…Says:’ I was held hostage for hours by NVFCB DG’
By BENJAMIN NJOKU
The controversial general election of the Association of Movie Producers, AMP, which held last Saturday, remains one that is likely to throw the Nigerian movie industry into another chaos, having been generating a lot of heat from different quarters.
The election, held in Lagos and Asaba respectively, produced two presidents, leaving in its trail disharmony, chaos and conspiracy.
But that’s not the only thing about to tear the industry apart. It’s also the alleged kidnapping, harassment and intimidation of veteran producers and BoT chairman of AMP, Zeb Ejiro at Asaba venue of the election by Alhaji Adedayo Thomas, the Director-General of the National Video and Films Censors Board, NVFCB.
Stakeholders who were in Asaba reportedly said the NVFCB DG held Zeb Ejiro hostage, when the Delta State-born pioneer movie producer showed unwillingness to endorse the Asaba election.
It was also gathered that Ejiro had cautioned against going into the election with the petition by one of the aspirants, Myke Parish Ajaere still pending.
Meanwhile, when contacted on the telephone on Thursday, to hear his own side of the story, the veteran producer confirmed that he was held hostage while the election lasted in Asaba.
“I don’t want to call it kidnap. I was held hostage for hours,” Ejiro said.
Narrating how the whole drama played out in Asaba, the veteran producer blamed the body’s electoral committee known as AMPNEC for the show of shame.
According to him, the AMPNEC didn’t do what is necessary for the body to organize a free and fair election.
Narrating further, Ejiro said “Normally, it’s only the updated financial members of AMP that are allowed to vote at election. We usually print the list and allow all contestants to go through it not only to reconfirm that the list is authentic. But also, to approve and agree with it before the election can be conducted. That has been our tradition. But this time around, three days to the election the list was not ready. As Chairman of AMP Board of Trustees, I wanted a free and fair election.”
“On that note, I called AMPNEC Chairman, Mr. Sunny McDon as well as the immediate past President, Mr Raph Nwadike to reconfirm if we are ready for the election in Asaba. This was because the necessary logistics and validated list for the election were not ready.”
“I told them that if these things are not ready, as the BoT chairman, we have decided that the election should be postponed for two or three weeks so that we can get the validated list of voters properly checked and satisfied before heading to the polls.”
“They agreed that the voters’ list was not ready and so, they were going to move the election forward. They asked the AMPNEC Chairman to post the information on the AMP platform, giving the state chapters 24 hours to send their validated voters list without which they would move the election forward. That was our resolution after our meeting held about three days to the election.”
He continued: “The following day, I called the AMPNEC chairman to confirm if the validated voters list has been sent to them, and he answered in the affirmative. I also asked him again to confirm if the people on the list were financial members of the body and also, whether the list has been properly checked and verified. Are you telling me that the election should go on? I asked him. He answered in the affirmative and at this point, I said alright, let us go on with the election.”
“That night, he called me shouting on the telephone that he has a problem. That the list they sent to him was not an authentic one, adding that they submitted two different lists to him. I told him that I was disappointed in him because I called you this afternoon and you told me that everything was set for the election. Already, I had written a letter to postpone the election but had to withhold it because you said that everything was okay.”
“He now asked me to send the letter out which I refused because I needed to consult with my board members. At that point, I called the AMPNEC Chairman, Mr. Sunny McDon to narrate the whole scenario to him and the need to postpone the election.”
“At this juncture, AMPNEC Chairman informed me that one of the aspirants, Myke Parish Ajaere has just submitted a petition, seeking the postponement of the election. Yet himself and his members insisted that the election must go on at all cost. After much argument with them, I resolved that if they should go ahead with the election, I wouldn’t be part of it.”
“Before then, the AMP President had informed me that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa wants us to visit the film village which he has built in Asaba. I welcomed the idea, stating clearly that after meeting with the Governor, I would be returning to Lagos the next day. That I would not wait for the election. That was exactly what I did. When I got to Asaba, I visited the film village and came back to see the governor and congratulated him on the job well done. I don’t know who told the Delta State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism that I was leaving for Lagos the following morning.”
“On hearing that, the commissioner pleaded with me not to leave for Lagos. I told him why I didn’t want to be part of the election. This is because AMPNEC insulted me. I told them that this election would not be a credible one but they didn’t listen to me. So, I didn’t want to stay back and give credibility to the election.”
“After much pleading, I gave the commissioner my word that I would stay back. He even asked the AMP President to tell the AMPNEC members to apologize to me when we return to our hotel rooms because they have offended me as the BoT chairman. But they never apologized to me till date. So, at the election which held Vienna Hotel,Asaba, I introduced the Commissioner, who gave his opening address and took his leave. I saw him to his car alongside Alhaji Adedayo Thomas, the Director-General of the National Video and Films Censors Board, NVFCB and the AMP President. When we came back, myself and Fred Amata wanted to go into the town to have our lunch.”
“Immediately, I entered my car, Opa Williams came to tell me that they said I can’t leave this place.I asked him why? Suddenly, Fred Amata also came to me and confirmed the same threat. Initially, they didn’t want to tell me the person who was behind the drama. But when I looked towards the entrance gate of the hotel, I saw NVFCB boss with some boys spitting fire that I can’t leave this place and if I dare them, they would slap the hell out of me. I said okay, let me see how anybody will slap me in my own state.”
“When we built this industry, Adedayo must still be in school then. How can a regulator determines what happens in our industry. He was practically supporting a candidate. He came to me in Asaba to lure me to support a particular candidate which I refused. He also asked me to endorse the election, which I equally refused him. When I wanted to go downstairs, Opa Williams and other friends started begging me that they don’t want to create a scene here. They went to talk to Adedayo, after which he came to beg me.”
“Thereafter, I wanted to drive out again with Opa Williams and the gate was still locked. The boys at the gate told me that they can’t open it until they get approval from NVFCB boss. I just walked pass the gate, before they allowed my car to pass the gate too. After lunch, I came back to the hotel because I gave the Commissioner my words. But I was not part of the election because I never endorsed it.”
“However, throughout the duration of the election, they were monitoring my movement. And after the election, the out-gone AMP President, Mr. Raph Nwadike called me to come downstairs and address a press conference on the election, which I refused to oblige him. Minutes later, a private number called my line and advised me to leave the hotel tonight. That was when I called Opa Williams and told him that my life was in danger. He sent his driver to take me to another hotel, where I passed the night and left Asaba in the morning, Zeb Ejiro recounted.
However, following the conclusion of the controversial election which produced two presidents on the same day, it’s certain that AMP may be heading for the rocks. But Ejiro said efforts are being intensified to resolve the problem amicably as soon as possible. He revealed that the two parties involved have agreed to work together for the good of the body.
Recall that one President, Mr. Myke Parish Ajaere was elected in Lagos, while Ms Peace Anyiam-Osigwe was elected for the same position eight hours later in Asaba, Delta State. The two ‘Presidents’ have been laying claims to the leadership of the body while their supporters have been engaged in a war of words on social media.