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Film village on Ugbomah’s mind as he nears 76

By Omiko Awa
23 October 2016   |   3:04 am
I’m very grateful to God for sparing my life till this moment. I became a man at the age of 10, when I started fending for myself and growing up in a competitive society.
 Eddie Ugbomah

Eddie Ugbomah

Veteran filmmaker Eddie Ugbomah will be 76 years in December. With such thrillers including Oyenusi, The Death of A Black President, The Boy Is Good, Apalara, Oil Doom, The Mask, Vengeance of the Cult and others to his credit, Ugbomah, the chairman, Board of Trustees, Association of Movie Producers and Nigerian Cinema Living Legend (AMPNCLL), has a track record difficult to beat in Nigerian movie industry. The septuagenarian spoke to OMIKO AWA on his birthday gig and other issues.

You will be 76 in December. How does it feel?
I’m very grateful to God for sparing my life till this moment. I became a man at the age of 10, when I started fending for myself and growing up in a competitive society. I grew up with the likes of Fela, Beko Ransome Kuti, Wole Soyinka, the Akintolas and others at Military Street, Onikan, Lagos. Though Soyinka never lived there, he was always coming to see his cousins, the Kutis. Growing up with them was fun, though I was the only child of a poor man among them; we played like equals.

One of my upcoming plays When The Landlord Becomes The Tenants is taken from a joke: ‘when the landlord becomes the tenant who collects the house rent’ that I used to crack among my friends when were growing up. I must say the reason for that joke has not changed because the landlords that induced the current change in the country are now tenants, playing second fiddle, and the tenant has taken over the drive’s seat as landlord. The joke is still relevant and the play will hit the stage soon.

At 76, you still look relentless. What should we be looking out for from you? Are you not tired?
At the moment, I’ve not tied down the birthday contract, but Heritage Bank has shown interest to be part of the event. The Lagos State government and the federal Ministry of Information and Culture have also promised to be part of it. However, a committee of friends has been set up to plan the event.

Looking back at my contributions in the movie industry, I feel sad that with my over 50 years on stage, no group is coming forward to celebrate me or organise a special event for me, not even the Association of Movie Producers. It’s unfortunate that I came from a minority group in Delta State. Can you not see how Prof. Wole Soyinka, Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey are being celebrated? There is even a Wole Soyinka Week. I am in the same category of achievement with them if not more, but I am not celebrated the same way like them because I’m from Delta State, not just Delta State, a minority group in the state.

But Delta State government recently celebrated you by giving you award. Isn’t that some recognition?
No! What they did was to give me one breakable glass as award sometime in August. They called it an award of Excellent Achievements during the state’s 25th year anniversary celebration. However, I thank God that Heritage Bank feels that with my contributions in the movie industry, I should be properly celebrated.

What then are we to expect?
I’m going to launch the biggest musical concert, bring the Who is Who in the film industry together on stage, launch my autobiography and non-governmental organisation, as well as establish two Film Villages in Lagos and Delta States. The concert is going to be a Goodbye Concert because I’m just going to end up with this art foundation. I look forward to Lagos State government giving me land to build a film village. It will be different from the existing one. Discussions are ongoing with investors from America to build it. In fact, they are already here to invest in our entertainment sector and our economy.

As you turn 54 years as stage and screen producer, what are your highest points and regrets?
There are no regrets because I have achieved all that I wanted. I am sorry for the kids of today because they do not want to learn, follow the steps of those before them in doing things.

What inspired you to set up a Hall of Fame for music and movies?
It all started when I was invited to Oakland, U.S., to see the Filmmakers Hall of Fame. I was so impressed to see such historical records that I began to think of replicating it in Nigeria. The idea, however, saw the light of the day in the year 2000. I am saying the Movies and Music Makers Halls of Fame should have been established since 1960 and not for me to establish it with my own money. I had the first induction in 2006 and the second in 2009, which is seven years now. I tried to move it to Lagos or Abuja, but nobody wants to give the money to hire a movie house, where all the portraits would be hung for people to see.

I have over 130 filmmakers, starting from Prof. Wole Soyinka. Do you know that Soyinka made two movies, The Kongi Harvest and Blues For A Prodigal? Do you know that late Moshood Abiola had a hand in Bisi, Daughter Of The River? These are histories that I am keeping for people to learn in years to come. This is very important for students of English language, theatre arts, mass communication and others, including scholars who are interested in our movie industry. Not being equipped with such histories would make many students to leave the university with a BA degree, which means ‘Begin Again’ because they are coming out to learn what they ought to have learnt while in school. This kind of Hall of Fame is very relevant in the country.

Again, how much of it is the media promoting? Most newspaper houses do not have morgues or archives, where historical materials are kept and those that have them are not updating them. Morgue helps reporters get detailed information about individuals; it has the history of Who is Who in the country, but these days, instead of reporters going to the morgue for photographs of important figures they depend on the Internet or ask for pictures to be sent to them.

I decided to set up the Hall of Fame with people, including Raymond Dokpesi, Jimi Ade, Baba Gana as members Board of Trustees (BoT) to keep records, tell part of our histories as filmmakers.

It’s unfortunate that today many young people do not know where they are coming from. We say they are the leaders of tomorrow, but what are we planning for them to take over tomorrow? The answer is ‘nothing’ and the youths themselves are not interested in creativity. If youths are not aware of the culture of their country, it means they do not exist. So, I want to fill the gap with the hall of fame.

How did you become a man at 10?

I said I became a man at the age of 10 because I was trained in the streets. When my father divorced my mother, she remarried, but my stepfather didn’t want me. So, I had to settle for the streets; it became where I learnt things.

No, I mean people should allow themselves to be groomed, take time to master a thing before going into it. Just imagine the sort of films being made; most of them do not show that the producers are trained.

How has that impacted on your life?
It made me to be very great and dynamic to face the world. It made me to fight to get whatever I want in life. It made me so happy and stubborn that I don’t believe anything is impossible.