Nigerian society hasn’t been fair to us – Zebrudaya
Pioneer comedian and Nigerian entertainment industry icon, Mr. Chika Okpala, popularly known as Zebrudaya, has called on the Federal Government to consider the role of entertainment industry in national development.
Like the biblical aphorism that a prophet does not have honour in his country, he regretted that while key actors were not recognised in Nigeria, they were being celebrated in other countries.
For instance, he said 18 of them were each recently honoured with a plot of land in choice locations by the government of Gambia.
“But generally, I have not seen the Nigerian society being special to us, they don’t even want to know that we exist,” he stressed.
Okpala spoke with THE PUNCH in Abuja, during a press briefing to herald the public presentation of a movie entitled “I Believe”, which starred Desmond Elliot, Patience Ozokwo and other key Nollywood actors, supported by the National Open University of Nigeria.
According to him, the Nigerian government has not been fair to him and some other colleagues who were part of the popular 80s comedy show, “The New Masquerade”.
He said, “I don’t know about the Nigerian society treating me very well; if it is the society of Nigeria I know, nobody thinks of another person. They think of themselves, I have never seen the society of Nigeria coming to say, ‘yes, this is our hero.’
“Even footballers, they have never given kobo to them, except one individual called Prophet T. B. Joshua of The Synagogue Church of All Nations. If he calls you and wants to honour you, he will give you one car and N1 million which Nigeria as a whole cannot do.
“Some of us here, about 18, were called by the government of The Gambia a few months ago and they gave each of us a plot of land in their best choice areas in the GRA. The Gambian government said ‘we appreciate what you are doing in Nigeria. You are not doing it only for Nigeria but for Africa as a whole’. Can you imagine that?
“Nigeria has not given me one plot of land in Abuja, nor have they given me in Lagos, nor have they given me in Enugu, nor have they given me in Awka. But another country, The Gambia has called some of the best actors and actresses we have in Nigeria and honoured us with a plot of land each. And our people are here bickering over little things.”
Okpala regretted that even the suggestion by the former Finance Minister (Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) that the entertainment industry was adding a lot to the Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria, “has been swept aside and thrown away.”
“They don’t want to find out; they know that there is no show that takes place in Nigeria today or gathering that there is no entertainment. They must look for entertainment, yet they don’t want to recognise the entertainment industry,” he lamented.
When asked how he has been surviving, he said, “I am on my own, don’t you see my adverts? Do you want EFCC to go after me? You want to go to EFCC and ask how I survive? The government has not given me kobo oo. You see me do adverts, don’t you? I charge for such adverts.
“We are also trying to see whether we can come back with “The New Masquerade”. We are looking for sponsors who will bear some of the cost, while NTA will just give us airtime. If such things succeed, we will also be compensated.