BY ‘SEGUN ODEJIMI
The part I like the least about my job is when I have to interview our Nollywood stars. It is only on a few occasions that I look forward to talking with Nollywood stars.
Many of the Nollywood people I have interacted with on a let-us-have-an-interview-with-you level have treated the interaction as if it is a favour they are doing me. I remember how I had to literally run after AY Makun because I wanted to have a word with him after his session at last year’s Africa International Film Festival. In the past year, as editor of True Nollywood Stories, I sent over 50 emails requesting interviews, over 90% of those emails remain unreplied.
I remember when actor Kalu Ikeagwu was picked up by the police because a robbery and kidnap case was allegedly traced back to him. His personal assistant had reportedly bought a phone which was allegedly stolen in Abuja. TNS tried reaching out to him when the blogosphere was awash with several rumour versions. We called his number several times and even sent him a text message. We never got a reply.
At the time the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) brouhaha was in its peak, and Emeka Ike was causing too much trouble, making several posts, TNS put several calls to the president of the guild, Ibinabo Fiberesima. She never picked. We sent her a couple of texts. She ignored them. When she was facing the manslaughter heat, we tried reaching out to her. The results were the same.
I understand that many of these people find it difficult being in the public eye. It is not easy. The fact that you cannot walk down the street to buy something in a shop down the road without having to be faced with an over-enthusiastic fan or some stray phone looking for a selfie. But it is a career path you have chosen. The hazards are part of the job description. You cannot eat your cake and have it. You cannot treat the media like scum and go on a rant, like Ikeagwu did, about how it is misreporting you.
Agreed, some media organisations are irresponsible and do not bother to cross-check facts before going to town with stories. Some blogs are guilty of it. But if a media outfit takes time to reach out to you, at least have the decency to give a response. Whether that response is enough to satisfy the appetite of the fans is another thing. But do not just go on a media shutdown spree.
Last year, when the “burnt actor” story exploded through the media, many people including industry practitioners were in panic mode. The director of the film on whose set the “incident” occurred, Stanlee Ohikhuare was an acquaintance who I had interacted with several times so I immediately reached out to him as my gut told me it was all a publicity stunt. Nollywood social media had gone into overdrive and several people were tweeting at TNS, trying to confirm what had been read on other blogs. Stanlee didn’t return my calls so I resorted to SMS. He replied a couple of hours later asking me to ignore the reports and that he would be in touch later. The “story” was spreading like wildfire and the images flooded Twitter and Instagram. I didn’t hear from Stanlee until almost 48 hours later. I was personally very angry and I conveyed my thoughts to him via SMS. Till now, many people, including myself, believe it was a horribly executed publicity stunt.
In the build-up to last year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), writer Jude Idada called Omoni Oboli a thief and alleged exclusively to TNS that her upcoming film, Okafor’s Law was a stolen work. Oboli was in Canada and I got her Canada line courtesy of a friend. I called the line severally, left multiple voice messages and even sent a mail. Maybe she will respond to one of them tomorrow. When I didn’t hear from her, I reached out to her PR agency. I was told I would be contacted in a couple of days. Maybe, four months later, a couple of days has not elapsed.
And this is a serious allegation. One of theft. Omoni Oboli does not think it is responsible enough for her to respond. That she at least owes her fans some statement. But it did not take her more than a few days to go after a writer who said her films were next to crap.
Dear Nollywood star, don’t ignore the press and then claim they are spreading lies about you or that they didn’t confirm a story about you before putting it out.
This is not to say the media has a license to spread false news or unverified reports as verified reports. It is unprofessional to do that. But, “celebs” should not make themselves inacessible and cry foul later.