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Nigeria has always willingly played the ‘big brother’ to  Sierra Leone,

but what was expended by Nigeria to end the war  in Sierra Leone

 could have been put into productive ventures at home



Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye Interviews Multi-Talented Sam Kargbo

Nollywood personifies the resilience and ingenuity  of  the Nigerian, 

says producer of Blood Diamonds


Lawyer, law teacher, social commentator and film maker, Sam Kargbo is many things to many people. Although a regular TV guest on many topical issues and a newspaper columnist, Kargbo carries about his life with utmost modesty. He loves his beautiful wife from Akwa Ibom State and adores his mentors with a passion. He is the maker of Blood Diamonds, arguably one of the highest budget films in Nollywood, the Nigeria Home Video Industry. Yet he insists filmmaking is just an avenue for him to pass his message across to a target audience. In this interview with UGOCHUKWU EJINKEONYE (February 2005), he talks about his involvement in filmmaking and the bold efforts of private investors that have taken the good image of Nigeria across continents.

UE: Most people are familiar with Sam Kargbo the lawyer, not the script writer and film producer, at what point did this other side of you come up?

SK: Yes, I studied law. But I have been doing many other things, and as lawyers  would say, legal things for that matter. I have always been a heckler and proactive person. I don’t sit on the fence on matters. I like emptying my  chest and putting my money where my mouth is. I realise that one stands in a  better  position to understand things when one is involved. 

I have been writing  ever since my secondary school days. I have written short stories for radio presentation. I was one of the earlier contributors to the His and Hers (or  something like that ) on Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation (OGBC)  in 1991. I had a teacher called John Agetua who encouraged me to take writing seriously but I disappointed him when I veered off to study law. 

He wanted me to study English Language. Am sure he was the one that influenced people like Nnamdi Okosieme (of Independent ) to study English and Literature. I followed the advice of another teacher,  Mrs. Lambert Aikhion-Bare, who was equally close to me, to study law. But  even at that all my colleagues at the University of Benin knew me more for my writing potentials than for my law studies. 

I am also a very outgoing person. My social life is, to be honest, very  complex. My circle of friends cut across all classes. But I have my preference  for artists. That was why people like T.J. Cole, Mike Nliam and Abay Esho of  Safari could convince me to invest in movies. To cut cost and perhaps to simplify matters, I decided to write the first story I was to shoot. I  wrote the screen play and Teco Benson, who directed it for me,  gave it to one Bat Hills, a banker, to edit it, and he did it overnight. 

Blood Diamonds came out very well  but I  can assure you I am a better writer now and my next effort in screen play would be better than Blood Diamonds. Many people have asked me to screen play for them but I can’t afford to add that to my busy chores. For now, I will confine myself to writing my movies.

UE: I have watched Blood Diamonds, and I think the story is good and ambitious, was it inspired by any particular incident you  witnessed in real life?

SK: Well, we have been colleagues at the Independent Editorial Board, and  you know my concern for African Affairs. Am sure the general belief of the Board is that I know so much about Africa and the world  because I studied International Relations and Diplomatic and Consular Law at the postgraduate class. But that is not the case. I am concerned about the world and, much more, about Africa. 

See how the ten year war in Sierra Leone affected Nigeria. Beside the material and human resources lost by  Nigeria, it is still host to hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans. Agreed, Nigeria has always willingly played the ‘big brother’ to  Sierra Leone, but what was expended by Nigeria to end the war  in Sierra Leone could have been put into productive ventures at home. 

I for one believe in the reality of the global village. Charles Taylor (former Liberian President) was  very  brutal and ruthless to Nigerians. He marked them out as his number one foes and acted in accordance with that hate mentality. But look at where he is today. Is it not an irony? The truth is that Charles Taylor was fighting a losing war because he was not content with limiting his ambition to  Liberia. He  wanted more. 

That was how he took the war to Sierra Leone and as it is clear today he is the only one that benefited from both the war in Liberia and the one in Sierra Leone. My aim or objective was to tell the world what he had  done to Sierra Leone. It was like saying I know what you did in Sierra Leone before coming to Calabar. It worked because those who have watched Blood Diamonds now know better.

UE: Were you involved in selecting the cast? The character of Don Carlos is excellent, and several others too; but most people wouldn’t be able to say that about a few others, especially, Shan George who acted Vera.

SK: I was the one that hired the lead cast but it was Teco Benson that  assigned the roles to them. For instance TJ Cole was to play the role of Don  Carlos but Teco as Director thought that the role fitted Desmond better because of  his size. Luckily for me TJ did not complain and he gladly switched over   to  the role that Dr. Julius Spencer would have played and as you have observed Teco was right. 

I do not want to fault your reservations about Shan George but I believe that she did wonderfully well. I know your stand on morals but  mind you, she was just acting a role scripted for her. If her role was not edited to get approval (from the Censors Board), you might have hated her the more. I will always work with her. She is wonderful and less problematic on set.

UE: I am not referring to any moral preferences here. I watched the film with a colleague, who also is a director and producer. We both thought some measure of sprightliness was required for a character undertaking such a hazardous expedition, to endear her to the audience. But Ms. George simply refused to shine. There appeared to be a certain reluctance to really enter the character.

SK: The role was not for a tomboy. Of course, there were others in the industry that could have played the role, but she is part of our circle and we felt that she could do well and we still feel that we did the right thing. You may not fancy our take on her but I still insist that she did well. In any case I can’t fault your standards. As a critic, I guess you have your ideas.

UE: We were expecting the Mother of all Battles at the well advertised “heavily guarded cave”, but alas, we were treated to some kind of anti-climax, was that intentional?

SK: The ending is deliberate. Blood Diamondis a big story. As you may have realised, one of the most ambitious stories of NOLLYWOOD. We intend to have a sequel which will start with the fight at the caves. Mind you, except  for  the few other people killed inside the cave, you only know that some of the  mercenaries and Don Carlos were shot. Pray that I have the finances to  shoot and accomplish Blood Diamonds 2.

UE: What is your assessment of the Nigerian film industry? There is a growing impression that the place appears to have  become a dumping ground for those who fail to find their  feet in more challenging sectors?

SK: I think the Home Video Industry personifies the resilience and ingenuity of  the Nigerian. I had respect for the young men and women that are behind the industry but my respect has grown beyond bounds after my experience with Blood Diamonds

Movie making is a combination of art, science and  technology. The industry has talents and artists but lacks finance. The Teco Bensons of Nigeria can give you Oscar winning movies if they get the  necessary funds. The artists are fantastic. 

Unlike in European movies, we do  not  use stunts or effects to give you the larger than life performances that you credit Hollywood artists with. The industry is still in the analogue stage. Perhaps that is why I pity most critics. The standards of the pirated Western films they watch were not achieved overnight. Besides, America, India and other nations with successful film industries have patriotic  nationals that patronise what is theirs. Our elite class do not patronise the industry here. They are content with watching cheap and pirated Western films. 

The immediate effect is that the standards are set by the lower class that are patronising the industry. So, until we have our middle and upper class  people buying made in Nigeria movies, do not expect the standards to improve overnight. In any case,  the present standards are fantastic for those who  are  investing in the industry. You may hate them but not too many people are in a position of producing movies like Blood Diamonds. I know how much I spent, and how much I realised. If commerce were strictly the reasons behind Blood Diamonds, then I would have been crying for a long time.

UE: It is widely accepted that aside fulfilling its primary function of entertainment, works of art should equally educate and project positive values, do you think such a commitment can be detected  in what is currently going on in the industry?

SK: It is easy to be idealistic about things but mind you we are all in a country where not too many people have surpluses with which to invest in ideals. The generality of those who go into movie making do so with the aim of  making what you may call honest living. It is true that every citizen is obliged to contribute his or her quota in the education and development of  the citizenry. The individual would be helped and better placed to do so if  public officials and bureaucrats who are paid to set standards do their  own   part. 

You do not expect a man who has borrowed money from a bank to make an  esoteric film he won’t be able to get a market for. So he would rather settle for comedy and do things that you would consider silly but would fetch him his exposure and give him some profit. 

In countries like Australia and New Zealand where the government partners with private individuals, the film industry is getting the necessary respect and attention. We have people here that can do better than Peter Jackson but they do not have the enabling environment. This is the sad part because the movie industry is capable of surpassing the petroleum  industry in revenue earning. The ascendancy that the industry has given to Nigeria over other African countries is unimaginable.

UE: What is your vision and mission as a writer and producer?

SK: My vision and mission is to continue to use the medium to reach those that I would otherwise not been able to reach. I want to contribute to the building and shaping of the African conscience. I want to be remembered  tomorrow as one who did his best in directing people to the right path.

UE: We have seen Blood Diamonds, when should we expect another work  from  you?

SK: I have another movie on corruption. It is called “No Place To Hide”. I  believe  that public officials and bureaucrats who use the colours of their offices to divert the commonwealth to private purses are enemies of progress and should not be tolerated or given safe havens. In it, I challenged the individual to fight corruption with his or her last blood. 

I am talking with  marketers. It should hit the market soon. I also sponsor music. My adopted kids at home are coming out with a 15 track album. I have been working on the  production. Some of the works were done in Nel Olivers Studio in Benin Republic. I  believe in quality and I bet when they release their album you will realise that I  stand for quality. They had great support from my circle of friends. They  featured Baba Fryo and Lt. Shotgun in some of the tracks. Some of the  tracks also  featured in Blood Diamo nds.

UE: You are a successful lawyer, public commentator, and now, a film maker. Would you mind describing the road  you travelled to get this far.

SK: What else can I tell you. In addition to all of these, I find time to teach law and I think the students see me as a hardworking teacher. Because I  teach postgraduate students, it is very easy for me to believe that my  colleagues do appreciate me. They make good returns about me to the authorities and  they in  turn urge me to continue. 

I am self made. I have been my own father and  mother since the age of fourteen and I am 44 now. You can imagine what that  has been for me. But all the same I have been touched by many people. I  have  always been fortunate to gain the respect of my teachers. People like  Prof  (Mike) Ikhariale who is a brother and friend today was my teacher. Prof Itse Sagay would always vouch for me. 

Because of people  like them, I try to comport  myself and avoid scandals. I also have my wife, Stella Samuel. She loves me and I try not to disappoint her. I also have many brothers and children that  I have adopted along the way. Majirioghene Bob is one of them. I try to  influence them positively and I have been lucky with some of them.

UE: Thank you. Let’s return briefly to the film industry. Could you suggest the various areas you think the industry could  use  some improvement and fine-tuning?

SK:I would just ask the Government to give it some attention. There is nothing  wrong in giving it a separate ministry. The potentials of the industry are too great to be frittered away.

UE: There is this widespread view that the easiest way to become a star actress here is to sleep with everybody that matters in the industry, starting even with mere studio hands to top officials; in fact, an insider once told me that  if I got to know what it took some of our “top stars” to get to the top,  that I  would just throw up, what do you think?

SK: The industry is just like any other industry. It is difficult to penetrate. Some people get desperate and do silly things. Some unconscionable people do capitalise on the eagerness of new entrants. But I do not think it is right to say that the industry is as notorious or bad as you  have put it. There are very many decent people in the industry.

UE: Will it be possible to rescue the industry from the hands of  the powerful but barely literate marketers dictating the tune and pace there today?

SK: Funnily,  the industry the world over is not for the acadas. It is the  most  practical industry in the world. Mind you there are  many educated people in  the  industry but they are still lagging behind those that you are referring to as barely literate.

UE: I had the feeling that before the worthy intervention of the Censors Board, a lot of film makers allowed desperation and desire for easy wealth  to push them into producing movies that promote  moral irresponsibility.  In fact, even now, one can still see the vestigial remains of that preference. What do you think?

SK: This is harsh and exhibits ignorance about the industry. Those who are  making  money are pirates. Have you endeavoured to imagine the amount of money pirates are making from foreign movies and musical videos? Many of those in the  industry are desirous of making genuine contributions.

Excerpts of an Interview by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye , February 2005, Lagos, Nigeria….

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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