By Ifeanyi Ndukwe
Emma Ayalogu a veteran Nollywood actor cum director believes that Nigerian celebrities should use their fame and fortune to attract projects that would impact positively and improve lives of the less- privileged in the society. In this interview with Ifeanyi Ndukwe, Ayalogu shares his views concerning the Nigerian movie industry and prospects for the future.
How would you appraise the Nigerian movie industry?
Despite its relatively young age, the Nigerian movie industry has progressed from the primordial to the provincial in all aspects of its practice, be it in acting, technical, creative and marketing/distribution; and it promises a more futuristic progress that would satisfy current demands and requirements.
At the AMVCA, a Kenyan film won the overall Best Movie. What do you think Nollywood players have to do to win in that category come next edition?
I know we have shot a lot of movies that are qualified to have won the Overall Best Movie, movies done by the likes of Izu Ojukwu, Okey Ogunjiofor, Kunle Afolayan; Tade Ogidan; even Genevieve Nnaji’s “LIONHEART”. We are doing what we have to do and even more, maybe no NOLLYWOOD film won the Overall Best Movie because the right films were not entered for the awards that year. Look, you do not understand the dynamism in Nollywood. Nollywood is the reference point for the manufacturing of current film making equipment’s in the world today; you can take it or leave it. It was by virtue of fortuitously shooting LIVING IN BONDAGE on home video format, coupled with the massive revolution and prise de conscience that followed it, that SONY and other film-making equipment manufacturing companies started configuring and compressing the almighty celluloid into affordable and portable High Definition formats.
What motivated you to go into acting?
Apart from my early preparations via Secondary School drama and elective courses I took from the Department of Theater Arts, University of Jos, while I was reading French there, my foray into professional acting was entirely providential and fortuitous.
Nollywood has been plagued with rumours of sex scandals. What is your take on that?
There is actually no part of the Nigerian society that is not plagued with rumors of sex scandals. But because we are in the limelight, people get to celebrate it. So I speak generally: be it in the medical, teaching, military or acting profession, sex for favor is immoral and wrong.
What were the key challenges on your way to stardom?
Are we stars? Stars are up there twinkling brightly and we are down here groveling with the masses in mire. Listen, when a celebrity becomes a star, he/she puts in place a project to impact on and brighten the lives of the less privileged, just as natural stars brighten our dark moonless nights. I mean enduring philanthropic projects without noise-making, not taking a bag of rice to motherless babies’ homes and inviting the press to come and cover it. Having made that clear, I want to say that the obstacles I confronted on my journey to becoming a celebrity were minimal because we were the pioneers of a debuting new phase of entertainment, a phase that “Village Headmaster”, “The New Masquerade” etc. had pioneered in their own way.
What movie gave you ä break and what role did you play?
Like I said earlier, I had been in the system right from RIPPLES on National Television and transited into moving movies with LIVING IN BONDAGE. So, I do not have the privilege of pointing at a movie and saying that it gave me the break, that is if I ever had a break. But then I had featured in some movies that were outstandingly well crafted and delivered; then again, these movies were not well publicized and marketed in their own time. Movies like TABOO, LEAN ON ME, BRAVE HEART, THE QUEEN’S HEART, THE BROTHERHOOD OF DARKNESS (which I wrote) and many others.
What do you consider as the difference between films produced in early 90s and the crop of films done at the moment?
Restrictions of the time in question. Today’s movies, as opposed to the 90s movies, are shot with state of the art equipment. Some of the methods and equipment we used to shoot in those days are outdated now. For example, to achieve an overhead shot in those days, a camera man would climb a tree or we would rent these NEPA cranes they used for the repair of street lights. Today you have drones. On the down side today’s scripts are not well thought out, I wonder why. But then, that is the difference between ingenuous creativity and robot-inspired laziness.
Technology has made certain changes especially in creating artificial effects and environment on screen. Does this devalue the authenticity of ä story?
On the contrary, I think it enhances the value of the story by stretching the imagination to its uttermost limits. Is it no longer suspension of disbelief? Even fantasy is cast out of the imaginative cloth of God, so then how can fantasy be a complete untruth? Okay, how do you achieve a story that goes thus:”He that is alive hath known death, and he that is dead yet can no longer die? For in the cycle of the spirit, life is naught and death is naught; yeah, all things live forever though, at times, some may sleep and be forgotten”. How would you achieve such a story if not with the help of these equipment that stretch the imagination and dilate the senses?
Do you think the government is doing its best in supporting the Nigeria entertainment industry?
Apart from the Jonathan GoodLuck administration, no other government has shown proper and adequate interest in the Nigerian entertainment industry. And you must realize that most of the things we know and fear about America are spread by Hollywood propaganda.
Based on logistics, would you advise ä loved one to venture into acting or any aspects of entertainment?
If it is his or her calling, why not? But, and a big but, he/she must show me his/her first degree certificate first of all. I am of the old school, no apologies.
Who are your role model(s) and your philosophy to life?
Okay, Christ is my role model. And a few men and women of good-will who you may not know because they are silent workers who make things happen in the world today.
My philosophy of life? Okay, the result of all my experience is that nothing is as indispensable as goodwill; and that our personal goodwill is predicated on all the goodwill that we have brought to others. Helping in spreading that illumination of the heart called joy, being for someone the source or, at least a source of goodwill; this is what the sages affirm that it alone opens the doors of paradise. And if we must believe that there is an eternity after here, and that there is a hereafter where we must be judged, why not then believe that we shall be judged by the amount of goodwill that we have attracted to others. This is my philosophy of life.
You are part of ä family series that is aired on Africa magic igbo version produced by Paul Igwe. Can you explain your character Bible in the program?
I played the role of a retired father married to a trader of a wife and some mixed children, some of which are mischievous while others are cool-headed and homely. Daily issues of life crop up, as they do in normal families, and they are tackled in a didactic manner to send the appropriate lessons to families who may be going through such situations. I am a believer in Arts for Behavioral Change.
If you were to write ä script on the Nigerian political history. How would you channel your story?
Nigerian political history? They would probably lock me up once the book is published. One glaring example is this: we once had a poor and very corrupt neighboring country called Ghana not many years ago, and many of her citizens were cobblers and teachers in Nigeria. But it took the tenacity of a determined leader in the person of Jerry John Rawlings to turn things around and today; many Nigerians who say they are resident in the USA are actually living in Ghana. Jerry Rawlings operated with an AFRC and, coincidentally, the government in Nigeria at that time also operated with an AFRC. What was the difference? One was an Armed Forces REVOLUTIONARY Council and the other was an Armed Forces RULING Council. Now we can see what the revolution achieved in Ghana and we are witnesses of where the “rulership” has led us to and is still leading us to. Should we rewind to 1966 or fast-forward a bit to 1970? The GPRS trackers and many other scientific things we use today were invented by Hitler’s scientists during the World War II. After the war, America took those scientists, rehabilitated them in America and tapped their knowledge, which is what has given America the edge she has in science and tech.
Biafran boys from University of Nigeria, Nsukka’s defunct Department of Chemical Engineering invented certain things that were used by Biafra to execute the war. Nigeria won the war and the black-hearted bitterness that characterizes the black man did not allow then preserve these things that would have made Nigeria head and shoulders taller than any other black country in the world. They destroyed them and shut down the Department of Chemical Engineering, UNN, up till today. Our leaders are not serious; they have no good will for the country. You say it is the people that make a country good or bad, but it took a leader in Ghana to change the country, and a leader in Burkina Faso-Thomas Sankara-to change the country. And their people aligned to them. So, the leaders of the giant country couldn’t find one person or a group of persons to change their country? Giant lying comatose in the sunny desert sand. Giant my foot!