African Voice



1.       Please introduce yourself.

I’m Onyeka Nwelue. I’m author of The Abyssinian Boy.

2.       We know you are part of the AMAA team. Please tell us about the book fair.

No, I am not part of the AMAA team. I was ‘asked’ to create the Bayelsa Book & Craft Fair’s content.

3.        AMAA 2013 was followed with mixed reactions. Especially with emphasis on logistics, what’s your take on it?

Since I am not part of the AMAA team, the best thing you can do is to direct these questions to the right channel.

4.       What do you think should be the way forward for the awards?

The way forward is for AMAA to keep doing what they are doing; they should not try to impress anyone, they should not pander to the sentiments of the general public, because people will always want what will favour them, but when you ask them to come support AMAA, they will say, ‘I wish I can help,’ yet, they will be the first to scream, ‘Oh logistics that, logistics that’ and never minding how the little fund gotten was achieved.

5.       As a Nigerian filmmaker, what part of the filmmaking process would you say that we have made the most progress?

Somehow we have made progress in all aspects of filmmaking and this is because, Nigerians are generally very over-ambitious people. If a Nigerian says he will get this done now, trust me, he will do it. Sometimes, we have questioned ourselves, compared our works with those of Hollywood, yet, we are eager to make something out of a non-existing structure. We have really made progress in everything we have tried to innovate in the film industry and this matters a lot.

6.       What would you describe as nollywood biggest flaw?

I think it is too early to start talking about our biggest flaw. However, what I will describe as our biggest flaw as a people is this whole ramble: “Oh, I don’t watch Nollywood films. They are shit.” That thing pisses me off. Even if people don’t, denying what they actually do, because they want people to see them as very intelligent, intellectual and sophisticated is total stupidity. A whole lot of people, who want to sound outlandish, are bottled up in their rooms watching Africa Magic. It is a pity that I can authoritatively say that Nollywood’s biggest flaw is the same people who see Nollywood films and deny seeing them, thereby, making it look like they are not STUPID!

7.       Are you aware of the 3bn presidential fund and the brouhaha it generated? First do you think the fund is what we need now? If yes, in what area(s) do you think it be should applied?

I was at the Nollywood at 20 event. I HEARD it, however, I am not AWARE of it. People get everything misconstrued. Why? Because for me, as a person, I have stopped to believe things until I see them. Nigerians are people who get easily distracted by frivolities. People generated brouhaha out of nothing. It was not the ‘presidential fund’ that did. Sometimes, I am amazed at how we try to wash away things we need discuss and focus on small things. Even though the small things might matter, this one should not matter, because not every promise has to be fulfilled and the President might decide not to fulfill his promise.

8.       Are you a believer in the guild system of nollywood? Please give reasons for your answers.

I am not a believer in anything. So many things get politicized and people start creating cartels and bandwagons. However, it is needed to structure the society. If it must be, it must be. I just realized that some things are better left the way they are.

9.       Premieres are the in thing in nollywood and is believed to add a lot to the overall financial output of a film. Especially if it is to be seen as a standard cinema film. The paparazzi, the support of film colleagues e.t.c. how do they affect the audience perception of the film?

For me, as I know, a premiere is the first public performance of a work of art. As you know, Nigerians like to over-do things. I am not impressed with the way it is going now in Nigeria. No one should take this personal. I am not criticizing anyone. For me, as an observer, people spend a lot of money, sleepless nights, preparing for a film premiere and finally, when their films get slots in the cinemas, they don’t even make a kobo out of it. I’ve been thinking. Could this not be the best idea? Invite press people, few film enthusiasts who can spread the word, newspaper film critics and all whatnot, to a very private film screening, get them drunk, give them food, address them, talk to them about the little things they might need to know from behind the scenes, shower them with gratitude and let them leave the screening hall happy. Trust me, they will write amazing stuff about the film, create a very unusual buzz that will make people go to the cinemas to see that particular film. You don’t need all that support of the colleagues to make money from your film. Your colleagues will come asking for free passes for their family and friends. We need to use our mentality to push up everything. Don’t do all that shitty souvenirs and whatnot if your film is not going to make upto N100,000.

10.   For a peculiar industry like ours knowing that what works elsewhere may not work here. Don’t you think distributors will not likely warm up to films that don’t do the premiere route?

Before we started over-doing film premieres, Alaba boys have been helping the growth of the industry. They are the ones who even popularize films. Let’s forget about the piracy thing right now and focus on what you just asked me about distribution. Some of the film houses still believe they don’t have to promote Nigerian films, so they keep showing foreign films. Distributors are always ready to listen to the media. Trust me, media can make you what you want to be. Just let them talk about you.

11.   If you were given charge to reform the motion picture industry, how would you go about it?

I am too young. I don’t even know anything. When I grow up, I will like you to come ask me this question. For now, I am very very young.

12.   You promote African music abroad, what inspired you into doing that?

The inspiration was money. People like to say they do things for passion. If that works for them, good. But, I was focused on making money where no one was tapping from.

13.   What are the major challenges you face and how do you think they could be addressed?

The major challenge is actually raising the fund to fly some of the artistes from Nigeria to Europe and getting everything in order. Europeans are there any day, any time to give a young artiste from our continent, a chance to show himself to the world.

14.   Going abroad when the home fronts have not been harmonized, do you think it is the best?

Okay, honestly, home fronts have not been harmonized? I thought Nigerian musicians are very comfortable? They sing about good money, enough food, plenty cars and whatnot? They are not cool? Really? I didn’t know. I have never known the best thing to do, but to do what pleases me. I am not here to make anyone happy. My happiness and pocket matter to me.

15.   Where will artist make the most money, from exportation of talents or a proper remuneration system for IP?

People don’t pay to attend shows in Nigeria. Let’s get it clear. One, you don’t know what to expect. You might pay for a VIP ticket and find yourself standing in the Regular. Days before any concert, people go around asking for FREE passes. How would the promoter pay up for the venue? How will the artiste eat? How will artistes survive here?

16.   Our musical artists still pay radio presenters/DJs/VJs e.t.c. to play their songs for promotion, even give it to pirates for alaba mixes, what’s you take?

Nicollo Machiavelli said: ‘It’s often necessary for leaders to use immoral methods to achieve fame and success.’

17.   Tell us about your book and your short film.

My book, The Abyssinian Boy is very old now. It was published in 2009, but I have a new book, Orchard of Memories, coming out very soon. It is being represented by Pontas Literary & Film Agency in Spain. The Beginning of Everything Colourful is a short film I made in Paris last year. Few people have seen it, because we are raising funds to make a feature film. It was based on an idea developed by myself and Dudley O’Shaughnessy, who is very famous for his appearance in Rihanna’s We Found Love video.

18.   Last words?

Let’s do what we can to support ourselves. 

Onyeka Nwelue
author, The Abyssinian Boy (2009)
editor at:
favourite quote: "A story is like the surface of water." - Arundhati Roy

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