Wednesday 28 November 2018

The 100,000 seater church

Two things I think Nigerians hate the most, reproof and accountability. We want to do want we want to do when and how we want to do it, never mind its legality/morality or lack of it.
Granted, no one really like criticisms nor negative comments, I don’t suppose if you said you hated my brown locs, I’d respond with a smile. But these things will be said and some of them will have some truths.

Over the weekend, the church with the highest seating capacity in the world, was opened in Abuja, Nigeria. Yes, Nigeria. Interestingly, only a few months ago, Nigeria was rated as the poverty capital of the world. Nigeria, host to the largest church in the world. Nigeria, also host to the poorest people in the world. There is a likelihood that some of these poor people might have contributed to this very elaborate building; The new wave Pentecostal pastors can take your last dime from you in the name of the father. ‘What’s that you’ve got in your hands, is it your phone, is it your watch, bring it to the Lord, the Lord needs it so that he can bless you,’ they would say. And the people, semi educated, hungry and desperate for a miracle will rush to the pulpit to drop their widow’s mite.

Religion, they say is the opium of the masses. No place is this saying truer than in Nigeria. The Nigerian has got it quite bad, the leaders he voted to serve him do no such thing instead they seek to destroy him and the pastors called to feed the flock feed from the flock. Everyone takes advantage of the vulnerability of the hapless Nigerian.
While I have no problems with the message of giving, I don’t suppose that when God asked us to give to the church, the money was to be used for private jets and tall buildings particularly in a nation where many cannot afford decent meals.

The 100k church has come under a lot of criticism but many have also risen to defend it. The critics say the money could have been put to better use; build hospitals or at least donate equipment, fund schools, build welfare centres etc but the defenders say this is not the work of the job but of the Government. So what then is the work of the church if it cannot positively affect society? Are Christians not called to be the light of the world? I believe there is a correlation between the decadence in the society today and the absence of truth in the church. Heck, our thieving leaders sit in front rows in church and receive blessings from the pastor, no thanks to a very healthy tithe envelope. Our sons are not left out; when you’ve conned some white man, why don’t you bring ten percent of your earnings, after all, the Lord loves a cheerful giver. And our daughters, let’s not even go there. 

We can no longer differentiate between sinners and saints, perhaps because there are no more saints. The lines have completely blurred.
Let us remember that a church that should be preaching restitution once refused to give back tithes paid by a thief. Who remembers that story?
Let us remember also that a church was holding seminars for MMM.

People don’t always mean harm when they criticize. We must be open to it; the message of the church today leaves a lot to be desired. ‘Let’s get all we can, can all we get and sit on the can.’ What happened to helping the poor, what happened to preaching about love and kindness and holiness. Messages that would make a corrupt politician rethink his ways and a kidnapper repent but instead the church has made sinners comfortable in their sin as long as they bring their tithes and offerings. The church needs to listen and fix the holes before they become too large.

I’ll leave you with a story. I recently found that one of my coolest friends is a Cross Bearer. I’ve known him for years but never knew his faith till it came up in a recent conversation. Immediately he told me, it all made sense. He’s one of the kindest, most decent, principled beings I know. He won’t take a pin from work if he didn’t have the right to. There are not many Pentecostals that I can say that of. Sadly. Because the church is too busy building structures, it's forgotten about building character.

It’s human nature to defend ‘our’ own, love can be blinding but think about it, are Pentecostals really representing Christianity in Nigeria? When I think about early Christianity in Nigeria, I remember missionaries, I remember hospitals, I remember schools. But what do we have today? A race to build the tallest building. We now rate our faith not by fruits of the holy spirit by the seating capacity of our churches.

Recently a colleague told me about a good experience he had at a hospital run by a church, highly subsidized. I knew before he mentioned it that it wasn’t a Pentecostal church, I was right.

I’m not sure what the purpose of this 100k seater  church is but I remember Jesus asking ‘What man is there of you, if the son asks him for a loaf of bread will hand him a stone?’

The defenders of the church say the people saying the money should have been used to build hospitals should themselves build the hospitals. Perhaps they would, if the church didn’t take their money from them. The Church and the State have taken so much from the people and given so little in return.

They say that success is measured by how much good you do for others, but hey, This is Nigeria. Here, we measure it by the size of our pockets and churches, the poor can go to hell. 

Where is Nigeria's money?

This idea that most of Nigeria’s wealthy didn’t have to work for their wealth bothers me. 
That most of them simply got lucky. Who are these people? I don’t know them or maybe I don’t see them because they are not my immediate reality so when people say that there are no examples for young Nigerians to learn from because you can’t teach luck, I don’t get it. Let me give you a few examples from an industry that I am very familiar with: The entertainment Industry.

Kene Mkparu:  CEO Filmhouse Cinemas.  Kene worked at a cinema house in the UK, rising through the ranks to become a manager before returning to Nigeria to work with Genesis Deluxe cinemas. Mparu eventually set up Filmhouse Cinemas in 2012, one of the fastest growing  cinema chains in Nigeria. If there was Daddy’s money somewhere in the picture, there is no record of it. What I see is hard work, tenacity and a lot of guts. 

Jason/Mary Njoku. I think that everyone knows Jason’s story. He started from practically nothing, now Iroko is one of the biggest African brands. Mary: CEO of ROK, their sister company is one of the most hardworking women I know, combining motherhood, producing and still successfully running what may soon be the biggest production/exhibition company in Africa.

Emem Isong: I don’t have to read up about this one. I can tell you categorically that Emem started from scratch. Made her first film, Breaking Point, with a loan of less than a 100k from her parents( Did you ever pay back that money sis?) and support from Tunde Kelani. That’s it. That is what has grown to be Royal Arts Academy, your number one production company and film academy in Nigeria.  I accompanied her many times to Idumota, waded through floods to sit for hours unending waiting for marketers, now look.

Linda Ikeji. This is another one that is a bit personal. I have followed her blog from almost the beginning. I even featured her blog in my thesis. She tried modelling, ‘magazinning’ none hit but she was going somewhere. Even though blogging didn’t pay up immediately, the lady continued. I find it very laughable when people dismiss her hardwork; is it not just blogging, I’ve heard many say. You too blog nah. Like there aren’t a million blogs out there. She’s done it through sheer hard work and persistence.

Funke Akindele popularly known as Jenifa. Jenifa started as a film, became one of the most successful TV series of our times and I’m sure it won’t end there.  Funke also runs SceneoneTV, an entertainment platform showcasing movies, series and lots more. Akindele started as an actress and worked herself to the top. I’m sure she can tell you the many hitches she faced but I’m also sure you’re not really interested. All you really want is for her to star you in her films.

These are the first names that came to me. There are so many others. Everywhere you look, there are several successful business owners, people who worked their way from the ground up but in true Nigerian style we choose instead to focus on the ones whose wealth is ill-gotten.  How does that help the budding entrepreneur? You may also dismiss these ones as not matching the wealth you’re referring to but can we start with these ones first, then we can progress to the Elumelu type ones?

I think it's unfair to dismiss most of the nation’s wealth as ill or easy gotten; a way of excusing our own failures. Nigeria is extremely hard to do business in, I’ve had three of my generators pack up in one day. If I didn’t believe in witchcraft before, that day I was converted. Three! But try, we must continue to and draw inspiration from the many who have achieved successes in spite of these challenges.

Perhaps it’s the article from Paddy that has got many triggered but Paddy is minority you know. Think instead about Ebeano, Tasty Fried Chicken, Lekki Homes, So fresh, the many Alaba Merchants, the Lagos Island traders many of whom you’d be shocked at the meagre amounts they started with. There are several self made billionaires in Nigeria, they just may not be writing articles.

Sunday 14 January 2018

For those Who Mourn

‘It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.’
                                                                                          Alfred Lord Tennyson.

For someone who has lost close family and a friend, the death of my friend Ansa hit me very hard. You think you get used to the hard blows life deals you, but each time it’s different and more painful.
Leaving Ansa at the mortuary was one of my most painful experiences in life. It seemed so unfair, so wrong that we were all going to walk away and leave her in the cold. I woke my hubby many times at night, asking him to take me back, so I could be with her and keep her company. He reminded me she wasn’t actually there. So I googled, (my friends know that google is actually my best friend) I wanted to know what was happening to her as she lay there.

It was the second time I was losing a close friend so I wondered if there was a row call, was I next on the list? Why were my friends dying? I wondered also if it was connected to me? Was there something about me that led them to their deaths? It sounds crazy but that’s what loss does to you. 

People, particular in this part of the world, like to dictate how you should live.  For the longest time, her picture was my screensaver and it bothered a lot of people, time has passed, they would say. Well, time hadn’t passed for me. Time stopped still when she died. It upset me that people moved on so fast. Upset me even more that they expected me to.  Leave me the hell alone! I wanted to scream so many times.
Recently my friend’s husband called me to say he was remarrying. Not Ansa. The other one. It broke me. He didn’t understand why, after all I was the one who’d encouraged him to. She died leaving a week old baby and a toddler. I often told him the babies needed a mother but he wasn’t ready. Four years after, he finally takes the step. I’m happy for him and for the kids but it reminded me that my friend’s chapter in this life is closed. Permanently. Death is so final. Too final. Particularly when you are not given a chance to say goodbye.  

But here’s the good News, the pain gets easier to bear. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Ansa but it’s no longer as painful as it used to be. I dwell more on the good times we shared. She was a very good person, Ansa. Very good person. And I carry her goodness along with me, always.  

Twitter has recently been thrown into mourning by the very untimely death of Chiedu Eze who was clearly loved by many.  Nigeria has also been mourning the many deaths in Benue State; men and women, young and old allegedly slain by Fulani Herdsmen. As Nigeria continues to kill her own, it is my prayer that God grants everyone the fortitude to bear the loss of their loved ones. 

Monday 8 January 2018

Wisdom tooth removal

Happy New Year.

I want to say that this new year, I’d be blogging more but that would probably be a lie so we’ll simply see how it goes. No promises.

Two months ago, I had a wisdom tooth surgically removed. It was a long, painful and terrifying experience. A week after, I didn’t get better so to google I went. That’s a major reason I’m sharing this story, there was very little information out there particularly by Africans. I know you’re thinking why the source of information matter, after a tooth is a tooth. Well, it kinda brings it closer to home when your ‘brethren’ shares the experience.  Apparently, in rare cases, a nerve is damaged during the surgery causing some part of your mouth to be numb, in my own case, my lower left lip and teeth.  

The nerve is expected to regenerate in due course (could take months) but in some very rare cases it never does.
It’s been about two months since I had my extraction, I still do not have the feeling back. I saw an orthodontist three weeks ago, he did some tests, basically using a gauze to check for feeling around the area. He assured me my case isn’t permanent. I think I may actually be starting to feel stuff there but it’s still very pomoish (puffy)

It’s funny how a seemingly small issue such as toothache could cause you permanent damage.  Other than the discomfort, I’m not in pain. Sometimes it affects my speech, other times not.  There’s a shocking feeling on one or two of the affected teeth. That’s the worst part.
I have a dentist appointment this week and I’ll keep anyone who cares to know.

I have never liked phone calls, now I hate them even more. 

Wednesday 1 November 2017

For young Nollywood producers

I find the beginnings of any write up very hard so forgive me if this doesn't start out very nice.

As many of you may know, Niyi Akinmolayan( he said I should always refer to him as hot and sexy, so you may add these adjectives before his name) and I made a film two years ago. FALLING.

It didn't hit in the cinemas. I remember when I got the first report, I wanted to cry. Actually the first shocker is usually when you see your schedule. You know immediately that the distributors don't believe in your film but you talk yourself out of distress; tell yourself there were after all very few screens when Ije made over 50m, remind yourself of all the positive thinking messages you listened to. Usually, you'd be wrong and your movie would fail. Falling did but fortunately only in cinemas. Our film went on to be a big hit everywhere else. It produced the best actress for that year and my aggregator admits that it is one of his best performing films. I'm sure all the people who worked on the project will agree that it's done a lot for their career. I know it has for me. So maybe I should say, with some arrogance, that the cinema audience did not understand us. (picture a tongue out emoticon here)

It hasn't stopped there. Last year I was commissioned by Africa Magic to make three movies for them. Our very first conversation on the subject was based on FALLING.

The point of my post is to encourage young filmmakers(I feel so old saying that) to stay true to themselves. A good movie will always find home. That home may just not be at the cinemas. There's been a lot of talk about the audience preferring comedies and so producers feel obliged to make movies of this genre. I don't know that this is true. Nollywood didn't happen today and the audience has always been varied. But I would agree that some films may be easier to sell than others. So if you're ready to throw a lot of weight into marketing, I'd say do you. The cinema is only one platform. There's the internet, cable and more. Sadly we seem to have lost the DVD market.

The time to make money is now, and the opportunities exist. Don't make a film that will fly above everyone's head simply because you want to prove a point. When you're 60, wearing unironed adire without a dime in your pensions fund, no one will care that once upon a time you were the ish. People only care about the present ish so make an effort to stay relevant.

Most of my movies have recorded commercial successes but this is never my primary intention. I try to make films that people will remember, that will outlive me. That said, I make an effort to include what I hope will be some commercial value because what's the point if no one watches your film?

I've been largely lucky in Nollywood perhaps because my sister came before me so she suffered
enough for two of us(hehehehe) but there's definitely a place for hard work and consistency. Keep at it, learn from your mistakes, tomorrow will definitely be better.  Lost in London, directed by Sunkanmi Adebayo, made more than the entire gross of Falling, in its opening weekend. We had learnt a few things. We still didn't meet our target but it was progress. It is our hope that our next film, GETTING OVER HIM, directed by Desmond Elliot (I'm an ashawo when it comes to directors) will beat LOST IN LONDON's record. I like to say that I am only in competition with myself. So don't be discouraged, keep trying.

The second point of this post is to tell you that our third film for Africa Magic; AMERICAN BOY will air on Africa Magic Urban 153 on November 3 by 10pm. Do not miss it. American Boy is directed by Sunkanmi Adebayo.

Sunday 6 August 2017

Banana Island Ghost

Last year, I watched a comedy that scarred me and so I took a break from Nigerian comedies in cinemas, but I was curious about Banana Island Ghost so I decided to make an exception. 

I am wary about big budget Nollywood films, it often feels like they want to bamboozle me with spectacle and ignore STORY. For a story teller, this hurts.  BIG is big on spectacle quite alright, but the good News is it’s also big on story and performance.  
I was rolling my eyes ten minutes into the film feeling like they were trying to force me to laugh and then the accident happened and everything changed.
Patrick Diabuah as the ghost is a brilliant choice, even more brilliant is the choice to pair him with Chioma Omeruah (Chigurl). An unlikely pair who prove that opposites attract. Their acting is effortless, they both become the characters they play and as their bond grows, our love for them grows.
BIG tells the story of a ghost who is scared to go to heaven because he doesn’t have a soul mate, so convinces God to give him three days to fall in love. In the three days, he meets Ijeoma who will do anything to keep the banks from reclaiming her father’s property in Banana Island.
BB Sasore’s hard work is very evident. The drone shots are beautiful and he makes many other aesthetic choices.  The special effects made us all applaud in the hall. They were all very decent.
There are some plot gaps, naturally. Like the boyfriend who appears from nowhere, we know he’s there just for laughs but the laughs work so we don’t really mind. Or Ijeoma’s performance at the charity event, I thought someone would sign her to justify the event but it’s clearly just for the showdown at the end of the show. Again, the scene was worth it so we didn’t mind.
I’m particularly pleased by the choice of an upcoming actor as the lead. It is often my argument with distributors. I get the desire for star studded but while we need to make money, we also need to build an industry.  It’s heart breaking how much of a struggle it is to cast a fifty year old ‘baby boy’. The choices are very limited for an industry that is said to be the second largest in the world. Imagine if RMD hadn’t come back to acting. If we don’t invest in actors now, the next generation will have the same problems we’re having.
I remember some cinemas turned down Falling because we didn’t have enough ‘stars’. One of them would go on to cast Etomi in their own film a couple of years later. (Catch your shade?)
We’re all in this industry together and we must build it together so that our children may find it easier than we did, the same way the people who came before us paved the way for us now.
So BIG ups to BIG for choosing Patrick and congratulations Patrick for proving yourself worthy.
Banana Island Ghost feels like it was made with the primary intention of entertaining its audience; it succeeded. We left the hall feeling good.

The film is produced by Biola Alabi Media and directed by BB Sasore.

PS. If you think some Nigerian Policemen can be ridiculous, wait till you meet the DPO (Saidi Balogun) and his men.

Monday 17 July 2017

Olajumoke: Of long hair and long lashes.

I initially titled this post Olajumoke, The Bread Seller but I decided to tuck in my Nollywoodness.

I was going to go straight into what I thought about the remodelling of Olajumoke’s life then it occurred to me that some people may not know her. Last month I was talking to a friend about Bobriskky and he drew a blank. He’d never heard of the guy (He’s a guy, abi?). It’s easy to think we all know the same things but as our worlds all differ, so do our stories.
‘Olajumoke Orisaguna or Jumoke Sunday (born 1989) is a Nigerian model who received public attention when she appeared on the cover of a magazine before she was employed as a model. The story was reported in various media sources, including CNN.’ - Wikipedia
Sometime last year, Olajumoke photo bombed a music video shoot while hawking bread. Her life has not been the same since then.  I followed the story briefly then lost interest, it seemed the media also lost interest but lately Orisaguna is back in the News.

Her pictures have been popping up everywhere, in most of them she looks like a completely new person. In some of them, people alleged that she might be bleaching or toning(that’s the more acceptable term, I think. )

So it’s got me wondering, is this our definition of grass to grace? To wear fancy clothes, long hair and spot a brighter skin? Are these the standards by which we measure growth? Has Jumoke now arrived?
I can’t help but compare her to Malala Yousafzi. I know that seems like a bit of a stretch but that’s what I had expected or something close.  I think that part of the reason our society is failing our young ones is the absence of heroes, no one for them to look up to. I had thought that Jumoke would be nurtured so that she can nurture, so that many people with backgrounds similar to hers would dare to dream. But is this the dream? Fancy clothes and parties? Is this the new Nigerian dream? While I have nothing against fancy clothes and bags, I can’t but ask the question, is this it?
Are young people expected to look at her and aspire to be like her? And what exactly would being like her mean?
I understand that Jumoke is now a model so her appearance is important but surely she can be a lot more than that. No?