We’ve had our issues with Omoni Oboli in the past. However, whatever annoyance we felt at her for that incident has largely faded. Omoni’s actions were purely a symptom of a larger scourge in the industry. So while we had to call her out on that, we can move past it.
However, Omoni Oboli is also symptomatic of another problem in the industry. One which we cannot move past just yet. One for which she is being punished. One for which we think it might be a good thing she is being punished.
Why? Because somebody had to suffer for this sooner or later. Last year, writer Jude Idada accused Oboli of stealing his script without his permission. The backstory is considerable, but the crux of it is that Idada wrote a script for Oboli, which she neither paid for, not confirmed she would even be shooting. This script would go on to become Okafor’s Law, and Idada would only find out about their going ahead to shoot through the grapevine. This came after Idada had noticed similarities between a treatment he wrote for Being Mrs. Elliot and the final movie that was released – with neither permission nor payment sorted out. Given that Idada had already had this experience with her on Being Mrs. Elliot, he tried to get her to sign a contract for Okafor’s Law, which she delayed. Somewhere along the line, he apparently secured a trademark for the movie, which is how Oboli found herself last night in a situation where her film premiere was stopped right as it was about to happen. Sounds like the plot of an entire movie on its own.
But here’s the thing. For too long, people in positions of power in the industry have taken advantage of people lower on the rungs – from owing money and refusing to pay to outright stealing of intellectual property. It’s unfortunate that Omoni Oboli had to be the scapegoat, but whatever losses she suffers will just have to be collateral damage for the greater good of the Nigerian film industry as a whole.
It’s especially shameful given that the accusations were made public over 6 months ago, yet Ms. Oboli went full steam ahead with promotion of the film, very nearly going ahead to release it. Also, not only was there was no concerted attempt on the part of the producers of this film to either settle this issue amicably with the accuser or clear the air, but Oboli actively ignored all attempts on anyone’s part to reach out to her about this. That sort of brazen disregard, the one that says accusations of intellectual property theft are not even worth responding to, is so commonplace in the industry that we are not surprised she did it. It’s par for the course. So much so that she probably had a reasonable expectation she would get away with it. Most people do, anyway, as the exploitation tends to be of people who lack either the patience, the knowledge, or the resources to seek the sort of legal action that has brought Oboli here.
But Idada clearly didn’t. We have no idea how far he’s willing to take this, or what will come of the situation. The court has only issued an injunction, after all. Proof still has to be provided. Allegations have to be confirmed. Omoni Oboli could walk away from this unscathed. She could even be proved to be the honest party here. But the events that have played out so far should serve as a lesson to everyone.
It’s a sad state of affairs, but if this is what it takes to get other people to sit up, so be it. Hopefully other people in the industry are paying attention.