The historic National Theatre witnessed a turn out like no other at Industry Nite of Tributes held on Tuesday, held on Tuesday, February 16, 2021
The event featured tributes from Chico’s colleagues and a documentary on his historic career, music, and brief sermons from the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
It was an exterior affair to ensure strict compliance to COVID-19 protocols, as friends, family and colleagues came in drones in an all-white affair to honour the late movie icon who put Nollywood into international prominence.
Those who organized the event include Fred Amata, President, Directors Guild of Nigeria, DGN, Fidelis Duker, a former DGN President, Segun Arinze, an ex-President, Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, Tunji Bamishigbi, a Lawyer, Director/Producer, and talent investor, plus this writer, a former President, Association of Movie Producers, AMP.
The Chief Executive of FAD FM, Calabar, and former DGN President, Fidelis Duker, spoke highly of the late icon and shared emotional memories of how far they have gone in pushing Nollywood to the forefront at the international plane.
Other movie icons also shared their various encounters with Chico Ejiro and how they received the sad news on Christmas Day of 2020.
“This is not a mournful night though it is sober moments. It is a night to celebrate an iconic figure in our industry, a man who will remain an exemplary Director and Producer, an accomplished creative entrepreneur. Chico was a huge influence.
“Chico affected and inspired so many stars. Many had their breakthrough through his films and he made over 100 movies. So, they are coming from far and wide to celebrate him at this Industry Night of Tributes.”
When we talk about Nollywood today, we cannot take out the place and impact of Chico Ejiro. I, as a person, am a product of his hard work and commitment in the industry. One day, Chico called and told me, Segun, I want to shoot a movie and I want to give you a powerful role, but you will have to shave your hair. You will have to look tough and bold in the movie.
I knew Chico don’t just produce common movie and so I did as he asked, a shaved my hair completely. He looked at me and said, “You will be called Black Arrow”. That was how I got the name from the movie, “Silent Night”.
When I heard that Chico died I was in Asaba. I didn’t see Chico in very long while. Chico is one of the people that you’ll think they’re gonna be there forever. And the first thought I had, was his humility. Chico was everybody’s friend he doesn’t even remember grudges. If you are annoyed with him, you are on your own, because if he needs something from you, he will come to you.
He didn’t have time to waste with irrelevant things. He didn’t think anything that’s isn’t profitable is something you should spend energy on. He was in a hurry to do many things. It was with Chico that we will sit down in the early days of Nollywood, and as he’s telling you about a movie, he’s already shooting in his head.
That was fascinating.
The most remarkable thing about Chico is that if you are his friend, you must come up with him. A very rare thing. He wants everyone around him to progress, and that is one of the reasons that no matter where I found myself if Chico asked me to do something, I never refuse because I see him as the person with a good heart. He accommodates everybody, he was willing to support everybody.
It’s a pity that good people die early. Chico has left a legacy.
If everybody was like Chico in the industry. Nollywood will not be where it is today. So, all we can say is thank you Chico.
I would felt much better If I have been asked to put this in writing. I think I’ll write better than I’ll speak but I’ll try. The greatest thing that Chico did for me was as a fresh reporter. I was just fresh from school.
I had just secured a one-room apartment then in Ogba. I had not television set, I had not video set. And Chico needed me to review a movie for him and I confided in him that I have no television set and I have not a video player. Chico asked me to hop into his car and he drove me off to Idumota. He took me to a guy called Dozie Eriogbu, of Infinity Merchant, and he bought me a television set and a video set.
Of course, I was very young then, friends, younger ones and neighbours were coming to my house. That was the house we became very close. I also remembered when it was time for me to settle down, Chico Ejiro and his wife, Joy accompanied me to Nnewi to get my wife.
Chico was extraordinarily nice to me. My prayer is that the almighty God will never get tired of standing by Joy and the children. All the good seeds that Chico sowed in people’s lives, you’re going to read.
It was Segun that called me and told me Chico was gone. I was shocked because we just spoke not long before the sad incident.
I think it was like 1999, Chico was in my office and we were just discussing Nollywood. He told me “Sir, Kay, I heard you just bought a new camera. How is it?
So I said I have not tested it, maybe you should go ahead and use it. I told him I have an idea of a film but I can’t go through with it for now. He inquired to know more and I told him it will be about a local guy traveling abroad…and quickly he embraced the idea and said “Yes, let’s do it, the character with travel carrying Ghana-Must-Go bag”. He said I am giving you my word, the story will fly. And that is how we came about Osuofia in London.
I was calling again recently and said look, Chico, I think we need to remake another version of Osuofia in London, and he said, he had my backing. And he said he will give me the location, and project budget the next time we will see. But I was unfortunate that there was no next time. It is still shocking to me.
Chico is the greatest guy from Nollywood. He will give the same advice that he will give himself. He told me Sir Kay, don’t let the industry fall. And we are coming back, just the way Chico wants it. May God bless the family that he left behind.
I’m just going to say simply that I am what I am today, I am known for whom I am today, I achieved all that I have achieved because of Chico Ejiro.
RICHARD MOFE DAMIJO
For some funny reasons before Chico passed, I have been using him as a teaching point, everywhere I find myself teaching or doing anything about film, because there was this rigid talk about new Nollywood and old Nollywood, and it used to just really annoy me that some people would just discredit the work that some of us did in the past. I used to just say when you guys show me the things you guys have brought that is new to the industry, then we can be able to separate what is old and new in the industry. There will always be new producers, and new directors and new actors and new writers and that’s what it should be.
We’ve been talking about how good Chico is, but my thing is, I wonder if he got a lot of kindness in return from people. The last two times he saw me, I have done a small contribution to something that he needed and he was thanking me, and I said, don’t worry.
The last time was at Navana bridge TV. We were holding a meeting when somebody came in and said, Chico Ejiro is around, and he the GMD of Navana Bridge TV said, tell him to wait, we will soon finish. And I told him, No, please tell him to come in. I told him, It’s Chico, you know’. I told him Chico cannot wait, but I will wait.
So when Chico came in. he was lively. He said “Bros, you dey here?” So, I said, yeah, we dey do meeting but when una finish, we go dey outside.
He said no, that he will wait, but I insisted that they held the meeting while I waited. That was the last time I saw him.
The next time was me, wailing in my room in Dubai, and my wife woke up and was asking me, what was the matter, and I just kept on saying “We no many o, we no many”..You know, we know many..
Rest in peace.. and I hope your family gets the kindness that you worked for.
Chico and Joy Ejiro were more than just filmmakers to me. To Surulere as a constituency, He loved my progress not only as a film person but as a politician. Anything he wants, he will send me a message and work with the constituency office. I will reply him. Na Oga You Be. He was awesome.
The kindness Chico gave to this world, may people give to his family, and may God give to his family. May they find favour before God and man. He was an awesome person. I begged him many times to stop calling me honourable, he won’t agree. He was a person who made persons. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Zeb Ejiro, the elder brother to the deceased, was ushered to the stage, but he could not make any statement. He broke down in tears as he tried to gather his words.
Other artistes who shared reflections of how Chico Ejiro influenced their careers include Fred Amata, Kappy Ekpeyong Bassey, Sammy Okposo, and many others.