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Actor Bob-Manuel Udokwu Mourns Mr. Ibu, Jnr Pope, Others, Appeals for Tinubu’s Intervention in Nollywood Industry (Video)

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By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Veteran Nigerian actor, Sir Dr. Bob-Manuel Udokwu, has lamented that many people in the Nollywood industry make society happy but regrettably go home sad.

The Anambra-born actor disclosed this in an exclusive interview with this reporter, Izunna Okafor, over the week in Awka, the Anambra State capital, during which he also mourned and expressed his sadness over the recent deaths of some Nollywood stars, including Mr. John Okafor (Mr. Ibu), Amaechi Muonagor, Jonh Odonwodo (Junior Pope), Zulu Adigwe, and others.

While recounting his relationships with these movie stars, he described their deaths as painful and touching, especially considering the situations that resulted to the deaths and the circumstances surrounding them. The actor, though, opined that the trend of deaths is not peculiar to the Nollywood industry alone, adding that people die everyday, only that the deaths of Nollywood stars appear to ring bell and attract much attention and public reactions, because of their celebrity status.

“I really commiserate with their family members. But the industry can really do nothing.

“Seriously, the industry can’t do much for them, except probably raise funds and all that. That’s why it’s always painful to me that when our people fall sick, or when certain misfortunes come, we go to the public to beg for funds. It shouldn’t be that way. It shouldn’t be,” said Hon. Udokwu, who is also the Special Adviser on Entertainment, Leisure and Tourism to Governor Chukwuma Soludo.

Reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate deaths of many Nollywood stars in recent times, which he said depict a society where nothing works; the veteran actor also regretted that many entertainers, especially people in the Nollywood industry, make the society happy but go home sad.

“Why do the public think that there’s so much money in Nollywood, yet most times when our people fall sick, you see people raising funds for them on social media? Are they that well-remunerated? It’s a question. It’s something to ponder about,” he said.

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According to him, although many people in the Nollywood live fanciful and ostentatious life (probably because of societal expectation on them), they also suffer the same hardship many other Nigerians suffer and are also affected by the general economic in the country.

“In fact, the pain everybody goes through, we even go through more, because people make countless requests of us simply because they us as film actors. Are we paid differently from every other person? No. Or, are we paid in foreign currency? Of course not,” he said.

While noting that the pay of an A-list Nollywood actor for a major role in a movie cannot even buy a coffee for an actor of the same level in America, Sir Udokwu, who also also recounted his experience few weeks ago in London and Manchester where Nigerians over there celebrated his birthday for him, further regretted that Nigerian actors are usually relegated by the government and not regarded in their country, compared to other countries where they are seen as great ambassadors.

“They see us as ambassadors over there, because everything that people know about Nigeria comes from Nollywood and football…,” he said.

He further called for government’s intervention and attention on Nollywood industry to work out ways to assist the practitioners in the industry, to, at least, to live above board.

“I may be saying this to indict some people in terms of leadership and governance, and control about things that we do in terms of work. Nollywood is an industry that came out of virtually nothing, when we did Living in Bondage, which was released in 1992, which effectively started what we know today as Nollywood.

“You know, it’s still a work-in-progress. But I think it is high time government took more interest in what is happening in Nollywood. I’m not advocating for government takeover, because if government takes over Nollywood… They will bring quota systems. And entertainment and sports are not where you do quota systems. They are purely driven by talent,” he said.

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Asked how government should come in, the veteran actor said, “There should be some level of government interest and control administratively. We can work with government on this. We have practitioners in the entertainment industry who studied various other things.

“So it’s not a question of bringing in outsiders to come and regulate the entertainment industry. No, our people can work with government to put things in place, checks and balances, things that ought to be done so that we don’t, in one fell swoop, lose like six people, avoidable deaths, you know,” he said.

He described President Bola Tinubu as a lover of entertainment, while also calling on him to do something concrete for Nollywood.

“Please, Mr. President, do something concrete for the entertainment industry,” he appealed.

Continuing, he said, “Sometimes, we hear in the pages of newspapers about monies, voting, certain banks where you can access loans. How many of us access those loans? You want to give creative industry works on creativity, you don’t need to ask them to bring an arm and a leg as collateral. Their collateral is their creativity.

“So, there needs to be a system where creative people can access funds, public funds from government, and be able to do their work, earn their keep, and then pay taxes and also return government money; and the economy progresses while living standard improves.

“This can be worked out if government is serious about the entertainment industry. It should be done before everybody runs away. Although, as for me, I’m not going to run away. We’ll be here. We’ll be here.”

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