Junior Pope: Before Nollywood Producers Are Villified 

Posted on April 12, 2024
ONWUASOANYA FCC JONES
Nollywood is in mourning. This is not about the official pronouncement by the Actors Guild President, Nollywood practitioners which span across more than ten Nigerian film industry guilds heartbroken. Prayers were been said in across different homes in Nigeria, because Junior Pope was a delight of the people. The actor’s story of being an only child of his mother and a father of three young kids adds to the sympathy from across the world for the fine actor.
Typical of Nigerians, reactions, many judgmental, have dominated the social media over the circumstances surrounding this tragedy. While some insensitive people have gone ahead to blame the dead for being careless, there seems to be swell of opinion targeted at the producer behind the production, a certain, Adamma Luke, for not providing his cast and crew with the necessary safety gadgets before letting them sail on a boat back to land. There have been others still who are pouring their venom on Nollywood as an industry, blaming us for not prioritising the safety of workers in the industry.
Apparently, as his way of going along what he considers majority sentiment on the issue, the Actors Guild of Nigeria President, Emeka Rollas, has unleashed a rash of orders and sanctions in the industry. Apparent in the press statement announcing this slew of decisions, the AGN seem to have reached a verdict, that the producer of the film bears responsibility for the deaths recorded on that boat. This is no different from a jungle justice.
Nollywood fans and normal citizens who tried to pass what is obviously an unfair judgement on the young producer may be forgiven, but it is shocking that a President of an industry guild like AGN could display such level of insensitivity and reckless authoritarianism in the face of a pathetic tragedy which all of us are presented with. Emeka Rollas couldn’t have been more traumatized than the producer on that project, and the esprit de corps demanded, that while protecting the interest of a member of his primary guild, he should have also appreciated the circumstances of the producer.
We cannot say it enough that everyone of us is devastated with not just the death of Junior Pope, but for every single industry practitioner and other citizens who might have been affected by this accident. However, it must be stated that the only reason the producer of this film might be blamed for the accident is that it has become a crime for people to work hard and sincerely for their own economic empowerment.
It is not the duty of a passenger to provide safety gadgets for themselves when they board a boat. There is no way, too, that the producer on this ill-fated production would have known that there would be an accident or to select the better sailor who would be more safety conscious. If it becomes necessary to let anyone bear responsibility for this accident, then, the company operating the boats and agencies of government responsible for the safety and comfort of users of such short water transportation should bear full responsibility.
One of the best ways the President of the Actors Guild would have shown his anger is to call for a protest to the office of the inland waterways authorities and other agencies and to use his authority as a union leader to fight for justice for the Thespian and to a large extent, avert future occurrences. Punishing the producer might be the simplest actions to take, but it is definitely not the fairest nor the most strategic.
If we are quick to condemn and even convict Adamma, we might be unconsciously shielding the real culprits from sanctions. The questions I expect the leadership of major industry guilds and those who earnestly seek justice for the dead to be asking are; 1. If the accident has been confirmed to have been caused by lapses in safety considerations, who was supposed to determine the water worthiness of the boat? 2. Who licenses the sailors? 3. Is the operator of the ill-fated boat licenced? If he is not licenced, why was he allowed to take the paddle?
The arbitrary ban on shooting on waterways or getting expunging scenes that have to do with boat rides or something like it is also a retrogressive and ill-informed order. Filmmakers cannot discard films they probably must have invested millions of Naira into its development because the AGN President said so. At a time when our contemporaries from across the world are already shooting movies in Mars and other planets, someone is trying to tell Nigerian filmmakers to stop making films on sea because of safety issues, instead of using the opportunity to call on the government to improve the safety of our waterways. That’s not interesting to hear.
The ban on further production on the film and “banishment” of Adamma Luke is also too extreme and insensitive. Two years ago or thereabouts, Alec Baldwin mistakenly fired a live bullet which killed the cinematographer on the set of “Rust”, the suspension of production was not an order by the Cinematography Guild of America or any of the other affected guilds, but the production companies involved in the production decided to suspend production while the Police carried out its investigations on Alec Baldwin. Following the conclusion of court action on Baldwin, the production immediately resumed and has since concluded.
As a practitioner and stskeholder in the industry, I would not fail to recognise the passion and proactive disposition of the Actors Guild President, but I advise that some restraint is exercised in handling matters such as this one, so that we do not unknowingly kill another Comrade while trying to show solidarity for some fallen Comrades. What Adamma needs now more than anything else is industry support and solidarity, because, in this professional circle, she is actually the chief mourner.
May the soul of all our fallen comrades rest in peace!
– Onwuasoanya FCC Jones is a Nollywood Movie Director and Producer. He is a member of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP). 

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