BY CHUKS NWANNE
If you operate within the Nigerian arts, entertainment and media circle, chances are you must have met Chris Ihidero; an encounter with him is usually memorable. Whether it’s mere discussion or heated argument, Chris is a hardliner— he says it as it is.
However, this is certainly not your red carpet dude, far from that. Though a star by all standards, you hardly find him with his shoulders high. And even when he’s in the midst of razzmatazz, don’t be surprised to find him moderating a mini session, usually intellectual engagements.
Sometimes, it’s hard to fault Ihidero’s stance on issues, especially when the topic is about the arts, media or entertainment. No matter which side the crowd sways, Ihidero stands by his position in a discussion, always not afraid to be in the minority. A man of many parts— writer, actor, journalist, filmmaker, broadcaster and mentor— what is he not? He’s a jack of all trade, and master of all.
Born on March 19, 1976, Chris Ihidero holds first and second degrees in Literature-in-English from the Lagos State University and the University of Ibadan. He worked as a professional actor and director in the theatre for a decade, while teaching literature for three years at the School of Part-time Studies of the Lagos State University.
However, his love for writing drew him to The Guardian in 2006, where he wrote for two years as a columnist. About the same period, he was editor of MADE, the men’s lifestyle magazine from 2007 to 2009.
“I have always loved writing, but I didn’t actually write a lot as a child. I was in the Acting Club in primary school and I remember winning two awards for acting, one of which was a square plastic sponge case; I think that was in primary 5. That’s probably my first contact as a performer. Of course, reading and watching tons of films was already a part of my live at that time,” he recalled.
Though his journalistic side came to the fore when he was at The Guardian as a contributor, Ihidero’s interest in the pen profession dates back to his university days.
“I used to write weekly column and posting on the departmental board during my undergraduate days. However, professionally, I had my journalism stint at the Life Magazine, under the tutelage of the incomparable Jahman Anikulapo. I was among the young people that formed the writing team of Life. I wrote two weekly columns that were pretty popular and controversial. For security reasons, we still can’t talk about one of them. I also wrote for the Arrival magazine at that time,” he said.
Notwithstanding his earlier involvement in print journalism, editing MADE magazine was a fresh challenge for Ihidero, who was eager to prove a point.
While editing the magazine, Ihidero had his eyes on the film industry, waiting for the right time to take a chance. Eventually, he switched to motion picture industry, when he joined Amaka Igwe Studios (AIS), one of Nigeria’s leading audio-visual content production companies, as a Trainee Director.
Recalling his first contact with the late filmmaker and founder of the studio at the BoBTV, Ihidero said: “Jahman Anikulapo and Toyin Akinosho gave me N30, 000 and put me on a bus to Abuja in 2006 to go and coordinate the colloquium on African cinema at BoBTV, on behalf of the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA; BoBTV was organised by Amaka Igwe. When I returned to do the same thing the following year, we grew closer and she offered me a place at Amaka Igwe Studios when she learnt of my desire to become a filmmaker.“
To Ihidero, who is also the Editorial Board Chairman of NET, BoBTV played a vital role in setting agenda for the country’s broadcast and film industries, especially in the area of policy formation.
“Many of the policies that have shaped the industry were first discussed at BoBTV, same for the film industry. More than all of that though, I think the most significant part played by BoBTV is how it gave life-long skills to many young people. Students from over 23 universities attended BoBTV and many of them are in different areas of the media sector now. It is always heartwarming running into any of them and hearing them say a big thank you to Amaka Igwe’s vision, which has helped to shape their lives,” he said.
Ihidero first came in contact with the broadcast industry in 1999 as a part three-university student, when he visited Eko FM Lagos to solicit for funds for his department’s yearly Departmental Week activities.
“Mr. Lekan Ogunbanwo was Permanent Secretary for radio at that time and I met him in his office with Mr. Tokunbo Ojekunle. One of them, I think it was Ogunbanwo, heard my voice and asked if I had ever considered broadcasting. I told him I had had a stint at MiTV a couple of years. I remember it was a Wednesday and by Saturday of the same week, I was on Youth Mag on Eko FM, with the likes of Tope Oshin, now a major film director,” he recalled.
Today, Ihidero is a major voice at the Top Radio, Ikeja, Lagos, anchoring multiple programmes.
As a filmmaker, he has directed about 100 hours of TV drama, including the classic Fuji House of Commotion and the recently completed MTV Shuga, which he produced. A lover of documentary film, he has produced two short films, Big Daddy, which won the Special Jury Award and Best Editing Award at the 2012 In-Short International film festival, and It Happened To Me, which was commissioned by UNESCO and was premiered at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
Just when it seemed radio had become his comfort zone, Ihidero opened a new page in his career with the unveiling of True Nollywood Stories (TNS), a digital magazine platform that celebrates and documents the Nigerian movie industry, under his PinPoint Media.
“TNS is an entertaining and informative platform that reflects the innovative and dynamic spirit of Nollywood. In no time, TNS will become the leading global entertaining and informative one-stop resource platform for news, views, reviews, previews and general information about Nollywood,” he said.
As a way of giving back to the society, as well as helping young and established writers, producers and directors improve on a skill that’s essential in a lot of ways, Chris Ihidero has partnered with the British Council for a storytelling workshop tagged Chris Ihidero’s Story Story. The session, which opened on October 27, ended yesterday, with over 35 young talents in attendance.
He noted that, while the Nigerian creative industry, particularly the movie industry, has improved its audio-visual technical output with better sound and picture quality, the storytelling ability has somewhat diminished. The inability to sustain interest when telling a story in film, television series, poem, drama and other forms of creative work belies the challenge.
An intervention capacity development workshop series, Chris Ihidero’s Story Story will help professionals in the Nigerian creative industry reawaken their ability to tell better stories accurately by highlighting engaging principles that make a story alluring to the audience.
“In selecting the 35 participants, we followed a rigorous selection process. Our idea is to prepare participants for opportunities that extend their enhanced skills by servicing the industry with better storytelling. This is not a screenwriting workshop or script clinic, but a capacity development workshop for practising creative professionals to improve on structural storytelling,” he said.
This article first appeared on The Guardian.