Fresh from his roles in two of the biggest Nollywood movies in recent times, Lion Heart and King Of Boys, Sani Mu’azu, an actor, producer and director, raised the stakes further with his impressive role as a politician in Ishaya Bako’s recently-premiered 4th Republic. In this interview with ADEDAYO ODULAJA, the graduate of Mass Communication and leading light in Kannywood, spoke about Nollywood potential separating fiction from reality regarding leadership roles for women among others.
Which would you refer to as milestones for MOPPAN that you have been involved in as a former president of the association?
I am fulfilled as a former president of MOPPAN because I have raised the bar very high. I organised nothing less than 13 training programmes in partnership with credit worthy organizations such as the British Council, Goethe Institut, American Embassy and the Audio Visual department of the French Embassy. Hundreds of people gained skills in acting, cinematography, sound engineering and design, editing and scriptwriting. I was also successful in exposing filmmakers from the northern part of Nigeria to integrate into the larger industry by participation in festivals and awards. I was responsible for getting MOPPAN registered with the CAC and as a member of its board of trustees, I am really glad that there is continuity from where we stopped.
So what are some of the dreams you have for the movie industry as a whole and how best do you think some of the fiercest challenges can be overcomed?
Dreams? Well, African stories are gradually taking center stage, as we have seen with Black Panther. The world wants to see and appreciate the hidden stories that have not been told, but nobody can capture and give the authentic African narrative other than the African storyteller. I see the Nigerian movie industry playing a leading role in this. I see it as a viable industry that will attract serious investment based on its viability. I see the rise and rise of African pride and confidence from the stories being told by our movies.
There are lots of challenges alright such as funding, standards and piracy but, for once, let us not dwell on these. Let us be optimistic. The government has a great role to play for an enabling environment and I pray that the President will live up to his words and commitment to the development of the industry. He recently gave the Central Bank of Nigeria a matching order to assist with single digit facilities but it remains to be seen if this directive is not merely politicking.
Having been a part of the industry over the decades; do you feel that the industry has evolved enough over the years?
The Nigerian film industry is still in a transformation phase. It is far from where it should be but with the level of investments that are coming and the creative and technical skills that are evolving, we are definitely moving towards the right direction.
What memories does the experience of acting in 4th Republic and especially playing the villain leave you with?
It was fun working in the production, working with a team of professionals most of whom I had worked with or whose works I had admired in the past. It was a reunion of sorts with friends like Bimbo Manuel, Kate Henshaw, Linda Ejiofor, Enyinnaya and my kid brother, Yakubu Mohammed.
It was also an opportunity to get to know Ishaya (Bako), the director, a little closer and understand his work methods. I met new people too, like Ummi the Executive producer.
Given Nigeria’s setting in terms of politics, was it a bit awkward playing the role of a crooked politician?
It is always fun when I play the role of the bad guy. I enjoyed it because it is diametrically opposite my real self. I am a peace and development worker playing the role of a reckless politician who can go to any length to hang on to power.
Given the storyline and your role also, do you feel that Nigeria is ready for a female governor or president?
My role may be fictitious but Nigeria is real. It is a fast changing nation with a lot of people coming to terms with the abilities of women. There are cultures in Nigeria that look down on women okay, but it is also a nation where great women like Dora Akunyili, Okonjo Iweala, Aisha Alhassan, Kemi Adeosun and Hadiza Bala are lately making a statement and a lot of differences. Women and several civil society and NGOs are enshrining gender balance in public spaces now. It is just a matter of time before women take the lead at state and national levels.
As a man, do you feel a woman’s role is limited to certain places and not in politics?
No, I believe intrinsically in the abilities of women. I have met some women that impacted me deeply. I respect them, and my wife, who is my best friend, plays a role beyond my imagination. She has capabilities and she is an equal partner in running our home.
Part of playing the villain is that people would keep comparing your character with reality, what would you say that is different from your character and your reality?
In reality, I don’t act with people. You can easily read me even from my facial countenance, and you can say if I like something or if I don’t. I am easy going, simple and not too forward, but I can be very blunt on issues. On the other hand, the role I played is that of a double-faced politician who will be responsible for killing some people and yet appear on TV condemning the act and paying condolences to the victims’ families. That is far from me as a person.
Would you encourage a little girl to have an ambition to become the next president in Nigeria?
Of course I can encourage a competent young girl to become the next president of Nigeria. I am a proponent of the no- too-young-to-rule movement. Young people are taking over as leaders in so many countries around the world and they are doing a great job of it. It is a job, so the keyword is competence and capability, not just sentiment.
Do you consider Nigeria ready for a female president?
It is a process and I believe that Nigeria is coming to terms with change. Moving to the next level is not just a mantra, it is our new reality. Sooner than we thought.
What would prevent a woman from becoming a president in this country?
Culture and traditions. Nigeria is made up of many cultures that relegated the position of women far below that of men but these beliefs are giving way fast.
Which other projects are you involved in at the moment?
I am always busy, working. Apart from 4th Republic, there are a number of movies such as Make Room and TV serials such as Kwana Casa’in and Bilkisu that are about to make a debut. I am also a media consultant with high level organizations such as WHO which makes me travel a lot to produce documentary films. I am also trying to expand my frontiers beyond production to exhibition. When the rains come, I also do a little bit of farming.
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