By Anote Ajeluorou
IT was historic day for acclaimed father of Nigerian film industry, entertainment promoter and cultural activist, Chief Eddie Ugbomah, when a state reception, in his honour, was staged last week in Asaba by Delta State Chief Executive, Dr. Emmanuel Uduagban. Ugbomah had long yearned for that historic moment, which he described as a homecoming with indelible imprints.
As his Ugbomah@50 in Film and 74th birthday approach, the fire-spiting critic had agonised over lack of recognition of his immense contributions to the film industry. At 74, he still has ideas he was yet to execute. But he’s a self-willed man who has navigated the rough-and-ready waters of Nigeria’s entertainment with a measure of success.
So that in spite of being rebuffed by Lagos State Government, which pointedly told him to go to his home state, Delta even though he’d spent his career years working and paying his taxes in Lagos, he remained undaunted in his resolve to celebrate himself. And he’d always been firm on this: Anyone celebrating him after he’d passed, he’d vowed, would face his wrought as he’d rise momentarily and slap the person before going back to his finale repose again! Such was Ugbomah’s grim avowal. But now that prospect just might be avoided, with Governor Uduaghan firmly promising to celebrate him on his 74th along with his enduring legacy in making Nigeria proud in film and entertainment.
So that when he received news of his forthcoming reception in Asaba, Ugbomah was ecstatic. He was more so when the day arrived and Uduaghan more than received him. He also paid tribute to Ugbomah’s works, which he described with the precision of a true fan, and how much the veteran’s work fits into the state’s new economic blueprint of ‘Delta Beyond Oil’, as catalyst for human capital development.
In recalling the historic visit to his home state, Ugbomah, who is ordinarily skeptical of everything government, was beside himself with joy and felt humbled the way Governor Uduaghan seemingly broke protocol and embraced him with open arms. In his Ilogbo-Eremi residence over the weekend, Ugbomah recalled this visit thus, “As far as I’m concerned, the visit broke the jinx that a prophet is not recognized in his own village. What surprised me most is that Uduaghan knows my films – Oil Doom and Black Gold – films that are very prophetic!
“Also, my joy is that the governor of my state has agreed to bankroll my N60 million celebration budget, but I know he can’t do it alone. But accepting to host my Hall of Fame gallery in Asaba that cost me over N20 million to make is more than something else for me”.
Ugbomah said he was exceptionally thrilled when Uduaghan asked him: If we don’t celebrate you, who else will celebrate you? In his assessment of the trip, the hard-to-please, die-in-the-wool critic simply said, “I’m very happy, very happy that I’m going to be celebrated during my lifetime and not when I’m gone. It has been my quest that is about to be fulfilled!”
Ugomah said although Uduaghan might not have responded early to calls to actively promote the arts and entertainment, noted that it was never too late once the goal is genuine with far-reaching positive benefits. He, however, blamed some of his assistants for keeping him and other arts-friendly politicians from looking the way of the arts, as a way of solving youth unemployment and restiveness bedeviling parts of the country.
He said activities marking his 50 years in film and entertainment and birthday would include a symposium, a musical concert, induction into the Hall of Fame, launch of his autobiography, premiere of his new film, If Only, showing of three of his old films out of 13 – Death of a Black President, Black Gold and The Mask. Asaba, Lagos and Abuja will be host cities to some of the activities marking Ugbomah festivity.
According to him, those to be inducted into the Hall of Fame include King Sunny Ade (KSA), Dele Abiodun and Danny Wilson. To those to be inducted post-humously include Oliver d’Coque, Osita Osadeby, Roy Chicago, Eddie Okonta, Comfort Omoge, Christie Essien-Igbokwe and Keffe.
Ugbomah also expressed excitement at what he referred to as ‘groundbreaking’ Governor Uduaghan’s provisional acceptance to give land and support to the proposed Film Village project, which the veteran filmmaker said would be the crowning glory of his life work when it comes on stream. He said the N81 billion Film Village project, which is in conjunction with his African-American counterpart, would be a whole city when completed and would employ over 20 thousand people.
With the Film Village, Ugbomah noted, some of Nigeria’s set and location problems would have been solved. Such problem, he stated, would be reality shows and the shooting of musical videos currently being done in South Africa, a development that Ugbomah deeply frowns at as a needless drain on scarce foreign exchange.
On his part, Uduaghan commended Chief Ugbomah for producing films on the gains and challenges of the oil industry in the region, which he said were in line with his administration’s Delta Beyond Oil movement. He said, “Some of your films like the Oil Doom and Black Gold are in tandem with our development model of Delta Beyond Oil,” adding, “they expose the negative aspects of crude oil because an oil economy is not a sustainable economy; it has its challenges. Though, we are oil-producing state, we are using the oil money to develop other areas of the economy. So, we associate with the ideals of your films”.
Uduaghan then congratulated Chief Ugbomah on his 74th birthday and 50th anniversary as a filmmaker and assured him of his administration’s assistance in the establishment of his Hall of Fame gallery in the state and support his celebration activities.
The governor wholeheartedly endorsed the establishment of a world-class film village in Delta State that would change the face of the film industry in Nigeria and promised to provide land for the take off. Uduaghan explained that the construction of a film village in Delta State was in line with his administration’s human capital development and would also serve as encouragement to the Nigerian film industry which he described as mirroring the ills of the society and marketing the country to the world.
The governor reiterated that his administration was investing in different areas, especially in the area of tourism, noting that the Film Village was based on the fact that Delta State remained Nigeria’s entertainment hub and pre-eminent destination for film producers and entertainment promoters.