Paul Obazele: Garlands for the ‘presido emeritus’ of moviedom
It was the birthday of the ace actor, producer, philanthropist and former two-term President of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) Paul Obazele on Monday, April 6. Incidentally, it was day 6 of the lockdown and restriction order caused by the precautionary measures against COVID-19. So the surprise birthday shindig that some of his friends and colleagues had planned was shelved because it meant that because of the restriction of movement order people would not be able to converge at his residence for what was planned as a celebration of life for the tall, handsome, meek, well built and amazing Edo state personality who is undoubtedly one of the famous players in the Nigerian television and movie industry.
But, there was so much outpouring of love on social media for the actor’s actor and top industry player who has continued to pull the movie crowd over each time he is on the cast of television soap, series or movie production. One of the early messages that trended was a birthday message authorized by the adorable wife of the Apostle General of the Revival Assembly Pastor Emmy Kosgei Anselm Madubuko. The message had read: ‘Help me celebrate this great son of the Apostle General, a man who has faithfully served my hubby faithfully for over 20 years in humility and love….his love for ministry is not hidden. He is a renowned actor who has stood as an ambassador of God in his field…we celebrate you, Paul. You are indeed a great blessing to us all. Thank you for all you do and may God continue to reward you’’. The messages kept pouring from far and wide especially from those who have followed his steady rise to stardom from the late 80’s when he embraced acting and production with the kind of passion that suggested that he was from the guts.
Married and blessed with children, most of Obazele’s fans, both at home and abroad still hold memories of his commendable acting ‘runs’ in such rested television soaps and serials like ‘Ripples’, ‘Checkmate’, ‘Third Eye’, and in countless early home movie such as ‘Douglas My Love’, ‘Cry of a Virgin’, ‘House Party’, and ‘14th February’ 14 which he produced and directed. Indeed Paul is reputed to be amongst top screen actors who have featured concurrently in about three television soaps that ran at the same time, namely ‘Third Eye’, ‘Checkmate’ and ‘Ripples’. No wonder he was once named as ‘one of the most consistent faces on television’ by the editorial team of TV guide, the once quarterly publication of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
Interestingly, Obazele who was born to a father who retired as Head of News of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN and a mother who retired as a Matron, did not set out to become an actor. Obazele who is popular as ‘presido’ revealed that he wanted to become a soldier and he had actually made efforts to be enlisted into the army, but that his mother had a tacit ‘no’ as reply. She didn’t want him near the army for fear of losing him. Obazele hinted that ‘mama constantly told the story of how some relations lost their children who had enlisted into the army to the civil war’’. With that tacit disapproval, he settled for business, a reason he enrolled to study business administration at the Auchi Polytechnic, Edo state.
Born and bred in Lagos, it was while at the Polytechnic that Obazele’s passion for the world of make believe was further ignited. Upon graduation, the Ishan native secured a daytime job at SJ Production Company and he was assigned to the account section but was soon transferred to the production department when it was obvious that he could string some productions together. He later joined mainstream acting. And because he had already made a name as a model featuring in several commercials and calendars, it was easy for him to secure roles. He was to later star in a number of television programmes including the popular television soap ‘After the Storm’.
A devout Christian and an old boy of Anglican Grammar School, Ugbuluku, Delta State, when production on home video buzzed, Obazele stepped up there too. He got his first call up in 1996 as a lead actor in the movie ‘Shadow of Death’ as directed by Bolaji Dawudu. He got other invitations but by 1999 Paul had ventured into directing.
Described by most of his colleagues as an easygoing man who derives joy in fighting other people’s causes, Obazele star of ‘Last Option’, Lies of Destiny’ and ‘Sweetest Taboo’, says it’s possible that he may have written, acted and directed over 100 movies and he alludes that it has been rewarding being in the movie.
Of all his movie credits, Paul who spends his off-screen periods hanging out with his family, watching films, listening to music particularly ‘gospel music’ and spending what he described as ‘quality time in the presence of God at the Apostle Anselem Madubuko led Revival Assembly, says he has a crush on ‘14th of February’ because of its technical depth and on ‘Iyore’, ‘Invasion 1897’ and ‘Inikpi’ because they earned him a couple of industry nominations and they celebrated the rich culture and heritage of the Edo and Igala people.
Founder and President of the Legends of Nollywood Award (LNA), a scheme he established over seven years ago to celebrate those who laid the foundation for a virile motion picture industry in Nigeria, Obazele said his ultimate plan with LNA is to establish a foundation that will run side by side the LNA. ‘’The foundation will care for our legends, their health and their wealth. There are a lot of them who cannot afford a roof over their heads, meals to eat or even monies to pay for medicals. So the foundation will care for them,’ he said.
Asked to pick one memorable moment of his birthday, Obazele picked two and said: “I will please ask for two. One was when I got out of bed and my dear wife and children sang and prayed with me and the other is when I opened my social media handle and saw so much outpouring of love and prayers. I felt loved and appreciated. There is nothing like being appreciated when you are around. It has spurred me to do more and to continue to serve God and humanity and I pray that as my fans and family observe the current lockdown, they will be shielded from the ravaging noisy pestilence. They will never fall sick and the mercy of God will uphold them and single them out for His divine favour’’ he prayed.