Nigerians have a saying, “Soup wey sweet, na better money kill am”. In literal terms, when good money is spent, the soup becomes more tasteful. Nothing great is gotten from nothing. It had to be the effort of a lot of players in the movie industry to birth this bundle of talent we have now come to know and love; ‘The First Lady’ herself, Omoni Oboli.
What are the ingredients to create the perfect blend of beauty, brains, expertise, focus and of course, the bottom line, monetary success? As the only one in her caliber, who has taken on the job of scriptwriting, directing, producing, starring (also playing two roles in ‘Being Mrs Elliott’) and marketing her movies to box office success, we cannot but attest to the fact of her ingenuity. At a time when the men dominated the production of movies and directing, she sashays into the scene and carves out her domain like it was always reserved for her.
A lot of industry players contributed to her rise; her first lead role was to given her by Nollywood veteran, Fidelis Duker when she first got into the game in 1996, for his movie, ‘Not My Will’, and then following it up with another lead role in ‘Destined To Die’. Hilda Dokuboh’s ‘Another Campus Tale’ also saw Omoni play the lead role. What we must understand about the filmmakers back then is that their passion was evident, and it reduced the hype factor, which we see nowadays, and for Omoni to be given lead roles then was due to her raw and unquestionable talent. Coming back into the scene after a ten year hiatus, another industry heavy weight, the iconic Emem Isong, again takes up the mantle of being the one who gave Omoni her first big break in her movie, ‘Unfinished Business’, followed by other lead and supporting roles in her other movies. The industry stood and recognized because Emem is not one to give out lead roles to any stray actor just to fill in the blanks. You must know your onions to be featured in her movies. She has been instrumental in creating or building most of the many known faces of Nollywood that we know today, and is still doing so.
Interesting to note is the fact that Omoni Oboli, strangely has not featured as the lead actress in more than 20 movies till date. So how did she rise to this colossal level as the shining bankable star of Nollywood today? Let’s see, firstly, she’s a skilled actor. Let’s start with a little game of “did-you-know.” Omoni happens to be the very first Nollywood actor (remember Nollywood came into existence with the release of ‘Living In Bondage) who has won Best Actress at an international award of such magnitude as the Los Angeles Movie Award and the Harlem international Festival Award. Why is it such a big feat? These are awards where a Nigerian Nollywood movie, Lonzo Nzekwe’s ‘Anchor Baby’, competing with movies from all over the world, saw Omoni Oboli emerge as the overall Best Actress! Mario Van Pebbles’ movie was also featured at that festival, and Anchor Baby was judged to be the best movie! She has shown a lot of versatility with the many diverse roles she’s taken on and the many ways she’s interpreted them. When she’s seen in movies, you forget that you’re watching the same person.
Secondly, she is a New York Academy trained digital filmmaker. This isn’t just a fly-by-night director with only an on-the-job experience, but one who has gone beyond that to learn the right skills to boost her passion. She joins the likes of Kunle Afolayan, Stephane Linus and many others who are alumni of this prestigious institution.
Thirdly, and this one, I believe, is the most ignored in the Nollywood circle because it is the least mentioned of her traits, Omoni Oboli is a fantastic scriptwriter! If you’ve gone through her productions, ‘Being Mrs Elliott’, ‘The First Lady’ and the lastest, ‘Wives On Strike’, you would see how artistically she weaves her plots and twists in such a way that it all comes together at the end. Her dialogues are deliberate and each sentence gives clarity to something else later, so that their are no unnecessary scenes. No boring moments.
Fourthly, her directing is amazing, especially when it comes to the cast. She seems to know how to bring out the very best of everyone she has used. I didn’t quite consider Alexx Ekubor an actor beyond the fine boy, eye candy personality that he displays in his movies, but as the no-nonsense, domineering pimp, Obama, in ‘The First Lady’, I saw a talent that had hitherto been untapped.
Lastly, as a producer, her tenacity in bringing her stories to life and then selling it to the viewers like only she does is one for the record books. She is certainly a case study on how to market a Nigerian movie right, and will be referenced for a long time on the matter by all who really want to do it right.
There’s no doubt that she has set a high standard in the industry in tenacity, talent, marketing prowess and bankability. Her place in the halls of fame of African filmmaking is definitely secure, and I don’t think she’s showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. We look forward to many more great works from this great actress.