By Benjamin NJOKU
He is more popularly known as African James Bond but his creativity and knowledge about the movie industry eclipses all of that make believe name. As an actor, he has nothing more to prove and the awards he has collected over the years is a pointer to the fact.
He was cornered by our Entertainment Editor, Ogbonna Amadi at the Ocean View restaurant on the Lagos Island where Akwabba art exhibition was held. In this interview, he spoke on his new movie, his grouse with a certain movie marketer and his relationship with his former wife Cynthia. Itâ€™s a must read.
How are you connected to this Akwaba?
We have to embrace our culture because itâ€™s important we do so. Have you ever seen any white man singing in Efik, Yoruba or Igbo songs? We have to embrace our culture by returning to our roots and taking it up, so that the world can see who we are.
It is in the same vein that we in the movie practice have been spreadingÂ our gospel to the outside world that today, Nollywood is a recognised institution in the world. I believe if we all comeÂ together and do something for our cultural growth, the world will not be the same.
So, what is this all about?
It is an exhibition of art and culture. We have to see and learn how to make our future go forward in a cultural way. We have to see to it that the beauty of our cultural inheritance is accepted all over the world
The DG recently hosted some prominent Nigerians where they wore and exhibited located made fabrics. Were you part of it?
Yes, I was part of them. But what you are about to experience here is a situation where what you saw the other day is being replicated for the benefit of those who were not part of the first show.
This DG is a man of substance. He is a man who has vision, and this is the first time a DG of a government ministry is really commending the effort of the movie industry. The DG acknowledges thatÂ we are spreading gospel through music and movies and that we can do it.
We asked him if we could host the programme again at least for the benefit of those who didnâ€™t make the first Wear Nigeria event. He said we can.
Today, look at the large number of actors and actresses that trooped in here. It tells you something about our country. If you have a great vision, in the beginning, people may try to drag you back. But if your vision is good, people will eventually embrace you. He was even short of words when he saw the crowd.
But the movie people are known for their traditional way of dressing, especially the Yoruba actors and actresses…
We are known for it and we will not stop being known for it. But now, we are spreading the gospel. Why put on tie and suit and spread the white manâ€™s gospel? We donâ€™t have the boldness and confidence. But this man is telling us that we can do it- show it to the world. We have a good vision but he has taken over our vision on a perfect table now.
I wish people like him will one day become ministers of culture and tourism. Look at the way he is celebrating us as if we are one family.
Your career. We hear you have a problem with a movie marketer. What really happened?
We did a movie, Oba Asa, and in the course of the movie, we reached an agreement on the mode of marketing the movie and the sharing process. As the copyright owner, I have some rights which no one can infringe upon. But this man has chosen to infringe on those rights.
Go there and verify. My name is registered with the Copyright Commission. But because the man wants to sell the video tapes and CDs of the movie without my consent, he went on to design a new jacket for the work.
And when I pointed out the fact that I am the copyright owner, he replied that I didnâ€™t know who I was talking to. He bragged that he cared not who owned what and why and that as a big masquerade, he could do whatever he desired and nobody could challenge him . He also claimed that as a legendary foremost movie marketer, he was above the law.
And who is this person?
The outfit is known as Highway Studio Mart, located on Number 4, Edidi Lane, Idumota Lagos. And the CEOâ€™s name is Kush Kusoro.
That is the shocking news. He is educated and has a Masters degree for that matter. We have sold more than 70, 000 copies of Oba Asa and my name is boldly written on the jacket as producer and copyright owner. But Mr. Kusoro feels he can do anything and get away with it. He told me that movie business starts and ends in Idumota.
His action is the one of the major reasons we are appealing to the necessary bodies concerned with copyright administration to help educate our members on their rights as right owners. This same Mr. Kusoro told me on phone the other day that I can only make noise without taking action.
Kush has just told the whole world that he doesnâ€™t know the difference between rights of an executive producer and a producer. All he knows is that he is a business man.
Although, there are lots of lovely marketers in Idumota, great people of vision who are ready to help, those who have made money through the back door are making things worse.
The 7000 he sold, is he answerable for them?
No, he just decided to change the jacket for no reason. Ask him. He doesnâ€™t have any cogent reason to do that. And yet, he is bragging is that he is the producer, executive producer and that he owns the rights to the movie.
He is just one out of the seven people that contributed money towards the making of the movie. Ask him who a producer is. He doesnâ€™t know. I have told some people that somebody like Kush will lead some people to their early graves when you start putting these Idumota guys in bad light. Although, not all of them are bad, the bad ones need to be flushed out.
And you said something about Samsung…
The Samsung personnel are the latest thing happening in the movie industry. They are a group of professionals gifted with movie production. Give them your movies that is of quality and they will improve on its quality and package it to meet with international standard.
Have you given any of yourÂ movies to them?
I sent two of my movies to Kush and suggested he dealt with the Samsung people. But he told them that it was only in Idumota that movie industry could be successful. He refused to deal with them. And I think that is his own level of understanding.
Which Samsung is that?
It is the International Samsung. We are doing this so that the whole world can see the enrichment in our culture through the various movies. And they are trying to move us forward. But some individuals want to draw us back.
They have their representatives here and they have promised to do our movie in a standard way so that it can be viewed anywhere. And you cannot pirate it because it is well encoded.
Any movie you are working on now?
Yes, the title is You or I and it was
shot in South Africa.
Is it in English or Yoruba?
It is in English.
Any foreigner in the movie?
There is a Spanish lady called Sheira.
What is the storyline?
Donâ€™t let us let the cat out of the bag now.
Are you going to have a premiere ?
Definitely. We need to move to the next level and upgrade ourselves so that when they see that we are there, nobody will be able to step on us anyhow. And if it happens, we fire back. That is why I moved to the international level to prove to them that Nigerians are not frauds, or fools and that we are very creative.
Although, we might have the largest black population, that does not disturb or affect out creativity and our greatness.
But the industry has its own ups and down, like what is happening now in AGN.
Let me tell you, I donâ€™t have any factions and I have my own association. But if they say somebody should step out of an office and have another election, there is nothing bad in that. We write stories and they are the ones acting it.
They should let the election take place and allow the people to vote for the right person. There shouldnâ€™t be room for fighting, and if you know you have the ability, you donâ€™t fight. You go on a plain field and the people will choose the chosen one. Is it someoneâ€™s birth right?
When a Yoruba actor or director makes a movie, he hardly pays his colleague. Itâ€™s like, let me do for you and you do for me?
That culture has been erased. Because when my son goes to school, I pay for the school fees. I also have to fuel my tank and some other things. They pay me now and I also pay them. You have to pay me, my brother.
Letâ€™s pay for our works. Things are changing gradually and you will soon see it. We have to change a lot of things. Iâ€™m a star and you expect me to live in high mountain. If you donâ€™t pay me, how will I do that? Will I have to build my house on a free land? No, my bill is running. I pay andÂ they got to pay me too.
People see you on screen acting the area boy.
Because of the roles I play on movie, people have forgotten that your roles in real life sense are quite different from the one you play in movies. Am a gentle man and if I offend you, I will tell you am sorry, and I love people who are honest and plain.
If I offend you and I say am sorry, will you accept?
Who am I not to accept your apology? At least, we offend God and he forgives us.
If your wife comes back and says she is sorry, will you accept her back?
When my father says yes, nobody can say no. And when he says no, nobody can say yes.