By AYO ONIKOYI, BENJAMIN NJOKU & SAMILOLA SHOLOLA
LAGOS — ACCLAIMED movie producer and director, Mrs Amaka Igwe, is dead. She died in her country home, Udi, Enugu State, at 51.
The creator of the popular TV series “Checkmate” and “Fuji House of Commotion,” reportedly died of an asthma attack Monday night.
She was in Enugu where she had gone, in company of her husband, Charles, for pre-production preparations for a new Igbo soap. She was said to have finished a film lecture in her home town, Udi.
A film producer who works in her studio located at Marwa Gardens, Mr Chris Ihidero, confirmed the sad news to Vanguard yesterday.
According to him, the acclaimed producer, writer and director suffered an asthma attack and was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital after initial interventions had failed. She passed on before getting to the hospital.
Ihidero said before her death, Amaka Igwe was teaching some film makers the art of film making in her home town, Udi, Enugu State.
He described the late founder and CEO of Top Radio 90.9FM as a lover of “sharing knowledge” and “Duchess of Nollywood.”
“Amaka Igwe was one woman who would not hesitate to share knowledge. Her dream was to bring up enough producers, directors and script writers who would take over from her generation when they are no more,” Ihidero added.
Meanwhile, when Vanguard called at her studio at Marwa Gardens, yesterday, the atmosphere was one of grief, calm and solemnity.
Some of her staff were dumbfounded, even as they refused to come to terms with the sad news. Surprisingly, on the first floor of the one-storey building, the cast of a new TV series by the late producer which ends today was on set.
One of them who spoke with Vanguard said the deceased would not be happy with them wherever she was if they had to halt the production because of her demise.
Mrs. Igwe is survived by her husband of 21 years, Charles, three children, an aged mother, siblings and a large extended family.
Since the news broke yesterday morning, her colleagues, friends and well-wishers have continued to pour out their hearts on the exemplary leadership and uncommon talent of the woman who not only discovered many great talents but also fostered and inspired many more.
One of her colleagues, Don Pedro Obaseki, Enogie-Isi of Benin Kingdom, could not hide his sorrow as he declared: “We won’t miss you because everywhere we turn in Nollywood we see you! We feel you, Amaka! I remain your friend, even in the afterlife! Your body of work will be an inspiration to many generations.”
Comedian Julius Agwu, whose life was also touched by the famed Amaka, had this to say: “Death visits the wrong home at the wrong time and snatches the wrong person. She gave me my first movie role in Nollywood as Peter, Jnr. in her blockbuster Rattlesnake. May Almighty God grant her family the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss. Rest in Peace, Aunty Amaka.
Top Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji, expressed her grief thus: “This is the darkest day of my entire career. That I believe sums up how I feel right now. Your legacy will live on, Aunty Amaka, I promise you.”
For Kate Henshaw, “a great woman who dared where men tread has passed on! RIP, Aunty Amaka. Our prayers are with you, Uncle Charles.”
According to Stephanie Linus, “I am still in shock. Oh! How we have lost a great one. Rest in Peace, Amaka Igwe.”
Stella Damasus said: “She has gone home. God rest her soul. For the rest of us here, I wonder what the future holds or how long we have. I would rather spend each day working towards my salvation. Death does not have a clock.RIP Aunty Amaka. My prayer goes out to Uncle Charles and the children.“
Alex Eyengho, President, Association of Nollywood Core Producers, ANCOP, wondered why Amaka Igwe should bow to death now.
Substantial part of Nollywood is dead
“A substantial part of Nollywood and the African motion picture industry is dead with her sudden demise. She was indeed the Duchess of Nollywood. She never did any business outside Nollywood and the Nigerian entertainment industry generally. She gave the indsutry her all,” Eyengho said
However, actor John Njamah, remembered in the sitcom “Fuji House of Commotion” as the notorious Gbenro was discovered by the deceased and John could not hide his feeling.
“Words are not enough to say goodbye to this awesome woman that carved my yesterday and defined my today as a film-maker. Farewell, Mrs Igwe,” he said.
Belinda Effah, a fast-rising Nollywood actress, gave a stirring account of her meeting with the great lady and expressed her emotion: “A lady with a great personality. Her name resonated in the industry such that those that spoke about her revered her. My first encounter was not short-lived at all. I relive the moment all the time because she was able to impact upon me and challenged me not to restrict my acting locally but aim for the sky and become an internationally acclaimed actor.
Another fast-rising actor, Ken Eric, eulogised her in few, yet touching words: “Shocking. She really was a pace setter. A director par excellence. Words cannot explain everything she stood for. She would be greatly missed. But her towering legacy lives on. Adieu, Amaka Igwe.”
Also paying tribute to the prolific film maker was the AfricaMagic family. It said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of iconic Nigerian film and TV producer, Mrs. Amaka Igwe.
“The African creative arts industry has lost an admired and respected leader whose vast knowledge, proven business acumen and boundless imagination made an immeasurable contribution to the development and success of our community.
“AfricaMagic extends its sincere condolences to her husband, her children, her family and friends during this difficult time, and will honour Mrs. Igwe’s memory by screening a collection of her most beloved works in the days and weeks ahead.”
M-Net West Africa Regional Director, Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu confirmed the special tribute, saying: ‘Amaka Igwe was a giant in our world, a loyal supporter, a committed professional and a valued partner.”
AMAA boss mourns
In her tribute, the CEO of Africa Film Academy Award, AMAA, Ms Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, said: “I received with sadness this morning the news of the passing away of my big sister and Nollywood icon, Mrs. Amaka Igwe.
“The motion picture industry in Nigeria and Africa will sorely miss this revolutionary who raised the bar of professionalism and artistic excellence early in Nollywood when it was not fashionable.”
Former Vice President and chieftain of All Progressives Congress, APC, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday described Amaka Igwe as “a jewel of the Nollywood industry.”
In a statement by his media office in Abuja, Atiku expressed shock at the demise of Mrs. Igwe, who was a major player in the Nigerian movie industry.
Atiku recalled that Mrs. Igwe’s first major production, “Decrees of Fate” won four awards at the National Festival of Television Programmes in 1988.
“Amaka (Igwe) was one of the pioneers of the movie industry. Her presence in Nollywood grew to become quite impressive as she amassed a number of well received movies,” Atiku said.
He said the versatile artiste organized the annual BOB TV film festival and was noted for productions, which included “Rattlesnake” and “Violated” that dwelt heavily on contemporary family issues.
The Turaki Adamawa expressed his condolences to the Igwe and Ene families and friends and associates of the deceased, in particular members of Nollywood.
Life and times of Amaka Igwe
Born Amaka Isaac-Ene, the deceased was an accomplished writer, producer, director, entrepreneur and teacher. She is the founder of BoBTV Expo, founder and CEO of Top Radio 90.9FM, Amaka Igwe Studios, and the newly-launched Q Entertainment Networks.
A visionary and pioneer of modern Nigerian TV drama and film, she hit national limelight as the writer and producer of award-winning TV soap ‘Checkmate’ and its off shoot ‘Fuji House of Commotion’.
Her Nollywood projects include RattleSnake and Violated, two critically-acclaimed movies that set apart Amaka Igwe Studios in the much-criticised Nollywood industry.
Amaka Igwe studied Education/Religion at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). She had a Master’s degree from the University of Ibadan. She had her early education at All Saints School (now Trans Ekulu Primary School), Girls High School Awkunanaw, Enugu and Idia College, Benin, where she did her A levels.
She worked as a lecturer at Anambra State University of Technology and briefly in the oil and gas sector before settling for the motion picture industry. She is arguably the most important woman in the creation and evolution of the movie industry, called Nollywood and was born and bred in Enugu.