Film industry commentator seeks medical aid

HARDLY can one find anybody who is conversant with debates on policies affecting the Nigerian motion picture industry who does not know Mr. Yinka Ogundaisi. A writer, filmmaker and marketer, Ogundaisi’s most notable contribution to Nollywood is on the raging issue of film distribution. He, it was who designed the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) new distribution framework, as a consultant to the agency under its immediate-past Director General, Mr. Emeka Mba.

Watching Ogundaisi on his sick bed at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), an observer had said: “Oga, you shouldn’t be here, especially now that the industry is in dare need of people to champion the campaign for a functional distribution policy.” In response, Ogundaisi simply smiled, adjusted himself to the picture frame, apparently to conceal the large plaster spot on his belly-He had just gone through a surgery on hernia, with two more surgeries to go.

Indeed, what a wrong time for the restless, outspoken and articulate tribal-marked man from Oyo State to be bed-ridden. Just last Saturday, Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and her counterpart in Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke, convened a town hall meeting with Nollywood stakeholders to brainstorm on how best to utilize the N3 billion put forward by President Goodluck Jonathan. If Ogundaisi had been well, he would surely have been there, and his voice would have been so loud.

It will be recalled that at a similar meeting convened by filmmaker, Amaka Igwe, a member of the N3 billion committee on film distribution, Ogundaisi was carried by family members to the venue, because he could barely walk. That was before his first surgical operation.

No doubt, his presence at the town hall meeting, could have availed the stakeholders with another review of the workability of the NFVCB distribution framework and provided answers to some of its criticisms. To understand the import of distribution in the numerous problems facing Nollywood, the finance minister had said a large chunk of the Federal Government intervention fund has been earmarked for distribution. This, many have put at N1.5 billion, while other areas like capacity building, creativity and production are to share the second half of the fund.

The health situation with Ogundaisi, producer of Omoge, is not life threatening, but it could still become so, if left unattended. He summarises his predicament: “There are three issues I’m facing; first is hernia, but that has been resolved without even having to cut through my intestine and by removing the hernia, they were able to free the intestine. The other two are the enlarged prostrate, which is normal for anyone my age, and then in treating that, I fell in the premises of Lagos State secretariat and that fall compounded my orthopedic problem, therefore making it impossible for me to get up without aid.”

Ogundaisi is thereby appealing to privileged people and institutions in the society to give him a reason to live. The filmmaker needs 10,000 Pounds, according to a hospital in England and 20,000 Pounds according to a hospital in India. From indications, the old man would need less than N3.5million. This, he says will also cover travel expenses for him and his escort.

He shed more light on his ailment and the approaches of the hospitals in India and London to his case. “My major problem is orthopaedic,” he said. “When I fell, it affected my spine, which invariably compressed my nerves and as such, there’s no regular blood circulation in my legs. Because of that, I am unable to stand up and walk with my legs unaided. This is what the hospital in India would be handling. It has been noted in the various tests that I did, that there are some underlying ailments that need to be cured before I do that. They analyzed my results and diagnosed tumour and said if I don’t tackle it quickly, it could become terminal. The India hospital recommends that I come in for a comprehensive checkup so they will know all that is wrong, the same thing Lagoon hospital, in Lagos said when I first got in.”

Why does he need financial help? Ogundaisi says the atmospheric condition has not been conducive enough for people to earn a living. But perhaps this will appeal to his would be helper better: “My medical condition is not due to reckless living, because I don’t drink or smoke. I don’t crawl at night. I spend my time either reading or writing. I decided to say this, so that people who can address my case can take it seriously.”

He is grateful to the managements of Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) whose widow’s might added up to the cost of the hernia surgery. If he must continue with the other surgeries, he would need help from well-meaning Nigerians and institutions, some of which he had already written to for assistance.

He noted that the affiliation of Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank and the Bank of Industry (BoI) has also made him to appeal to these government banks. He hopes that the managements of these banks will be kind enough to come to his aid.

He pushes his luck further: “I’m appealing to Lagos State government, I grew up and schooled in Lagos safe for the time I went to University of Ibadan and I worked in Lagos as a top business executive from 1980-2006; that is 26 years. On the average, I was paying N1million in tax per annum, about N26 million altogether.”

Ogundaisi is of the opinion that if he gets better, he can still contribute to the income of the state. “I am still good, my kidneys and heart is good. I’m not hypertensive or diabetic. So, if Lagos State helps me, I could still work; pay my tax, besides other areas that I could be of help to the government.”

He is not ruling out the possibility that his home state of Oyo could also contribute to his medical bill. But how relevant has he been to his place of origin? “For the past 30 years, I have been carrying the cultural flag of the state. In fact, one thing that my royal father, Alaafin of Oyo likes about me is the fact that I am always proud of my tribal marks. And you saw it in my film, Omoge that I gave a portion of it to praise my identity. So, Alaafin always hails me and besides that, there are only three actors who have played the Sango character in Nigeria, and I am the last of them. The first one was late King Ojo Ladipo, he was doing it in Yoruba; the second one was Jimi Solanke, who was doing it in English. When Ladipo died, they said I should take up the role, and that was how it became my lot. What I’m saying now is that, for carrying the flag of the state, I am appealing to my people to help me out of my present situation.

There is no doubt that Ogundaisi, would need help from the public, as an entertainer. He may be discharged from the LUTH soon, but he would only be staying at home, unless the surgeries are carried out. And knowing him to be an hyper active person, the situation may devastate him more than imagined.

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