The Association of Movie Producers, AMP, Nigeria, would have experienced a bloodbath but for the very quick intervention and political wisdom of Adedayo Thomas, the Director-General, DG, of National Film and Video Censors Board, NFVCB.
AMP had decided to hold its election for the first time outside Lagos where it has its national secretariat.
They arrived Asaba, Delta state capital on Friday, August 29, 2020. Then followed a courtesy call on the governor of the state, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa.
The genial atmosphere that characterized the visit however quickly changed as the governor made a monetary gift to his visitors.
While some claim it was N10million the Delta state number one citizen gave, some say it was N5million while others insist it was N2million.
The main cause of the chaos and agitation that followed was simply how to share the money.
” The AMP President, Ralph Nwadike, was allegedly put under a lot of pressure by those you could call elders of AMP. They practically held him hostage over money that was meant for an association. Unable to bear the pressure, he gave part of the money to them. That was a big shame . And it marked the beginning of the crisis.”
Indeed, once the President gave money to these demanding elders, the Asaba Chapter members drew their sword. AMP was in their state, they were the hosts, the governor is their governor, the money is their money, AMP from other states were now taking their entitlement and to worsen things they were being cheated. So, they chanted war songs, went after Nwadike and AMP elders that include Zeb Ejiro, the Board of Trustees, BOT, Chairman, Opa Williams and Fred Amata, both prolific directors and producers.
It got to a point that the Asaba members emerged with knives and guns. They were ready to kill as men, women ran helter-skelter for their lives. It was then that the NFVCB stepped out. Although he was at Asaba as an Observer, he took charge urging the Asaba producers now turned warriors to calm down assuring them he would make sure they get their fair share of the money.
The DG then went to Nwadike to compel him to part with a fraction of the money, reportedly N250,000, to settle the Asaba boys. But the Delta state-based producers rejected the sum insisting it was small. Thomas then urged them to accept it promising to make available additional sum before the event ended.
This positive role of the DG that helped to prevent what would have been unprecedented violence at an AMP election has now been killed by allegations that he threatened the BoT Chairman, Zeb Ejiro, at the elections while some even went as far as claiming that Ejiro was held hostage . Said a man that gave his name as Peter,
“In fact the only time Mr Ejiro was prevented from going out was when the Asaba members blocked the gate and said he wouldn’t go until they get their money. It was the DG who appealed to them and they gave way for Mr Zeb to go and eat.
They added that a former President, Zik Zulu Okafor was also threatened because he refused to cooperate with the DG. Mr Zik Zulu we gathered told those close to him that he had discussions about the election with the DG about the candidates and though they did not come to a consensus with regard to candidates and strategy, the DG, he emphasized did not threaten him in any way.
On Zeb Ejiro, an AMP member present in Asaba said there was no way the DG could have threatened him. “In fact , Mr Thomas and oga Zeb seemed to have some issues before coming to Asaba because when he saw oga Zeb, he did not greet him as he ordinarily would do. Oga Zeb was the one that greeted him. But later in the afternoon, they made up because I saw the DG with my eyes as he , Oga Zeb, Oga Opa and DGN President, Fred Amata were laughing together. After that one car took oga Zeb out. So, when was he threatened or held hostage.”
Another AMP member from Lagos added that it was Ejiro that opened the event proper and spoke so well of the election before introducing the Commissioner who represented the state governor. These are his words, ” I am very happy that AMP election is holding in my state. I welcome all of you to this beautiful capital of Delta state. We are going to make sure you are protected and safe in our state. Today AMP is going to elect people who will lead them in the next four years. ” Having said this, he introduced the Honourable Commissioner for Culture. So, I think that we should be thanking Mr Thomas for bringing the Federal Government to be interested in our association’s activities.
This is a good development. The past DGs didn’t care about our elections or events. Dem no send us, to use Nigerian slang. We even beg and beg for them to show their face at our events. So, we should be grateful to this DG, not demonize him. Mr Thomas is someone God sent to help strengthen our industry that has been so neglected. He travels round the country on a weekly basis to ensure people are not abusing laws guiding our industry, he tries to identify with our events and aspiration. He is the kind of DG we’ve been praying. So why do we want to embarrass him now? What we owe him is appreciation “, the Lagos member added.
Those close to Thomas vow he will never do anything that is not in the best interest of AMP and the movie industry. Said one, “He loves Nollywood, he is passionate about its growth, development and success. How can he be so eager for Nollywood to succeed and at same time be taking steps to create problems for its leadership? Believe me, the hostage story is a hoax. It didn’t happen otherwise Mr Ejiro wouldn’t be at the event “, he concluded.
The cheering news now, however, is that stakeholders in Nollywood are closing ranks, calling for meetings to resolve the electoral crisis so that AMP can unite to work for opportunities that will benefit its teeming members across the country.