Pete Edochie

Posted by on 2009/08/22 | Views: 4747 |

Considered as one of Africaís most talented actors (by both Movie Awards and Movie Magicís Africa Magic Cable network ), Pete Edochie, though a seasoned administrator and broadcaster, came into prominence in the 1980s when he played the lead role of Okonkwo in an NTA adaptation of Chinua Achebeís all time best selling novel, Things Fall Apart.

But Edochie, who became the most recognisable face in the television epic, later suffered the misfortune of losing his job as a top management staff at the NTA Enugu. He nevertheless sees the disappointment today as a blessing in disguise.

Recently, Edochie was said to have called it quit with Nollywood, an industry which he has served creditably and in which he had stood like a colossus for many years, offering direction and tutelage to both seasoned and aspiring artistes. Meanwhile, the decision which came as a direct fall out of the protracted quarrel between movie marketers and some of Nollywood's most prominent artistes, came to most movie pundits and watchers who were hoping for an amicable resolution of the crises as a big shock.

I got into radio broadcasting in 1967 as a junior programmes assistant after which I rose to the level of a Director. I was director of programmes, doubling sometimes as Deputy Managing Director and occasionally acting as Managing Director. I quit ABS not because I decided to do so but because the government of the day decided to politise the affairs of our FM station, so the entire management was asked to move out and I was part of that management. I had to move as well.

I was to be the immediate successor to the MD but when the politicians take their decisions, there is hardly anything anyone can do about it. I left and came into the movie industry. Before then, I had featured in Things Fall Apart and had won an International Award. BBC flew into Nigeria to interview me for my role in Things Fall Apart. I think when I look back now I feel I am better off, compared to when I was in civil service.

Today, I am self-employed and I am able to take care of my family; away from the prying eyes of some of my colleagues at the broadcasting house who saw any extra money one made as having come from a corrupt practice. Although I am yet to receive my gratuity, I have been able to buy cars for all my children and this would not have been possible if I am still in government.

Why I dedicated award to Governor Odili
The Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili is first and foremost is Catholic like myself and we also bear the same baptismal name Ė- Peter. He had known me for a long time and I think he likes my person. He is also a tested and proven lover of the arts. He has always patronised the arts. Prior to my courtesy call on him, the Catholic church had just given me an assignment to handle a production based on Late Fr. Iwene Tansi.
In my prayer for direction, Governor Odili, who is also a well respected Knight in the Catholic church came to my mind. So, I decided that I should pay him a courtesy visit and equally present the project to him and see if he could assist in anyway possible. I was not disappointed as he was kind to have provided the bulk of the initial take off fund for the making of the film which to the glory of God was adopted by the Catholic church today and is now all over the place.

Why I was banned
In my courtesy calls to well meaning people, I came to Abakaliki to visit the Governor, I was well-received and he called me the Cultural Ambassador of the country and later gave me a car. The car gift is the source of the problem I have today with the movie marketers, because somebody told them that it was the money that the governor promised them that I went to convince to give to me in form of a car.
This is all because the marketers are not civil servants, hence they donít understand what is called Executive Fiat. So, they gullibly took the phantom told by someone as the gospel truth. Executive Fiat has been used many times before in this country and it is the prerogative of the chief executive to decide on it. For example, if President Olusegun Obasanjo wakes up one morning and tells his assistant to call an artiste and give him or her his (Obasanjo's) helicopter; there is nothing anybody can do about it because it is done under Executive Fiat. When I was still in service, I remember the celebrated case of a girl named Nelly Uchendu who was then on Level 6 but when Chief Jim Nwobodo became Executive Governor of old Anambra State, he promoted her to Level 12 - above all her superiors in the same department; that was Executive Fiat. But it is wrong for any sane mind to believe that a governor can offer a gift meant for a group of people to an individual.

Marketers listen to no one
If you ask any of the marketers, what Pete Edochie did, I assure you that they would not be able to give any reason for me to have merited a ban. They have accused all others of arrogance, over charging among others, but I am yet to hear any of them say exactly what I did.
They didnít tell anybody what they were about to do. The unfortunate thing about our relationship with them is that they are not answerable to any disciplinary structure. For example, in a school, a student or association is answerable to the schoolís regulations, but in their own case, they provide money for shooting the films so as far as they are concerned, every other person is subservient to them. They won't even listen to anybody, neither would they attend meetings with anybody. I mean they run their affairs like a cult, so anything they want to do they just go ahead and do it.

My grouse with Chikelu
I repeat it (with emphasis) I am not happy with the Minister of Information and National Orientation, the movie industry is part of Chikeluís ministry. Suddenly the people who are the key players in the industry were sidelined. Meanwhile, the marketers have a right not to use ceratain artistes. This is because we are not contractually bound to them in anyway. But having said that, I believe that the Honorable Minister owes us an obligation to wade into the matter by inviting the marketers as well as the actors for a dialogue. He is expected to serve as a father to both parties and at the end, he should be able to draw a road map for all the players.The marketers cannot have an identity without us and vice versa. We need them and they need us too. I blame the minister because from all indications, he has done nothing on the issue.
I was given an award as the best actor in the country, Jim Iyke and RMD were my runners up, Genevive too was awarded best actress, while Omotola Jolade and Ngozi Ezeonu were runners up. All other people who have received awards through dint of hard work and perseverance were all banned as if it is a crime to win movie awards in this part of the world. And apart from those of us, other exemplary stars like Nkem Owoh, Sam Dede, Emeka Ike, Ramsey Noah and Stella Damascus Aboderin are also affected. I want to say that without these outstanding performers, it is difficult for business to go as usual, no!

It is an open market
Today the marketers claim that they over pay some of us but ask them if anyone at anytime had pointed a gun on their head and said pay me this. No, they themselves were responsible for whatever became the fee that people demand. And in the industry, no two people are the same, it is a free enterprise economy that Nigeria is operating. So, anybody with the best talent available at a given period is the person you will go for naturally, because that is how you are sure of recouping your funds. For instance, in football, if another team goes for J. J Okocha tomorrow, the team would pay him higher, so there is no way you can suppress a manís talent and make him equal to others below him. Even God in his infinite wisdom did not make it so. Besides, you cannot penalise a talented person because of his talent, it is not the people that charge you, I believe that market forces should determine artistes' fees. If you make so much from someoneís talent, it is only natural to ensure you do not cheat that person because if you do so, it would be ungodly.

We need to get things right:
We have FESPACO (Panafrican Film and Television Festival, Qoagadougou) in Bukinafaso every year. Burkinafaso is a very small country compared to Nigeria. In South Africa, they have SITHENGI, Durban and CapeTown Film Festivals, our country is bigger than all these countries and we produce the greatest number of movies on this continent, yet we do not have a thriving movie festivals, and we are not even working towards one. We just sit down here and watch the traders work up the entire industry. I think this is unfortunate.

Future of Nollywood
The industry has no future if government does not take an interest in it and by government, I am still talking about the Ministry of Information and National Orientation.We have not shown any commitment to the industry. Nigeria by now should be in a position to produce a film that can be taken outside this country and commented upon by the international community, that this originates from Nigeria, we can do a good film on Slave Trade.We have never really told our own story.

Occult roles
My life as a devout Catholic does not in anyway affect the roles I play, I have played a lot of very wicked and bad roles. It is only a good actor that can deliver such roles convincinly and there are only few of us that can do so, everybody can play a good role but to play a bad role is very difficult task. The roles I play do not in anyway interfere with my loyalty to my religion or with my God. People get used to the fact that we are actors, so we play precisely whatever the particular production requires of us.

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