Archive for the ‘Nigerian theatre/movies’ Category

Peter Igho: Long walk through the stage

March 18, 2008

This piece was first published in The Nation, Lagos on Wednesday, February 27, 2008

igho-2.jpgigho-1-ed.jpgIgho, the Dan Jikan Kabi

 After a lifelong career in the entertainment industry, 33 of them spent at the NTA where his network productions were household names and he rose to Executive Director, Marketing, Peter Igho is retiring at 60, moving on to…

The next level

Peter Igho bows out of the organisation on March 28 upon attaining the mandatory retirement age of 60, he would have put in 33 years into the tube industry in Nigeria. However, his romance with the stage has lasted longer just as he plans to still remain in the industry that is his life as he told Group Arts and Culture Editor SOLOMON TAI ADETOYE

The Argungun Fishing Festival in Kebbi State is one of the nation’s leading tourist attractions. This year, it holds between March 12 and 15. Apart from the usual events, one special event will feature in this year’s edition of the festival. The special event is to celebrate the Dan Jikan Kabi, Peter Igho. It is the beginning of a series of events lined up to celebrate the 60th birthday of Peter Igho and his impressive career in the Nigerian television industry which winds up as 60 is the mandatory retirement age in the nation’s civil service.

A day after the festival winds up, there will be a special dinner put together by friends and associates in Lagos. The Abuja version holds on March 22. Coincidentally, Igho shares the same birthday with his alma mater, University of Ibadan which was established the year he was born. On March 27, he will be heading there for a double celebration – his and his alma mater’s birthdays. The following day, the exact birth date, his Victoria Island, Lagos home will play host to fireworks display that promises to be as impressive as his distinguished career. The following day is slated for the birthday thanksgiving service at St. Gregory Catholic Church, Obalende, Lagos while reception of guests follows at the Air Force Officers’ Mess at Victoria Island. He will spend March 30 with his friends at the IBB Golf Course in Abuja where he is a member.

Peter Igho has good reason to celebrate life at 60. When one speaks of the television industry in Nigeria, it is impossible to name the top ten people without his name being included. He has won the movie industry award. At work he won the Director General’s Best Executive Director’s Award. Nationally, he holds the National Award of MFR. Looking back at his journey through life, he said, “The people we grew up together, especially those who had more privileged backgrounds, where are they today?”

His journey in life is like a script – a lot of which he wrote. It is one of positive outlook, determination, hard work and most especially talent triumphing over initial challenges.

Peter Igho was born on Easter Sunday, March 28, 1948 in the mining city of Jos in northern Nigeria. Of Urhobo parentage, his own father had lived in Jos from his youth where he worked as a miner.

“The mining industry then,” Igho recalled, “wasn’t much better than it is today. Sometime digging would be carried out for several weeks only to find out there is no mineral at that particular site. Meanwhile one would have spent much money paying labourers doing the digging. When there was success we had good life. My father was not rich but he was comfortable.

“One thing told me how things were financially in those days. It was the state of our accommodation. We lived in this face-me-I-face you kind of accommodation. Whenever things were in good shape, we occupied four rooms. When things took a downward turn, we managed two rooms, a situation that led to our things being piled up along the passage and corridor.”

Of course, two rooms should be sufficient for a modest family. What was then the problem? Was it that his father had a large family?

Asked how many children his father had, Igho surprised this writer with his response. “When we got to around 35, I stopped counting. But I think in all we were around 45.”

Legendary wouldn’t one say? The senior Igho married four wives of which Peter Igho’s mother who had six children was the first. But the definition of his siblings is unconventional just like it is in many parts of Africa.

“Apart from biological children,” Igho explained, “there were children of my father’s brothers and other relatives who were either dead or still alive. Beyond this, we even had children of neighbours living with us. We were treated equally as children. In fact, when I was growing up, I was closer to one of my step-mothers than my mother. She had some delay in having her own children. So, I was the one who was close to her. Coincidentally, I was born on a Sunday, when she finally had her own son, he was born on a Sunday. Beyond this, when I went for my baptism, I chose the name Peter. He too on his own chose the same name when he went for baptism. So, in the family, there are two Sunday Peter Ighos. To differentiate, people refer to us as Sunday Peter Bida and Sunday Peter Lafia.”

As Igho narrated the story of his growing up, one could perceive the joy of the recollection. It was a warm morning and we endured the heat as we chatted. The idea of postponing the interview did not appeal to any of us.

The first time it was to hold the drugs he was taking for typhoid which had put him in a state in which he could not really undertake it. We only spent time in his sitting room chatting mostly about his younger days when he took time off from University of Ibadan to night-crawl in Lagos visiting leading night spots like the late Bobby Benson’s club.

Another schedule was scuttled despite chasing him to his Victoria Island residence and to the local and international wings of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport. He had an urgent flight to take to Abuja. Schedules and postponements followed and at a point in time he was out of the country to attend to an eye problem that required surgery.

During this eventual session, more than once the unassumingly friendly Igho more than once expressed his appreciation “for your endurance.” As the interview ended, he was asked when he would be leaving for Abuja. The answer came without hesitation: “The moment you leave now.”

Whatever energy propelled Peter Igho through life seems not have diminished at the age of 60 – at least not noticeably. One can only imagine what the below average height entertainment legend was like growing up. He, however, spoke about his life with fervour. “My childhood years were some of the happiest in my life.” He said. “Although we were not rich, we were happy. I recall that I wore shoes only during Christmas.”

His childhood also prepared him for what he became in life. From the stories his parents told him, the books that were read to him and that he read and his frequent visits to the cinemas, Igho developed a passion for the stage. Late theatre legend Herbert Ogunde came to Jos around this time for a drama production. Igho said this production had such an impact on him that it was one of the factors that shaped him into what he later became.

After primary education at a Catholic school in Jos, he proceeded to a Catholic secondary school in Kaduna. “In those days,” he recalled, “if you attended a Catholic school, you would learn Igbo because most of the teachers were Igbo. If you attended an Anglican school, you would learn Yoruba as most of the teachers were Yoruba.”

Beyond perfecting his Igbo which he had grown up with alongside children of Igbo people whom his parents lived with in the same neighbourhood, Igho began his sojourn into the creative world while in secondary school in Kaduna. In school, he was one of the best English students. He was also active in literary and dramatic activities winning the prize in the Kennedy Essay Competition organised by the United States embassy then.

After his secondary school examinations in which he secured the much coveted division one, he proceeded to pursue higher school certificate at the same institution. When he completed the HSC, he taught for a while in the school during the months between the final examination and resumption date at the university. This period can be said to be the beginning of his career in entertainment.

“While teaching there,” Igho recalled, “the principal called me and said, ‘Look, you are interested in literary activities, why not organise an inter-house drama competition among the students?’ I took up the challenge selecting plays like The Incorruptible Judge for the houses. But I faced a challenge. There was a house that had no play. So, I took up the challenge of writing a play for the house. The play was entitled Gods of the Ancestors. As it happened, I left to resume at the university before the competition took place. When next I saw the principal, he congratulated me. Surprised, I asked him what he was congratulating me for and he told me that the panel of judges that sat at the competition adjudged my play the winner.”

With such interest and background one would have expected Peter Igho to study theatre arts at the university. Yes, he wanted that but University of Ibadan did not offer theatre arts as a major course then. So, he opted to study English with theatre arts among others as a subsidiary course.

There was just no way his creative mind could have rested while in the university. Even in secondary school, he had formed a music band named The Heart Renders where he played the piano and accordion and was the lead vocalist. Now in UI, he and some like minds put together what has remained arguable the greatest band in the history of UI, The Q Mark. Its inauguration which the authorities were generous enough to allow them use the famous Trenchard Hall came as a surprise to many on campus as people were wondering when they formed the band and where they had been rehearsing. “We were rehearsing deep in the bush behind the campus,” Igho said.The Q Mark performed at different occasions on campus and outside the proceeds of which went into payment of equipment rentals and a little earning that supplemented the financial base of the generally financially challenged band members.

Peter Igho secured employment before leaving the university in 1972. As it was in those days, prospective employers came to the campus to recruit. Igho opted for the civil service.

“During the interview,” Igho told The Nation, “they asked me if I was prepared to serve in the northern part of the country. Obviously they only paid attention to my name and added that to the fact that I had schooled in Yoruba land. They didn’t know I had grown up in the north raised by parents who spoke Hausa and Fulani fluently.”

They finally posted him to the Northwest State. Upon resumption at Sokoto, he was posted to a teachers training college at Bida. A sleepy town, Bida was a sharp contrast to Ibadan that Igho was coming from. But before long, he had turned the town into a hub of activities that attracted people from far and near. Again, it was his talent and interest in entertainment that gave birth to this.

Bringing in students from a nearby female school – hardly a conceivable idea then – he wrote and produced a drama piece that was to run for six days. It ended up running for six weeks. Then the community demanded to see it. That one ran for a month. By then the fame of the presentation had spread throughout the state leading to a state-wide tour. To cap it all, the state governor requested for a command performance. It went on to be the state’s entry that won award at the 1974 Festival of Arts and Culture. This feat led to its being one of the plays chosen for performance at the Festac ’77 for which the ’74 was preparatory.

Despite his promotion in the teaching sector in 1974, the Ministry of Culture which organised the festival struggled and succeeded in attracting him to be one of the pioneering staffers of the NTV, Sokoto that took off in 1975. He was the one-man drama department.

In 1977, the different television stations in Nigeria were brought together under the new name NTA. In 1978, NTA organised a competition among all the stations. Perceived as an outpost, NTA Sokoto’s entry’s winning the competition came as a surprise to not a few. The entry was Moment of Truth written and produced by Peter Igho. This led to his being selected to produce a series aimed at promoting the ideals of the Federal Government’s Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). The initial one-page material handed over to him is far from what Nigerians later saw in Cockcrow at Dawn.

To produce Cockcrow at Dawn, Peter Igho approached a village head that his father had had a relationship with as a miner. That made the series the first of sort completely on location in Nigeria apart from it being the first network soap in the country.

After producing about 38 episodes, NTA decided Igho would be more useful at the headquarters in Lagos. As a result, in 1983, he was promoted a General Manager in charge of network programmes. Peter Igho’s experience in production soon came to the fore in managing network section forever transforming that area of television broadcasting in Nigeria.

“Upon my arrival in Lagos,” Igho said, “I saw a lady rehearsing a production. I told her to see me after rehearsal. She was Lola Fani-Kayode. That was how the network production, Mirror in the Sun, came on board. I soon brought other regional productions on board the network ship. Samanja from NTA, Kaduna; The Village Headmaster from the west; and The Masquerade from the east, which became The New Masquerade.

“Others like Behind the Cloud also came on board. No doubt, 1983 was the beginning of the highpoint of network programmes in Nigeria. We ended up with a network programme nearly everyday.”

To appreciate iconic stars in the industry, Igho began the Stars of the Tube which featured musicians like Ebenezer Obey and Eddie Okonta in 1996. In 1997 he was transferred to NTA Enugu where he served as General Manager until his return to the headquarters as Executive Director in charge of production in 2006. Thereafter, he was moved to the marketing section where he handled the marketing of such projects as the English Premier League. It is from this department that Peter Igho is ending a most outstanding career at NTA.What next?

Having being denied enough time with the family and for rest due to the nature of his chosen career, Peter Igho intends to spend some time resting. Since 1972 when he joined the civil service and 1975 when he joined the television industry, it has been all work. No doubt he deserves it. Thereafter he intends to go seek other ways of, as he put it, “earning my daily bread.”

Of course, he intends to remain in the industry operating in the area of content, marketing and consultancy. As it happens, his children, all of whom had graduated, are in such fields as movies, animation and musicals.

When he was asked as a parting shot to recall any sad moment, the nature a man who has lived his life on stage came forth: “I read a lot of books while growing up – Greek classical and Shakespeare inclusive. This and other things I have experienced taught me that events of ones life cannot be isolated. The total person is a product of all he has gone through, good and bad. So, my tears and smiles all come together to make Peter Igho who he is. If you ask me what I’d like to alter if I were to live my life all over again, I’d tell you nothing.”

What a fulfilling way to end a career in a particular sector of the society. But Igho’s career is not ending yet. He is simply changing gear to move to the next level!

Lack of theatre bane of drama – Sola Fosudo

September 3, 2007

dsc00617.jpg 

Fosudo 

From the stage to the screen and the classroom, Dr. Sola Fosudo, Head of the Department of Theatre Arts and Music at the Lagos State University is drama personified. During the rehearsal for Life’s Journey of Choices an adaptation of Femi Osofisan’s Twingle Twangle and Twynning Tayle that was staged as part of Toyota Nigeria Limited’s tenth anniversary that he directed, Fosudo took time of to share some of thoughts on Nigerian theatre scene with The Nation’s Group Editor (Arts and Culture) Solomon Tai Adetoye 

The stage is a funny place to earn a living. Yes the consuming public expect to be entertained. The come to relax; and be enlightened, of course. But the amusement of the theatre and the effervescent nature of most artistes make most people get the erroneous impression that career in the field is one lifelong picnic. Not so. Theatre is hard work.

Sola Fosudo is an icon of modern theatre in Nigeria. His name is very popular among home video lovers. But he goes beyond that. Dr. Fosudo is also a theatre arts teacher. And a teacher of no mean stature for that matter. In fact, he is the Head of the Department of Theatre Arts and Drama at Lagos State University, Ojo. As a theatre manager, he has his own production company named Centre Stage Production where he serves as Executive Director. Beyond these, he is also competent in the production area of theatre. He is also a director. It was in the last capacity The Nation caught up with him at the Arts Theatre of Lagos State University where rehearsal were going on for the staging of Life’s Journey of Choices.

The stage play which was an adaptation of Femi Osofisan’s popular Twingle Twangle a Twynning Tayle, was staged as part of the tenth anniversary of Nigeria’s leading automobile importer, Toyota Nigeria Limited. Centre Stage worked in conjunction with Smiling Fortunes, a fast rising Lagos-based events packaging, marketing and artistic consulting firm. The creativity of Smiling Fortunes merged with Centre Stage’s experience to win them the project in the first place. At the end, their clients and patrons who watched the two performances that held at the MUSON Centre in Lagos were more than satisfied.

Billed as a consummate actor, director, theatre manager and lecturer, Sola Fosudo trained in Ibadan and Ife under some of the best theatre scholars in Nigeria ranging from legendary father of modern theatre in Africa, late Hubert Ogunde to Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka. Iyawo Alhaji, Glamour Girls I and Confession were among the dramas that exposed his drama to the world. Also to his credit were others like the Yoruba classic Amin Orun (Birthmark), Village Headmaster, The Third Eye, Ripples, Koko Close, Playing Game and Grace to Grass among others.

The rehearsal had commenced before Sola Fosudo appeared. He had apparently been attending to some other businesses within the campus. The tempo changed as soon as the Director dressed in business suit entered. Not a single facial expression, choreographic move or tonal inflection escaped his scrutiny. This was the Sola Fosudo Nigerian theatre lover apparently never met. The role playing on screen and on stage and the friendly mien he used to display at the special members’ corner of Niteshift was gone. Here was not even a teacher. The side of him that came out was that of an accomplished director seeking perfection.

“Cut!” he would shout. After pointing out what was lacking in a particular taking he would state the exact point at which a retake should commence. Then the countdown: “Five… four… three… two… one… GO!” The lively spirit of the theatre was still present. Yet here was a man who took stage production with all the seriousness of an aeronautical engineer. From old hands like Kola Oyewo, Rmi Abiola and Tunde Adeyemo to rookie undergraduate artistes, Fosudo was in charge of the entire team.

The amiable Sola Fosudo returned when he took a break to speak with The Nation about the production. He took the writer to the back of the hall where he found means of cleaning the dust that gathered on the unused classroom benches to reduce the impact of the rehearsal sound coming from the stage. Enthusiastically he answered questions about the production. His infectious enthusiasm boiled over when the topic turned to the state of the theatre in Nigeria. At points he bent forward and grasped the writer’s wrist across the aisle to emphasize a point. His expressions drove home his obsession with the issue on the table.

There is the belief in some circles that since the return of democracy theatre in Nigeria has enjoyed better fortune than during the crises-ridden days of military dictatorship.

“No,” came Fosudo’s emphatic answer. “I don’t think so. Maybe in Abuja according to some information reaching us. But in Lagos, the theatre is not faring better in any way.”

What then shall one say? After all, it was believed that the major problem facing theatre was the lack of peace especially following the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential polls.

“That is not the main problem of the theatre in this country,” Sola Fosudo contends. “The problem of drama in Nigeria is the lack of theatres. There are just no theatre halls where drama can be staged.”

Then the “Prof.” in him came out as he pontificated: “There are basic elements of theatre. Number one, there must be the play to present; there must be a script. Then there must be the production team – cast and crew. When these two are in place, you still need the theatre hall where you will stage the performance. A good script and a good production team that has nowhere to present a drama is as useless as not having anything to begin with.

“In Nigeria today, where are the theatre halls? Apart from the National Theatre and the MUSON Centre, where can stage a performance in Lagos? And maybe the University of Lagos theatre. In those days the Law School hall used to be there. Mind you, there is a difference between a theatre hall and say an events hall or a cinema hall. Tragically, these theatre halls are more less centralised. How do you expect a man living at say Alagbado or Ikorodu to go to Lagos Island to watch a performance.

“The Cultural Policy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says the government shall ensure that there is a theatre hall in each local government area… each local government. Where are those theatre halls? If that policy where to be implemented, one can even take his play to each location apart for the vital fact that development of theatre in each locality would be encouraged.”

Well, maybe one should just thank God for the boom in the film industry. No. Fosudo does no agree.

“There is no film industry in Nigeria,” he affirmed explaining that “What we have is video industry. It is home video industry. The absence of cinema halls alone testifies to this fact. Where are the cinema halls of those days – Roxy, Pen and many others? Those that had not been sold off are both redundant and obsolete. Apart from recently opened Galleria and New Metro, there is no cinema hall in Lagos that is at par with modern cinema halls in the world.”

He went on, “There was a time the cinema culture was booming in this country. Films were brought in from outside and the local film industry was taking off. Then government policies threw everything off balance. Not only was importation of films banned, nothing was done to encourage local film production.”

Sola Fosudo then took the subject in intellectual realm. “The issue of culture is vital in the growth and development of any country,” he said. He went on the explain the link between cultural tools like theatre and literature and societal growth and development. The theatre presents an avenue for the society to hold a mirror up to itself to see its faults. Thus reflected it then becomes impossible to discover and implement necessary corrections. In the absence of this, what the society gets is the type of culture Nigeria has today in which cultural malfunction is the order of the day. Fosudo contends that the downward drift will continue if nothing is done to reawaken our cultural values through literature, theatre and the media.

What then ought to be done?

Dr. Sola Fosudo advocated inter-ministerial cooperation. Because what is involved is an overhaul of the media and culture, there is the need for the Ministry of Information and that of Culture and Tourism to work together a programme for the nation to pursue. He explained that at the moment, there are government agencies under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism that have regulatory roles to play in the theatre industry. At the same time the media housed that handle the dissemination of products of the theatre, literature and music are under the Ministry of Information.

“What is needed,” Fosudo told The Nation, “is an all inclusive participation of all stakeholders – government agencies, the different associations of practitioners, the media, corporate bodies, individuals, the academia… everybody has to be involved. Many of the associations that feel they can handle matters don’t even know what they are doing.”

Lamenting government neglect of the arts and culture sector of national life, Sola Fosudo said, “They were even talking of selling the National Theatre at a point in time.” When he was informed that the idea has come back and not just the National Theatre but also Tafawa Balewa Square and the Trade Fair Complex were slated for sale, in utter frustration and anger, he threw up his hands. “You see,” he exclaimed. “Why are they not talking of selling the National Stadium? Provision of social services is a government responsibility. The government is just showing that it is not interested in fulfilling its social responsibility to the people. Is there anywhere in the world where you hear of a national institution like the National Theatre being auctioned?”

Meanwhile the government does not seem to be keen on listening to the learned counsel of people like Dr. Sola Fosudo either for the purposes of cultural development or income generation through tourism. It is arts loving individuals, foreign missions and corporate bodies that uphold the sector. The staging of Life’s Journey of Choices itself bear testimony of this. The Chairman of the command performance, firs post-charter Chairman of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of Management and the Osayuwanoba of Benin Kingdom, Chief Lugard E. Aiminuwu said this much in his opening comments.

The performance which was also attended by Professor Femi Osofisan was better than anybody in the audience’s expectation as Sola Fosudo added “salt and pepper” to the already mouth watering dish Osofisan prepared years ago and presented as Twingle Twangle a Twynning Tayle. The twingling and twangling tale of the theatre in Nigeria is after all a journey of choices. One only hopes we will make choices that will lead us to a desired end.