Nollywood actress and filmmaker, Omoni Oboli has opened up on her encounter with the immediate past president of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as well as her personal life in a recent interview.
You once had an online altercation with Chude Jideonwo over his analysis of your movie. Is it that you don’t take kindly to criticism, or what actually happened?
Criticism is always good and necessary. No one is perfect, so I don’t expect my movies to be without imperfections. Nollywood is a growing industry. We have come a long way, and I’m so thankful to be a part of this homegrown sector which richly blesses our nation with another stream of income. When we criticise, it must be communicated with a clear view of where we’re coming from, where we are and where we’re going. Any critic should have the clear understanding that we are limited in budget and logistics to achieve the seemingly impossible task of competing with Hollywood movies at the cinemas. So, I don’t shy away from criticisms like, “the storyline is not well put together,” “the sound was not clear in certain areas,” “the acting by so and so was not up to par,” “the directing lacked such and such.” What I don’t like is when a blanket statement is made like, “the movie was bad,” without any follow up on how and in what way it is considered bad so I can learn from it. Can I stop such criticisms from ever occurring? Apparently not. But I would like to see more people begin to go beyond any personal views, to see that the big picture is the projection of Nigeria to the world in such great light that other nations will want to know what we are doing. It would increase our ability to export our movies to a more global audience that’s looking for something new outside of the Hollywood defined view of what makes for good entertainment. Saying a movie is just plain bad without any follow-up as to how and why, would mean that the person has the monopoly on what constitutes good entertainment above all other Nigerians who are paying good money and enjoying that same product over and over again.
So, no, I don’t hate criticism, because I’ve seen a few of them for and against my work, and the good criticisms show us how to grow to be even better. If I said to my child, “you’re bad!” And then not tell him how and why, I shouldn’t be surprised if he becomes ill trained because he wouldn’t know which direction to go, towards the good or towards the bad. That’s why I welcome criticism, but only the constructive ones. Even some criticisms like, “so and so part of the movie was funny,” when I intended it to be serious can make me rethink how to write and direct a particular part next time to achieve my intentions. I’m well aware that our taste in movies has been sharpened by the Hollywood standard, and it’s hard for some of us to “lower” that standard just to help grow our industry, but we have to learn to appreciate the giant efforts and leaps that we’ve been able to accomplish despite our obvious constraints that the world seems to admire us for.
Have you ever undergone any sort of training as an actress?
Not formally, but I’ve had years of informal training as an actress. I was president of my secondary school’s literary and debating society and also the French Club. I organised school plays; I wrote, produced, directed and acted. I was also acting in church dramas as well, so I’ve had many years of acting experience before I finally went professional.
Many believe that your relationship with former president, Goodluck Jonathan, was a boost for you; in what ways did he contribute to your career?
Being Mrs. Elliott was my directorial debut, and I had applied to show the movie to the president and he obliged. Anything that gives you publicity for your movies prior to the cinema release is definitely always welcome by any serious filmmaker. It was a great honour and a beautiful boost to my career as a filmmaker. To launch out that way was definitely the very thing I needed then and I’m thankful for it.
How have you been able to keep your home intact despite the many failed marriages in Nollywood?
I don’t know if I keep my home intact; I believe God does that for me. There are many women who do the right things and show up at every time for their husbands and still get the short end of the stick. So I don’t take credit for it. I have my moments and he does too, but somehow it has never tipped the scale and that’s because God made it possible. Nevertheless, I believe that when you understand that you’re both different individuals who have become one, then you can try to weather any storm, knowing that if you don’t, both of you will have a dreadful life in that marriage. Enjoy it and seek for the things that make for peace because life is too short to waste it fighting.
How are you able to find balance between your family and your career?
I have an understanding husband who knows what my job entails and I don’t disrespect him, so we assume responsibilities to fill up the gaps that the other is lacking. My career keeps me away from my family often, but with love and understanding, family and career have never been at war in my home.
How did you receive the news of your father’s death?
Very badly! I got a call that he had been in an accident. I then spoke to him when he became conscious. He assured me that he was okay, but I got another call a few hours later that he had passed on. It’s definitely one of the worst experiences of my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.
Do you consider yourself a stylish person?
Yes, I would say so. I have my own style and I love fashion. That’s why I now have my own fashion line that shows my style, and people love it.
How do you unwind?
I love spending time with my family, watching movies, playing games or just hanging out. I love reading books as well.