Isaac Ogezi is a dramatist and winner of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA), that is, Olu Obafemi Playwriting Prize in the unpublished category in 2016. In this interview, Ogezi speaks on the solitary confinement which his parents subjected him to as a child which eventually spurred him into writing.
What inspired you into writing, especially writing plays?
The therapeutic nature of literature inspired my taking to writing. As a young boy in my early teens, works by other writers had a medicinal effect on me by helping me survive this cruel world. I grew up into a home where poverty was pervasive.
The world of the creative imagination as encapsulated in books was a safer haven than the real world. I saw myself as another Njoroge in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s ‘Weep Not, Child’, who saw education as the only hope in becoming great in life. In my own case, I saw literature as a form of escape from a world daily at war with itself.
Becoming a writer was a matter of fait accompli for me. I told myself that from this writing that I derived the stamina to survive a cruel world, I will love to give back to it in appreciation. My writing traverses all genres of literature.
If playwriting is more predominant in my writing, it’s because of the power I saw in it. Admittedly, literature cannot shoot a gun, but the genre that comes close to shooting a gun is drama as a result of its immediacy and the ability to hit it where it matters most. Eugene O’Neil’s controversial play, ‘All God’s Chillun Got Wings’, was greeted with a national uproar and a demonstration in the US, and coming closer home, Ngugi wa Thiong’o was imprisoned without trial for the public performances of his plays, ‘The Trial of Dedan Kimathi’ (co-authored by Micere Githae Mugo) and ‘I Will Marry When I Want’ (co-authored by Ngugi wa Mirii).
How did you feel when you were announced as winner of the award?
SONTA/Olu Obafemi Prize for playwriting is a yearly prize for outstanding unpublished plays. It was endowed by Prof. Olu Obafemi, a theatre arts scholar, one-time President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and a fellow of SONTA. It is aimed at showcasing new promising playwrights to the wider society.
The maiden edition was won in 2015 by Nwagbo Patrick Obi with his play, ‘When women Go Naked’. Of course, I felt encouraged when my unpublished play, ‘The Sandcastle’, was adjudged the best during the 2016 annual conference of SONTA in Akwa Ibom, Anambra states. I have also won a couple of other awards such as the ANA/Esiaba Irobi Prize for Playwriting of the ANA three times, AWF/Zulu Sofola Award for Drama, to mention but a few.
What do you have to say about SONTA and these awards they started?
SONTA is the umbrella body of theatre scholars across tertiary institutions in Nigeria. It was established to promote theatre scholarship and practice in Nigeria. SONTA’s worthy impacts to the society are robust. As part of its aims and objectives in taking performance arts to greater heights, it instituted in 2015 some annual awards aimed at encouraging Nigerian artists home and abroad.
These awards include SONTA/Olu Obafemi Prize for Playwriting (for unpublished plays), SON TA/Chris Iyimoga Master Playwright Prize (for published plays), SONTA/ Chris Iyimoga Dance Libretto Prize, and SONTA/Chris Iyimoga Art Music Prize, among others. This is a laudable achievement in the right direction that needs to be heavily supported. The awards of this nature need funds for sustainability. This is where donor agencies, private philanthropists and the government need to rally round to support this initiative.
What genre of play do you prefer to write?
As a writer, I feel some literary kinship with the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. He wrote straight from his heart without bothering himself about propounding any theory or founding any school. I am wary of pigeon-holing of any kind because of its attendant limitations or constrictions it places on a writer.
The creative imagination is a dangerous thing that cannot be predicted. So, the more unfettered it is allowed, the better. However, it is better for a practitioner of any field in life to be well acquainted with the different schools, trends Ogezi and genres in that field if he wants to go far. It is when you know the rules and theories, then master them, that you can break them with success.
I have written plays that borrowed from schools of realism, naturalism, expressionism, absurdism and historicism. My first published play, ‘Waiting for Savon’ (2009) is a hybrid of the Theatre of the Absurd and history. Subsequent plays like ‘Casket of Her Dreams’, ‘Under a Darkling Sky’ and ‘Embrace of a Leper’ dwell on naturalism and realism which I feel my audience relates more with than the abstractions in expressionism and the theatre of the absurd.
In effect, I write plays that are realistic or naturalistic in nature not because I prefer plays of realist mould, but because I am conscious of my audience. Ola Rotimi once said in an interview that most of his plays were action-packed because that was what the Nigerian audience wanted rather than complex experimentations in forms or styles like metatheatre or absurdism.
Who is your role model in your writing career?
Eclecticism in arts will never allow a writer to be obsessed with only one role model. In consequence, I cannot point at a single writer or individual as my role model because there are so many, both among the dead and the living. I admire William Shakespeare for his engaging plots and sublime poetry in his plays, but when I need modern treatment of ideas and the retrospective look at a character’s psyche, I turn to Henrik Ibsen.
Credit must also be given to the American playwright, Eugene O’Neil, for introducing raw animal emotions into the theatre without degenerating into melodrama in plays such as ‘Desire under the Elms’ and ‘Mourning Becomes Electra’. Other masters which I find influential include Williams Thomas Tennessee, Arthur Miller, Bertolt Brecht, Anton Chekhov, Wole Soyinka, and Athol Fugard, among others.
What is your future plan in your writing career?
I do not like talking about my future plans in public. As a dramatist, I like keeping people in suspense about myself in order not to blunt the keen-knife edge of suspense. What are the challenges you are having in your writing career? Challenges are like the word ‘impossibility’, and are meant to be surmounted.
That notwithstanding, the greatest challenge I face daily in my writing career is the noisy environment I operate in. Nigerians are generally noisy people who do not care a hoot about the other person’s right to a noise-free society. Perhaps that is a glaring index of underdevelopment such that many of our people will feel out of place in developed nations. Secondly, the near absence of professional theatre companies is a crippling challenge to the playwright’s career.
The market for scripts is largely limited to book publishing with only a handful of theatre companies in existence. It is so sad that the only place our theatre now thrives is at the universities. This is an anomaly which must be corrected for us to have a thriving theatre that could come close to theatres on the Broadway in the United States.
You made some comments in passing about your parents. What kind of parental care did you pass through while growing up?
I was born in Kafachan, Kaduna State. One interesting thing is that my parents appeared to have conspired with destiny to make a writer out of me. My father was a very strict disciplinarian. My siblings and I lived like inmates in solitary confinement. As a little child, I found this life of forced loneliness oppressive.
However it ended up being what prepared me for a writer’s life. It was really a life of solitude. It is the life I live now as an adult. My mother, a great African woman, she never turned down any request for money I made to buy whatever book I wanted.
In fact, at the age of fifteen, I had a library which I believe no child of my age had in Keffi at the time. This gave me the advantage to pursue my purpose in life on time. In 1991 I wrote my first poem titled ‘Her Dimpled Smile’. Currently, I combine law practice and writing in Keffi.
- Obi is of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation, Abuja
Nollywood stars in God’s Vineyard
Call them legends of Nollywood and you are stating the obvious. At various point in the evolution of the industry, they ruled the screen. Today, many of them now work for God. TONY OKUYEME, LANRE ODUKOYA and ADEDAYO ODULAJA profile these star actors
It is not for nothing that Zack Orji is as highly regarded as he is in Nollywood and beyond. An actor noted for his impressive delivery of roles and impeccable diction, Orji has been active long before the advent of Nollywood. Apart from acting, Zack Orji is involved in many things and preaching the gospel is notable among them and people have spotted him in cities such as Abuja, Nasarawa and Makurdi doing the work of the ministry.
Widely known as a gentleman without blemish, many say that must have weighed heavily on his decision to become a worker in the Vineyard of God. Speaking in an interview, Orji, said: “I’m also an ordained reverend, a pastor so I get invitations to minister in different churches both within and outside Nigeria. I didn’t set out to be an ordained reverend. My bishop probably got inspired by God to ordain me.
I worship with Power Line Bible Church under Bishop Lawrence Osagie, and he ordained me in 2012.” He disclosed that even before his ordination, he had been receiving invitations from different places to come and minister. “So when the offer came from my bishop to ordain me, I didn’t reject it. I took it whole heartedly and I get excited when I have opportunity to speak to people, inspire them and draw them closer to God.”
Many observers of Nollywood and beyond cannot stop being surprised with the case of Majid Michel, easily one of the best actors in Nollywood in the last decade.The Ghanaian actor, who has already been invited to many churches in his native country as well as Nigeria to preach, first shocked people by saying he will no longer accept kissing roles in movies as taking on such roles may affect his new assignment as a minister of God. While speaking further during an appearance on Bryte FM in Ghana, Majid, who talked about being addicted to masturbation before his encounter with God, said the decision will help him take the gospel to the end of the world although he said he should not be judged by the characters he played in movies.
The actor who boasts of the skill set, grit and looks for the Casanova roles for which he is widely regarded, has stressed that he is now truly born again and is a servant of God. His response was in reaction to critics who dismissed his claims of being a pastor as a ploy to preserve his popularity among movie fans in the continent.
Majid, who is now fond of preaching and writing about his new-found state on social media in recent times, said his motive was not to seek the attention of anyone.While quoting directly from the scriptures weeks ago, he wrote via his Instagram account: “Am I now trying to win the favour and approval of men or that of God? “Or am I seeking to please someone?
If I were still trying to be popular with men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Except there is a drastic change in his ways, it looks like Majid is now solely focused on working for God and spreading the gospel to as many as possible.
Arguably the most notable female artiste yet to be part of Nollywood in history, Liz Benson is a true screen goddess. She used to be the toast of many lovers of Nigerian films and TV series, heralding the stage long before Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade and the rest came along.
Her journey into stardom began with featuring in the popular television soap, “Fortunes” in 1993 where she played the role of Mrs. Agnes Johnson. Apart from “Fortunes” which ran for at least two years on NTA, she acted in various TV serials and movies before hitting it big with the coming of Nollywood. In 1994, she acted in Glamour Girls, one of the blockbusters of the early years of Nollywood. The movie, which also featured the enigmatic Eucharia Anunobi, turned Liz Benson into a star.
Having been a part of movies since long before the advent of Nollywood thus, Liz Benson went on to thrill Nigerians for many years, becoming a part of the childhood of many Nigerians who are now in their 30s before disappearing in late 2000s.
Liz Benson later got married to Pastor Great Ameye of the Freedom Family Assembly International Church. With the church based in Jesse, Delta state, it explained why she went off the radar and not even featuring in a few movies in the last few years has been able to put her back firmly on the minds of industry followers. But being married to a pastor and ordained an evangelist in the church means she runs the church with her husband and makes her busy with the work of the kingdom.
Sylvester Madu might not be as popular as many on this list but those who followed Nollywood in the last 15 years or more would remember the man who had a reputation for playing tough characters. That was then as the man later quit acting for good to become a full time pastor in a Christ Embassy branch located at Eric Moore Road in Surulere, Lagos. Today, he bears a different toga, one that is very different from that of the bad boy characters for which he was widely known in movies like Sound of Poverty, Power of Trust, Scent of Passion, Margaret Thatcher, Holy Cross and The Sheperd.
Kenneth has been a born again and a pastor for a long time and his journey towards this course started a long time ago as a young man worshipping in Christian Pentecostal Mission (CPM). He later married the daughter of the mission’s General Overseer but the marriage crashed not long after, leading to a divorce. Known for his role in the movie, Living in Bondage, the actor and lawyer won the African Movie Academy Award on a Special Recognition of Pillars of Nollywood among others and he has said not even divorcing his wife has affected his work as minister of God in anyway. He might not be in the CPM where his former father-in-law is the GO but he continues to serve God in different capacities while also remaining active in Nollywood.
One of the true veteran actors of Nollywood, Larry Koldsweat, is best known for playing devious characters in most of the movies he acted in. After starting out as a singer who later joined the music band of the Nigerian Army, said he is no longer involved in Nollywood. As a grandfather, he believes he quit when it was time to give way to younger elements, saying: “I quit from the industry (Nollywood) about six years ago because I have the call of God in my life, I am now a pastor.”
Hilda Dokubo is arguably one the Nollywood actor who took the art of crying effortlessly to a new height, something the younger ones have not been able to replicate years after. Now based in Port Harcourt, the actor is said to have gotten closer to God as she leads women who go round churches, organisations and areas to preach the word of God. Speaking in an interview not long ago, the CEO actor who is planning to go into full time ministry soon, said: “You know I’m a Christian, I’m born again and I’m a minister (of God).
There is no missing Gloria Doyle, the fashionable actress who also sings. The happy-go-single mother of three has impressed with her crazy outfits and hairdo but today she says old things are passed away and everything about her has become new. Being the founder of The Glory of God’s Oath Ministry and Daughters of Shalom, an interdenominational single parent support ministry has not stopped her from saying she would go nude for $20million.
On the confusion her manner of dressing and avowed life as a minister of God, she said in an interview: “I think I know more of the Bible, I’m spiritually conscious, I’m spirit filled, I’m born again, I speak in tongues but that does not make me any less than a showbiz person. I don’t think anyone has ever caught me naked anywhere but I think I’m a very sexy person.”
This is the man reputed to be the producer of Living in Bondage, the movie believed to have kick-started the birth of what is today known as Nollywood. Today, he is no longer active on the movie front but he still calls himself an actor and a preacher of the gospel. With the explosion of the movie, and by extension, Nollywood in 1992, he hardly features in movies now but only appears by special arrangement. According to him, his participation in the movie industry was just a matter of chasing one’s hobby but he is now fully immersed in spreading the word of God and giving motivational speeches as well as being the author of many works of Christian literature.
From Nollywood to God’s Vineyard
Long before Tonto Dikeh came on the scene, there was an intensely controversial actor, a female known as Eucharia Anunobi. Some of the reasons for the controversial stance are the roles she played in many movies including the popular Glamour Girls and her manner of speaking her mind.
That explains why it was with shock that many of her fans received the news that Eucheria Anunobi has become a born again Christian. In fact, story of her conversion remains one of the most-talked about in Nollywood, especially with her standing as a controversial actor.
The ordination of Eucharia Anunobi as an evangelist, which reportedly took place at the Fresh Oil Ministry in Egbeda, Lagos on a Sunday in February back in 2012, was carried out by Pastor Psalm Okpe along with other men of God. The ordination, coming just months after she made the announcement that old things have passed away as she had turned a new leaf and given her life to Christ, was as unconventional as most things that have anything to do with Eucharia are. It does not matter that now bearing a collar has not done much to reduce her nature as a flashy and daring woman.
Eucheria, who reportedly bought a brand new BMW X5 just weeks after her ordination, has had to refute reports that she has abandoned acting for acting. According to her, she has only had to be more careful and choosy in accepting movie roles. Speaking to New Telegraph in response to questions based on this story, she said: “I don’t know why people get the impression that when you are a pastor you are not supposed to have a career.
As far as I can remember, most, if not all, reverend fathers (catholic priests), reverend sisters are all degree and masters’ degrees holders in one career or the other; and they are all continuously schooling, just like I am also schooling as it were. And they have their careers.
“For instance, most Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) pastors, starting from Baba Adeboye, are doctorate degree or masters’ degree holders and they have one career or the other, one business or the other. “So, I wonder why people make it look as if because you are a pastor you would not have a career.
To be a minister in the house of the gospel of Jesus is selfless service. It is not something that you do and should be paid for as a career.” The Abuja Connection actor added: “So, I think it is wrong for somebody to think that because I am a minister of the gospel, therefore I have stopped working as an artiste.
No, I have not stopped working as an artiste. It is a gift from God. Don’t forget what the Bible says in the book of Proverbs chapter 15 verse 16 that ‘The gift of a man makes the way for him.’ It also applies to the woman. When I was called on the 17th of March, 1997, I had already become a mega movie star. So, when my God Almighty, Yahweh found me in the movie industry, he found me a glamorous, wonderful, elegant, beautiful looking woman.
So, I am not going to throw away the gift and the platform he gave to me. As a matter of fact I finished from a movie production about two weeks ago.” Asked if she would have taken part in the movie, Glamour Girls given her present status as a minister of the gospel if she could turn back the hands of time, it was an answer expected of the vintage Eucharia Anunobi. “Yes, I would have done it, because acting is not your personal life, it is your career. I they give me the role of a prostitute; I will do it, because it is a gift from God.
I am not a prostitute, neither am I a thief. I am only acting the role. So, for me, I would act any role, but of course, I don’t believe in undue exposure which does not add any meaning to the movie, that makes no sense. Acting is meant to portray real life. So, I can act any role, but undue exposure, I would not be part of it.”
BBNaija 2018: I only had one-night stand with you – Rapper, CDQ Olowo replies Ifu Ennada
Nigerian entertainer, CDQ Olowo, has responded to Big Brother Naija’s housemate, Ifu Ennada, saying he only had a one-night-stand with her.
Yesterday, Ifu Ennada had called out the popular rapper, accusing him of dumping her after sacrificing so much for his music career.
She claimed the singer forgot about her after attaining stardom.
According to Ifu Ennada, she was just 17 when she “sponsored” CDQ, gave him money meant for her handouts, school fees, and also gave him tickets to VIP event. Only for her to be used and dumped.
She said it was not about the money but about the sacrifices she made for him.
But reacting to Ifu’s claim, the musician described her as a one-night-stand, asking her to seek for promo the right way instead of talking “bullsh*t.
CDQ Olowo wrote on his Instagram, “I’m a self made. Dm or contact my management if you need free promo not by saying bullshit (sic).
“You were just a one night stand.”
BBNaija: Efe blasts Nigerians who regret voting for him
Winner of last year’s Big Brother Naija, Efe Ejeba, has lashed out at Nigerians who say they regret voting for him.
Efe, who has ventured into music since the show ended, took to his Twitter page to blast fans who have been criticizing his songs from the EP, ‘AmSorryAmWinning’.
He wrote: “For all those saying they regret voting for me, i entertained you and your money expired the day the show ended. #AmSorryAmWinningEp
“Thank you to those who have been 1000% with me from day one… your genuine support has kept me thus far through God’s grace… keep supporting the music… so we keep winning… #AmSorryAmWinningEp”
Efe won the coveted N25million prize money and an SUV after three months in the Big Brother house.
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