Over the years, many entertainers, especially veterans in the Nigerian movie industry popularly known as Nollywood, have come to the public space to beg for financial assistance to take care of their health, family and other responsibilities. BENJAMIN SAMSON in this report takes a look at why actors seek help from their fans.
Several acclaimed Nollywood actors have recently reached out to the public for assistance as they grapple with severe health issues and others. These actors, who have enriched and entertained Nigerians with their acting skills over the years, are now turning to well-wishers for support as they face serious health challenges ranging from paralysis to diabetes and other illnesses.
Veteran Nollywood actor, Amaechi Muonagor, recently made a heart-felt plea for support over on-going health challenges. The 61-year-old actor disclosed that he is contending with paralysis, which has significantly affected his left leg and left hand. Muonagor is now seeking financial assistance to help him to cope with his medical expenses; a situation he hadn’t initially disclosed publicly.
John Okafor (Mr. Ibu)
Just two weeks before Muonagor‘s appeal, popular actor John Okafor, known as Mr. Ibu, also sought prayers and financial help from Nigerians over his health. The actor has undergone seven surgeries, but to keep him alive, one of his legs has been amputated.
Ifeanyi Ezeokeke, recognised for his role as ‘Ugo Shave Me’ in Nollywood, has turned to social media to request financial assistance due to an undisclosed illness that has afflicted him for over two years. He’s not only struggling with his health, but also the abject poverty alongside his mother.
Veteran Nollywood actor, Duro Michael, known for his infectious energy on screen, has also been locked in a relentless battle with diabetes. His health issues began in 2020 and have taken a toll on his health and finances, leading to the loss of one of his limbs. Duro Michael now depends on charity to make ends meet.
Nollywood Yoruba actor Sule Suebebe is wrestling with a perplexing illness affecting his legs. In response to concerns about his health, popular Osun cleric, Pastor Agbala Gabriel, and his team have stepped in to assist the actor.
A popular Nollywood actress, Margret Olayinka, aka Iya Gbonkan, caught the attention of many after a video of her asking fans for help went viral. In the video which was posted on the Internet sometime in May, the 64-year-old actress disclosed that despite working in the movie industry for decades, she still could not afford to buy a car. Pleading with fans to celebrate while she was alive, the actress asked for help to buy a car and complete her housing project in Osogbo, the Osun state capital.
Following her plea, a well-meaning fan and the chief executive officer of Alexes Promotion, Omobolanle Olatise, granted the veteran’s wish. A car was presented on her behalf to Olayinka in Ibadan, Oyo state, by one Mustapha Jayeola.
In a chat with this reporter via Whatsapp, a music producer Boloji Eso, said many actors in the nation’s movie industry are criminally underpaid. He expressed dissatisfaction with the low salary that performers earn in the film industry. He emphasised that the current salary system is insufficient to compensate them for their efforts.
According to him, “I want us to do better, and I want to see Nigerian actors enjoying the fruits of our labour. Most of the time, the remuneration is not even what one would expect. I hope we can reach a moment when performers are truly celebrated. If you look at the music and comedy sectors, you will notice that they are well-known. Actors and filmmakers, on the other hand, appear to be on the back burner.
“I want actors to be celebrated and well compensated. I think Nollywood actors are not being paid enough. And on the other hand, we are not financially literate enough to use what we do have and maximise it to protect ourselves in the future.
“I also think that the way the Nigerian movie industry works, it doesn’t provide enough for the actors to work with both financially and otherwise.
“For example, I don’t think actors are given enough time to prepare for their roles. I don’t think actors are given enough time even to work on themselves.”
Similarly, a lecturer in the department of Theatre Arts, Kogi State University, Dr. John Enejo, told Blueprint Weekend that many actors in the Nollywood industry are poor because they are paid off for shooting a film. He said actors had to wait till they shoot another movie before they would be paid again.
Enejo, who had featured in a Nollywood movie, said their counterparts overseas are better than they are because they would be paid for shooting a movie and enjoyed the royalties thereafter.
“What this means is that as long as that film you shoot is being sold in the market, you get a percentage as royalties, but in Nollywood, we are paid off.
“You shoot a film, they pay you for it and that ends it, but if there is a kind of legislation that if a person gets to a particular age and shoots a film, he gets royalties as long as the film is selling, it will be better,” he said.
Enejo added that big actors and actresses in advanced countries do not shoot more than three movies in a year and they would be satisfied, but that in Nigeria one must be on his/her feet for money to come.
He said further that Nollywood is not growing as expected because the government sees it as a private business for those that created it. The thespian said entertainment was something that could give a country a great name like Bollywood and Hollywood, but it should not be left in the hands of the private sector.
He advocated for health insurance for the operators of the industry because a lot of them are getting old and sick not because of the pressure from the work, but sickness that comes with old age.
He lamented that sometimes many of them would be sick and be neglected by society they once entertained.
However, a Nollywood actress, Jaiye Kuti, has taken to her social media account to knock some veteran actors over the habit of begging on social media whenever they are in trouble.
In a video posted on her Instagram page, the actress accused some of her older colleagues of denting the image of the movie industry, especially the Yoruba movie section of the film scene.
Kuti said actors should stop begging for money, but adopt the habit of saving up to prepare for their future.
She said in the video, “It is good to be good, but for people who don’t prepare for their future, what do they expect to happen? When people see us, they see us as dirty people just because some people did not prepare for their future.
“Instagram is not a place for people to beg other people for money. If we want to help each other, we can use the media to help people. But Yoruba actors should not turn it into something else.
“Some have four wives yet you’re saying the job does not pay because you want people out there to help you. People now disgrace Yoruba actors just because some people keep begging for money on social media.”
The actress further said, “Why are we tarnishing our own image? If you know what some people did with their lives in their younger years, you won’t even help them in their old age. People should work for their future.
“Since we already know that there’s no pension in the acting profession, make use of insurance and save money every month. You create your pension plan yourself. What is the business of TAMPAN with a sick actor?
“Everybody needs money and we are all struggling. Don’t turn the Yoruba film industry into a house for beggars.”
Financial experts speak
Some financial analysts who spoke with this reporter advised actors to, as a matter of importance, have fitting financial plans for their peculiar situations. One of the analysts, who is a professor of Economics at the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, Dr. Abel Awe, advised them to develop a savings and investment culture.
He said, “Many entertainers live on conspicuous consumption. They always like to show off, though they are still struggling. They need to develop a savings and investment culture. Their income is seasonal; so, they need a diversification of revenue so that they wouldn’t depend on acting or the entertainment industry alone. Whatever they make from movies should be invested in other ventures. I’m sure they have talents in other areas. They need sustainable income that can satisfy their needs now and in future.
“Actors should get financial literacy and learn how they can invest in portfolios, bond markets, mutual funds and other products. By doing so, even if they are not getting much from entertainment in a period, their other investments will help them to cushion the effects of inadequate funds which may even have an impact on their health. It is also important for them to save for rainy days.”
Another financial consultant, Peter Kalu, of Kent Financial Services, believes that many of the entertainers are not financially literate.
Kalu stated, “The truth is that many of these entertainers are not financially literate. One should know that being financially literate goes beyond operating a bank account. Being that their pay is not regular, they need to tailor their needs and expenditure according to their peculiar situation. It is important to have a financial consultant who would advise them on the best way to handle their finances. But many of them think they can do it alone.
He stressed the importance of actors having health insurance. He urged them to register with the National Health Insurance Authority because “it is a pool of funds, so when they need to go for treatment, it would reduce the amount of money they would spend.”
He advised them to be careful of the kind of lives they lead.