Last week was a black weekend for Nollywood as two heart-rending stories came shattering down. The first was the news of the sudden but painful death of ace actor Francis Agu at Lagos University Teaching Hospital Idi-Araba following a protracted case and complications from peptic ulcer.
Second was the news of the arrest of, Uche Odoputa, another Nollywood star for drug trafficking. These two stories kept Nollywood agog this past week.
Francis Agu who hailed from Ngwo Enugu state came into limelight at the first ever popular Nollywood film Living in Bondage and later went on to do Taboo staring Stella Damasus, Rosemary Honnah and Bob Manuel Udokwu among others.
Before this, he was in Checkmate by Amaka Igwe on NTA network.. In an interview with Home Video People, Francis recounted how he started out with the drama troupe of St Dominics Catholic Church, Yaba before moving unto the grand stage of the National Theatre. He also talked about how he has decided to do more of documentaries because there are more stories to tell about Nigeria . He spent many months traversing the entire Bayelsa and other states in the south south of Nigeria.
What his colleagues say of him
Indeed Nollywood has lost a great colleague. He was calm, friendly and calculated. We know we are mere mortals who come to shop on this earth and whenever we are done with the assignments, we go. But Francis Agu’s death is devastating. As president of Actors Guild of Nigeria, we are liasing with his close relation as we always do to honour him.
In a telephone conversation from the U.S. where he is on a business trip Kanayo O. Kanayo who also featured with him in Living in Bondage is devastated. He couldn’t stop recalling where and how their paths crossed.
According to him, they met in Lagos when theatre was about to become a home video. We met severally either at the National Theatre, the NTA or the FRCN before the Living in Bondage production which saw all of us bonding together. I know that Nigeria has lost one very talented soul. God will give him repose of the soul
Madu Chikwendu (AMP president)
Nollywood has lost a very dear colleague. He was an actor and produced his own movies as well so is very dear to Nollywood. It is unfortunate that he had to die now when Nigeria needed him most. Why do I say so? Young people are future leaders and when they have exemplified themselves in their chosen career, they do not need to exit like this. I met him for the first time in the good early days of Nollywood and later he went into documentaries and other businesses. May God grant him eternal rest.
Ajebo Steve Eboh
Francis was on very quite side. He also played on his own. He always had great ideas inside of him most of which never saw the light of day. He came from Enugu State like the few of us in the movie industry and we miss him so much. It was he who brought Olisaemeka Ugwunze into Nollywood.
Abayowa Ikomi (Next Nollywood star)
Francis Agu was the Director of Next Nollywood Star, which we consider the first home grown reality show in Nigeria. We are extremely shocked because he is still a young man with the future laid before him. He had a lot to offer the world but we gain consolation from the fact that he also achieved a lot in the few years he lived.
When he directed Next Nollywood Star for Makeli Multimedia, he showed himself as a very calculative person. He was also soft spoken and very reserved with a lot to offer.
Ngozi Nwaneto Amarikwa (Caro Caro)
We were on location that day when the news came that Francis has died.
We were all friends and lived like family so his death is devastating to all of us who were on Living in Bondage and most of us continued this friendship. I couldn’t believe that he is dead when new news came. Francis is a human being. I recall when one of my cousins died in a boat mishap, in River State. Francis knew him and was part of those who fished him out and took the body home to his people. We have missed someone, a reliable and trustworthy friend.
We were very close during the Checkmate days and still maintained the relationship until a certain time when we started pursuing our various careers. I went on to do a Master’s degree programme, while he also went on. We finally drifted apart and have related through the telephone. His death is devastating to me as a friend, to Nollywood in general and to his fans. Death has stung yet again and we are indeed mourning.
My brother in fact, I was dumbfounded for a while when I heard the story. Francis Agu’s death is very shattering. He was very cool and well disposed fellow. In those days in the Living in Bondage cast and crew, he showed himself as a very quiet and reserved person. I couldn’t describe how I felt when the news came. He was a friend,. It was a long time I saw him last. He told me that he wanted to relocate to Eket. It is a sad and great loss.
Francis was very easy going, quiet, let’s not go there now please.
Francis Agu was known to many of us who were there in the early beginning of the Nigeria movie industry now known as Nollywood. He was a very calm and quiet person but very amiable. Nollywood has lost a substance who always had one advice to offer. He had a suggestion to offer for progress. When it is coming on the heels of the death of J.T. Tom West, Kola Olawuyi this is one death too many. We implore the Almighty to give him eternal rest.
I have never heard this kind of shocking news in my life. Francis was a very close and dear friend even though we drifted apart much later. A few years ago, we met again in Surulere and recalled old times. Several people in the industry do not know that it was Francis who brought me into the movie industry. Then, I used to have a business centre around Pako Bus Stop in Akoka and he used to patronise the business centre. That was our first contact. Then he was ill and was taken to Maranatha Clinics. I went to visit him there.
When he got better, he introduced me to the cast and crew of the production they were doing at Takwa Bay called Taboo. It was there I got a role and same for Nkem Owoh who was a writer before then. It was Francis Agu who introduced me to Chris Obirapu and to Checkmate. He also introduced me to his sister who was married to one army officer. So you could see that we were quite close before he went to Abuja. Then he told me again he was in Bayelsa and then Eket. He was my brother, he was a rolling stone who was talented.
Nigerians have lost some one very dear to the showbiz industry. Even though he did not do so much, the very few he did shows him as a great and talented actor. I first met him while running Consolidated Fortunes, one of the biggest home video marketing companies in Nigeria. We marketed Taboo . When we were to do the part 2 of the film, his role was not included. But I really know him as a very cool and calculated guy who had high standards and principles. May his soul rest in the Lord.
…Shattered by Uche Odoputa’s arrest
If Nollywood was shocked and has entered mourning mood following the death of Francis Agu, the same Nollywood was devastated and shattered by the arrest for drug related offences of Uche Odoputa one of its notable character actors. Uche whose passport read as Tochi Uche James was arrested by NDLEA operatives as he was about to board a Virgin Atlantic flight to London on Friday 23rd March 2007 with suspected 1.336kg of cocaine at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Ikeja.
Uche who has featured in several Nollywood movies including the ever popular A serious mistake, Shackles and the Rugged Cross and others was nabbed before he boarded the flight Home video People gathered that before boarding the plane, he had come to the airport on time chatting and bantering with friends and well wishers unknown to him the NDLEA people had been on a tip off waiting for him to arrive and board the flight.
How another Nollywood star would have been roped in
Another popular Home Video star and business man who owns a fashion shop at the airport complex would have been roped into the saga because of the fact that he exchanged pleasantries with Uche at the Departures area. But he was saved the embarrassment of such sad news when he was grabbed and interrogated. The suspect explained to whose who arrested him that he didn’t have any links with Olisaemeka in the drug trade, they just exchanged pleasantries as people in the same industry.
Meanwhile, the entire industry is agog and wondering why Uche should find himself in such a mess. Most lament his situation but wonder why he had to do this even when he has professed to being born again and teaching any one who cared to listen to follow Jesus before it is late
Home Video People gathered that the young man has been frustrated lately due to sundry reasons one of which was that his wife left him and dumped their baby of two years with him and left for London, the fact that he does not have roles regularly and the movie industry has not paid him his due. He even started preaching to those who cared to listen that he was born again
However, many still feel that it was not enough to make him tow the drug lane.
Meanwhile Nollywood buffs are busy denying the fact that he was their own. Some members of the Actors Guild of Nigeria went on to say he has ceased to be a member of the association because his last film was done a few years back. Leaders of the Directors Guild of Nigeria and Association of Movie Producers, Fidelis Duker and Madu Chikwendu respectively say he is not a member of their guild.
However, Ejike Asiegbu, president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria who spoke through his special adviser, Chuma Onwudiwe says “Last weekend was a very black weekend for Nollywood because while we were just coming to terms to the death of Francis, the Uche story came up. We can’t deny that Uche is not our member for he is. While condemning what he is accused of doing now, we cannot just jump into conclusion until we find out all the details. No one says drug trafficking is a good thing but let us apply caution as we condemn. I hear the NDLEA is still investigating. Let them finish before we know the next line of action.”
Omenigbo is a new vision for Igbo films — Amayo
He is called the High Priest by his numerous fans but he was named Amayo Uzo Philips. He is one Nigeria movie director who is respected by his artiste because of his riotous creative spirit. Famed to have discovered the now famous Aki and Pawpaw and cast them in their first ever film, Aki N ukwa . Now Amayo has a brand new vision and that is to create a rebirth for Igbo films . He calls the vision Omenigbo and explains further in the maiden meeting at Macdavos Hotel, Enugu.
“OME N’IGBO’ is a way forward for the Igbo language film. No body can talk about the Nigerian home video without noting that it was kick started by the Igbos with the Igbo language films like Adamma, Akaraka, Okpuruanyanwu and the others.
Today, other language movie makers like the Housas, the Yorubas, the Edos and even the Efiks, have effectively cultivated and are promoting and preserving their languages, through the movies, except the Igbos. The movie industry of Nigeria, you must agree with me, has been in the hands of the Igbos largely, but it is unfortunate to say that the Igbo movie distributors have done virtually nothing to promote the Igbo language movies. ‘OME N’IGBO’ therefore is our conscious effort to create awareness in the five Igbo speaking states of Abia, Anmbara Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo sates primarily and subsequently all over Nigeria, knowing that the Igbos are scattered every nook and crannies of the country.
We propose to dynamically the Igbo language film to an enviable position by adopting an equally aggressive grass root distribution method, which will also check activities of the pirates from the onset of our businesses.
Membership must be dynamic and unrestricted and we propose to aggressively pursue a consistent market expansion for our product.
The only possible way to achieve these is through a commitment that is thoroughly founded selflessness and patriotic considerations. Today, we lay a historical foundation of an institution that will change contributively the face of Nollywood. ‘OME N’IGBO’ is a dream with an Igbo heart and a Nigerian face.
I welcome all of you to the maiden meeting and pray that as we deliberate and look at the possibilities of it all, our minds will be convinced that we can through our calling, give the Igbo language the push that it deserves through the movies. Thanks and God bless all of us.
French Embassy pledges more support for Nigeria movies
The French Embassy in Nigeria, through its cultural office has pledged to sustain its support towards Nigerian Film Projects – Nollywood inclusive.
This was disclosed by the new cultural attaché and Head of French Cultural Centre in Nigeria, Francois Brossard when he paid a visit to the Nigerian Film Corporation in Jos, last week end (February 24 2007).
According to Francois Brossard, the French Cultural Office has been repositioned to continue to offer much more support and assistance to Nigerian Motion Picture Practitioners who engage in film projects that are of relevance to Human and capital development of the film industry in Nigeria.
The Cultural Attaché who was received on arrival by the Managing Director of Nigerian Film Corporation, expressed his appreciation to the management of the Corporation for its various programmes aimed at repositioning the Nigerian Motion Picture Industry, which in the light of the above is being reckoned with within the comity of film making nations.
The French Embassy, the cultural attaché said will require the assistance of NFC in the selection of film projects by individuals and production companies, and access them for assistance. In doing so, the NFC will be required to recommend relevant film projects that would be supported from script to screen. The Cultural office, will however not accept requests for assistance which do not comply with institutional requirements.
Speaking earlier, the NFC Boss Mr. Afolabi Adesanya expressed gratitude to the French Embassy, through its Cultural Office for assisting and supporting film projects in Nigeria. Mr. Adesanya also informed his guest that the NFC was in the process of setting up a film grant which will further strengthen the resource base of the industry. This, he said will provide another means of supporting film productions/projects. He expressed optimism that the French cultural office will continue to partner the Nigerian Motion Picture Industry with the believe that in no distant time, the signing of a co-production treaty between Nigeria and France will become a reality.
Mr. Adesanya commended the assistance of the French Cultural office in Jos, for the successful mounting of the one week – training programme in Still Photography which ended February 7, 2007 at the National Film Institute, Jos.
The National Film Institute, Mr. Adesanya informed his guest, was being strengthened through the provision of physical structures and equipments to enable it meet its institutional requirements in capacity building. This includes the construction of the Sound Studio and Photo laboratory complexes are nearing completion.
Mr. Brossard, in response to the call for assistance towards the upgrading of teaching facilities at the NFI promised that the French Embassy will explore the possibilities of training some staff of the National Film Institute as well as provide teaching aids – films, books, sound tracks camera etc.
Mr. Francois Brossard later undertook a facility visit to the National Film Institute and National Film Video and Sound Archive, before departing to Abuja.