Saturday, 02 July 2011 00:00 Tony Okuyeme Hits: 23 . . .Share 0RICHARD Mofe Damijo, popularly known as RMD, is an actor, film maker, former journalist, lawyer and public servant. Arguably one top actors in the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood, in 2005, at the maiden edition of the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), Mofe-Damijo won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Prior to the evolution of what is today known as Nollywood, he had featured in several stage and television drama productions. He was a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP). In January 2009 he was appointed Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta State, Nigeria, by the Dr. Emmanuel Uduahan. For his colleagues, teeming fans and admire, the feeling was that he may have abandoned acting finally. However, Mofe-Damijo in this interview with TONY OKUYEME says he never left acting, but only expanded his scope. He also speaks his experience in the public service, his expectations for Nollywood, from government and the private sector for the arts, and wants stakeholders in the arts and culture sector to consider going into politics.
A recent art stampede organised by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) held at Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos, turned out an engaging encounter with Mofe-Damijo who as he narrates his experience in public service as Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta State, and other issues. For those who thought he had left acting and film making, he says no.
“I never went anywhere, I didn't say I left acting, I just expanded my scope. I have always been a restless soul. I did journalism, in the process I went into PR, in the process I went into law. My going off, and into politics is not a novelty in my life. I have never done only one thing in my life.
I can't see myself siting one place” he said, and added “before my law school, I stopped acting for a while, after my law school, I shot a movie and I got appointed into government.
“I have not been on stage for a while but I have been busy making sure that they younger ones be on stage while I perform the role of on executive producer.”
Born in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria, Mofe-Damijo attended Midwest College, Warri and Anglican Grammar School and was a member of the Drama Club. He enrolled into the University of Benin to continue his education and studied Theatre Arts. In 1997 he returned to the university to study law at the University of Lagos and graduated in 2004. His theatre career dates back decades ago transcending the various genres of the performing arts.
Star of the popular television drama series Ripples, among others, and the producer of and lead actor in the popular movie Out Of Bounds, his last film, according to him was State of the Heart, which was produced in 2007.
On his experience in public services, said it brings one closer to its people. “It takes the veneer Lagos puts on your life away and exposes the amount of work being done in Nigeria.
“To me its been a humble experience being back home to be faced with the reality of what Nigeria is, when you are in politics you deal with a lot of numbers. And your priority begins to change.
People have access to you. You become a representative of your people as it were. Am more in tune with my local government area and talking about my people, Delta people who are in my local government area. I am like a representative of their interest. It is changing perspective all the time.
“Government is a very jealous terrain.”
Mofe-Damijo believes that a good and efficient distribution system would and support from the private sector would help the industry.
“If only one road leads to the stream, not many women will fetch water, so for Nollywood there are diverse road leading to it. Some people will tell you it is distribution, once you get distribution right every other thing will fall in place.
It is a mixture of all we have to put up a film. For me right now one thing that is close to distribution that is in my heart is engaging private sector to look at our film sector with a view to moving it into a financial stream.
Access to funds will only come when people who are in charge of fund distribution take on interest in what you do. There are people in Nigeria who are financial consultants, if they say to their clients that Nollywood is a place to invest in the next five year everybody will do that.
Those are the people we need to actively engaged to see how we can interest them in Nollywood. If we do that it will open a new lusta people will not cry for funds the way they are crying.
I believe we are at that point now in Nollywood if we can engage the private sector, get financial experts to look at that sector with the view to recommending it to our sector to their client, we will move to the right direction as well.
“For me basically, it is creating that environment, where private practise thrives once private sector thrives, ones there is security, ones there are many things the money will come. Government doesn't have a business really funding what it creates is maybe endowment; but to fund commercial visibility of our film it will never happen for hundred years for government. Government is to create institutions that can drive the process of bringing in investors I will give you example, in my work as culture commissioner and Tourism, I had to engage private sector and I succeeded in through the instrumentality of the institutional backing the state give's you bring in several people that are interested in investing in tourism, in Delta State, inspite of all the controversy that surround the Niger Delta state.
“Nollywood needs to attract core financial investors. Look at it with a view to recommending to investors as a viable sector that you can invest.”
On the issue of the implementation of the cultural policy he said that there is need for the other elements that will make or support the cultural policy to be put in place.
“You know after a while we start to look for why things are not working so we lash onto things that a pending. Whether or not the cultural policy is implemented today, if the other elements that will make or support the cultural policy are not in place it will still not work.
“The story of Nigeria is one of Good intentions that has never been able to be fully implemented. Government has always have good intentions. It is the pursuit, the relentlessness the doggedness in terms of people who suppose drive the policy that has always been the bare. No commitment, no serious comment to the frame work.”
Mofe-Damijo said that there is need for artistes to get involved into politics. “Yes the more politically aware we all are the more we understand how government works. e.g I know how it works in certain areas, but I have seen things that are said at the outside as not being educated opinions; because they do not know how government works.
Government works through the budget, it is the financial law, the physical law that guides a state. So if you got into a state in July and tell the government to give you money for a film festival and you don't get it, you think that the governor is wicked. Where as, it is middle of the year, if he doesn't give you from his personal vote or other miscellaneous he can draw from the project doesn't fly.”