Ibinado FiberesimaIbinabo Fiberesima is one of the popular actresses that rocked the Nigerian movie industry in the 90s. She was also a beauty queen. The soft-spoken actress was elected the president of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria last year and has since committed much efforts in transforming the guild. She spoke to TUNDE AYANDA recently.

What is the difference between AGN, ANTP and NANTAP?
AGN is the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) and we all cut across different tribes but same citizens of Nigeria. ANTP is for Yoruba actors and actresses. It is a forum that enables them to mingle and associate with the actors, so they came up with that, but that does not differentiate them from the AGN; they still belong to AGN. We also have the NANTAP which is for the performing artistes on stage and all that. So for me, it’s all one body. I’m an Ijaw woman, and not Igbo, yet I’m at the helm of affairs, so it’s not all about Igbo. Maybe in the past, it was misconstrued as such but that is not the true picture. For instance, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde is a Yoruba and she’s a member of AGN, the same thing goes for Ini Edo, Desmond Elliot and Laide Bakare who are all members of AGN, despite not being Ibo. But maybe that notion came into being because most of the locations were in the East and members who are Igbo are more in the spotlight, but that is not the case. I went to shoot a flick in Nasarawa, some months back, and we had several AGN members in Nasarawa. Uncle Jide Kosoko is the president of ANTP but he’s also a member of AGN; he’s like a father to me. We invite the Northern-based actors, so it is not.

President Goodluck Jonathan said he was leaving a certain sum of money- millions of dollars-  for the entertainment industry with the Bank of Industry (BOI) for the growth of the industry. As the AGN president, how has your industry benefitted from this largesse?
They said the money with the Bank of Industry is for entertainers. It’s a difficult loan, and for you to go through it, it’s not a child’s play. They are working on how people can get the funds; they are trying for us, maybe not as much. But I know some Nigerians have been able to access the money. We are looking for a way Nollywood could get its share without any hitch and we are working with some consultants to help us facilitate how we can get funds from the government honourably and with due process.

As the AGN president, how has your administration fared?
Well, I was inaugurated in November 2012, but there has been a lot of work. It’s been very challenging since then, and this is because I took over office and nothing was handed over to me. So, it’s like starting afresh. I give God the glory for giving me the grace to continue, because putting things in place where they have never been is really tough, especially when you have people that don’t want things to work right. So, it’s been tough but it’s working slowly.

So, what and what were you supposed to work with?
When you are elected and inaugurated into an office, the outgoing administration is expected to hand over documents and other vital things, with regard to the association or community, as the case may be, to the incumbent. This is to ensure that you have an idea of what you have on ground, what you don’t have and how to start or tackle each issue. As someone who believes in continuity and sustainable development, I should have continued from where my predecessor stopped, but I came in and there was absolutely nothing in place, so I’m trying to start from the scratch. I’m starting by trying to get database of guild members which we don’t have and have never had. We are trying to ensure that all members, as well as new members, go online to register and get screened through the normal processes and not the processes they have been used to, because there had never been a proper process all these while.

What happens is that new members just pay to whoever it is they meet and the person collects the money; that is where it ends and nobody is questioning anybody. I know it’s going to be a hard nut for me to crack, because several people won’t be happy with the change but they would see that in my short time here.

It pays us all to do it right, so that we actually have a sum of money to do things for each chapter of the guild as well as the national office. So, it’s tough for me because I’m trying to bring back sanity into the movie industry through its guild.

Are you sure the changes you are making aren’t on personal grounds?
I don’t think it’s a personal thing and I doubt if anyone has any grudge against me, but, like I said, some people don’t just like changes. It happens in a lot of other industries but it’s just that the movie industry, which is ours, is the image of Nigeria at the moment and it’s sad that people come in to take away from us without giving back to us. We can’t keep begging for money from people to help or support our members, it’s very embarrassing. Now, I tell everyone who cares to listen that the fact that we are the image of the country doesn’t make us beggars. We can and should actually take care of ourselves when we have better structures, and that is what my administration intends to achieve. If you are a member of AGN, you should be able to benefit from the guild. I’m trying hard to bring the big stars and the not-too-big stars together because everyone is tired of the guild. They all left the guild for one reason or the other, and now, everyone is doing what he or she wants to do, but that has changed now as they’ve all realised that it’s not about me but about those that can’t afford all I can for myself and we are in the same industry, so we need to stand firm together, support the change and benefit immensely from what we do to earn a living.

With all your administration is doing, how does the average actor benefit?
Well, we are starting with the database. At least, we need to know who and who our members are, in order to get the database right. By so doing, we would be getting their addresses, phone numbers, dates of births and other relevant details. Already, we have started a health plan to get medical attentions for every member of the guild. We already have a hospital that would be offering us yearly checkups for every guild member. So you know what is wrong and what is not, you prevent what is not wrong and take care of what is wrong. You see, we found out that with the way we work, we don’t have time for ourselves, especially for those that work from one set to the other. We don’t even take holidays, so we are also planning holidays for our members, which means if you want to go on a particular holiday, we have different packages for different holiday destinations at discounted rates. At least, being a member should give you the privilege to enjoy certain things, you can’t be paying and nothing comes.

     So, at the moment, we stopped registration because we wanted to know how many people we have but we have started registration again. We also have an insurance and pension scheme. But even with all these, people still say, “Ibinabo, we don’t get jobs like you or others, how do we pay all these dues” and I just tell them the health plan is about N1,200 every month and that is quite affordable. So, we are trying to see that they pay quarterly and it would be alright for them. We can’t do everything for them. If anybody wants to support us, that is fine, but we want to take our destiny into our hands. We have actors who are up there; they would support the ones coming up. Some have been there and are currently doing well. We and the ones there now would support them; we must and we would help ourselves.

What have you done about the deaths in Nollywood?
First of all, I’m not God, and as such can’t prevent it from happening, but I have sent out messages to all the veterans and have spoken to quite a number of them to help us locate others. We need to know where they are, we need to know how to reach them. I had a meeting with the veterans in the South East zone, recently, and they expressed joy to have me around them.

AGN is not a charity organisation but most of these veterans were our members who left the guild as a result of mismanagement and frustrations. However, we found out that a lot of our members are not financially alright but we have to get it right, so that we can help ourselves but we can’t help anyone who doesn’t want to be helped. You must be part of AGN, pay your dues, health plans, insurance and all that, so that when something happens, we can be there for you. You can say because you have been an actor before I was born and something happens and people start apportioning blames on AGN, how do you expect us to know? We need to first know where you are, then we can help you as a member; and if you aren’t registered, we would try and get you registered so that you can benefit from all these schemes.

But one of the questions on the lips of people is that since you have not been appearing in movies, you don’t merit becoming the AGN president?
I was back on the screen, before the election came up. Everybody knew my story, what I’ve been through and my challenges. Before I stopped finally, I started having my kids and I had to pause to ensure that I nurture them into what I want them to be as well as what God has in store for them. After then, my challenges came and I had to shut down and rediscover myself. I’ve been involved in Miss Earth and I’ve done like four big films that would soon hit the cinemas. I just finished Lions of 76. I’m also going to be producing my own film but would be shooting other ones, quite soon. So, those who aren’t in the industry won’t know all these until they start coming out.

So, what happens to Miss Earth beauty pageant now that you are president?
Last year, we were unable to hold Miss Earth, because of the chaos in the industry and all that but we are hosting it this year. We have our set target and the coordinator has started work in earnest. We intend to make it bigger and better than it used to be. The winners go to represent Nigeria but the result hasn’t been so fantastic and that is because the publicity wasn’t there and I’ve held the pageant with my own personal resource without any sponsor but I believe in the cause which is preservation of the earth.

When and how actually did you become a member of AGN?
That was when I starred in Most Wanted. I think that was in 1994 and I wasn’t active then because I was enrolled by Emeka Rollas who was the Lagos State secretary then. I actually became an active member again following the emergence of Ejike Asiegbu as the president.

How do you manage top movie stars who are the biggest in the country at the moment?
I would describe myself as the most humble. I started as an actress, at an early age, and most of the current stars have known me and we have been pleasant to each other. I’m here to serve and asking people to support me. I feel if you respect these people, you would earn your respect and I can confidently tell you that I have them all in totality. People say some chairmen don’t like me but I haven’t found that to be true because for me, we are all one.

How have you been able to marry your personality with your status as the president?
Sincerely, I don’t know. I’m always myself and have got nothing to it. This is our industry and we all know ourselves. So, for me, I’m serving and bringing everyone in to help us achieve this change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *