Saturday, 3 May 2014

FEATURE: TONY OKOROJI - Who Says Amaka Igwe Is Dead?

Since I got the news about the indomitable amazon Amaka Igwe's shocking exit, I've been unable to get over her death, especially since I still communicated with her not too long ago and was looking forward to working with her soon on a film project. And whilst the creative industry is trying to come to terms with such a huge loss...people who knew her closely have gone on eulogise her as best as they can....I truly admired and respected her a lot (who didn't?). Anyway, I thought to share with you all, an article written by a man I also respect...maybe a little more....My Father! Please read his write-up about AMAKA IGWE printed in his weekly column "Locomotion" in today's Saturday Independent below.....you'll love it!

WHO SAYS AMAKA IGWE IS DEAD?  - TONY OKOROJI

"At close quarters, creative people are usually not your most organized or impressionable characters. There appears to be something about creative ingenuity that makes normal laws and rules that apply to ordinary people not to apply to those blessed with this gift. Your truly gifted writers, actors, singers, directors, producers, et al behave different from the rest of us. You can say that they live in their own world. Oh, they can drive you crazy.  As it is said in today’s Naija jargon, dem no send! I have asked myself whether creativity and good behaviour are mutually exclusive. Of course, once in a while, you meet that person who breaks the rule.

At the height of his dominance of Nigerian popular music, I travelled from Lagos to one of the eastern states with the magical one, Majek Fashek, a true musical genius of whom I am an eternal fan. On our itinerary was a long scheduled meeting with the governor of the state at 9.00 am the morning after our arrival. At 8.00 am, I left my hotel room to see Majek in his room on the same floor. It was time to set out for our meeting with ‘His Excellency’. Lo and behold, when I got to Mr Fashek’s room, he was fast asleep. It took a bit to wake him up. 

When reminded that the Governor was waiting for us and we should already be on our way to Government House, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said that he was not done with sleeping! I had to turn on my stern voice to remind Mr Fashek that we did not travel hundreds of miles and spend the sizeable amount of money as a joke. When he finally made up his mind to honour the appointment for which we left Lagos and then had his bath, he remembered that he did not bring any clothes for the visit. At that point I told him that I did not care if he wore his boxers or came to the meeting stark naked!  

The great Fela Anikulapo Kuti had his own laws and rules and did not care what you thought of him. So many times, I was the victim of his yabis. That however did not stop me from visiting Fela now and again at his Kalakuta Republic home in Ikeja where we threw banter back and forth. Can you imagine anyone else in the history of mankind that you would visit and he would shout through a partially open door, ‘wait for me o, I dey sh-t’ or ‘wait for me o, I dey f--k’?!

I was at a meeting earlier in the week at the Boardroom of the National Broadcasting Commission in Lagos when the news filtered in and the broadcast guru, Mac Emokpare, who was at the meeting, announced the passing on of Amaka Igwe, the creative genius behind Checkmate, Violated, Rattlesnake, Fuji House of Commotion, Solitaire and many more movies and programmes which have held Nigerians spell bound for years. Mr Emokpare asked for a minute silence in honour of Amaka. It all appeared like a joke to me because prior to that date, I did not hear that Amaka was ill or in any kind of danger. Was this a scene in one of Amaka Igwe’s movies, I asked myself.

I have personally been jolted because Amaka was not just another creative industry practitioner. I have always believed that Amaka Igwe was one of the few people in the creative industry who fully understood my passion and what has driven my commitment to the industry these many years. I had no doubt that we had a special relationship. Despite her prodigious creative talent, Amaka was a good human being – warm, courteous, organized, inspiring and consistent. Where others whined and complained, she went to work. I have spoken with Charles, Amaka’s long term working partner and husband and he has told me how whatever happened was supposed to have happened and none of it still makes sense to me.

In the industry, I get called Tony, Chief, Presido, Chairman and so on. Amaka never called me any of those. She called me Dede’m. In the part of the country where we both come from, that carries very fond and special meaning. Last week, I attended the Nigerian Entertainment Conference very well organized by Ayeni Adekunle Samuel’s NET. I sat through the discussion session on Nollywood which had Emeka Mba, Ramsy Noah, Peace Anyiam Osigwe and Shaibu Hussein which session was moderated by Chris Ehindero, himself a well-known Amaka Igwe prodigy. 

I was pained by the catalogue of issues identified by the panel as standing between Nollywood and the achievement of its huge potentials. As I listened to the panel talk about the massive divisions and endless bickering and the lack of truly dedicated, intellectually sound and focused leadership with strategic commitment and not thinking all the time of government hand out, a leadership that can properly articulate the challenges and begin to address them, my mind went to Amaka.

At the first NET Conference last year, I had listened to Amaka present what I consider the best paper ever on the phenomenon called Nollywood. She understood the issues and articulated them so brilliantly because she had lived through them. The presentation itself was a masterpiece. I went after to hug her and then thanked the good Lord for giving me the opportunity to witness what was a true professional at work.

If you tell me that Amaka Igwe is dead, my answer will be ‘no!’ As long as we can continue to watch episodes of Checkmate, Violated, Rattlesnake, Fuji House of Commotion, Solitaire, etc and listen to TOP Radio and take part in BOB –TV, Amaka is alive. As long as the many people trained or inspired by Amaka can continue to express themselves with the professionalism and ethos practised by Amaka Igwe, then Amaka is alive.  

My brothers and sisters in the Nigerian creative industry should not let Amaka Igwe die. To do this, we must stop all the unproductive fighting and work together to achieve for our nation the dream we share with Amaka: to make the Nigeria creative industries the true engine of our nation’s socio economic development.

P.S. While I was writing this, I received the very sad news of the passing on of Mrs Pat Oloruntoba. Mrs Oloruntoba was the ever smiling face that welcomed one and all to COSON and made them comfortable.  She was the one that made sure we had a drink when we were thirsty and something to eat when we were hungry. Irreplaceable! Pat had the unique talent of knowing where to find every document in the thousands of files at COSON. She knew each of the several thousands of COSON members personally. Patricia Oloruntoba will be enormously missed. May her soul rest in peace. "

By Tony Okoroji.

All of these deaths only remind me of how fleeting life truly is....one day we shall all exit...But whenever we do leave....The question remains, what would you be remembered for? Amaka Igwe will forever be remembered for her indelible contributions to the creative arts...as well as the late Mrs pat who was always cheerful, polite and hardly ever gave anyone problems. So Lovelies, again...I ask...when it's time to go...what would you be remembered for?

Have A Restful Saturday Lovelies! Kisses! 

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