July 19, 2024

NAL Awards of Excellence in Humanistic Practice, others excite Zeb Ejiro

  • July 9, 2024
  • 6 min read
NAL Awards of Excellence in Humanistic Practice, others excite Zeb Ejiro

Delta International Film Festival is youth-focused training platform

‘What all these recognitions mean is more hard work, more contributions towards my industry’

By Anote Ajeluorou

POPULARLY called ‘The Sheikh’ in Nigeria’s movie industry, an Officer of Order of the Nigeria (OON), Mr. Zeb Ejiro, is on the ascendancy yet again. He will be the recipient of three awards this year to add to the multiple ones he’d received in his long movie career that started at the NTA in the 1980s. This July Ejiro will be in the UK to receive Lifetime Achievement Award from SRTV Media Limited and on August 8, 2024, at the University of Lagos, he will receive the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) Awards of Excellence in Humanities Practice and SRTV Recognition Awards, an integral part of Nigeria Week, London, specifically designed to acknowledge and appreciate patriotic and exceptional Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in Nigeria and in the diaspora.

A statement from the Executive Committee of Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) said, “Your nomination was one of the three approved. Congratulations. A formal letter will be sent to you soon to that effect. Your investiture shall be on the 8th August, 2024 at the Main Auditorium of the University of Lagos. Before then, you are expected to produce a 3-minute audiovisual presentation on your works/practice that will be streaming as your citation is read during the award ceremony. Congratulations once again!”

A NAL letter inviting Mr. Ejiro to the award event added, “The Awards, instituted since 2023, are designed to recognise and bestow honour upon professionals, practitioners and performers outside the academia, whose innovative and creative works form the basis of research projects, theses, dessertations, inaugural lectures, etc, carried and delivered in our universities and other tertiary institutions at both graduate and postgraduate levels.”

Reacting to these plethora of awards and recognitions coming his way from local and international organisations, as appreciation for his work, Ejiro said, “I’m happy about it, especially for somebody to be recognised outside and inside Nigeria at about the same time. When your own people recognise you for the contributions you have made over the years, there’s nothing like it. That means some people are out there appreciating what you have been doing over the years, and they think that ‘ok we ought to honour this guy’. For me it’s a blessing.”

Not being an academic but recognised by the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL), a distinguished body of Nigerian professors, would seem an icing on Ejiro’s cake, as a practitioner in the cinematic space. The feeling, he said, is akin to when he received the Officer of Order of the Niger award many years ago from Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo.

“And this NAL Award, for me to be the first person is an amazing thing. Just like when I got OON, I was one of the firsts in the industry to get OON. So, these are not movie organisations; for you to be the first or one of the firsts is very wonderful. These awards have been coming. Two years ago, I was in Germany for Lifetime Achievement Award and recognition in the industry. This month I’m going to the UK. This year again, I’ve been nominated for another award in Canada by another body!

“What all these recognitions mean for me is more hard work, more contributions towards my industry. I’m not even thinking of retirement now. That new wine in new bottle, as they say, is what I’m. I’m still working hard to further develop the industry. The last movie I did, I worked with a lot of young people, a lot of them were trained in the process. A lot of them learnt a lot, and at the end of the production, they were so happy. They came to me to say, ‘you’re truly the Sheikh of the Movie Industry; you’re a blessing to us’. They were thankful and said ‘you taught us new tricks in the industry’. For me that’s special, because the talent that was given to me, I’m giving it back to society. That’s very special. So more work, more contributions, more building of young ones. And I’m still here; I’m not retiring yet.”

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Mr. Zeb Ejiro

Mr. Ejiro also spoke about his coming project that is also youth-focused and tailored to the needs of his home state, Delta. It’s Delta International Film Festival, a project that is very dear to his heart, which he said would revolutionise the movie industry in Delta State and Nigeria with its focus on youth and making his home state a business destination hub for local and foreign investors.

“One thing I’ve been able to do over the years, and I think that’s what these award bodies are looking at, is the training I give to young ones to stand on their feet. Over 10 years ago, I went to Ozoro, my hometown in Delta State, to set up a film school known as Film and Broadcast Academy (FABA) to train youths in the art of filmmaking. My elder brother Peter Red Ejiro, is managing it as I speak. We’re training young people there. So Delta International Film Festival project, which my team and I are currently working on that will take place in November this year, is a continuation of that process of training youths, making sure that young ones get their talents properly focused the way I had mine trained at the NTA and BBC years ago. We will also take the festival activities round cities in Delta State to make it inclusive – from Asaba, the state capital for the business summit, to the commercial city of Warri for the star-studded, glamourous gala and award night, to Ozoro, Agbor, Oleh, Abraka, Sapele and Bomadi for film training, panel sessions and cultural displays, and so on.

“The key thing about Delta International Film Festival is that it has two approaches. It will be entertainment-focused and the other part is a business summit in Asaba. We believe that Delta State is in a position to attract more businesses that can give employment to our youths. So we hope to attract investors to Delta with the festival. The other one is that we will train youths from the 25 local government areas in the state in the business of moviemaking. And our training will be unique. We won’t train them and let them go away just like that. No. We will be training employers of labour, because at the end of the day, the trainees will be equipped to be employers, and employ people in the business of filmmaking. We will provide them continuing mentorship. So, it’s empowerment from day-one. And we’re bringing international film stars from Hollywood and Brazil, who will collaborate with local moviemakers to train these young ones and forge other film production collaborations.

“So, it’s a continuation of what I’ve been doing over the years, and I have dynamic guys working with me, some from the local culture scene and others from the UK. So you can imagine the wealth of experience and diversity of talents we are bringing on board, with me as festival founder and director. It will be huge.”

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