by Charles Novia
The invitation cards for the first Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards were as much in demand as one would wish for an oil block from President Jonathan. And if getting an oil block is so easy in Nigeria, then it means those of us who received the beautiful and well-packaged jewel- encrusted invitations with an ATM-cloned VIP card attached, got our ‘allocations’ for the event quite easily. One good thing the card did for whoever got it; it made one feel special and honoured. On that level of planning, the organisers deserve an ‘A plus’
The night was one of glamour,glitz, fun and little screw-ups: at least to the discerning eye present in the hall. I was among many of the invited guests from Nigeria and other parts of Africa; a mix of the artistes, business men, government officials and perhaps the usual event crashers. Almost everyone present looked dapper and dazzling, with fashion designers having a field day for this event, I can bet my last buck on that!
The venue, Eko Hotel and Suites, was the perfect event centre for this show. The ambience of hospitality could be felt as guests trooped in. There was much mingling and lots of greetings and hugging going on with almost everybody looking so resplendent, it seemed surreal!
With guests seated inside the hall, the show kicked off at exactly 7pm. I must commend the MNET team and the broadcast crew for the strict time-keeping. There was no silly ‘African Time’. It showed the guys meant business and those who came late were either asked to lounge a bit at the built-in bar at the foyer or had to wait a bit for the commercial breaks before they were allowed entry.
I’m sure millions of people watched the live broadcast on satellite television so I need not explain much. However, inside the hall, what you saw in your homes must have been a well-packaged broadcast? Because I was following trends on twitter and facebook about the live show and many people were twitting that it was ‘like the Oscars in Africa!’. Really?
I will point out the good, the bad and the ridiculous in my opinion of the whole show in no particular order; irrespective of whose ox is gored.
I got into the hall about ten minutes to the live broadcast and sat down in the middle row, facing the stage. I do not know if the audience in the hall were told by the floor managers before I got in that being a live show, they should expect a long stretch of breaks in between the show which to the viewers at home was packaged as commercial breaks with sponsors messages. To many in the hall, there were murmurs about what was going on during the first couple of breaks. Many in the hall thought there were hitches in the planning until they were brought up to speed by the very talented IK, the presenter, who mercifully did a few stand -up acts for the audience to keep them concentrated on the mood of the live broadcast. I would have thought that in between those breaks, for the benefit of the ‘studio audience’, some three minute entertainment should have been arranged.
The performance by Femi Kuti ,who was the first musician of the night, was quite pulsating. Some who sat next to me wondered why Femi Kuti would start a show of such magnitude with a lewd song like ‘Bang, Bang, Bang’. Thinking about it, I think it was better he sang ‘Bang, Bang, Bang’ than the politically-charged songs like ‘I sorry for Nigeria’ which would have been disastrous and out of place, being that the show was being broadcast to fifty-two countries! I have seen Femi live on stage many times over the past twenty years and he’s always a great performer. However, at the awards, he seemed restrained and lacked the energy his stagecraft is known for. It was as if, true to his song, he had been ‘banged’ out of his performance mojo. He just gave an average performance and left. The guy next to me whispered; ‘Na so? Dem pay am. He ‘Bang, Bang, Bang’ collect money and waka go?’. I didn’t know what to make of that statement but Femi Kuti made amends at the end of the show when he came back to perform.
The trio of the Federal Ministers, High Chief Edem Duke, Olusegun Aganga and Diezani Allison-Madueke, all gave a good account of themselves in their speeches. Judging them on composure and oratory, Duke and Aganga were masterful and inspiring, although High Chief Duke took a bit longer than necessary. Mrs Allison-Madueke read a good speech like a trained newscaster on behalf of the President of the Federal Republic. Someone could tell her that a little smile here and there won’t hurt her appearance in such events. There’s a difference between reading a speech at a Petroleum Forum and reading one at an Entertainment Award Night. In the former, one can be all sour-puss and scowls but for an event like the AMVCA, a loosening up of the facial muscles is required! Duke and Aganga did very well in that regard. None-the-less, the three Ministers showed last night why they are assets to the Presidency. Some other government representatives would have fumbled with long, boring and drone-like speeches.
I didn’t know what to make of Inyanya’s performance which seemed tepid but Tiwa Savage and Banky W were quite good. Especially Banky W. Almost all the ladies in the hall sang his new song along with him. He still knows how to pull the heartstrings of the ladies, our Banky! Olu Jacobs gave a very inspiring and motivational speech when he received his special recognition award. Its a well deserved honour to an actor who has left his large footprints on the sands for others to step into.
Curiously, no one seemed to remember or even mention the late Justus Esiri all through the event. Only Obi Emelonye did that at the tail end of the awards in his speech. One would have thought that with the late Esiri being one of the staple faces on Africa Magic Channel, just a little mention by the organisers would have been perfect?
Ivie Okujaye got the Industry Trailblazer Award. I know Ivie and I have been following her body of work in the past couple of years, which is quite promising. No doubt, since winning the final edition of the Amstel Malta Box Office reality show, Ivie has proved that she’s one for the stars. However, I find her winning an Industry trailblazer award purportedly sponsored by the same Amstel Malta she once proxy-represented, a bit contrived. I guess the sponsors of that category made their choice and who better to give than one of their own? Just a hypothesis here. But notwithstanding, Ivie is one to watch out for. With the right script and direction, she will go places. Her acceptance speech was quite confident and from the heart. Congrats, Ivie.
Mercy Johnson deservedly won one of the ‘Best Actress in…’ Awards. Something tacky happened there. Patience Ozokwor, took the long walk through the aisle to the stage to pick up the award on Mercy’s behalf. Everyone left the stage and IK continued his presentation.
Then, the stuff unscripted bloopers are made of happened. A lone figure of a lady walked up the stage interrupting IK, who hid his fluster with a Professional quip as she walked up to him. It was Tricia Esiegbe, actress and Presenter of ‘Bold Faces’. ‘ Mercy asked me to accept the award on her behalf and to dedicate…blah, blah, blah’ she said. What the friggin’ flakes? Now, Tricia is my pal but I don’t understand why she had to do that, especially after the show had just moved to another segment. Tricia, if Mercy Johnson send you message, you nor see say dem don take the award on her behalf? You go tell me later weda na by force to deliver message or say you just wan be show face for telly so dat Mercy fit see say you true true deliver am! Next time, its advisable for Tricia and perhaps fastidious ‘on-behalf-of… friends’ of absent awardees to read the mood and timing before hopping on stage.
And IK! The most exciting, composed, articulate and engaging emcee and OAP of his time. The dude knows his onions! He makes us so proud when he ideally represents on continental platforms. His female co-presenter, Vinmai, was good too. She was adequately rehearsed for the show and gave a confident performance. Those two did quite well. Kudos to them.
Majid Michel and Stephanie Okereke tried to pull off a comic banter when called to present their awards. Majid, it didn’t ‘wek’ for me. Sometimes, actors don’t know when to draw the line between acting on screen and acting on stage in ceremonies like this. It would have been more dignified for Majid to be all cucumber cool and present, rather than trying to leave Stephanie in the lurch, which he actually did as they both were called out!
One repititive phrase kept ringing throughout the show from most presenters; ‘You didn’t come for rehearsals’. Really? Must you tell the world that? Aren’t some secrets of the show sacrosanct? The viewers are supposed to guess if the show was unscripted and perfect. Telling them that someone never showed up for rehearsals is so ‘akamu-ish’, depending on how you like your akamu! And if someone didn’t show up for such rehearsals, why wasn’t a replacement immediately used? *(whispering: this doesn’t happen at the Oscars!)*
The fellow who presented with Genevieve Nnaji, Tony, either out of excitement or over-familiarity, could not keep his hands off her shoulder or her waist when he did lower them. Made me wonder if he was living out a dream or a wish. Genevieve gave a cheesy ‘You all in the audience look beautiful’ or something close to that. Didn’t we all give our same cheesy applause! In fairness to the lady though, she looked beautiful and dignified. A worthy screen star; if only for looks and talent.
Now, if I wrote a bit about Omotola and what my thoughts are about her outfit, many people would draw allusions from my ‘fight’ with her as misconstrued by many, in my book. So, I am not going to write that I honestly thought that her beautiful dress made her look fat on stage. Beautiful as always but it seemed her body was popping out at the seams. I won’t write that. I would only write that she’s still much of a fantastic actress any day, in my opinion. Would that take the sting out of the erroneous impression that when it comes to Omotola, I am sometimes ‘The Real Mean’ if we face the ‘reality’ of it? Did anyone see my wink right now? She’s one of my favourite actresses though. Honestly.
But I digress.
The perfect definition of style and charisma of the night for me, was RMD and Rita Dominic. RMD’s jacket? Very Cool. He has always been a power dresser and Rita has always been a lady of high style. They were both composed and assured on stage. A good pairing for presentation. I literally screamed the hall down when OC Ukeje won the ‘Best Actor’ award. I have always believed in the prowess of OC since I judged him as a Judge in the Amstel Malta Box Office Season 2 reality where he was a contestant and he won. He’s the lead actor in my new movie ‘Alan Poza’ and one thing I can say is that I have seen the positive future of Nollywood right now. And OC Ukeje is the power artiste of his generation and that future. A worthy actor and very, very hard-working and interpretative in roles.
I must commend the organisers and sponsors of the award for the initiative. It raises the profile of the African film industry and also has added to the reward system of the larger film industry. Every penny spent on the award was worth it. Being the first, I’m very sure it will get better in years to come. I must note too that for those people who still don’t believe in Nollywood, what further proof do you need that we are going up? Within twenty years, an industry springs up and now has all sectors of the country jostling to be part of it and you think we are joking? With such support structures like AMVCA, AMAA, AFRIFF and many others, Nollywood will reach its zenith.
Despite my reservations and candid criticism of President Jonathan’s policies in the past, there’s no disputing the fact that he’s the first President ever to firmly believe in and support Nollywood. That support draws ancillary goodwill from other sectors of the country. And that is what a cultural industry like Nollywood deserves.
The AMVCA was a night of Screen Magic. Next time though, the organisers must wave their wands better. However, this first edition was a good ‘Presto’!