On June 13, 2014, family, friends and many stakeholders in the Nigerian entertainment industry gathered to lay to rest the remains of Amaka Igwe, who passed away on April 28, 2014. The demise of the late entertainment mogul at 51 years was a great shock and irreparable loss for her fans, the generation of entertainment professionals she was grooming then, and the industry generally.
Born on January 2, 1963, Amaka, the Nollywood and broadcast icon would have been 58 years old this year. However, seven years after her death, the Nigerian movie industry still feels the vacuum her demise created, especially her creative ingenuity, doggedness and proactive approach to challenges in the movie business.
She was one of the second-generation filmmakers who pioneered the video film era of the Nigerian cinema and remained a prominent figure in the industry until her death in 2014.
In recognition of her contributions to the Nigerian entertainment industry, as well as, to mark her 57th posthumous birthday on January 2, 2020, Google honoured her with a doodle, which temporarily altered the logo on Google’s homepage with Amaka’s facial drawing that day.
For those who do not know Amaka, she was everything a father, husband, children and even colleagues would wish a woman to be – a successful daughter, loving wife, caring mother, and an astute business/entertainment personality.
If Isaac Ene, her late father, a retired civil engineer from Obinagu-Udi in Enugu State, was to be alive today, he would query death for snatching his best. Amaka was truly among the best in her chosen career.
Madam BOBTV, as her competitors would call her; Amaka was a foremost producer, writer, director, entrepreneur, teacher and a leading player in the Nigerian motion picture industry from 1992 until death.
Considering some of her early works such as Checkmate, Fuji House of Commotion, Violated, RattleSnake, and The Barber’s Wisdom, shot on celluloid, one may ask where she got such amazing creative ingenuity from because then, they were rare in our clime. Those efforts till date have largely remained a watershed in the history of soaps and movie production in Nigeria.
Even when ideas come in a flash of memory, she still captured them. While alive, Amaka disclosed that she conceived Checkmate by watching Mirror in the Sun. She had written a script about an all-conquering female hero like Queen Amina and had conceived it like a traditional stage play. But when she saw Mirror in the Sun, she decided to make it a modern all-conquering female hero story.
Her love for the motion picture industry was beyond the scripts she wrote, the movies she directed and the money that hit her bank accounts. Amaka also saw the need for a platform that converges all TV programmes in a one-stop shop. She created one and tagged it BOBTV, an annual event that facilitated the buying and selling of audio-visual content, the brokerage of production deals, as well as, the facilitation of world-class skills transfer and training for African producers.
Best of the Best African Film and Television Programmes market (BOBTV) truly lived up to Amaka’s vision of providing a common access point for good and authentic movies and television programmes.
The late Amaka was truly a successful entrepreneur. Besides founding and organising BOBTV, she was also the CEO of Top Radio 90.9FM based in Lagos mainland, managing director, Amaka Igwe Studios, and chairperson, Q Entertainment Networks, while preparations were underway to launch Q Networks, a DStv channel in a few weeks before her death.
Even in death, Amaka remains grateful to the day she organised variety shows for her schoolhouse at Idia College Benin City, Edo State, which attracted a fee-paying audience. That was the beginning of her today successful journey in the arts, and from that single variety show, she taught and took her school group to perform the famous Atilogwu dance at the Ogbe Stadium in Benin City.
Though she studied Education and Religious Study at the University of Ife, it was until she returned to Enugu after her NYSC that she learnt television at the studios of the Enugu State Broadcasting Service where classics such as Basi and Company and the New Masquerade were produced.
Of course, her fans across Africa still mourn her, and even Africa Magic for being a giant in our world, a loyal supporter, a committed professional and a valued partner to M-NET Africa.
Charles, her husband of 21 years, her three children, and an aged mother, all mourn her irreparable loss.
However, Amaka, who died while on location for an Igbo soap opera in Enugu, left behind so many unfulfilled dreams, especially the quest to make Igbo films that would show regularly on Africa Magic like Hausa and Yoruba movies. Gratefully, Africa Magic Igbo went live on April 2, 2015, at 19:00 CAT on DStv channel 159, barely a year after her death.
She also wished that BOBTV would continue to provide a common access point for good and authentic movies and television programmes in Nigeria and Africa.
She also hoped there would be people willing to continue where death stopped her and to sustain her legacy.