By Rita Okoye
Those who thought veteran actor, producer and former president, Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Paul Obazele has quit acting need to do a re-think. The fair-complexioned thespian is still waxing stronger. In this interview, Obazele speaks about the issues bothering Nollywood and why he seems scarce on screen nowadays.
After you handed over power to your successor in AMP, you seemed to have disappeared from the scene, what’s happening?
I am still myself doing the work of God and doing what I know how to do best. I’m still a filmmaker, producer, director, actor and I’m still a child of God. I still work in church. Nothing has changed except for the fact that I’ve redefined the grounds because levels must change, higher grounds must come in, and if you go to higher altitude with higher attitude, you just move like that.
Why did you go to Edo State after leaving AMP?
Immediately I stepped aside as the president of AMP, the government of Edo State invited me to become president of Edo Film Makers Association (EFMA). Most of the time I was in and out of the country. I also had other businesses, and within that period, I have done about nine movies.
Of course, you would have seen Iyore, Invasion 1897, Delilah, and Upper Creek etc. I select the things I do. This is my 32 years in the business and people have come to know and endorse me. It is the criticism of the people that made me what I am today. The support of the people, the genuine efforts of people make me what I am today, and of course, the teeming fans are there.
I became very selective because I hate when I finish a movie and I can’t sit to watch it with my kids. It doesn’t make sense. Number two, I tend to stay the way I am because unconsciously, we are drifting away from what our culture is. I describe it as a cultural dislocation because I am a man under authority; I’m a man who is passionate about what my culture is. I stand to do what my culture implies me to do. That is why you are not seeing Paul Obazele in every movie.
What are your thoughts about AMP?
Everybody has a take and a stake in everything they do. My strive is different from their strive. So, the new AMP president does his things according to his own strive. I remember the AMP constitution says that you run the association as deemed fit. So, the current president, Ralph Nwadike, is running the association as deemed fit. It is not for me to challenge him, it is for me to complement and defend the association. I once steered the ship, helped built the association. Whatever he does, if it is okay by him and his judgement… and if he calls me for anything, I will do. For instance, recently, he launched Nolly Care, I was there and applauded it. Nolly Care has to do with the health care issue, and I believe in that. I did something like that. I brought Nollywood stakeholders on board to do it. If he is sustaining it, great, because they say health is wealth.
What about the general problem of Nollywood, how do you come together and solve it, so that the industry can move forward?
Nollywood is a family. Even twins quarrel and they come round it. Everything must go a full course. Siblings clash but what makes it dangerous is when outsiders get involved. The moment you get involved, there is every tendency that you take side with one person, it aggravates such anger and that is what is happening to Nollywood. Those who do not mean well for Nollywood get involved and mess it up because of their selfish interest. As long as Nollywood remains divided, they make money from it. I tell my colleagues with all sense of responsibility and fear of God, ‘don’t take this out’. It is like a marriage between a husband and his wife. If they quarrel, they will settle. The moment a third person comes in, it escalates.
Why would I go for example to post my marital stuff on the Internet? Why should I offend Chico (Ejiro) and go and post it on a platform? Ibinabo (Fiberesima) has issues. The people she leads have the right to caution her and it ends there in a meeting. It is resolved. That is why we have disciplinary committee in associations and organisations.
But sharks and hawks see it as an opportunity to make money. But amazingly, a dawn of realisation has come, we have come back to the drawing board, we are looking at it.
Yes, the founding fathers and stakeholders are saying we can actually rectify this. Take for example AMP is standing, DGN is standing, the other guilds are standing and the actors that we use to make money are not standing, we will make them to stand. Now, if you are not a registered member of AGN, you cannot perform anywhere. God bless you if I’m there, that production stops, you can’t work. That order still stands. That is why you see everybody on this set are registered members of AGN. That they are having crisis up there does not mean the ethics, privileges and values that hold us or bind us as one do not stand, they stand. We are not crazy, we are not bastards, we have surnames and we defend our grounds.