PAPER DELIVERED BY DR OKEWALE OF ST IVES HOSPITAL TO COMMERATE NGOZI NWOSU 5Oth BIRTHDAY AT EAGLES PARK OBOKUN CLOSE ON THE 21ST OF AUGUST 2013.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, all protocols observed, I am Dr Alozie Ndubuka and I am honored to have been invited today by the organizers of this event to speak on the topic: Keeping Nollywood veterans alive as part of events in honor of Ngozi Nwosu, a highly respected and revered actress. I would like to start by saluting this actress for the laughter she has brought into many homes through the hilarious antics of her character in Fuji house of commotion. It is thus gratifying to learn that Ngozi who was struck down by certain health challenges has made remarkable recovery from the ill health that sought to claim her from us. We rejoice with you Ngozi and wish you the best.
Ngozi’s progress, is a sweet respite from the tragic death that has afflicted many Nollywood veterans especially in the last two years. I recall with a heavy heart such icons like Sam Loco-efe, James Iroha, Enebeli Elebuwa, Justus Esiri, Pete Eneh, Ashley Nwosu, Geraldine Ekeocha to mention but a few who have departed this World when we needed them most. For these departed celebrities, I wish to crave your indulgence that we respectfully rise and observe a minute silence in their honor. May their souls rest in perfect peace. Amen.
How do we keep our veterans alive? How do we ensure that our veterans remain to entertain us and inspire the younger generation of actors.
To do justice to this topic, we must consider certain salient points.
1) The natural ageing process that occurs in every human.
2) The lifestyle of those in the film industry especially those that have achieved celebrity status.
3) The tendency of most Nigerians including the nollywood family to seek medical care only when very sick.
4) The societal pressures and expectations these people face daily.
Ageing: This is one of the unavoidable biological outcomes of life. With each year that passes, the cells of the various organs of the body go through cycles of metabolism to generate energy for its daily functions and the individual’s well being. These circles of metabolism unfortunately also creates harmful waste products in form of free radicals etc. These deleterious outcomes of metabolism damage the cells/organs over time, thereby reducing organ functionality and affects the whole individual. This is natural ageing. This we all cannot escape, but we can age gracefully.
Lifestyle: This plays a very important role in the individual. I have in my practice, related variously with public figures both within the entertainment industry and the political spectrum, and I can tell you that there is a clear difference between those who live a healthy lifestyle and those who do not. Success in any human endeavor is intoxicating. It inflicts the susceptible individual, with an aura of invisibility and creates in him/her a demigod persona. This breeds bad habits like smoking, excessive alcohol intake, poor diet, lack of exercise etc. These traits are common even in Nollywood, and can if unchecked, lead to collagen breakdown and a resultant premature ageing and other health concerns like diabetes, cancer, hypertension, personality changes, organ failures(like kidney failure) etc.
Seeking medical care late: This is a trend common not only in Nollywood, but within the Nigerian nation. Amongst our entertainment figures, the fear of our soft sell magazines going to town with unflattering health news (both true and false) of them keep them away from hospitals until too late. The adage that a stitch in time save nine reads true when it comes to early presentation in health related issues.
Societal demands/expectations: To the common man out there Nollywood actors are wealthy. Even the kidnappers believe so. People sometimes view you in the images of the characters you play, and thus you get bombarded with unsolicited admiration or castigation. You get pestered with requests for financial assistance from relatives, friends and fans, some of which you find yourself unable to turn down. This creates stress, which can affect life ultimately.
I have highlighted some challenges that can affect the life expectancy of a celebrity, now permit me a few minutes to make a few suggestions on how to keep our beloved veterans alive.
A) Live a healthy lifestyle: You should avoid substance abuse, eat healthy meals that are balanced in their contents. These are important for the veterans and even more-so for the upcoming artistes.
B) I would like to see the establishment of a health intervention fund to cater for unforeseen health events amongst actors and actresses. This fund can be sourced from proceeds from the sale of films, and should be an obligatory component of production budgets.
C) Actors should as a rule endeavor to organize for themselves more health seminars in which topical issues will be taken by health professionals.
D) I will like to see a Nollywood that has at every production set, medical personnel whose duties as retained observers will include catering to the health needs of the casts and crew. These Doctors will also serve as advisers when medical roles are being played.
E) Every celebrity should recognize himself/herself as first of all a human being and, must as such have regular medical check ups. Don’t wait until you are sick before visiting the hospital. A twice yearly health check should be made a mandatory prerequisite before an actor can be cast for any role. Any producer who casts an actor in any role without a medical certificate of fitness should be made criminally liable should anything happen to that actor both while filming and in the period immediately following the filming.
F) Finally, do not shoulder responsibilities you cannot bear. You are human. Let go of some demands even from close friends.
Ladies and gentlemen, keeping to these simple tenets will improve and promote our lives. As we enjoy the ever improving films that the Nollywood family make available to us, we will be happy to know that those artists dear to us will remain in good health to keep entertaining us for a time much longer than our dearly departed icons had. Long live our Nollywood veterans. Thank you.
Dr Alozie Ndubuka