MAUREEN AZUH takes a look at some actors whose fame has not been matched with wealth
For some time now, prolific actor Enebeli Elebuwa, has been bedridden with stroke. His ailment has been a matter of public interest as his colleagues in the industry try to raise funds for his welfare.
Enebeli’s health, at a point, was so bad that he was rumoured to have been taken to an herbalist in his home town, somewhere in Delta State. He also at a point sought “miracle healing” at Pastor Sign Fireman’s church, Perfect Christianity Mission in Surulere, and was allegedly healed until he cried out that the online video of him walking in the church was not genuine.
In one of the latest efforts to save him, the African Independent Television showed him on the hospital bed, asking well meaning people to assist him financially and in any other ways.
Besides the fear of ailments and deaths, which some of them have nursed, Nollywood practitioners should perhaps also be concerned about life outside the movie industry as several artistes live in abject poverty despite the industry’s growth.
Figures, including that made public by the United Nations, put Nollywood as the second largest film industry in the world in terms of the number of film production annually. This puts the industry ahead of Hollywood and behind Bollywood.
The industry is also reputed as Africa’s largest movie industry in terms of value and the number of movies produced yearly. Ironically, Nollywood boasts of many artistes who can hardly make ends meet. It becomes obvious when they are hit with one ailment or the other and have to resort to spirited Nigerians for survival.
From the time of Chris Erakpotobor, popularly known as KK Shanana, for his role in the rested 1990s television programme, Riddles and Hopes, the list has continued to grow. Erakpotobor died many years ago after a prolonged battle with stroke. Like some of his colleagues who fall into a similar category, he died, without money to either take care of his personal needs or cure himself of his illness.
Early in 2012 also, popular dramatist, James Iroha of The Masquerade fame, died after a long battle with glaucoma. Although his children have allegedly denied the report that he died in penury, Iroha was said to have suffered high blood pressure and blindness that kept him at home for many years. Many people believed that he deserved more than he might have had at the time of need.
While some of them have been unlucky and have passed to the great beyond due to lack of fund and neglect, others are left to the battle of ensuring that they stay among the living as well as put food on their tables.
Veteran actor, Joe Layode, is currently one of those trying to keep head above water. Layode was at several times rumoured dead. But the actor who has paid his dues in the industry may be alive bearing his cross somewhere all alone. A few years ago, when this correspondent ran into him at the Lagos State University, his condition at the time was nothing to write home about. Layode became popular as Teacher Garuba in the rested drama series, Village Headmaster.
Nollywood actor, Prince James Uche, is said to be bedridden with diabetes and hypertension. The latest to join the infamous list of popular artistes struggling to survive is Yoruba actor, Ahmed Oduola, also known as Dento. Dento has been struck with stroke for some months and has also cried out for help. About a month ago, people attending to his needs said he requires about N250, 000 for the post-treatment. While many would wonder why a veteran artiste would request for a “meagre” N250, 000, the fact remains that he would not have asked if he was not in need of the money. The consolation also is that a good number of people have come to his help.
Among other problems militating against the financial fulfilment of the practitioners, piracy seems to be the biggest.
Pirates feed on their works with impunity. As soon as a new film is released, the pirates grab it, dub it and, as the saying goes, ‘spoil’ the market for them. When marketers then have problems, they are transferred to producers and actors, who bear the cross of penury.
Some actors and actresses recently got displeased with the trend that they staged a protest against piracy in Lagos. Unfortunately, government has not done anything fundamental to stem piracy, as the National Copyright Commission is currently overwhelmed.
The artistes’ dilemma is compounded by poor marketing ethics, poor distribution system and a dwindling economy affecting the capacity of many people to buy films.