NO HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS CAN MATCH ME—HILDA DOKUBO
She can be described as the fair skinned goddess of Nollywood that came into the mind of people and left quietly when she was needed most. But Hilda Dokubo believes that the opportunity given to her to serve the people in a different capacity was made possible through the experience she gathered in Nollywood. In this chat with AHAOMA KANU, she discusses her achievements while in government, her fight to eradicate hunger and challenges whoever cares to listen that Hollywood actress are not up to her standards in acting.
What have you been doing lately?
I do something slightly different from entertainment, I train younger people run campaigns on eradication of poverty and hunger. I also run an art school.
What made you run an NGO?
The drive towards helping other people I would say. I was appointed as special adviser to the governor of River state on youths in 2007 and so it opened doors for me to have direct interaction with a lot of young people. As an actress, it is almost near difficulty for you to have that kind of access because there are people out there waiting to be reached but that job provided the opportunity for me to talk with young people who I found wanted to do so many things but they don't know how to do them; they want to be famous and don't know how. Some do not have the opportunity of exploring their potentials. Our educational system was nose diving; people went to school but were not educated. I felt my country has given me so much and it was time for me to give it back so I decided to run a research to find put why young people were getting involved in crime and dropping out from school, the result of that research was what led me into setting up an NGO and gave me four different approaches to help young people.
What were the challenges of coming from Nollywood and holding a political office?
Well I didn't get involved in politics; I just held a political office. My basic challenge was the fact that people did not know whether they were going to see a government official or me. A lot of people came in staring at me and not discussing the main reason they came for in the first place. I also had the challenges of filtering everything you want to say because in the government, you had to sound not exactly like you but like somebody else and I had huge difficulties dealing with that. Another challenge I faced was that as an actress, you take your decisions and go away but it was a different ball game being in government; you had to wait for every other person to see reason along with you or not at all; decisions were not taken based on the importance of the decision but on how every other person other than yourself perceived. You had to wait for them to get to that conclusion and to me, they were delaying action. Another aspect that was very funny to me is that government would use N1 to buy a bottle of coke and then use N1000 to advertise the coke. I did not understand it because we do not do that in Nollywood; in government it was monetary but in Nollywood, it was practical that was a huge challenge for me. I could not cross over like doing things that I wanted so when I could not cross over I had to cross over to the side of running an organization where I can help people dream, realize and use that dream.
As an actress, you used Nollywood as a platform to portray the ills of the society and suddenly you saw yourself in the government, did you find any worries accepting that job and how did you carry people along.
No, I had no problem at all. First and foremost, as an actress and God knows I will die as one, I spent many years being an actress so why should I trade it for something that I did for a few months. I had no problem remaining a mirror to the society, that is who I am and who I will be to the society. I doubt if I am prepared to loose that personality. Leadership is not about being in a position, it is about what you are able to do for the people, it is about impacting lives, it is not a tool for enslaving people; it is a tool for doing things for people. I am a leader just like the little child in the home. We all need to understand that we have a very special role to play in the development of our society, state, and nation.
What were those achievements that you recorded as the special adviser to the government?
I made the young people to voice themselves in ways they were not able to do before I came in and it was called River State Youth Parliament where young people had to look at parliament for themselves and come up with their own articulation of politics. It became youth friendly; they could tell you what each article represents. I also taught them to look at what government says they have given to them so they were able to either accept or reject it. They were able to pick up. I also ensured that during my short stay, young people understood the meaning of the International Youth Day and that young people celebrated Children's day. It took a while at the beginning; they did not understand what the young people were doing so by the end of that year they found out that the children were already speaking for themselves. Another thing that I did which they actually needed to know was that young people found out that they were the government; it was not the governor or minister or ambassador that were the government of the state. I was one government official that did not have any protocol; my door was opened anytime. I got to my office before 8a.m and sat in the office till 6p.m every day of the period I was there excluding Sundays; even on Saturdays, I went to work so that young people would have access to me and till tomorrow I have earned myself a name "Mama" which everybody calls me but at least young people knew that they could speak to somebody who would listen and did listen.
Looking at Nollywood when you started and now, do you think that Nollywood has gotten to that standard we ought to have gotten?
That industry started out of nothing and when you do anything out of nothing and it grows at the pace that we have grown in silence, we should applause ourselves. In terms of growth, I will like to ask are we going forward or backward? Our story line are not improving so much, the story we had before now were storylines that people could identify with especially in the Nigerian society. The story lines that we have today are story lines that are borrowed from some where. In terms of content of our story lines, I think that we still have to go back to our history book to people who are willing to tell us real things; we need to also do a bit of research because we have left that part out for some reasons that I am not sure of. In terms of technicality, I think we are trying to catch up with the trend because today Nollywood is shooting on HD and all that but we do not have it right because it is still a growing industry and very young, we cannot measure it with any other yardstick except with the Nigerians yardstick other wise we will kill ourselves. I think that we have fared on well and if we give ourselves an opportunity to grow and see the essence of art and not just see arts for arts sake, if we begin to see it as a tool for changing the situation around us and developing our nation; if we begin to look at it in that aspect then maybe we will do better jobs than we are doing right now. If you look at the number of people that Nollywood has been able to create jobs for and the number of people that is has been able to sustain within the period that Nollywood started, you will rightly believe that we have done well. Nollywood is the second highest employer of youth labour and the best paid.
Presently, NACA Award, AMAA Award and recently Zeb Ejiro introduced Nollywood foundation, how do you think this will impact positively on Nollywood so that we might get to where we ought to be?
Sometimes there are rewards and sometimes there are awards and sometimes they help you grow while other times they kill you. I am saying this because when people applaud you when you have done badly then you will never know you can do better but when people applaud you for doing very well then you are challenged and do better. It depends on the reason why they are setting up these awards; are they setting it up as machineries to make money or are they setting it up to reward good actors? Whatever it is should be aimed at adding value to the society, I think in a way, it helps the industry because I think that some people are stars to win these awards, some people invest a lot of time and energy into doing a good job.
Not much is done in Nollywood as regards to doing personality movies like Dele Giwa, Obafemi Awolowo why is Nollywood not doing movies on this personality.
I have mentioned earlier that we all need to give ourselves the opportunity to research which may make us believe that our writers are not doing proper research. For instance, if I am writing a script on Obafemi Awolowo, I will find a man who looks like him and speak like him or I will train the man who looks like him to be able to act and speak like him. You would need somebody that was close to him to tell you special things about him. Presently in Nollywood we do not like the doing things properly because everybody in Nollywood is a trader. Anybody who is an investor in Nollywood is a trader; they all want immediate returns, everybody wants to shoot in a week run up location and bring out something they call a movie.
Do you think that is the right time to do a movie?
Obviously not. As a performer, you need at least a week to be able to understand your script, you need time to read your script over and over and then read it aloud to your hearing and begin to internalize your role, then you are able to bring out the script in term of reaction. It is not what we do on the spot which is what we do now; any script that I do after rehearsals comes out better than the one I do without rehearsals. But people are not willing to invest time they are in a hurry and just want to sell their CDs that is the problem; the economic situation in the country does not help.
Can you still remember your first movie in Nollywood?
My first movie in terms of shooting was Jezebel and in terms of release was Evil Passion.
What year was that?
What would you say is the mileage you have gained as an actress over the years?
The first thing that I gained as an actress is the fact that I am sound mentally; I am able to read between your lines and read your lips. I can tell your mood without you telling me, I can do this with ease. It also brought me fame and fortune and brought good will my way but the most important thing is that I have remained me.
Have you ever collected a script because the pay was good?
Never! If I collect a script for good pay and I read through the script and it is rubbish, I will call you up the next morning to come and take your script back. What will my late teacher, Prof. Ola Rotimi say in his grave when he spent six years of his life moulding me?
Despite the volume of work that is produced in Nollywood, we have not really made international film festivals, what do you think needs to be done to get this international recognition?
We do not shoot in the right format that can be produced internationally; we do not shoot on celluloid. Shooting 35mm is expensive and we do not even have the studios to process the pictures. As soon as we shoot them in Nigeria, we will need to go a better studio the closest is South Africa. A lot of times when they give the outline of what they expect, we don't meet them because they want a script that tells your culture and we spend a lot of time trying to be Hollywood instead of being ourselves as Nigerians. Very few film makers know what they have shot, whether it is documentary or not, these are few of the reasons why we do not make film festivals.
For sometime now Hollywood has come to Africa we have seen films like Bamako, Blood Diamond why has Nigeria not been choosing for a location scene?
We as Nigerians have not been able to represent Nigerian as a place where anybody can come and do good movies. Once upon a time there was Mr. Johnson, this movie was shot in Nigeria. The people who were in charge of the movies, late Ogunde, presented Nigeria as place where people could come and do movies. We have not done that and it is not too late. I will never give up on this nation because we can still do it. But if Hollywood comes, are we prepared? Because if they come, they will think that there will be time for rehearsals, are we prepared because the average Nigerian will probably get there and they will give him the script and say call time is by 1 p.m and he will not understand. There are only few professionals who know the meaning of call time. We need to prepare ourselves; we are not prepared yet when we are prepared they will comes.
In terms of preparation what do you think is the involvement of government in all these?
I never want government in anything; they have the kind of help that has only been able to ruin. All over the world, entertainment is a private sector thing. The only thing that the government has to do is to create an enabling environment that allows you to practice. Like when you want to do a story on doctors and nurses, you do not even get a government hospital to use in doing the movie; if you want to do a movie on table tennis and you can not even find a table tennis court to do it. We see NYPD on cast; it is because the New York Police Department (NYPD) has given them permission to do that. Right now, even the Film and Video Censors Board that they have set up is not doing anything other than collecting money. In Nigeria we all know but nobody asks. Many people will tell you what is wrong in the system, things out, what do we get out of this? Nobody will give you practical answers.
How can the government bring enabling environment in terms of
First of all the policy we have about copyright is not right; if I find you infringing on my copyright on say my movie for instance, I should be authorized to arrest with the police and when all the offender has to pay is N5000, there is a problem. Again, for you to sanction my work I have to pay why won't I tell you how you to classify my work.
With the exception of RMD, Olu Jacobs and Eni Onoja just a few Nollywood actors have made it to Hollywood, do you think it is a conspiracy or are we not that good?
We are good and it is not a conspiracy, it is just an opportunity issue. Different people have different dreams and they will get to where they are destined to get. Hollywood is a yard stick because it started before every body else other wise I do not see any Hollywood actress who will beat me today; you hold the script and I hold mine and I will promise you that I will give you a run on every line make my people very proud. What I will say is that we need to set the record straight in terms of creating an environment that encourages the industry and that is not the work of anybody but the government that is in charge of the script.
Nigeria's image has been greatly dented by the militants in the Niger Delta don't you think that we can use Nollywood as a plat form to tell stories better.
If we do that the same government that we speak about will ban the movie; they have banned several other movies in the past and nothing will stop them from banning this as well but I want you also to know that whatever the world knows about Nigeria is not what any ambassador has given but what Nollywood, Nigerian music industry and Nigerian footballers, have done for this country that is the only thing that encourages anybody about this country. We are the major image makers and ambassadors of this country, Nollywood is a good platform for us to say anything that we want. Nigeria's image is not dented by militants; Nigeria's image is dented by the activities of criminals. The Nigerian government hides these criminals under the tag 'militants,' they are not militants. Even though criminals are militants, these so called freedom fighters are greedy criminals. What is their quest? Who are they fighting for? Who are they trying to defend? What are they defending? From what they have done so far, from the amount of money they have received and from what is going on in their community you will know that these people are not fighting for anything but their pocket so I plead with you media people to please stop referring to them as militants because that is not who they are. Also help me tell the Nigerian government that that when you seat and discuss with people that you call common criminals, you endorse common criminal. What ever bad picture is being created is created by the Nigerian government and the criminals that they say are common criminals.
Within three years Nigerian music industry land mark achievement in MTV award, when do you think that Nollywood can win an Oscar?
I do not know when but I think that Nollywood can win an Oscar; it is possible. But let me also tell you something about music, it is a universal thing you, do not need to hear what I am singing, you just need to listen to the rhythm and enjoy it. It is different in the movie industry, some of us who produce cannot classify what we have shot. If we can and also shoot in the right form, we will be able to present them any where. So you cannot win an award if you have not put in anything; the people who won MTV Base award won it because their songs were on MTV. When we begin to produce our movies in its originality and in the right format that are internationally accepted, we will win.
What is your dream for Nollywood?
My dream for Nollywood is that someday we will see ourselves as the mirror of the society and an agency for national development.
What role has your family played
Huge, my family is my major support they are there all the time, they are there when I am on the road, and they have always been there.
What is the composition of your family?
We are six, my mother's children three boys, three girls and my children I have two boys.
How soon are we going to be seeing your face in Nollywood?
The truth is that I am training younger ones and I am also moving on to television to do talk shows. Most importantly, right now, I am turning myself into the people's voice that is speaking up against hunger and poverty; I am the ambassador focused on eradicating hunger and poverty, that is my cross for now knowing that we have to keep creating strategies and concept that will help people move above living below one salary thing. They should live properly and begin to make money. I do not know when I will be coming back to Nollywood but I also know that I have already made up my mind that every year I will do like three or four movies but to come back like I want will be stretching myself too far.