Thursday, 3 June 2010

AMP – House of Discord – Season ONE

Few days ago, I was listening to a TV report on a particularly new group for Nigerian film producers, ANCOP - Association of Nollywood Core Producers, and its members condemned the opperations of AGN, saying that it's an association of hooligans and unserious minded people in the Nigerian film industry. This story was written last year, I have decided to publish it here since my last post was on cinema. You can see the contrast in the reality of the indsutry. 

As soon as I came down from a bike at the entrance gate of NCAC Artistes Village, an extension of National Theatre, I saw pioneer actors and actresses of Nollywood leant upon jeeps parked serially along in the premises. At first number of jeeps parked and the crowd of artistes surprised me, since the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) is no more in the premises. But a colleague told me that the presence of the artistes in the premises is nothing than an election for new executives of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP).

They were said to have moved from the Film Cooperation, which is not quite at a distance from the village to continue their electoral process, when the office closed for the day.

As my mission at the village is never to participate in the election neither am I an observer, I decided to mind my business. Well, I had scheduled a meeting with an art administrator earlier in the day at the Village, and as soon as I find my way in, I saw the fellow sipping a brand of beer from a glass-cup at the mini-bar behind the Little Theatre. Adjacent to the mini-bar is an open-ground where AGN normally audition for films some two years before they moved to their new office in Surulere, and there were actors and actresses in twos, threes and fours, having cheerful discussions with themselves. While some five of them sat round a table with seemingly documents for the election on the table. Having a full understanding of this kind of arrangement, I concluded that this must be the electoral board representative.

Having seated beside my colleague, the operations of the electoral board and the electorates for the AMP election were vivid from the mini-bar.

Some minutes after I had finished my meeting with the colleague of mine that we started noticing a different look on the faces of a while ago cheerful artistes in the premises. Out of my curiosity, I stood up; moved closer to the artistes and on getting into there midst I realized that there is bottled anger in some of them. Somebody asked, “why would they disqualify Lilian Amah?” behind me. I quickly looked towards that direction and I saw a round belly fellow who was later identified as Tony, on his feet, Paul Obazele and Lilian Amah, glued to their sit and some other unknown (to me) artistes around them. “Whatever happens you are still the president,” Tony said, referring to Paul Obazele, the current National President of the association.

Now the mood has changed completely and the unease pacing and whispering in the premises send a signal, which was later to be understood by me rashly. Suddenly, Paul Obazele pulled himself up from the seat and went towards the entrance of the village with his face laced with anger. He returned not quite long, alone, and Tony went to the electoral board representatives to challenge them. There were seconds of argument between him and the board before he started screaming “everybody come and cross check your name now…this list is doctored,” the list which was later to be recognized as the accreditation was protected by the electoral representatives from been touched. And artistes started approaching the table one by one. Within a twinkling, a crowd surrounded the table, argument ensued, the table got turned upside down by Femi Ogedenge, who coarsely ran towards the mini-bar, he got hold of a bottle and brook it. Approaching the table again with a sharpen edge of bottle, Tony, Fred Amata, Franca Brown, and some other artistes blocked his way with soothing words. But then, season one of the “AMP: house of discord” had began.

“Where is Ifeanyi Ikpoenyin running to, he started this, he should stay” Paul Obazele said pointing his finger at a jeep zooming off the premises. Few minutes later Madu Chikwendu, President Producers Guild, movie producer, director and organiser of the Lagos International Film Festival (LIFF) arrived with two armed “mo-police,” and started shouting, “where are those who say this election will not hold…where is Femi Ogedenge,” but the Madu could finish pronouncing the name, the fierce producer charged at him and a serious uproar brook. The policemen couldn’t arrest anybody realizing that they are artistes. They couldn’t stop the fight that ensued neither. The scene turned to two fighting scenario: Femi against Madu, Sosa furiously slapped Dickson Iroegbu, also threw pouches at Madu intermittently, Tony threw a wrecked chair at Madu. All the while, I peeped from behind Tope Babayemi’s jeep parked at a corner. The ace art and culture manager, Tope Babeyemi, is busy settling the dispute but was unsuccessful despite his continuous shout “don’t spoil this place! Sosa stop this shit!”

Although, the lyrics of Asa’s song “Fire on the Mountain” reverberated in my head continually as the show went on, but “if I run away who will report this discouraging attitude of the men who control our presently world acknowledged industry”–Nollywood–was a question that beamed through my mind. As I pulled down the thought of running for my dear life, similar lyrics of a song by Daddy Showkey echoed in my heart: “fire dey bone wall no run,” I smiled and concentrate more on the show.

Now seated in the mini-bar, Femi Ogedenge, Sosa, and other artistes chanted aloud: “Paul is the best!” twice. As I tried to catch a glimpse of this scene from where I was hiding, some heavily armed “mobile-police” came down from a vehicle, running after everybody and shooting aside at the same time, unfolded another scene. The whole place scattered. Nobody told me to run for my dear life at this point in time, because I realized that Ben Johnson was just opportune to be a track-lane athlete, if he is to be a street runner, really with my moves ahead of the policemen on the August 5th, 2009, I would outran him.

Ode Dance studio took hostage of many of us–the onlookers. We were in the studio for close to thirty minutes until one of us called somebody with her moble phone, she was told that the policemen left.  awhile ago. Indeed, the artistes had equally gone with the policemen too by the time we were out from the studio.

Well, this exhibition of frivolity is no big deal as far as I’m concern. It is just a typical of Nigerian leaders in all spheres. They usually lost all sense of reasoning when post and money is involve. The culture of throwing chairs in both the house of Reps and the house Senate is eminent with our political leaders. But theatre is a scared venue and these warring producers of our film industry, Nollywood, should know better.

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