez restaurant.

I also told them that if they had any other thing we can endorse for them, that we would do for them, but not this one. After I'd advised them on our relationship with Pontiffo and Image & Profile, rather than take it in good faith, they went to report me to several people in the industry, accusing me of making monetary demands.

Not satisfied with what they had done they came back again to offer me 5% of whatever they make from the project. I warned them not to try such because I had already entered into an agreement with some other people.

Secondly, I made it quite clear that it wasn't proper for me to do that. Thirdly, I told them not to discuss money issues elsewhere because it will be scandalizing on my person. I also told them that whoever wants to make any offer should do that straight to the Guild.

The next thing they did was to go out and send their flyers around. And for this act our lawyer wrote to them warning them that we were the legal owners of the faces in Nollywood and that we'd already entered into partnership with some other body.

They again sent Mr. Andy Chukwu to come and beg me because they know he is somebody I respect. Mr. Andy Chuukwu an established actor, director and producer came telling me that he's with them technically and he claimed that the report they brought to him was that I never wanted them to do the event.

At the end of day, he brought them to my office to plead that we collaborate with them. As a matter of fact they came to see me more than five times. It's funny now that these people who are begging us because they desire to collaborate with the AGN are now saying they are the real owners of Face of Nollywood.

However, because of the pressure form colleagues and friends I told them that I'll reach out to the first people that we endorsed and if they agree to partner with them then I can see how far we can go together.

Was there any MOU signed at this point?
At this point Mr. Andy Chukwu who is one of my special advisers and Mr. Charles Onoje pleaded with me to listen to them. Initially, I didn't want to give them attention because I felt they negated the principles and the warnings I gave them about presenting themselves as the real owners of Face of Nollywood.

Following all these pleas, a meeting was held for us to see how we can accommodate them. In this meeting, I made it quite clear to them that I no longer trusted them because we have with us materials published and aired in the Sun Newspapers, Cool Fm, Punch, Galaxy and the National Mirror by us since 2005/2006 till date and yet they could still parade themselves as real owners of this concept.

In that meeting I told them they have no right to use the name of the guild (AGN). It was in the same meeting that they made 20/30% offer to the guild which I warned them against.

I also told them that the issue wasn't all about money, because I believe more in content and that I would like to see what they have to offer as we already have ideas of what the event will look like.

They pledged to come up with a memorandum of understanding and I said no problem, if they bring it we shall know how far we can go.

The following day they came to my office again and said they've seen that without the AGN, they can't achieve their aim. So they brought a draft copy of an MOU through their lawyer which didn't have our input. But we had to adjourn the meeting because our lawyer was absent.

And when our lawyer returned, I called for another meeting. At this meeting I emphasised seriously that we should reach an agreement and they accepted.

But within that period I traveled to the Camerouns to deliver a paper at an Intellectual Property function and before I came back, they went ahead to try and hold a meeting with the former minister of FCT.

When I was called from the office of the FCT minister I told them I was not aware of any such meeting. If any person is coming to see him in the name of AGN, I should be aware as the national president so if they come without my permission then it's for a private venture.

However, I called them on phone to verify if they were there truly and they said yes. I became furious because they were using the name of AGN without my permission, but they cut the phone on me.

And soon they went on air to announce the Face of Nollywood. But our lawyers wrote to MBI TV and all the agencies that were involved in the motion picture industry including the Minister of Culture, Information, etc to steer clear.

Instead of their lawyer, Mr. Philip Uche Emeka, to advise them, he wrote a letter to the AGN lawyer insulting the personality of guild and claiming all sorts of nonsense.

I still have all those letters till date. Even after we had warned all the agencies and organisations not to listen to them, we're still aware that Cway waters is co-operating with and we know why. It is because Chike Bryan's wife is the PRO of the company, but he will never tell them the truth.

This event was supposed to hold on 15 November and I hear now that they want to hold on the 29th of

November and I challenge them to try.
I challenge them to come out with their documents.
And if they go ahead with the event on 29th November what will you do?The law will take its course, we will definitely sue them.