*Ready to dialogue with aggrieved members, other stakeholders
By Benjamin Njoku
The leadership of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, has finally succumbed to pressure after series of attacks and counter-attacks following the appointment of Senator Elisha Abbo as one of the National Patrons of the Guild.
The Adamawa State lawmaker who was spotted in a viral video last year, assaulting a nursing mother in a sex toy shop was installed as National patron of the guild at its 9th Biennial lecture, which recently held in Abuja. The lawmaker’s appointment stirred controversy on social media as female members of the association reacted bitterly, describing his appointment as an abuse on the rights of the ‘females’ in Nollywood and called for his immediate removal.
Leading the call for Abbo’s removal, actress Kate Henshaw tweeted that the lawmaker was not worthy to be a patron of AGN. She stated that there are women in the guild and “they don’t want to be slapped.” So also was actress Hilda Dokubo, who in a viral video called for the removal of Abbo’s name from the list of AGN’s patrons. “In the case of a guild, when you appoint a patron it is to have a positive branding for the association. The responsibility of Patron is to educate and motivate people into positive action. Get him out now, I am calling all right-thinking, mentally balanced honourable male and female members of AGN to stand up and reject Elisha Abbo as a patron of the association.”
Also adding her voice, former president of AGN, Ibinabo Fiberesima frowned at the appointment, describing it as an embarrassment to the guild.”Imagine how red-faced I was this morning when I heard that the same industry I fought so hard to defend honoured Senator Abbo, as an unrepentant woman beater with an award. Not even a story to depict the hard-line consequences of his brutish act. I’ve already been asked this morning if ‘money-for-hand’ played a factor in the Actors Guild of Nigeria, selling its conscience to the devil,” Ibinabo fumed.
However, amid the resounding outcry, former President of the Association of Nollywood Core Producers, ANCOP, and incumbent Vice President (Africa) of the International Federation of Film Producers Associations, FIAPF, Comrade Alex Eyengho disassociated Nollywood from the action of AGN leadership.
Eyengho stated that the “so-called award” given to Senator Abbo was from a handful of members of the Actors Guild of Nigeria and certainly not the entire AGN as a guild or Nollywood as an industry. He added that it was absolutely impossible for Nollywood or indeed any right-thinking association or guild in Nollywood to honor Senator Abbo for any reason whatsoever.
However, firing back, AGN President Emeka Rollas noted that most of the people protesting the appointment might not pass the morality test. He specifically stated that he doesn’t know if Kate Henshaw and Hilda Dokubo are members of the guild? Just as AGN north-east in a statement condemned the protest, insisting that the purported assault video was sponsored by Senator Abbo’s political opponents in an attempt to tarnish his image, but in his wisdom he publicly apologized which very few elites do.
“Our attention has been drawn to various campaigns on social media to smear the person of Senator Ishaku Abbo (SIA). Why are the cries coming from only women of southern extraction, they think we don’t have female activists in the North to fight SIA? Their conscience cannot be bought.”
“We are quite aware that they are being used by the opposition to smear the image of SIA.”
We the members of the Actors Guild Nigeria North East have resolved that no amount of attempt to drag the name of the Senator into the mud would be tolerated; we are solidly in support of his award,”
the statement read. Meanwhile, in the bid to end the back-lashing, the leadership of the guild has set up a committee to look into the grievances of members and make urgent recommendations to the National Executive Committee. It has also initiated an expanded meeting of stakeholders to address the problem. The meeting is billed to hold on Monday, March 23, somewhere on the Lagos Island.
In a statement posted on the filmmakers’ WhatsApp group, Film4Life, the AGN leadership appeals to its teeming members, saying “ the guild is mindful of the feelings of members as regards the choice of Senator Ishaku Abbo as National Patron North East Zone.”
“In view of this, the National President has called for a general meeting to a stakeholder meeting on Monday 23/03/2020. However a committee has been set up to look into the grievances of members and make urgent recommendations to the National Executive Committee. We urge our teeming members to refrain from castigating AGN on social media.”