Return Of Issakaba, No Better Time Than Now – Lancelot Imaseun

Return Of Issakaba, No Better Time Than Now – Lancelot Imaseun

5th May 2024, NewsOrient
Encounter, Entertainment, News

Lancelot Oduwa Imaseun is one of the most prolific film directors in Nollywood industry today with over 300 movies to his credit and a career spanning three decades. He is at the post production stage of the remake of one of his block buster movies ‘Issakaba,’ shot 23 years ago. He speaks more in this enthralling interview.

What are you doing presently?

We are in the post production stage of one of Nollywood’s greatest movies and all time block buster ‘Issakaba’. It was a film that shook the entire country and the African nation which we shot 23 years ago . The movie dealt on the issue of security in the Eastern part of the country and it was a film that projected into how security challenges can be solved.

Some state governments adopted this, which is vigilante.

Issakaba projected that security is local and must be handled locally. In the Nigerian set up, security personnels are picked from different parts of the country and taken to a terrain where they know nothing and this is not ideal. It was inspired by the operation of the Bakassi boys in Aba, which became Issakaba, it was a classic and the film has remained evergreen.

People keep making refences on different social media platforms demanding for the people that made Issakaba, especially with the new range of Nollywood films coming up.

By the grace of God, we shot the movie from part 1 – 5, which was the first Nigerian film to have up to part 5. When the demand became so high, we took it upon ourselves to remake Issakaba because people see different films especially on Netflix and they were saying they wished Issakaba was shot this time.

The ideas are still there but the dynamics have changed because the cost of production has increased and everything has changed. We were careful not to loose the originality, the salt while employing technological advancements. It’s an epoch making movie and people tried to recreate the story online, an epoch event for me and I am very emotional about it that what I created 23 years ago, still resonates . It shows the kind of work we put in that time not minding that we did not have the technological sophistication.

Again, it’s socially relevant because the security of Nigeria has degenerated more than it was several years ago when we made Issakaba and all that will be incorporated into the current story.

What are you going to do to ensure that the original message of the first Issakaba movie is not lost since the two security situations you want to reflect happened in different times and places?

I like that, which is why the production shook me to my bone marrow. I am a passionate and traditional story teller and I was always conscious of this concern. When it was announced that Issakaba was being remake, there was this personal concern but; its not for me to judge concerning the quality, whether it was the same Lancelot Imaseun that directed the first one that will do this. The greatest challenge is when people come with a mindset that those that did it before did not do it well.

If you look at the new and old Nollywood debacle, people come with the mindset that those that were doing it before, did not do it well and they can do it better. You now discover that they have not been able to tell stories organically the way the first people did. When hunger drive you into something, it is different from when you leisurely entered because you want to do it.

Those that joined Nollywood at that time entered because they were passionate about it.

A lot of them were season artistes that you can trace their root back to television like NTA Lagos, Enugu, Aba, Benin and others. These people went through the process before they got to where they are today, unlike the people that came today.

Can you imagine the excitement that I have that the work I did innocently 23 years is still on demand. Issakaba is the first Nigerian film being remake as a result of popular demand. I was concerned about what the people wanted, even with our cast list. When we raised our cast list, they were critical about it and people were so eagerly involved but, one thing I will assure you; is that you will not be disappointed with the return.

Issakaba showed a solution to the security problem at hand then, how will this current Issakaba provide solution to the myriads of security problems we are facing?

Issakaba was told from the point of a locality, it’s no longer a movie, but a project. Our problem is peculiar and we have to seek for a perculuar solution. There is a former governor on the run now because of financial mismanagement. Assuming the governor was brought before a shrine to swear before assuming office, I can assure you that by now, nobody will be talking about looking for any governor because the fear of instant repercussions would have overwhelmed him. I am a Christian by birth and by practice and as a film maker, I want to look at some things dispassionately.

When we did Issakaba, we advocated for community policing from there things can sort themselves out because they know where to go, when it gets to a certain situation. The river never goes through a forest without bringing down trees.

When we say that light can never be over shadowed by darkness, these are not mere words but the modus operandi of the Issakaba boys which gave them boldness because they were standing on the part of justice.

How many police officers can go on operations with this mindset, If I die, I die, nobody can kill me because I stand for truth, honesty and justice. There was a sacred oath among the Issakaba boys, those that were part of it knew that they have chosen, to be awake while others sleep, it was not comfortable or easy for them, but they chose to make this sacrifice so that others can sleep.

You don’t go far when you stand on evil as a ruler because once you contravene the spiritual law there will be immediate consequences. In the name of modernity, we started discarding some of these moral values, those things that were sacred to our society, that kept us in check in the sanctity that we enjoyed.

Issakaba is advocating that the community should secure itself and that will make it difficult for evil ones to come and perpetrate evil.

How many perpetrators of evil have been arrested? We are going to see a movie beyond just watching a movie, it’s going to be a movie with strong belief, with myth and a projection. I know as people are reading this they will say, does this man want us to go back to our archaic tradition? It’s archaic, but its potent.

I make film to educate, entertain and inform. The issue of EFCC chasing after the former governor should not arise, if we have a strong system that can forestall them from doing those things. Are you a Christian, Moslem, or traditionalist, let the people vote how they want their elected officers to administer their oath of office.

If they agree to go the traditional way, in Igbo land you have the Amadioha, in Benin you give them Ukhurhe staff, which is a lineage staff, same with other cultures. So, if you go contrary to your oath of office, the person will face the consequences till his fourth generation.

Let’s talk about your epic movie, Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi. What did you intend to achieve when you recreated this epic Benin history?

I am a passionate film maker and if the quality is not on it, my name can never be in such movie. I am from Benin and growing up, I read about Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, by late Prof Ola Rotimi, the erudite professor of drama. Going further, I watched the live stage performance tagged ‘Trials of Ovaremi Nogbaisa’ by Ahmed Yerima. These are the two loudest accounts.

Incidentally, I am from the place where the incident happened. I am from Benin and the two accounts were told by a non indigene. I am a cultural champion and I said there is no way I will die without telling this story from my point of view.

After much research, I took the story from pre- invasion period and that is from 1894. Basically, I wanted to present my side of the story and that means telling the story from the side of the Benin people.

We went very deep to find out what played out and one of the questions I asked them was, where did this incident happen? And they said it happened in Benin where I come from.

The palace of the Oba of Benin was burnt and it was the same palace I visited frequently.They used to tell us how massive the palace was but the land was reduced after the incident. The British said it was the Benin Massacre, but the reverse was the case and I now named it the Invasion.

What they termed as massacre was from their point of view and I wanted to disrupt that point of view that have become globally accepted.

Some white men came to Benin and the people were hostile and killed them. The British came and retaliated through the British expedition.

Based on my investigations and the true story, the British did not just visit, they were already doing business and it was business gone bad based on one of the party’s inability to honour the agreement.

However, the whole British Government was not involved, it was just an over zealous British government official who was told to hold brief for the main British Governor General.

Within that period, he organised the expedition and insisted they must see the Oba, but the Benin people said no, you cannot see the Oba at this time because of some festival going on and this led to the fracas.

They took advantage of their sophisticated weapons then and thought that in one or two days they will run the city down, but they were shocked at the level of resistance from the natives and they sustained the war as long as they could, even with the canon launchers they brought.

The film was screened at the Pan African film festival in Los Angeles, Canada, Boston, New York, Atlanta, Huston and all over USA and also inside the British Museum where they kept some of the artifacts.

I had about 11 guests from the British Royal family who came to see the film, but about 9 of them left before the end of the movie.

This was the first time they are seeing the movie from the position of the victim.

What prompted it was the desire to represent my people globally and change that untrue narrative about the Benins that they were some naive people that caused trouble.

Tell us the progress you have made so far with the Students International Film Festival?

I created the students International Film Festival to groom young students on film directing in any academic platform or those that are still in apprenticeship platform or still learning. Igbeniedion University being the premier private university in the country; had the privilege of hosting the first edition of the festival. This year’s edition is in September and will be hosted by the University of Port Harcourt, Department of Film and Media Studies. They are partnering with us to host the festival in addition to their Nollywood Conference.

This festival is designed to move from campus to campus and city to city across the country. That was the lift we took from the first edition, which means student film makers already believe that there is a future for them.

During the festival they will be able to meet some of the industry greats. For instance, last year, they met with the likes of Zeb Ejiro, Andy Amanaechi, Uzo Okpechi, Francis Onwechie, and we also had the President of Association of Film Producers, the Vice President of the Directors Guild of Nigeria, all of them were there.

They could not believe it that they could see these people they were studying, one on one.

We have started receiving films and we are looking forward that it’s going to be from September 16 – 19, 2024 and it will be moving from place to place every year.

For me, it’s a way of showing appreciation to God, Nigerians and my fans. I also run the Benin Film Academy and it’s where I partner with the Igbinedion University. It’s for all categories of film makers; we run master classes and do other programmes.

For instance, towards the end of last month, we had a programme tagged Celebrating Nollywood with Junior Pope to honour the late actor because he was a personal friend and he worked with the academy.

We did quite a number of movies together and we showed one of his movies to honour him.

This month, we will have the mini short film series which is a day festival; where young people are given the opportunity to show their short films.

These are programmes we have put together to horn the young ones because I believe in the reward system which is where our society has failed with the young people.

People don’t just call me the governor, it’s because I am a people oriented person, ‘this man is always conscious about the welfare of the people.’

Come 2025, I will be marking 30 years of active film practice and in these 30 years, there is no year I did not make a film.

So, I am saying it with every sense of modesty and responsibility that I have over 300- 400 movies to my credit as a director. I am not sure anybody has that kind of achievement, directing and producing block buster movies for 30 years in Nollywood.

~ NewsOrient