Amaa Boss speaks on Marriage,Nollywood and 10years of Amaa

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She is energetic and works around the clock. Peace Anyiam Osigwe is not a new name in the international movie scene.  A visionary leader in the artistic world, a BA in Law & Political Science from the Oxford Brookes University, Oxford. She is an experienced producer and a filmmaker. She has been in the forefront to develop the film industry in Africa; a that vision berthed the most popular African movie awards. She chairs the African Film Academy and is the founder and CEO of the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), which has grown in the past decade into premier award programme for African film. Peace  has travelled around the world and has served as jury member in various international film festivals, including the Berlin and ION film festivals. This year, African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) will be marking its 10th anniversary. She told Azuka Ogujiuba and Adedayo Showemimo about her plans for the AMAA anniversary, her failed marriage, her supportive family and more…..
Did growing up in the midst of boys as the only girl make you a tom-boy in anyway?
It made me a total tomboy (smiles), having seven brothers and being the last child and only girl sure did make me a tom boy sort of, but my mum did try to change it a little bit by sending me to an all girls boarding school at a later stage, but it was already late because I also had a dad that trained me to be like a boy and to be independent. So it didn’t really matter that I went to an all girls secondary school.

Did you have any favourite among your brothers?
It’s funny, but I am actually close to all of them, but my fourth brother George and my immediate senior, Raymond tend to be more attentive.  George in the sense that when I wanted to get out of secondary school in London, he relocated from the states to London because of me, so he could keep my company and he became more like a surrogate guardian for me and that relocation was like a sacrifice he did for me. Then Raymond on the other hand, being my immediate older brother, we kind of fought every fight together, but then again when my dad was about to pass on, he was the person my dad told to make sure he takes care of me. So, when I want to blackmail him, I always remind him what daddy said (laughs), and even though we fought a lot while growing up, he was still a sweet big brother to me. Then in London, he always made sure he sent me weekend money every week even though he knew I probably had enough on me.

Can you recall any memorable incident while growing up?
The fact is that we grew up in a close-knit  family with the understanding that  nobody owns anything.  We grew up in a business family, and our dad never hid anything from us financially. He was extremely open to us as his children. So, we grew up always hanging out together and doing things together.

As the only girl, did you ever feel a tinge of jealously when any of your older brothers got married?
It’s funny, but I see all my in-laws as my friends, though there are times when we have issues. Of course, women always have issues, but my mum and I are not the typical in-laws that make trouble. As far as my brothers are happy,  am good with everyone. The funny thing is that am really close to my brothers’ children.

Did you have a nickname that they used to call you?
(Smiles) They actually called me very funny names. One was “Glidy” and I always wondered what it meant. My eldest brother calls me “Omo ni orr”, but my father’s name for me was Adanna.

So, generally, how would you describe your family?
Well,  as I said earlier, we grew up not owning anything, and that stayed. But just before dad passed on, he kind of made his own rules. All through our lives, we had known that each of us owned 10% in his companies. So, there was nothing to share when he was gone, we all knew we had our homes, we all knew there was a Trust, and he said anything that was due to him from his corporations should be for his grand children’s education and so, that was settled as well.  My dad made sure there is no competition amongst us. There’s nothing to compete about. There’s nobody that earns more than the other party, there’s nobody that owns anything that the other cannot afford. My dad removed all of that and that is what he based his holistic view to human approach on.   Even the grand children have been trained in the same way, they all go to the same schools, they are very close knit and they are so close that their mothers can’t even interfere.

It sounds very peaceful, but are there times when you fight?
Yes, sure! Sometimes, little things can just cause an argument, but most times we try to differentiate business and family.  When it comes to business, am very shrewd, but when it comes to family issues, you deal with it based on respect and if something is not right, you have to open your mouth and speak up.  It can’t just be all love and no fight, that’s hypocrisy, but we do manage our issues very well.

Looking back, what memories do you have of your dad?
Well, my dad was my closest friend.  I grew up practically telling him everything about my life, I didn’t hide anything from him, and I recall when I wanted to marry someone from Gambia, my dad was the first to know and he didn’t really like the idea and I understood him. So, having a father like him that you could confide in is absolutely special, and like he always said jokingly,  ‘Personality outlives death’ and that is the truth, because my father is even more present in my life in spirit than he was when he was alive. Because if am not supposed to do something and I try to do it, I’ll just know and somehow my dad would make it impossible for me to do it. It sounds funny,  but it’s the truth.  I have his picture by my bedside. And then all the kids know that the time for prayer is 11:30pm, we would all assemble and say our prayers and it doesn’t matter wherever you are in the world. It’s just kind of a subconscious part of us that we had to pray at that time. And when I was in school,  back then in London, I wouldn’t go out to a night club until after my dad calls, because he calls me every night about 11pm and I must be at home to receive the calls. Then it was still the era of the NITEL lines, and if I go out, I had to be back home at 4am, because most times he calls before 5am to check up on me as well.

How come all your elder brothers are always on white outfits but you don’t follow the colour code of your family?
My father wore white all the time, and don’t forget he was a devout Catholic and also an Igbo man.  But he was very spiritually developed and that made him believe in the purity of white. My mum and I do wear white outfits once a while, but my dad used to make a joke that as an Igbo man, if his wife and daughters also wore white outfits, people won’t know that he’s taking care of us. They’ll feel he doesn’t have money to buy us expensive wrappers and beautiful clothes (laughs). Because in Igbo land you can only show your wealth on your wife and on your daughter. So, I think that’s why mum and I were technically exempted, But I do wear white when I feel like and for the boys it’s just like a rule they followed with dad to create a brand identity for themselves. And really, if you look around, a lot of other people do wear white as well.  Even when dad passed on,  my brothers still continued. If you look at my dad’s wedding pictures, he wore white, so, he wore  white for long. My father was a spiritual man, and that’s one thing he preached to us every time. And somehow, it has also transcended to the grand kids too. Because sometimes when they are all at home and are going to Church with their fathers most of them wear white too.

Do you have a best friend?
Yes.  Sure, I have two actually, first is Stephane Doherty. We schooled in England together, she’s from Iceland and then there’s Francis Wilch who is from Gambia, and really I have more male friends.

What profession fascinated you the most as a child?
It’s writing. But Mum wanted me to do Law, so, I did the Law which I actually thank God I did. Because it helps me in everything I do today. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to practice, because I was already writing even before I studied law. My first article was published in Punch Newspapers when I was 9 years old by Tunji Ladner. And at some point, I had my own magazine called “Clicks” in England when I was 16.

Your name is Peace, how peaceful are you?
I don’t think am that peaceful; you can’t possibly be peaceful growing up with seven brothers (smiles).

So, you were daddy’s girl, would you say he spoilt you?
No, daddy did not spoil me. My father would talk to you so much that when you think of doing something wrong you’ll just remember all the words he would say and trust me,  you’ll just stop. And I still abide by that rule till now.

Being the only girl, what was your brothers’ reaction when you first started dating a man?
When I turned 18, my two eldest brothers called me to a meeting and said we know you are old enough to have a boyfriend now even though you’ve had one for a while now, but you know a woman shouldn’t know too many men before she marries. So, just be careful out there. And they just went on and on, and we all had a good laugh about it. And really, having seven  brothers, it takes only a courageous man to enter my house. And yea, my brothers were cool,  when I came home with a man, they’ll just try to understand and study you.

What’s your view on marriage?
I would say marriage should be the best thing that should happen to anybody because I grew up in a family that was filled with love. My mum and dad were together for 48 years before dad passed on. So, growing up, I understood that it’s not about marrying someone you are just in love with. It was more about friendship;, my parents were best friends. They go out together and did things together like friends. So, if you grew up in that kind of home, that’s what you’ll want as well. And that was what made me stay in my marriage as long as I did. I was trying to make it work.  Ten years is a long time when you probably knew it was over. But because you knew you had to tolerate, be patient, overlook stuffs and all that,  I just kept on going, but unfortunately, men in Nigeria get influenced by their friends too much and it affects the marriage.  Most men in Nigeria would prefer to hang out with their friends rather than their wives and that’s where the problem starts. And then on the other hand, the women themselves are their own worst enemies too. Because they’ll come and tell you that how can you allow your husband to be flexing around town with his friends and not carry you along. Meanwhile, the woman is going through worse things  in her own house, but she wants you to believe that your own case is worse than hers. So, she begins to insinuate things to you and then you begin to react on things she says.
And then generally on both parts,  we seem to have lost all elements of moral standards in our society these days. It’s now a case of Sodom and Gomorrah. So, to me, I don’t even understand marriage in Nigeria anymore. I wonder why people still get married now.

At what point did you feel you could no longer continue with your marriage?
Apart from some certain areas where Greg and I disagree, Greg is a brilliant film Director and I still would always respect him for his intelligence and capacity in that area. However, when someone starts to bring another woman into your home, that’s the time to quit, because there’s nothing else to stay for.  My home is my den and once you enter my space, it becomes another case. I didn’t leave my house with anything. I left with my hand bag and my sanity, that’s all I wanted. People from different parts of Nigeria have different views on marriage and am sorry to say the people from Rivers State have a very slim value on marriage, because certain statements were made to me by relatives and I just wondered in amazement.

Looking back, are there things you think you did wrong in the marriage?
Let me be honest, I cooked everyday for my husband.  After all,  I came in from England and by the time I relocated to Nigeria,  I was not dependent on my dad any longer. But I did not act it. I didn’t go into my husband’s house as a rich kid. I lived with my husband and his friend in his friend’s house first. We later moved into our own house and we didn’t have any furniture and yet we slept on the floor and started from the bottom together.  I didn’t complain, so I just wonder when things start happening and a new girls shows and his friends start going around calling her by my husband’s surname.  Come on, it’s time to move on. You have to value yourself, and self respect is the biggest value a woman can put to herself. Today Greg would always say to people that he can’t accuse me of cheating because I didn’t do it.  So,  when I noticed strange stuffs, I just went fully into work mode. So, at that point,  he could say, I was working all the time and didn’t have time.  But I made that decision because I needed something to keep me busy and stop me from thinking. So,  if you ask if there’s anything I did wrong, I would say yes.  I stopped trying at some point.  But I would always say to any lady,  you just have to put a value on yourself.  Marriage is as good as both of you want to be in it.

Looking at your life generally, do you have any regrets?
I would love to have had a very happy marriage.  But as I always say, God’s time is the best. I am a family person and am glad for the kind of family I come from.  I don’t really feel that vacuum.  I have a beautiful relationship with my nieces and nephews.

Do you still hope to be married again?
Yes, I believe that it will happen, God’s time is the best, so I’ll wait on him.

Being the founder of AMAA Awards, Do you feel threatened by the presence of the African Magic Awards now?
Of course not. America has over a hundred reward systems for cinema and films. So does England. So, personally I think we still need more of those awards and reward systems in Nigeria as well.  That way,  you constantly have to up your game.  I try to avoid that competition ideology that comes in.  I don’t see competition, rather I observe and learn, because at the end of the day, more awards would come up.  Because the more they come up the better quality our films would be. AMAA is a technical reward system.  So, most of it is judged by film makers, film critics.  So,  it’s not about the popularity of the film or anything; for instance when Kunle Afolayan shoots a film, he uses an all Nigerian crew, and then you receive some other entries and when you look at the crew, they are all from Germany or Europe, and that goes against our principle of promoting the true African core that we seek to promote and that is one of the values that we try to establish within AMAA. Then I don’t get to know the award winners till they are called up on stage that night, because they are all my friends and we are all film makers.  I try not to interfere with the jury’s decision and more so my jury are not people you can influence, because they are film critics tied to several film festivals worldwide. We have about three Nigerians on the jury though, there is Shaibu Hussein, Steve Ayorinde and Professor Kwazi from the University of Ibadan, and then there are other people from other film festivals in the world. And trust me, sustaining AMAA to the level it is now, over the last 10 years has been nothing but the grace of God.  Even though we do find sponsorship difficult  sometimes, because most corporate organisations don’t like to support our home grown events, they’ll rather support events coming from outside  the country.

AMAA would be 10 years this year, is there any special highlight on that day?
Yes, that’s why we have a category called Africa’s Best this year, where people can vote for their best actors or actresses from the winners from the last 9 years. Then also this year, we would be going to different African countries, because we are celebrating the fusion of African creative industries with fashion, music and film.

How do you feel being the founder of AMA?
Well, when I came back home, I noticed that generally, Africans have this attitude of not celebrating themselves. And then, at a particular point the creative industry was just dull, and coming from the UK,  I know first hand that it was always hard for black film makers to get money from the film council. So,  I thought of a congregation to celebrate yourself especially to unite the black race to make us an economically viable industry. India has been able to overcome a lot of issues in Hollywood because they can afford it. We also need to understand that we need to make films as political as the Americans and British make do. Until our leaders in Africa see it that way, we still have a long way to go. They need to put in money into the industry and also play the politics to make sure those films are shown in foreign theatres, because there is politics in the international film industry.

It’s not just money. But Nigerian government hasn’t got the right people in the regulatory bodies. They need to put the right people in the regulatory bodies, people who understand the international politics of film, therefore when there’s a good film from Nigeria, they start to push it. When a south African actress won best actress at the AMAA’s last year, she was celebrated by her government, they sent us letters and it was a big deal for south Africa to win it.  Same thing applies to the government of Ghana.  When they win, the president or vice president hosts them to a grand reception and they are well celebrated.  So, that makes you wonder what the role of Nigerian regulatory bodies really is. When you go to CANNES, our stand is always empty. We haven’t even pushed any of our films to the Oscars in the foreign films section, and that s because we don’t have the right people.

Being a major player in the industry, this present government has been seen as one of the most supportive of the industry, do you agree?
This is the same thing I’ve said before and I’ll be clear, the President has all the good intentions for Nollywood, but do the foot soldiers that he has put in place know what to do? The president can’t have time to look at everybody’s paper work himself. I don’t know how the secretary of a country can make a person who is a Quantity Surveyor the head of the Nigerian Film Corporation, where is that person supposed to start from.  Which industry is he going to sell us to?  You can’t zone these things and make them political. On the flip, the industry is not united too, we love writing petitions to Abuja all the time, we don’t have one voice, because if we have one voice and we are honest to ourselves as Nollywood, a lot of these things won’t happen, and that’s what’s killing the industry.

What the President wants for us is one thing, what Nollywood wants for itself is another thing. We are the most confused bunch of human beings I know. We just always try to pull each other down, it’s not about money, don’t forget that we built Nollywood without government money and back then it was very unified and interesting.  But all of a sudden everything just changed. Why do we hate ourselves so much? If you look at the recent centenary celebrations, about three different Presidents spoke about Nollywood and the music industry, because these are the things selling Nigeria to the world today. Look at NEXIM Bank, how they give somebody who is based in America and not part of the core Nollywood money to shoot a film, where is that film today, personally I didn’t like the film for the amount of money spent on it.  The film should have been better.  The likes of Tunde Kilani and Kunle Afolayan have applied for that money since but they haven’t gotten it, and these are internationally respected film makers from Nollywood. The heads of film regulatory bodies know nothing, and when Nollywood decides to be united,  we would be taken seriously again.

Culled from Thisday

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