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20 Years Of Promoting Nollywood Films, African Music Culture In Europe, Isaac Izoya Speaks

By Fred Iwenjora
Interviews 20 Years Of Promoting Nollywood Films, African Music Culture In Europe, Isaac Izoya Speaks
JUN 3, 2022 LISTEN

In the past 20 years, award winning Safety and Cultural Ambasador Isaac Izoya has worked extremely hard to make a name for himself as chief promoter of Nigerian films stars, African music and culture across the entire EU. With his organisation Ehizoya Golden Entertainment and its yearly cultural Integration shows which see Nollywood stars and musicians touring European cities like Berlin, Essen, Amsterdam, Paris, Athens, Thesalonika, Torino, Malaga and a host of other cities meeting face to face with their Europen based fans since 2002, Izoya has soldiered on even without support from Nigeria and corporate entities. The cultural shows later grew into Nollywood film festival Germany (NFFG) and its sister event Nollywood Europe Golden Award (NEGA), Frankfurt based Izoya here speaks with FRED IWENJORA on the journey so far, the challenges along the way and on the coming big event of the 20 years anniversary of the organisation.

There’s so much excitement in the air about the 20th anniversary of your promotion of Nigerian/african arts and culture via Nigerian films and music in Europe: Let’s talk about this year’s shows and expectations?

This year event is very significant to us as it coincides with our 20 years anniversary. We have gone extra mile to make it a success coupled with the heavy laden support of the CG Ambassador Wahab Akande, Ethiopian Airlines, State of Hessen Ministry of Arts and Culture, Nigeria In Diaspora Organization NIDO, Nigeria media practitioners across Europe and in. We are hoping for a good festival.

Looking at the number of hotels booked by fans from America, Canada, UK, Denmark, Finland, Swiss, Paris and across Germany already, we are very optimistic that we are going to put smile on people`s faces once again.

Above all, our choice of the stars is special. 11 musicians, 8 Nollywood stars and stakeholders with one outstanding comedian to rock the festival

We also have two journalists from Nigeria to report the events.

In a nut-shell, the expectations are very high and we just hope for the best as we are stepping into record book for one more time because “THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!”..

Try to recall the early beginnings so we can follow its history

Wow! My humble beginning was far back 2002, the days of VHS tape and of course, very low quality of Nollywood productions which has been our major connection to our continent and culture.

I am talking about the time with no social media, almost zero internets in Nigeria and phone possibilities. I mean the days of prevalent negative reporting about Nigeria coupled with derogatory Western media common documentary about my darling continent, Africa.

In midst of these constraints, Ehizoya Golden Entertainment was born far back in 2002 and still waxing stronger to the glory of God.

What inspired you to venture into this challenging field?

I was inspired by the Love for my country culture and image in particular and the entire African continent in general. I was moved to tell opposite stories of the Western media betrayal of Africa because video doesn`t lie. Though we tried with magazine reports by African Editors once in every two months, certainly, these ideas were not enough to counter the daily hundreds and thousands of powerful daily newspapers or powerful satellite television stations dishing out wrong stories about Africans in the West.

I was moved to begin to counter some of these reports with Nollywood films. I wanted to begin to use films as the basic instrument to educate the West, especially the students about the developments in Africa that after all, we are not a forgotten black continents as the western media portrayed us to be. The quest for that gave birth to the production of SINNERS IN THE HOUSE, a movie which was the first Nollywood movie partly shot in Germany and Nigeria and the first ever Nollywood movie ever premiered in Europe with top Nollywood stars that produced, directed and starred in the movie present. The event happened with several Africa Ambassadors, the then Ghana Airlines Managing Director and of course Nollywood fans across Germany that showed up in Berlin, Germany for the historic event.

The excitement of meeting Nollywood stars for the very first time by many is a picture I can never forget.

Now that your organization is 20 yrs, how do u feel?

It is like a dream come true! A practical reality of our Motto; “THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!”. Despite all the obstacles, we are still there. Especially, when I recall how many people met in our shows and later got married and how our movies and shows have helped promote integration and multicultural vision across Europe. That is our greatest source of inspiration and happiness.

What were your basic challenges in doing this?

Lack of Sponsorship! That was and is still the major hurdle. I learnt from the early stage that I have sponsorship challenges to battle with despite the great Idea of image cleansing for both my host country Germany and country of origin Nigeria. I learnt the hard way and that gave birth to our Motto – “THE SHOW MUST GO ON!” whether the Devil likes it or not.

Ironically, another challenge is the Nigerian people with the PHD – Pull Him Down syndrome. I recall that some Nigerians approach the same stars that we have promoted and advertised, collected their details and applied for visas for them in same German Consulate in Lagos to cancel the tour without my awareness. Only a few days for visa appointments, they wrote the Mission for cancellation of the event and requested the consulate to return their passports.

When the mission called me to discuss the cancelation I am left in total shock. I was shocked to my toes of such wickedness by fellow Nigerians. I also recall in those good old days without social media with only analog posters and flyers promotions alone, some guys will be moving from shops to shops pulling down our posters just to kill our shows. What`s their reasons you certainly want to know. Isaac always delivers on promises and we must let him fail and crash. To their greatest surprise, The Show is still goes on.

When did you triumph if any?

The meaning of the word triumph for me is been able to make people happy and change the narrative about Africa with the promotion of Nollywood movies in this part of the world. We have taken jobs from negative documentary TV Channels about Africa that specialized on that. Above all, we have contributed immensely to the integration and Inter-cultural relationships within the entire EU and Africa than any other organization without huge sponsors since 20 years. The wrong impression about Germany and Nigeria has changed a great deal in both countries courtesy of our relentless promotions since day one.

The first shows….who funded it?

I funded it all with my hard earned money and of course, with few artistes that assisted me by paying for their flight tickets. I don`t want to remember the huge losses in all. But I refused to give up till date.

So you mean you have never been supported and sponsored?

In our early days, Ghana Airlines stood by us in flights sponsorship after our first show that impressed the then General manager who honoured our invitation by attending the show. Like I said before, some artistes appreciated our efforts in taking care of their flights tickets when the going got tough. But I will always be grateful to all past Nigeria and Germany Consul Generals and Ambassadors that served in Germany from the days of Ambassador Baba Wakil since 2002 till date with His Excellency, CG, Amb Wahab Akande and those that also served in German consulate, Lagos and German Embassy in Abuja. They have all been there for us giving us support morally, diplomatically and otherwise. They have always been source of inspiration to us. We thank God that we never disappointed any of the Mission till date and will never. We have been able to prove to so many Nigerians that both Missions are there to assist you if only your records are clean.

Since I moved down to Frankfurt am Main from Berlin, Frankfurt based Hessen State Ministry of Arts and Culture (Kulturamt der Stadt Frankfurt am Main), Ethiopian Airlines, IrabTV among others have been outstanding in their relentless support to see the continuity of our Nollywood events.

Like you know, a tree cannot make a forest, for that, I say Kudos to Ehizoya Golden Entertainment e.V team of volunteers both in Nigeria and Europe for their outstanding sacrifices and resilience towards the success so far. Not everyone will spend their precious time and hard earned money in organizing a non profitable event for so long if not for the passion and love for our cultural heritage. It has not been easy I must confess considering the financial constraints due to lack of viable sponsors. “Not again! This is the last event”. This has always been our submission after counting our losses annually. Ironically, passion won`t let you rest, after some few months, we`ll be calling each other again requesting for a date for the next event to enable us plan our annual holidays at work. It`s funny how time flies and here we are counting 20 years in cultural promotions in this part of the world. It`s a good record. We thank God for life.

You have promoted many artistes too many to count.. could you make a roll call?

Hahahahaha! Roll call? They are “too numerous to mention” according to late veteran, Justus Esiri of blessed memory in my first Nollywood movie SINNERS IN THE HOUSE in 2002.

I always summarized it with almost all A-List stars in Nigeria, be it Nollywood, Music or comedy. Almost any top artistes you could think of must have made our trip. Except If you insist.

Yes! I insist, please, name the few ones you can remember now without looking into your computer.

Well, funny enough like a powerful magnetic force, we have been able to pull the crème de la crème of industries across the globe to Berlin and later Frankfurt, Germany for our annual events.

Some of the artistes who have benefited on our early days Europe tours include prominent Nollywood icons; Patience Ozokwor a.k.a Mama G, Ramsey Nouah, Jim Iyke, Jackis Appiah, Mercy Johnson, Nadia Buari, Emeka Ike, Benedict Johnson, Charles Inojie,, Ngozi Ezeonu, Francis Duru, Empress Njamah, Nkeiruka Sylvanus, Jim Iyke, Desmond Elliot, Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme a.k.a Aki and PawPaw, John Okafor (a.k.a. Mr Ibu), Victor Osuagwu (a.k.a.One Dollar), Francis Duru, Bishop Okon, Cynthia Agholor and a host of others. For the come dians, we have had; Bright Okpocha, popularly known as Basket Mouth, Julius Agwu, Francis Agoda a.k.a I GoDye, Ogbolosingha, Sheddi Baba, Maleke, Gordon, Gandoki,(Kennedy Uyi Oviahon R.I.P)

Musians include: Timaya, Kiss Daniel, 2Baba, Don VS, Olu Maintain aka Yahoozee, Nigga Raw, J. Martins, Kingsley Elikpo aka DJ Zeez, Bernard Ohenhen, Big Ben, Deacon/Mrs Palmer Omoruyi and Maco Rasto mention only but a few. This record has remained unbroken by any African cultural promoter in the EU till date.

For our guests in no particular order, among whom are Senator Donzella James of Atlanta Georgia, USA, Hollywood film maker Queen Blessing Ose Itua PHD – Good will Ambassador At-Large to the United Nations, His Excellency, Ambassador Rimdap (rtd), His Excellency Ambassador Ejinaka John (rtd), His Excellency, Hon. Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, H. E, Lt. Gen. F. G. Sibamba, the then Zambia Ambassador to Germany, H.E, Mr. R. I. Alhassan, the then Ghana Ambassador to Germany, CDA, H. E, Baba Wakil then Nigeria acting Ambassador to Germany, Nigeria Ambassador to Greece, H.E, Prof, S.O Agbi PhD, Prof. Andrew Haruna, now the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Gashua, Yobe State, Nigeria and top Africa film and music industry mega stars and Europe based stars to name but a few have all honoured our invitations to Germany to grace our events.

What about the awards; whom and whom has received Nollywood Europe Golden Award (NEGA)?

Several people including star artistes, business men and women, leaders, diplomats and several culture journalists both in Nigeria and in Europe. It is a long list ooo.

LIST OF (SOME) PAST RECIPIENTS OF NOLLYWOOD EUROPE GOLDEN AWARDS - NEGA;

NOLLYWOOD STARS: (ACTOR/PRODUCERS/DIRECTORS)

CHARLES INOJIE (Actor/Director)

ZIK ZULU

MONALISA CHINDA

JACKIE APPIAH (Ghana Actress)

DOUBLE A ENTERTAINMENT (HOLLAND)

PATIENCE OZOKWO (aka Mama G)

RAMSEY NOUAH

EMEKA IKE

COSSY OJIAKO

BISHOP IMAN OKON

QUEEN BLESSING EBIGIESON

AGHOLOR CYNTHIA

NADIA BUARI – Ghana Actress

LANCELOT ODUWA (Producer/Director)

OSUAGWU VICTOR IFEANYICHUKWU (aka One Dollar)

OKAFOR ZIK ZULU (2012 Association of Movie Producers - President)

EMELONYE OBI, (Producer/Director; United Kingdom)

OGUNJIOFOR OKECHUKWU POLYCARP (Produce of Nollywood 1st movie)

WERNER DOROTHEE Berlin, Germany

TONY MOFE – (Gandoki – Standup Comedian)

Dr. QUEEN BLESSING O. ITUA PHD – (Hollywood Star, Author and Chief of Staff to Senator D. James, USA)

POLITICAL & DIPLOMATIC FIGURES;

HIS EXCELLENCY, AMBASSADOR ABDUL BIN RIMDAP retd London, UK

HIS EXCELLENCY, AMBASSADOR. JOHN CHIKA EJINAKA retd. Frankfurt, Germany & New York USA

HIS EXCELLENCY, AMB HABIB BABA HABU New York retd

HER EXCELLENCY, SENATOR DONZELLA JAMES, (Democratic senator representing Metropolitan Atlanta's 35th District of Georgia),

SIR MIKE MBAMA OKIRO IGP rtd, CFR, NPM, mni.Chairman

MRS CHARITY OBUAH – Humanitarian/ Orphanages Foundation

MR .UMEJURU ISAAC – Peace Advocate

CHIEF ONYEMA ANTONY AJIDUAH - London UK

CHIMEZIE EBI – Youth Empowerment

BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR!

DR. DONALD PETERSON“CEO Richfield Group - Abuja

DR. PAULYN JANSEN (CEO AYF, Bonn, Germany)

DR. VICTOR NJINMAH OTUNBA (Group Chairman at Njinmah Foundation, Germany)

BENJAMIN JAMES (Hoffenheim Jr Team Bundesliga Football Coach - Germany)

STEVE OLU (CEO - Vigiscope EK GmbH, Germany)

ALHAJI MONSURU ADELEKAN – Excellence in Humanitarian Services

ROSALYN DRESSMAN (President African Union Tide, Dortmund, Germany)

MUSICIANS:

INNOCENT IDIBIA (aka 2Face/2Baba)

KISS DANIEL – Musician

DON VS – Musician - Italy

EHIMARE FESTUS EROMOSELE. G-Worldwide Label Dirtor

LOUIZA WILLIAMS – Kiss daniel manager

LOVE ITOYA – Musician, Greece

OMOROGBE EFE – 2Baba Manager

JOURNALISTS;

IWENJORA FREDRICK OBIORA: (Vanguard Newspaper, Lagos, Nigeria)

SHIABU HUSSEINI: (Guardian Newspaper, Lagos, Nigeria)

EMEDOLIBE NGOZI ERASMUS: - (Mirror Newspaper, Lagos, Nigeria)

AKANDE OLUSEGUN VICTOR: (The Nation Newspaper, Lagos, Nigeria)

NWAGBARA CHARLES NWAKERENDU: (High Society Magazine. Lagos, Nigeria)

FEMI AWONIYI: The African Courier magazine, Germany

ELVIS IRUH (The Voice - TV Magazine Holland)

CYPRIAN JASSON: Nollywood Radio/TV France etc.

DAIRO ABIDEMI EMMANUEL (Channels TV. Lagos, Nigeria)

These are the few ones I can remember for now without looking into my computer.

At a time, there was a lull then it started again…refresh our memories..

On my God! You really did a good back ground check on me. No wonder you were the first journalist that reported about me and my activities about 20 years ago. It’s obvious in your details.

Yes! Like I said earlier, there are times in life you do a flashback, especially, when you now have a family and also remember that you are not growing younger, you have to sit down and count your teeth with your tongue and make some critical decision in life.

After our usual 2018 Not again slogan – “That was the last event” conclusion, we embarked on one of our biggest show with the tour of 2Baba. I must confess that I have never seen such a humble and considerate star like 2Baba in all my years in showbiz. So much that he would like to know if you recovered your expenses and what help you need from him to make your event a success unlike others that are after their own benefits and of course with stress.

We were very optimistic that at least, we`ll get our money invested due to lack of sponsorship back. When the unexpected disappointment struck, we decided to count our teethes with our tongue and called it a quit except or otherwise, we find viable sponsors we concluded.

Coincidentally, Covid-19 struck without warning and we were forced to retreat to our tent. Two years indoor was a long time to restrategized and reinforced for a new direction. That`s the crazy thing with passion. Couple with the new Nigeria amazing Consul General in Frankfurt, Ambassador Wahab Akande that coincidentally has extra-ordinary passion for Cultural and Nigeria image promotions and keeping to his promise to stand beside us in promoting Nigeria culture and Image through our events, we could not help than to continue from where we stopped. Hopefully, we`ll be able to put smiles on people faces again but without going home crying.

You once gave me an interview where u said Genevieve Nnaji broke your heart..who else did and why?

Hmmmmm! Please, I wish I could avoid this question. Do you know one funny thing among comedians especially, They`ll have fun unlimited touring Europe free of charge making money and returned to Nigeria to run you down to others just to discourage them not to have a taste of their dividend. Ironically, they will call you behind people you`re planning to promote with soft voice “Oga, I hear say you need comedians for your next trip, kindly add me now, my fans have been calling me asking for my services. I am loyal Sir, please, consider me again on”. As a reputable promoter with dignity, we listen more and talk less.

But glory be to God, we are waxing stronger and gaining more recognitions and awards from a reputable organizations across the world.

There were artistes who did not show after promoting them like Olamide,.. what reasons were given?

I wish there was one reason. You know, we learn every day. Just as the saying goes, “Chinua Achebe — 'Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching.” We`ve also learned to go strictly on contract and any violator will face the wrath of the Europe and Nigeria law. Locking the artist out of Europe for at least, 5 years and paying damages through court.

Who did not break your heart?

Hahahahaha! Question re-mixed! We give glory to God that the good and appreciative ones are far more in number. Hence, I did not mentioned names in your first question, I will also keep it like that in here without mentioning names. The fact is that, most of them are like brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers I can count on any day any time. I give glory to God for gift of life.

Now that your organization is 20 yrs, how do u feel?

A dream comes true! A practical reality of our Motto; “THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!”. Despite all the obstacles, we are still there. Especially, when I recalled how many people met in our shows and later got married and how our movies and shows have helped promote integration and multicultural vision across Europe. That is our greatest source of inspiration and happiness.

What have you learnt about Nigerian celebrities?

They are very talented, creative and can stand the test of time. They are the mirror measurement of how blessed Nigeria is as a nation. You can see the practical domination of Nigeria movie and music industries in Africa if not the world. I am happy contributing to the nation image cleanse through creativity industry.

As a major player from the times that Nollywood was on videos cassettes and CD, what's different now everything has gone online?

The only constant thing in life is change. Nollywood is not left behind in this new global village called internet. It has created business opportunities for many and also turned many into poverty. That is the irony of life.

What led to the transition from integration shows to Nollywood film festival Germany and Nollywood Europe awards?

That`s the changes I am taking about. We successfully created Nollywood awareness across Europe nations for over ten years and decided to diversify by taken Nollywood to Europe cinemas and it is paying off. I am always glad watching Nollywood movies on a big screen and to see Europeans applauding our movies after each screening.

Thank God for internet that we doesn`t need road shows again to promote Nollywood like those good old days. Thank God no one is asking me again what is Nollywood?

Let's talk about this year's shows and expectations?

This year event is very significant to us as it coincides with our 20 years anniversary. We have gone extra miles to make it a success couple with the heavy weight assistances by the CG Ambassador Wahab Akande, Ethiopian Airlines, Ministry of Arts and Culture, Nigeria In Diaspora Organization NIDO and Nigerians social media presenters across Europe. We are hoping for a good festival.

Looking at the numbers of hotels booked by fans from America, Canada, UK, Denmark, Finland, Swiss, Paris and across Germany already, we are very optimistic that we are going to put smile on people`s faces once again.

Above all, our choice of stars is special. 11 musicians, 8 Nollywood stars and stakeholders with one outstanding comedian to rock the festival plus two journalists from Nigeria to report the events.

In a nut-shell, the expectations are very high and we just hope for the best as we are stepping into record book for one more time because “THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!”..

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