If you are somewhere in Berlin and in some part of Europe and have not heard about Isaac Izoya then you probably did not take time out to find out the biggest name in entertainment and show promotion in that territory. Call Isaac Izoya or Ehizoya Golden Entertainment and fingers will point to the Ishan, Edo State born but Berlin based journalist, actor, producer, show promoter and acclaimed cultural ambassador who is behind the annual cultural exposition that has exposed talents of Nollywood and stand up comedians alike to fans in Europe particularly Africans in the Diaspora. The Founder and President of Ehizoya Golden Entertainment Organization and head of Ehizoya Golden productions, (Nollywood movies productions and Distribution Company in Germany ), Izoya has starred, produced and premiered Nollywood film in Germany and toured eighteen cities in nine European countries for eight consecutive times since 2003 all in an effort to launder Nigeria’s image, promote Africa’s rich cultural heritage and engender global integration- a record that remains unbroken till date Only recently, the graduate of the London school of journalism and recipient of a number of awards took some of Nigeria’s acting celebrities on a tour of Europe.
The actress Mercy Johnson, the comic artiste and director Charles Inojie and the tall and well built Benedict Johnson were some of the artistes on the 2008 diet of the show which Izoya described as one of the most outstanding of the shows he has organized since he got into packaging cultural expositions. He spoke to Shaibu Husseini.
How did the show go generally?
Great! I must confess, it was fun unlimited across Europe within the crew and their fans. It was home away from home for those who had no opportunity of visiting Africa and African friends alike in the Diaspora It was mission accomplished and we give God the glory.
Was it roundly a success?
Absolutely yes! I nicknamed these set of artistes that I had on the show the “Lucky Group”. They might not be the biggest names in the industry but there was something in them that differentiated them from others which is luck hence, “the lucky group”.
What informed the choice of the actors you had on this bill?
It’s just the demand of their African fans in the Diaspora. Its Nollywood fans in the Diaspora that dictate who gets on board. They are the one you are expecting to fill your halls and you only need to listen to their demand and respond to it.
How do you react to the insinuation that you chose this category of actors because you have fallen out with almost the big names?
Ha! Haa! Haa!! Do you mean they are the underdog? Funny enough, in our eight times Europe tour experience, this set pulls more fans and received more gifts than any other group excluding the set that came with Patience Ozokwor (Mama.G). Who are the big names by the way? In retrospect, Ehizoya Golden Entertainment – who believes artistes exposition are veritable vehicles of influencing humanity, culture and the people’s mentality – has sponsored prominent Nigerian artistes on European tours. Some of the artistes who have been on our tours include prominent people like Ramsey Noah, Ngozi Ezeonu, Empress Njamah, Nkeiruka Sylvanus, Jim Iyke, Desmond Elliot, Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme a.k.a Aki and PawPaw, John Okafor (a.k.a. Mr Ibu), Victor Osuagwu (a.k.a. One Dollar), Bright Okpocha, popularly known as Basket Mouth, Julius Agwu and the director Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen to mention only but a few. So what exactly do you mean with big names and fallen out? You don’t expect us to take same stars twice on Europe tour. It’s turn by turn based on their fans request. We have learnt not to experiment with our own choice of artiste. No! Each tour cost us at least 53,000 Euro and there is no sponsors from anywhere to back our projects despite the good intention it has for the nation and the industry. Those you call big names maybe small names in Europe because one man’s meat is another man’s poison or in other word, it might be their turn tomorrow but still based on their fans favour. We expect criticism which is part of life but constructive criticisms will be great. We should learn to appreciate and give honour to those whom honour is due. After all, those awards I received so far didn’t come by chance. I think I worked for it.
How did you pull off the Mercy Johnson huge loss during the tour?
Mercy is such a great girl full of life. She speedily put the problem behind her and moved on without looking back. She is also a blessed person. Blessed in the sense that she always get double replacement of whatever she lost both in kind and in cash. I remember how one big guy in Germany spent 8000Euro on her to replace her missing items and another fan of her also spent 3,500 Euro for her clothes. She received so much cash from fans she never met in appreciation of her screen performance through money transfer. The only stress involved was the long hour drive to Genova and another eight hours from Berlin to Brescia shows in Italy. Thanks though to the German Police and the Nigeria Embassy, Berlin who stepped in at the right time to end the nightmares.
You got an award again in Hamburg. How many award has Izoya fetched so far?
Thank God almighty and those that keep records of the going on around the world. The Cultural Ambassador Award I received in Hamburg while the tour was going on was organized by African Heritage Magazine, the African Life style magazine published in Germany by Ken Consult. It brought the number to a total of three awards I have received since December 2004.
Tell me is it all about the awards and recognition. Why is Izoya doing this?
It’s about recognition, about promotion of Nollywood, about Nigeria Image laundering, about living up to my name Izoya meaning “Rescue” and Isaac which means “laughter” (and we rescue people with our comedy or laughter shows) and to be remembered for a man that has done so much for motherland. Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and recently Obama have done it in their own capacity. We’re also doing it in our own little ways. We have been able to make impact to so many lives both in the industry in particular and within the African community in Diaspora in general. As the only child of my parent, I promised my father of making his name known around the world for good. I think my father is happy with me today for that accomplishment. I pray and hope that someday, Banks, companies and Government will see the importance of what we have achieved for Nollywood and Nigeria Image laundering effort in Europe and see the need to partner or sponsor our subsequent projects. I think it’s good for companies that support cultures or wish to do business with Nigerians in Diaspora to partner with us. We are about the only organisation that has the capacity and potential of organising shows across 9 countries in Europe without sponsors. We’ve done it eight times without sponsors and Imagine what we can achieve with little financial backup from anywhere.
What is in it for the artistes? Do they take home actually take them back home?
Quoting Mama.G who was also on Ehizoya Europe tour in 2004, Mercy Johnson said, “Coming to Europe on my own is not a big deal but no way would I have been able to create the awareness and recognition I received through Ehizoya promotions. …… I think that summarised it all. We opened the way for eighty percent of our Nollywood stars to travel across the Atlantic for the first time to know their worth. I have been told that their artistic fees rise automatically after our tours. They are exposed to new friends in different European countries. I have always maintained that If it’s easy, stress free and lucrative, let my critics venture it.
What is the film distribution environment in Europe like?
It used to be a good business but no more since the introduction of so many website where you can download new films free of charge or watch on cable TV with no restrictions. These are old stories, I personally cried to the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) and the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) with no result. I remember that Fred Iwenjora published extensive details of the devastating effect of those websites on Nollywood in Vanguard. Nothing has been done till date by the supposed bodies involved. We are watching to know which way forward.
Surprisingly, Nollywood is getting more popular than ever before among the Europeans. We were surprised while in one location recently in Berlin, a Cameroonian walked pass a Nollywood star unnoticed but her husband Mr. Andre Prepens, a German, screamed and rushed to embrace the star. He took us home and showed us where he displayed photos of some Nollywood stars. The man confessed that he is addicted to Nigerian films because of the exposure we have given to our stars. Sadly, government is not doing enough to save the dying industry and its distribution networks.
So what is Izoya planning next?
We are working on something big. We are partnering with some Germans, but for the good of the industry. For now, that is all I can say. You will surely be the first to know about it when we’re done.
In retrospect, Ehizoya Golden Entertainment would love to thank God for making the tour possible, the crew members both in Europe and Nigeria, Nigeria and German Embassies, Habbel Theatre, Dorothee Wenner, Mercie Jost, Enibokun Itua, Chief Don Kelly, Bryans Adelaigle, Goethe-Instituts, Hebbel Ufer HAU im Rahmen von „Die Tropen. Ansichten von der Mitte der Weltkugel“ (Martin-Gropius-Bau), Miami club in Torino, our fans, African Heritage magazine, The African courier magazine and Nollywood star guests. Without your co operations the going would’ve been tough
In a nut shell, the 8th Europe tour was a mission accomplished and a new adventure and a plus to Ehizoya Golden Entertainment record.