Paul Obazele: The actor, administrator gives back

Notable actor, producer and former president of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Paul Obazele, was celebrated by his colleagues, friends, fans and well-wishers during the week.

Obazele was celebrated not just because he was a year older on Wednesday, but also because his colleagues and friends, who converged on a location in Surulere, Lagos to celebrate him, were in unison in their submissions that his contribution to the growth and development of Nollywood was worth celebrating.

They point to his work as an actor and producer and his philantrophic activities, including his founding of the Legends of Nollywood Awards (LNA), which is dedicated to the celebration and recognition of pioneers and leading lights in the Nigerian motion picture industry.

“I am not surprised that there is a large turn out here on his (Obazele’s) birthday,” president of the Creative Designers Guild of Nigeria, Iyen Obaseki, said at the shindig.

“He is a good man, a hardworking man and a man who can deny himself food, just so as the next person can eat. He is worth celebrating,” she added.

Popular actress, Patience Ozokwo, also had kind words for Obazele: “He is an achiever, a mover. He gets things done and done well. If we have more of Paul in the industry, things will move very faster.”

There were other kind words for the celebrant, but one thing that ran through was a general commendation for Obazele for founding the LNA.

However, when Obazele conceived of the idea, little did he know that that singular effort would grow into what would find a good spot on the Nigerian filmic calendar.

Today, Obazele, who is still hailed as ‘Presido,’ perhaps because of the giant stride he recorded during his two terms as AMP president, has led a crack team that hosted several editions of the LNA.

The LNA crew has, through the annual non-competitive award ceremony, celebrated ‘legends of the Nollywood industry’ for what he said was “for their art, foresight and for laying a solid foundation for the establishment of Nollywood.”

Obazele explained that the idea came up when it dawned on him that some veterans, like the late Sam Loco Efe, Pete Eneh, Joe Layode and Enebeli Elebuwa, who toiled for the survival of the industry, were “leaving the scene” unrecognised.

“When we started losing them, it dawned on me that we had not only lost so many of our pioneering practitioners, but also that some of them have gone to meet their makers almost unrecognised by a society that they served till death.

“So, we instituted this award scheme to recognise them and just to tell them, ‘thank you’ in our own special way. It is our own way of giving back, and I am happy at the feedback.

“At the last edition, Chris Obi Rapu, who is regarded as the father of Nollywood, revealed that the LNA was the first ever award he will receive, in spite of the fact that he birthed the industry,” Obazele said.

Tall, with a good built, Obezele may not be that face on every poster, but he is certainly one of the famous player in the Nigerian television and movie industry.

Those who have followed his steady rise to stardom from the late 1980s when he embraced acting with the kind of passion that suggested that his was from the guts, hold that the Edo State-born actor has continued to pull the movie crowd over each time he is on the cast of a television soap or a home movie production.

Married and blessed with children, memories of his commendable acting ‘runs’ in such rested television soaps and serials, like Ripples, Checkmate, Third Eye, and in countless early home movie productions still linger in their memories.

Indeed, he is reputed to be amongst top screen actors that have featured concurrently in the above three television soaps that ran at the same time.

No wonder he was once named as ‘one of the most consistent faces on television’ by the editorial team of TV Guide, the once quarterly publication of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

As growing child, the young Obazele did not set out to become an actor; he wanted to be a soldier and had actually made efforts to be enlisted into the Nigeria Army.

But his mother had a tacit ‘No’ as reply. She didn’t want him near the Army for fear of losing him.

She constantly told the story of how some relations lost their children who had enlisted into the Army during the civil war.

Born and bred in Lagos to a father who retired as Head of News of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and a mother who retired as a Matron, Obazele, a native of Ishan and the 5th in a family of 18 and the third male child born to Pa Patrick Obazele, he had his secondary education at Anglican Grammar School, Ubulu-Uku in Delta State and Auchi Polytechnic, where he studied Business Administration.

It was while at the polytechnic that Obazele’s passion for the world of make-believe was further ignited.

But upon graduation from Auchi, he met a brick wall, as his father wanted him off entertainment, feeling that his son would be better off in the bank or as a broadcaster.

In between, Obazele secured a daytime job at SJ Production Company and was assigned to the account section, soon transferred to the production department when it was obvious that he could string some productions together.

He later joined mainstream acting, and because he had already made a name as a model featuring in several commercials and calendars, it was easy for him to secure roles.

He was to later star in a number of television programmes, including the popular television soap, After the Storm.

When production on home video buzzed, Obaezele stepped up there too, getting his first call up in 1996 as lead actor in the movie, Shadow of Death, directed by Bolaji Dawudu.

He got other invitations, but by 1999, he had ventured into directing.

Described by most of his colleagues as an easygoing man, who derives joy in fighting other people’s causes, Obazele, who starred in Last Option, Lies of Destiny and Sweetest Taboo, said it is possible that he may have written, acted and directed over 200 movies.

Though he won’t be drawn into discussing his earnings, he admitted that it has been rewarding being in the movie.

Of all his movie credits, Obazele, who spends his off-screen periods hanging out with his family, watching films and listening to music, particularly gospel music, noted that he has a crush on 14th of February, because of its technical depth, and on Iyore and Invasion 1897, because they earned him a couple of industry nominations and celebrated the Edo culture and heritage.

The actor, who said he abhors liars and cheats, does not believe in reincarnation, but he holds that if there is one, he would love to be born back into the Obazele family and if that happens, it automatically means he would mount the acting run way without hesitation.

Asked his career ambition, Obazele, who has earned the reputation of being a consistent motion picture practitioner, explained that it is to establish a foremost production outfit and studio in the continent.

He also wants to establish a Foundation that will run side by side the LNA.

The Foundation, he added: “Is to care for our legends, their health and their wealth.

“There are a lot of them who cannot afford a roof over their heads, meals to eat or even monies to pay for medicals.”

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