Nollywood actor, Emeka Ike claims to be the president of a faction of the Actors Guild of Nigeria. In this interview with ‘NONYE BEN NWANKWO, he talks about the crisis in AGN and his alleged quarrel with colleague, Jim Iyke. Would it be proper to call you the president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria?
By election and by every form of legality, I am the AGN president.
But we hear you were nominated Vice president of AGN and Segun Arinze as the president?
Who is nominating who?
The Board of Trustees, we gathered, nominated you.
The BoT expired in 2008. Their expiration is an open secret. The only alternative they had was to conduct a new election and hand over to the next president to re-arrange the industry and appoint new BoTs. The game they are playing by causing all this confusion, is just for them to stay longer. I will not be a party to a make-shift cabinet.
Why do you think the BoT decided to let sleeping dogs lie and retain Segun Arinze as president?
I don‘t know. That is the question I ask myself. What makes a man to turn around from his resolute point? What makes a man to say one word today and another one tomorrow? They were the ones that invited Kanayo.O. Kanayo and I. They invited KOK as the chairman of the interim government to come and assist because we thought the chaos was coming from Ejike Asiegbu‘s camp. We thought it was Ejike that was destroying and disturbing the industry. They invited us to come and help and to tell Ejike to do the right thing. They called me to join the caretaker committee and I said no. I wanted to watch what was happening. That was my position. When it was two weeks to go, people had already bought forms to contest for the election. I paid N80,000. Some other people paid money for different positions. You came and said we should not hold any election again. That was when you decided you wanted a government of national unity. I began to see the handwriting on the wall. I began to see that somebody was more interested in this guild than the practitioners. That was the resolute point where I stood my ground. This whole thing has been narrowed down to the same BoT. Ejike might not be wrong after all. They want to make a stooge and use him. They have been doing that for ten years. We need to move ahead whether they are there or not. Why should they come to tell me to be a vice president? For what?
But is the situation better, now that the guild is split into factions?
If we can‘t get the right thing from AGN, we will not remain with a guild that lacks integrity. It is paramount at this point that we stand up to say whether AGN is to be or not to be. If we need to work with this AGN, we go ahead, we structure it and we work with it. If we don‘t want to work with AGN, we move ahead and begin to operate so that people will not be taking the benefits of our efforts. I am sure that those people taking the benefits of our efforts are the ones at the head of this whole crisis.
It was alleged that one very important personality gave you a large sum of money to fight for the AGN presidency. How true is it?
Who is this politician? It would be nice if you could mention his name so that he would read this and know whether you are saying the truth. This is an information you are giving me. This is their apparatus. They just want scandal, malicious scandal. I have not stepped into the office. I have not signed any paper so far. I have not seen any governor. If I have seen anybody in power, the person is just my personal friend and we saw on personal business. I have not done any business with anybody in governance in the last one year. So where is this story coming from? It is just their weapon of war. They paint you as black as they are so you can all be in the same black shade. Nobody has given me a dime. I don‘t belong to the group that goes around to beg for peanuts. We have an agenda. When we are set, we will present them, we will follow them up properly and achieve them. Why would a governor ‘dash‘ me one million naira? Did I lose my mother? Is my wife in coma? Do I have a terminal illness that would warrant me needing assistance? They just want to run me down. But beyond that, the whole guild knows that it is malicious. The story is just baseless.
Now that the guild is in disarray, what do you think you can achieve?
We are achieving lots of things. We have the state chapters on our side. We have the big actors on our side. What we are praying for is lasting peace. Inasmuch as I know I would forge ahead, I still would want my brother around so that we can do it the right way.
Who is your brother?
Segun Arinze. I am giving him some space and I want him to take advantage of the space. If he doesn‘t take advantage of the space, we move on. We will not wait for him. How long are we going to keep on licking the remnants of the pots? Why don‘t we eat the real meal? We are moving on. We have programmes that are very formidable and we are starting very soon.
How come you decided to run for the AGN presidency?
We all know this job. Do you know how many actors that call me everyday from Zamfara and other states telling me they want to get involved? I have been so critical of the way things are. Why are artistes working around without contracts? How do you get royalties to be paid? Of course, some people do not want those royalties to be paid. That is what we are suffering. I looked at it, because I am involved, because I am regarded in this industry as a Godfather, because I am respected, I should not let the guild down. This industry will take care of our children‘s children yet unborn. My son might want to be a lead actor tomorrow. There should be enabling conditions that are left by people like us. I am acting on the impulse of the Tsunami that has been on the ground. That is why I am involved.
But some people feel that you decided to get involved in other to remain relevant in the industry because nobody offers you roles anymore.
That is too cheap. How much roles do I need? The industry was terminated a long time ago when you stopped hearing of Idumota, Pound Road Aba and Upper Iweka. It was truncated then when I was making noise about Emeka Mba trying to kill our industry. Nobody answered me. People felt I was just expressing my own personal feelings. But right now, movies are not being shot. The ones shot are being shot by the Alaba boys. They would shoot a one part film and divide it into four parts. I don‘t want to be a part of that. I am clear in my statement. I am not a man that says one word and does another thing. By the time you bring a good story and slit it into three different stories, it would lack focus and message. That is not the home video I know. When you bring such scripts to me, I tell you to go and get my boys. For me, I took the back bench, not because I have stopped shining, not because they stopped bringing scripts to me, but I have to be sure the movies are just in two parts. Whoever is saying that is just talking trash. If I am no longer acting, don‘t I have other businesses that are putting food on my table? AGN does not have an account. Even if there is an account, you are not sure there is 50 naira there. So how would that be my ambition or my hope to stay alive? It is not.
Do you support Emeka Mba‘s reforms?
I will not be because his reforms have not shown any feasibility. You want to bring in a new chicken to lay golden eggs. Allow the old chicken to lay its own eggs so there would be room for competition. Competition drives the world. Do not try to pack up existing product to start a new one. That was my message. But Emeka kept moving on because he had the government on his side and he had the so called producers on his side. They (producers) were the ones that sold our rights cheaply to African Magic. They didn‘t consult us. They were the ones that went and borrowed money from big banks and they never paid back as such, scaring away sponsors from us. They are the same ones that carry out illicit transactions with the guild and the industry. These producers would collect money from marketers and shoot a movie that is more or less, rubbish. Then the marketers decided that since the money is their own, they may as well see how the money is being used. We started earning those big money when the marketers took over. They came to operate the business on a normal business terrain. Things improved. But they kept calling the marketers illiterates. You that is literate, what have you done for the industry? How many of them in that Producers Guild, have shot a movie in the last 15 or 10 years? Now we celebrate the cinemas today, who are the ones taking Nigerian movies to the cinemas? Desmond Elliot is an actor. Emem Isong is in the creative department. Stephnie Okereke is an actor. We are still the ones doing these things. The producers are just running around creating ideas to rip off people. I hear of the 12 ambassadors progamme on TV with some flabby things coming to say that they are the new faces in the industry. Who told them that Nigerians are tired of the old faces? Why the interest of terminating the old faces. How has his board affected the industry?
Some of your colleagues were made ambassadors of a multi-national company. Some people said you were not chosen because you were involved in scandals
There is no star that has not been associated with a scandal. There just can‘t be stardom without scandals. I was in the multinational‘s house. I was invited. The figure they mentioned to me was not okay for my stardom. That is just the issue. Thank God for the company. I love what they are doing. But I still feel I should be paid better. That was why I didn‘t do it. It is a beautiful idea. I love it. But you have to pay my bill. I have a negotiating power. But we are still in touch. We have other projects that we can do together. But for that particular project, I leave it for my younger boys. Let my children enjoy it. I pray they better know what they do with that money because they would be broke soon if they don‘t know what they are doing.
Some people say you are
This is not arrogance. This is knowing who you are. When you know who you are, you know how to address your issues. I come to find out that many of my colleagues are not totally educated. They agree with whatever you say. That is just the problem. I know where I am coming from. A couple of my colleagues are working in oil companies today. Some are legislators. Some are in the government. If you know such people, you can‘t settle for less. People love to judge me by their own mindsets. I love it. My greatest strength is when I am underestimated. I don‘t flaunt myself at public functions. You don‘t tell me that because one governor is doing something, all of us have to be there. Why should I do that if I am not a party decoration or a balloon or ribbon? I should have a role to play if I am attending such an event? I can add to the nation. I have added to the nation and I can do more. I am not just a decoration. It is not about arrogance. It is about knowing who you are.
Have you finally made up with your colleague, Jim Iyke?
I never had a fight with Jim Iyke. That is one young boy I love so much. If he knows how much I love him, he will be fighting you people for all this. We don‘t have any stress. You do have misunderstandings with you own colleagues in the office. Because we are stars, our own is overblown. Jim is fine. I am going to give him a call very soon as his president. We are still friends. If I see him tomorrow, I will still say hi. One thing is this I am still his senior. In age, I am older. In the industry, I am still older. If that is settled, we are friends. There must be due process. We can‘t sideline something by doing gra gra or agidi. Jim and I are friends but statuesque must be maintained.
Some of your colleagues record music albums, these days. Do you intend to do the same thing?
It is laughable. It is very un-focused and very irritating of a diva or a star who has made name to get involved in such. If I must sing today, if I don‘t see Sony Records, then I am not singing. That means I have not hit the crest. My stardom is already higher than whatever recording company we have in Nigeria today. What do you want to sing that 9ice has not done better? Do you want to go on the same terrain with Tuface? What do I want to sing? Let us give that department to where it is due. Lets focus on other things. My music should be able to meet the standards that I have created with music. I ration things properly. I don‘t rush out.
You are hardly seen at social functions
My colleagues have bastardised it. A couple of us took it as a leeway to lack of jobs. It is because of such a nuisance that it came to a point when they were opening Tinapa and they were texting everybody to come and pick up tickets at the airport. I sent a reply to the person that they should send the tickets to my office if they were serious. You need to treat me properly. This is a star. This is not how it is done in Hollywood. A star might be wearing rags, but when he enters an event, it becomes a style. Maybe we have not defined stardom properly. We should learn to use stardom properly. You don‘t see a Sunny Ade at every function, do you?
What do you hope to achieve in the nearest future?
I want to have an AGN that has an address. I want an AGN that has a residential contact. I want an AGN that can fend for itself without running around to the government and stakeholders and individuals to assist them. I want an AGN with an autonomous chapters.
But right now, you are not working from the secretariat
Right now, the secretariat is under lock and key. For peace to reign, we are operating away from there. The other faction is not there either. But very soon, the logics will reign.
Are you saying you will not step down for anybody?
Step down for what? We need to have integrity. We lack men of integrity in AGN.