As the controversy over the leadership of Actors Guild of Nigeria lingers on,Â star actor, Segun Arinze reveals theÂ background of the crisis, resolutions reached by the waring parties and other effortsÂ by the actors leadershipÂ to bring actorsÂ and actresses under a more united guild. Excerpts:
Whatâ€™s happening in AGN?
A lot of things are happening. But one thing is that when we leave what we are supposed to do asÂ professionals and begin to chase shadows, it doesnâ€™t augur well for the guild. All that has happened in the guild in recent times is constant power tussle and crisis. That doesnâ€™t augur well for the guild as well. In this business, if we donâ€™t take ourselves seriously, nobody willÂ take us seriously. Now, when we came into office, our plans were to stablise the guild in spite of all that had happened.
Unfortunately, people have made us a laughing stock, and itâ€™s such a shame. But I believe that this is a new dawn for the guild. We should be thinking of how to take the guild to the next level. Already, we have started putting a lot of things in placeÂ to see how we can assist our patrons. Thereâ€™s what we call AGN Enterprise, which aims at discovering young and talented actors by nurturing and training them. We are also planning to establish a film academy. Our overall plans are to put structures in place so that the next administration that will come after us will strive to consolidate on our efforts. Government is a continuum. I donâ€™t believe in administrative radicalism, rather, I believe in getting things done the right way.
But in a situation where you have discordant voices, how do you go about achieving all these things that you have enumerated?
We will continue to reach out to people. We have an Acting President of the federation in the absence of Mr. President who has been sick. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has been reaching out to people, including the opposition. One must ensure that he has technocrats who identify with the cause that one is championing.
We will continue to reach out to our aggrieved members. Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with anybody aspiring to occupy the highest office in AGN. I wasnâ€™t born to be the president of the guild. I aspired to occupy the position and I succeeded. I donâ€™t have any problem with anybody that wants to be president of the guild.
But what I preach is that you should achieve such ambition properly, such that will be devoid of chaos. Personally, everything that has been happening inÂ AGN amounts to childishness, triviality and all that. The whole world has been watching us, especially when we chose to make our working environment hostile. Nobody is going to take us seriously again. We are bound to be treated like people of low caste(pariah).
How are you funding the guild in view ofÂ the crisis?
We are putting things in place that will assist us in terms of funding. But one of our pre-occupations at the moment is trying to ascertain the numerical strength of the guild. We have a situation where most people claim to be members of the guild when they are not. They go about carrying the guildâ€™s ID cards and parading themselves as our members. We want to flush out such impostors. Also, we are presently embarking on re-validation of our membership to enable us plan ahead of time for the guild. Yes, the challenges are quite numerous but I canâ€™t start to mention them one after the other now.
Do you believe there is a serious problem within the AGN leadership?
Yes, I agree with you. Thereâ€™s a problem with the leadership of AGN. And that has to do with discernment. This is a guild that has members with diverse backgrounds and different opinions, characters of all shades. There is bound to be argument, disagreement and misunderstanding.
Meaning thereâ€™s a crack on the wall!
There are bound to be a crack , but if you donâ€™t manage it very well, the crack will expand. Itâ€™s natural. Iâ€™m saying that the crack depends on how you are able to manage it. We must agree to disagree, and we must always learn to come together to move the guild forward asÂ professionals.
For me, cracks are bound to happen but it all depends on how we are able to manage them. That will make the difference. Even friends are not free from having disagreements, but their ability to handle such disagreement maturely will stand them out amongst other friends. What counts here is oneâ€™s ability to rise above mediocrity.
There are three candidates, including youself, who areÂ laying claims to the AGN presidency?
Of course, Iâ€™m aware but what we have done so far is that we have put in place committees that would help address the issues affecting the smooth running of the affairs of the guild. In the next couple of weeks, we willÂ be announcing the different committees that we have set up to restore sanity in the troubled guild.
Some of the committees includeÂ the reconciliation committee, re-validation committee and others. I refuse to be distracted and my executives refuse to be distracted too. I have learned how not to join issues with my detractors because when IÂ start joining issues with them, I will be distracted. I have reached out to a lot of people, and everyone believes every member of the AGNÂ has an idea of how to move the guild forward.
You were elected alongside some executives during the guildâ€™s general electionÂ held last year in Port-Harcourt. How come you have a brand new exco?
Actually, we held an election in Port-Harcourt last year. But when we came back to Lagos after the election, the atmosphere was volatile and hostile. I have never in all my career experienced what I passed through during that period.
It was the height of campaign of calumny, back-bitting, mouth-wagging… All sorts of negative things were said about me on the pages of newspapers, magazines and television stations. I mean, I have gone through series of problems before now but I didnâ€™t expect the massive negative reactions.
Being the kind of person that I am, I thought of the way out of the logjam, and concluded to bring all parties concerned to the negotiating table.
There and then, we decided to meet with the Board of Trustees of the guild and I told them the way I feel about the whole thing. Though, peace was not achieved easily, it took us more than a month and two weeks to get to where we are today.
We had arguments, disagreements and late hourÂ meetings. For me, if I had wanted to join issues with anybody, I would have gone to court. But whose time, energy and resources are we going to waste? While the crisis lasted, I had people who were calling me on phone to pray for me. My mother who doesnâ€™t know anything about the industry had to ask me to sue for peace.
I had my friends in South Africa, Germany, London and America advising me to sue for peace. But after all these, we unanimously agreed to form a government of National Unity. We managed to assemble about seven of our state chairmen in Lagos to chart the way forward for the guild. Among those that attended the meeting were Emeka Ike, Kanaya O. Kanayo, Emeka Rollas and the five members ofÂ the BOT. As we started discussing, there was this poser, whether anybody was interested in forming government of national unity. And I replied in the affirmative. Every other person in attendance didnâ€™t object to the formation of government of national unity.Â And the next question was who would lead the administration? It was there and then that Emeka Rollas suggested that if there were any two people that would be chosen for the position, it would be either myself or Kanayo.O.Kanayo. This is because Segun Arinze won the election in Port-Harcourt, as well as KOK who headed the interim government for six months. But given the situation, KOK was not interested in the position. And I happened to be the one who was bringing his mandate on board.
Emeka Rollas moved to nominate me and I said I should be the one to lead the administration no matter the odds. This was a meeting that took place around 2.30 am. At the end of the whole thing, the BOT came up with a resolution where I was directed to pilot the affairs of the guild for the next two years, after which a fresh election would be conducted to usher in a new administration. In the same vein, Emeka Rollas was appointedÂ the Secretary General, while Emeka Ike was made the vice-president(South-East). I had a lot of arguments and disagreements with them.
I wantedÂ an all inclusive government to move the guild forward. We didnâ€™t betray anybody here. Rather, I was allowed to choose my three vice-presidents as well as retain my PRO, Chief Whip and ex-official members. We had to move on after the logjam. I could have gone to court if I had wanted to, but I chose to thread the path of peace. I assembled my former executives to intimate them about the development. As a matter of fact, my former Secretary General, Mr. Chuma Onwudiwe, throughout that trial period, avoided meeting with me. I tried to reach him to avail.
Today, I have comeÂ to realise that there is no way I can do the wish of everybody. Sometimes, we need to take some radical decisions, and learn to damn the consequence. If you were in my shoes, my brother, what would you have done? Would you have joined issues that would not lead us anywhere? Sometimes, when we do things, we do themÂ out of wisdom. Two years is not tooÂ far from here. If thereâ€™s anybody that has an ambition to become the president of the guild, that person should wait for the next two years. For now, the post of AGN president is not vacant.
Looking at the whole scenario, what have you lost as the crisis lasted?
My privacy and my business. I lost a lot of things but I donâ€™t care because I have a mandate and terms of reference to restore AGN to its lost glory. One of my terms of reference is to expand the Board of Trustees of AGN within the ambit of the constitution. Also, I want to put structures in place that will help our up and coming actors to find their footing.
Whatâ€™s your advice to your members out there?
Every aggrieved member of AG should learn to sheathe his sword and embrace the new dawn. There is need for all hands to be on deck to move AGN forward.Â Letâ€™s work together to take the guild to the next level. Let the past be buried forever. I want to believe that thereâ€™s a new dawn for the guild, and Iâ€™m looking forward to working with everybody, including Emeka Ike. I know he has a great idea concerning how we can move the guild forward. Let him come out and work with us. Two heads, they say, are better than one. I believe that we are not politicians but professionals in our rights. We have no business playing politics with the guild. Let the professionals, which we are, come together to move the guild forward. It will be better for all of us.