By Benjamin NJOKU
There is no end to the lingering crisis in the Actors Guild of Nigeria(AGN). Instead of the deadlock which started early last year subsiding, it is escalating with every passing day. Today the Guild is at crossroad; orphaned by human circumstances. Before now, the battle was between Kanayo .O.Kanayo and Ejike Asiegbu. Later, Segun Arinze and Emeka Ike appeared on the scene.
The new dimension to the saga is the emergence of another man who is currently laying claim to the AGN presidency. Mr Chuma Onwudiwe who was elected alongside Segun Arinze as the National Secretary of the Guild during its election held in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State in September, last year is the new claimant. Mr. Chuma Onwudiweâ€™s claim is hinged on an alleged disqualification of Arinze few weeks after his election as the president of the guild, by the Guildâ€™s electoral commission.
The embattled Onwudiwe who claimed to be acting in accordance with the constitution of the group, declared himself Acting President of AGN. Arinze, according to the new AGN â€˜Presidentâ€™, and who is a known crony of former president Ejike Asiegbu, was allegedly disqualified based on his inability to provide proof of his academic records.
In this exclusive encounter, Onwudiwe speaks on the immediate and remote causes of the AGN crisis, warning Mr. Arinze to stop parading himself as president of the Guild. But in a swift reaction, Emeka Ike, another central character in the AGN crisis, dismissed Onwudiweâ€™s claims maintaining that he remains the only elected president of the guild. Find out who leads AGN: Segun, Emeka and Chuma…?
Iâ€™m AGN president â€” Chuma Onwudiwe
Untold story of the AGN crisis!
I was elected General Secretary of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN in September 2009, in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. Unfortunately, the man who was supposed to be the president of the Guild, Mr. Segun Arinze, did not have the educational qualification to contest for the position of president.
So, he tried as much as possible to mislead the guildâ€™s electoral commission (AGNEC) by lying to them that he possesses a Bachelors Degree in Dramatic ArtsÂ which he later confessed to be false.
He also claimed to have obtained a Diploma certificate butÂ he never forwarded the certificate to the electoral commission. As a result, he was subsequently disqualified by the guildâ€™s electoral commission, meaning that he has ceased to function as president of AGN.
Unfortunately, Segun Arinze decided to collaborate with the enemies of AGN to distort the constitution of the Guildâ€™s national executives. Despite his disqualification, Arinze is still parading himself as president of the guild in an attempt to mislead the public. Heâ€™s collaborating with some individuals who claim to be members of the Board of Trustees of AGN, and whose tenure has expired since 2008.
Dropped as General Secretary?
No. Itâ€™s impossible. We have a registered constitution which states clearly the procedure regarding the impeachment of any executive. First of all, I did not commit any offence to warrant anybodyÂ removing me from office.
I contested an election for the position of the National Secretary and I won it. Nobody can employ any unconstitutional means to remove me from office.
IfÂ I must be removed from office, a procedure must be followed, and it starts with the president taking my offence to the national executives, where a panel will be constituted to look into the offence. And if Iâ€™m found guilty, I would be punished accordingly.
But nothing like that happened.
The truth about the whole thing is this: in terms of certificate verification,Â the guildâ€™s electoral commission continued to verify certificates submitted by the contestants three weeks after the conduct of election.
And it was while carrying out this exercise that the AGNEC discovered that Mr. Segun Arinze was not qualified to be president of the guild. He refused to present any certificate to the commission within the stipulated three weeks after the election.Â Subsequently, he was disqualified.
ButÂ Segun did not resign from office to save himself from further embarrassment. Instead, he has continued to parade himself as president of the guild.
People should wonder why all these things happened almost at the same period. About the same period Segun was disqualified,Â he went to liaise with Emma Aguguo and Ifeanyi Dike who tried to shield him by interfering in the affairs of AGN, the same business they have been doing in the last 14 years.
I guess, we have a constitution that specifies how an officer should be removed from office. Was the AGN constitution applied in my own case?
The answer is no. Unfortunately, none of my colleagues who were elected alongside Segun Arinze committed any offence in the first place. We couldnâ€™t hold any national executive meeting during this period as we were busy battling to assert ourselves.
The office of the BOT, as an advisory body, expires the moment a new executives are elected into office.
But these notorious people never deemed it necessary to obey the constitution of the guild. At the risk of sounding immodest, I have always stood on the side of constitutionalism, legality and constituted authority.
Acting President of AGN
That was why I had to serve as a special adviser to the erstwhile administration of Ejike Asiegbu. I have always contributed positively concerning the smooth running of the affairs of AGN. Indeed, it was in recognition of my contribution that I was invited to be part of the think-tank that provided ideasÂ to reposition and stabilise AGN, in addition to making the body assume its proper status locally and internationally.
That was the crime I committed. Additionally, given the many irregularities that have characterised the leadership of the guild in recent times, I accepted for the first time to contest for an elective position in AGN.
I have no regret whatsoever for my contribution towards the betterment of the guild. Today, providence and circumstances have made it possible for me to assume the status of the Acting President of AGN .
The constitution of the guild is very clear in this matter. In the event of disqualification, impeachment or incapacitation of the national president, the national secretary automatically acts as president for three months, before a by-election is held to fill the office of the president.
Constitutionally, Iâ€™m the elected national secretary of AGN, and by disqualifying Segun Arinze, Iâ€™m now the acting president of the guild. Arinze is parading himself as president of AGN illegally and unconstitutionally.
Emeka Ike and Myself
Emeka Ike was not elected president of the guild. You have to get it straight. The constitution of the guild is very clear on this issue. Emeka Ike himself has discovered the truth, and at the right time, he will do the right thing.
Heâ€™s eminently qualified to contest for the position of president of the guild. Right now, theÂ position of AGN is that thereâ€™s only one executive led by myself.
That I was elected on the 2nd of September, 2009, as General Secretary of the guild is not contestable. â€˜Who swore me in as the acting president of AGN?â€™,Â you may want to ask. The constitution of the guildÂ empowered me to assume the position.
According to the constitution, in the event of disqualification, impeachment, death or incapacitation of the national president, the national secretary automatically assumes the status of the acting president for a period of three months before a by-election is held to fill the office. So, my mandate here is not only to act as national president but also, to enure that AGN achieves stability, led responsibly and the constitution of the guild upheld at all time.
No, You â€˜re notâ€”â€“Emeka Ike
AGN at crossroads!
Iâ€™m in charge. As
Iâ€™m talking to you now, we are billed to meet today (last Friday) with the Kogi State Governor. But I couldnâ€™t make it because of the unveiling ceremony of the 10 celebrities that will feature in the maiden edition of the Gulder Ultimate Search: Celebrity Showdown, which I happened to be one of them. I sent my secretary, Mr. Chigozie Atuanyi and my VP to represent me at the meeting.
Iâ€™m not a noise maker. You donâ€™t need to be acquainted with what we are doing, rather,Â you need to see things done by us. I have been working silently, and we have articulated a lot of projects we want to execute.
Iâ€™m assuring you that very soon, activities will commence in the guild once again. I can only tell you that
AGN has become a theatre of drama. Itâ€™s all about hijack by some persons who see the guild as a platform to make money. And the only way they can get a piece of the cake is by instigating and causing confusion within the leadership of the guild.
The crisis that trails AGN since last year is man-made.
Operating from where?
Iâ€™m a law abiding citizen. The police advised us to be law abiding by staying off the secretariat, pending when our case will be determined. You know, our matter is still in court, and I donâ€™t want to raise any further tension.
Right now, Iâ€™m operating from my office. I wouldnâ€™t want to take the law into my hands. At the right time, I will move into the secretariat.
Segun Arinze is not claiming heâ€™s the elected president of AGN. Rather, heâ€™s saying that heâ€™s appointed by the Board of Trustees (BOT). I went through an election that was prayed in court by the same BOT that appointed his executives.
To be frank with you, the atmosphere is tensed up. But I assure you, in no distant time, all these distractions will be brought under control. You are going to hear more often from us now than ever before. We have started making plansÂ and soonest, you will be intimated with the progress we have made so far.