When Nollywood started in Lagos, there was no formal structure in terms of professional associations or guilds for practitioners to converge and discuss issues of mutual interest. ‘Abe Igi’(Yoruba words meaning ‘under the tree’) at the National Theater, came to the rescue of the wandering Nollywood stakeholders.
Then came the man latter to be known as the ‘Sheik’ of Nollywood, Mr. Zeb Ejiro, who arguably is the first stakeholder to have a visible office in Nollywood somewhere around Ijesha and latter Surulere. His office became an instant rallying point for everybody; a Mecca of sort.
In fact, if you never visited Zeb’s offices for one reason or the other, then you were never part of the building process of Nollywood. ‘Presido’, as most practitioners call Zeb,was (still is?) so powerful in those days.
Other rendezvous points include places like ECOWAS hotel in Surulere, Kilo hotel in Marsha, Bookies hotel in Aguda, Uzzis Garden in Festac, and Winnis hotel in Marsha. Anything and everything about the early Nollywood took place in these points of convergence – auditions, rehearsals, appointment with journalists and marketers etc. Nollywood then was one big family.
However, as the the level of awareness increased, practitioners saw the need to practice in tandem with global best practices. This led to the first Nollywood stampede at the National theater; a foundation for associations and guilds in the industry. At the stampede, stakeholders resolved to have structures for Producers, Marketers and Actors.
Chris Ekejimbe, Zeb Ejiro, Kenneth Nnebue, Eddie Ugbomah, Chief Gab Onyi Okoye (Igwe Gabosky), Joe Dudun, Amaka Igwe and a few others went ahead to form the Association of Movie Producers (AMP).
The likes of Ifeanyi Dike, Sunny Macdon-W, Ejike Asiegbu, Okey Bakasi and others formed the Nigerian Actors Guild (NAG), which was changed latter to the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria (AGN). The mainstream movie distributors also came together to form the very powerful Marketers association domiciled in Idumota, Lagos. .
Other interests sprang up. Madu C. Chikwendu, Fidelis Duker, Victor Okhai, Matthias Obayagbon and a few others formed the Direcors’ Guild of Nigeria (DGN). We also have the Nigerian Society of Cinematographers (NSC), Screen Writers Guild of Nigeria (SWGN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Creative Designers Guild of Nigeria (CDGN).
However, and curiously so too, several years after their take-off, these latter guilds in Nollywood, are yet to have the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) registration, an instrument that confers legal status on such unions.
Things latter fell apart and the center could no longer hold. Marketers association broke into two- Yoruba and Igbo. Key stakeholders dumped AMP and formed the Association of Nollywood Core Producers (ANCOP), which immediately got the very important CAC nod.
The Yorubas started the Association of Nigerian Theater Practitioners (ANTP), Hausas came with the Motion Picture Association of Nigeria (MOPAN), Igbos have the Association of Movie Practitioners (AMP), Itsekiris have the Association of Itsekiri Performing Artistes (AIPA), Binis have the Congress of Edo State Movie Practitioners (CEMP).
It would amount to a criminal lie for any single association to claim to be the umbrella body for Nigerian film producers. Ditto for marketers, directors, actors editors, cinematographers etc. This is the manifest truth. There is a proliferation of associations and guilds in Nollywood today.
In fact, I am worried by the preponderance of several unregistered associations and guilds powered by sole administrators. These enterprising briefcase-bodies have largely been responsible for the confusion and turmoil that have pervaded in Nollywood for over a decade. The way forward is the signing into law of the proposed Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPPCON) bill. I will dwell extensively on this next week.