Since the coming of the electronic media into Nigeria, there are people who have utilized their gift to put smiles on the faces of all in the country and these men either die in penury or sometimes found on the streets begging and nothing is done to help their situations even though there is a body that is vested with the responsibilities to cater for their needs (AGN). ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM and SAMUEL ABULUDE write on the need for the government to show concern to the families and also immortalized them for their contribution to country at large.
Nollywood is one of the movie industries of the world where you get various films depicting cultures of her country. Though there have been criticisms coming from far and near about the way things are deteriorating in the industry, what people don't know is that many are doing everything possible to modernise and sell the culture to the world.
According to Francis Okezie, an actor, those who are fighting tooth and nail in making sure that there are drastic changes in the industry are not really cared for in times of need which is making lots of professionals to take to various jobs that are often times inimical to the industry.
He said: 'I am grateful to have met Sam Loco and Peter Eneh, they were people we should always remember fort their contribution to our life.' He praised the late actors for making sure there's a place for the new generation.
According to Francis, its only when you respect your country by contributing your quota to her growth that you will be neglected.
'Ask anybody to tell you how their families are doing, the response will always be crazy because they don't know what it takes to be famous,' he stressed.
Also KennySam said: 'Death is inevitable, we sure are powerless when it has to do with death but on the part of the government more needs to be done to appreciate our fallen heroes.'
One of Nigeria's best actors and tag team mates with the late Sam Loco Efe, Pete Ene, Enebeli Elebuwa, Chief Bruno Iwuoha wasn't in the mood for jokes when the question of Nollywood's lost heroes was thrown to him.
Chief Bruno said the AGN and those they work for especially should know how to appreciate those who are contributing to the growth of the industry.
'It really pains me that many of us are losing our lives in active duty. Sometimes it's due to demands from our fans and the market,' he says; 'my colleagues are there wallowing in penury and no care or question is asked about their families welfare,' he stressed.
Chief Iwuoha has been in the movie industry for decades and resides in Abuja where he said he prefer due to some reasons best known to him.
He urged the government and the body responsible for the plight of actors in Nigeria to take the bull by the horn so that there will be a better place for young aspiring talents.
He also used the opportunity to sympathise with the families of the bereaved praying God to give them the fortitude to bear the great lose.
Also speaking with E-train, a member of the Directors, Producers and Actors Guild of Nigeria respectively, Osaretin Ogbemudia, who is himself a director/producer, stated that love is the major thing lacking in the industry.
Osas, emphasised that only when personal interest is driven away could there be love in Nollywood. "Nollywood comprises directors, producers and actors guilds of Nigeria. And the actors you have mentioned belong to the Actors Guild. These men and women pay their dues and are neglected in the time of needs. The only time you see the guild standing up for them is when a producer owes them but aside that, there is no insurance scheme for them."
He also said the continued war for power of the hierarchy hampers a lot of progress.
"I thank God that Ibinabo, who is full of vision, is working hard to unite and instill love and unity in the members. We in the producers' guild are partnering with one insurance company and our members will only have to take their card when sick."
He said AGN members are only there to envy and blackmail themselves, instead of giving credence to what should be done like seeking for funds from fans and government to take care of ailing members.
"The funds meant for these people, the state chairmen use them for themselves. It is so painful that there is no love in the industry," he revealed.
The president of AGN, Ibinabo Fiberesima, couldn't react to the plight of the actors as she was said to be on tour.
The family members of the late popular comic actor James Iroha, popularly known as Gringory, in an interview described as unfair, publications in some national dailies that Iroha died in abject poverty.
Speaking recently, the elder brother of the late actor who is also the family head of the Iroha's, Mr. Nwokeocha Iroha said he was very angry at the newspaper publication knowing the legacies his younger brother left behind.
"How can they say that my brother died in a rented apartment in Item when he has acres of land including the one he built his family house on? I thank God my brother lived a fulfilled life and took good care of his families." Nwokeocha said.
Also when visited, the second son of the deceased, Mr. Chiemela Iroha at his World Bank residence, Umuahia, he too reacted angrily on his father's purported living in penury.
"Look at me, do I look any inch a poor man (as he stands up to size himself). How can they say that my father died as a poor man, is that not derogatory"? Chiemela asked.
Meanwhile, the last daughter of the late comic actor, Miss Ugomma Iroha has described her father as a humble man who impacted the same lifestyle in his children.
Though the country has lost many heroes in Nollywood, their families could be given more succour by the government and various individuals so that there would be a better future for their families.
Though some families like the Igbokwes' are not going through stress like Ngozi Nwosu, Ifeanyi Dike, Prince Uche, Emma Edokpayi, Victor Eze who acted the role of Alika in the rested fuji house of commotion and are currently battling with stroke, diabetes and heart related problems, they need to be well taking care of either by the government or the guild.
The time to act is now, there shouldn't be tears and praise singing when a veteran is lost to lack of care.
Right thinking people are calling on those responsible to empathise with the families and recognise there contributions to national growth.
The death of Enebeli Elebuwa popularly referred to as Andrew on December 5, 2012, has brought to the fore the lack of a structure in the movie industry and also the insensitivity of government at all levels to come to the aid of theatre practitioners and sports persons in need.
The 66-year-old veteran actor who has given four decades to the entertainment industry died while receiving treatment in a hospital in India after he had battled with stroke moving from one hospital to another in Nigeria and passing through this ordeal for over a year.
He is not alone among actors who died as a result of neglect from the government and perhaps the entertainment sector who should have rallied round their own in their time of need. Pete Eneh, another Nollywood veteran succumbed to the cold hands of death last November in Enugu after his right leg was amputated as a result of an infection he had which developed into a sore and refused to heal as a result of his diabetic condition.
Nollywood actress, Patience Ozokwo referred to as Mama Gee in a phone chat with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY from Enugu lamented why such a thing should happen to their own having given their best years in developing the movie industry. Incidentally the actress who is also mourning her half brother, urged the Federal government and State governments to invest in them since they have done a lot to improve the image of Nigeria.
Patience praised the Delta State government for taking up the treatment burden of the hospitalised Enebeli Elebuwa in India and asked other states to emulate the state. She said, "As am talking to you, I also lost my half brother, Rev Harold Ugwu of Assemblies of God Church. I am mourning him presently and it is painful that actors are dying like this, people who gave a lot to improve the image of their country.
The Government should pay attention to us and invest in the movie industry because we are also their ambassadors to the outside world. I want to thank the Delta State government who footed the bills of Enebeli in india, they did their bit and if other state governments can rally round actors and actresses like this, we won't record such unfortunate deaths like this."
Speaking further, the actress disclosed that they go through a lot and pay to get locations for their movies, something the government should look into. "We actors suffer a lot and are treated badly just to get locations for our movies.
This ought not to be so as we spend a lot just to produce a movie. A law should be passed by our lawmakers to make things easy for us to operate. Nollywood has improved the image of this country and the federal government should reciprocate by listening to and addressing our pains. It is painful that in this clime, someone like Pete Eneh who wrote the scripts of a jingle produced by Chike Okpala of Zeburudaya fame when I was just coming to the industry to die as a result of a medical condition, his leg being amputated. Others have also died unsung. Haba! it is not fair at all", she fumed.
Toeing the same line, another actor, Saheed Balogun rued why the law on piracy had not been passed by our lawmakers of successive governments since it was first presented on the floor of the senate during the late Yar'Adua government. He said that if that law was passed, it could eradicate piracy and enable actors and movie producers to enjoy the fruit of their labour.
"It is unfortunate that we are losing our own but what of the bill on piracy that has been filled with dust owing to the failure of our lawmakers to pass the bill into law. Actors and movie producers are not smiling to the bank. I still owe my investors after producing Eti Keta last year. It is not funny because piracy has not allowed people in the movie industry to reap from their labour.
We urge our lawmakers to hasten the passing of that bill on piracy which is important for our survival.
Other Nollywood personalities who have died in avoidable circumstances in the last one year include Sam Loco Efe, Geraldine Ekeocha, Ahmed Alasari, Akin Ogungbe, Ashley Nwosu, Dento and Taiwo Bello.
Actress and mother of four, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde also questioned why most of Nollywood icons are dying of curable diseases. "Does it mean that the government cannot do anything for these ones that contributed a great deal to the nation? The situation is too bad", she lamented.
Our correspondent who tried to locate the family of Enebeli Elebuwa famous for the role of Andrew in a jingle to urge Nigerians not to relocate in 80s got to know that his family of five who lived in Surulere area of Lagos may have relocated to his hometown in Delta State in the heat of his battle with stroke.
Before the ailment, the veteran actor's life became threatened when he was stabbed in his left eye at a filing station on Friday, November 28, 2008 in Surulere, Lagos. The respected thespian had driven to purchase fuel at the filling station but got into an argument with another customer who decided to jump the queue. His attempt to caution the young man was rudely met with battering. Eyewitness revealed that the actor immediately passed out and was rushed to a nearby hospital where he later regained consciousness.
Elebuwa who could not foot his hospital bills sought the help of kind-hearted Nigerians who immediately came to the rescue of one of their favourite actors. The hospitals in Lagos did not bring his much needed recovery as the actor even visited churches to receive his much needed healing.
Although, another actor, Richard Mofe Damijo who is the Culture and Tourism Commissioner for Delta State, intervened but many stakeholders and keen observers believed the succour came too late.
In the months leading to his death, pressure was mounted from several quarters on the Uduaghan-led administration who had turned deaf ears to several pleas to rescue the actor until it was almost becoming an issue of embarrassment to the state.
Surprisingly, many still find Elebuwa's incapacity to fund his own treatment unbefitting of an actor of his caliber. But his case was not like that of isolation as it brings to mind similar fates suffered by other veteran actors who have come and gone. However, newly installed President, Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Ibinaho Fiberesima has promised that end has come to such developments.
Secretary-General of the Guild, Yakubu Abubakar who had earlier spoken to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY said that the AGN leadership was already planning short term and long term packages aimed at helping members to take care of themselves medically and financially.
He said, "You will recall that Enebeli Elebuwa had been down with stroke for over a year and this started under the leadership of Segun Arinze who was the AGN president then. Now under Ibinabo Fiberesima, the AGN is putting in place a pension and insurance scheme to support our members. The long term plan is to have the AGN foundation like the Screen Actors Foundation in the United States to help member who are out of jobs in getting funds to be able to support their families".
The AGN president, Ibinabo Fiberesima in her tribute to Enebeli Elebuwa published in a national newspaper recently revealed the helplessness of the guild to come to Elebuwa's aid but promised that his unfortunate demise would motivate them to look inwards to cater for themselves and not rely on the government largesse.
In her words, she lamented, "Sadly, it has become rife that artists beg to survive. We live well. We have all the fame. Then what? There isn't much to show for that fame. From Ashley Nwosu, Sam Loco Efe, Geraldine Ekeocha, Pete Eneh now Enebeli Elebuwa... the list is endless. Nollywood cannot continue to go cap in hand to government at every point in time when such sad tale occurs.
Nollywood must look inwards. Nollywood should be capable of taking care of its own. If governments at all level and the citizens believe we are truly what they say we are, then they should offer genuinely to support the industry and the players. They should do the needful. I am bent on carrying out a holistic health insurance/pension scheme in AGN. I am of the view that all guilds/associations in Nollywood should do same. It is part of the welfare package we owe our members.
We must give our members hope. We must give them a reason to live. We must keep them alive as long as we can. We must live well, not in poverty, not in regret. Uncle Enebeli must have died unsung, like our unsung heroes, but we shall continue to sing his praise. We shall continue to give him a reason to be happy, even in death and wherever he is. My dear uncle Enebeli, be assured that you will not be forgotten".
With Ibinabo's promise of a new dawn among actors, it remains to be seen how the living conditions of veteran actors will be positively affected.
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