Nigeria: Actors, Producers Who Make Nollywood Interesting

In this piece, Anthony Ada Abraham examines some top Nollywood actors cum producers who are responsible for churning out great movies around the world.

The history of cinema in Nigeria dates back to as early as the history of film itself; notably in the late 19th century, with the use of peephole viewing of motion picture devices. These were soon replaced in the early 20th century with improved motion picture exhibition devices. The first set of films shown in Nigerian theatres were Western films, with the first film screened at Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos from 12 to 22 August, 1903. In that year, Herbert Macaulay had invited to Nigeria, the Balboa and Company, Spain to organise an exhibition tour of silent films in Nigeria.

But today, the story has changed with new technological advancement and well improved sophisticated hi-tech cameras with lenses that capture pictures from all ranges.

Many don’t know the movies Nigerians watch every day for their relaxation are made possible by people’s hard work, time and energy. Though some might say ‘are they not also smiling to the bank?’ Yes they are, but huge funds and energy are also responsible for the award winning movies that come on screen every day.

The Nigeria movies industry has grown to the extent that strong collaborations have been made between Nollywood and Hollywood. Renowned Nigerian actors have featured in some Hollywood flicks while our movie producers have brought in personalities from Hollywood to feature in Nollywood.

The second largest producing film industry in the world is no joke and that is why these men and women who have been working tirelessly day and night must be appreciated.

Some are new to the production scene while others have always been there. LEADERSHIP Friday captures some of the top producers in Hollywood churning out record breaking movies.


The professional Nollywood/Kannywood actor and producer, Usman A. Adeyemi, popularly known as ‘Uzee’ came to fame starring in movies, some of which he produced. The young CEO of Uzee Concept, who began his movie career in the year 2003, started as a make-up artist where he won an award at the (African Movie Academy Awards) AMAA in 2008; Best Makeup Artist for the movie, London Boy and soon gained experience and contact that launched him into stardom. Usman Uzee, who was born in Kaduna, is a unique figure in the industry at the moment based on his penchant for movies that bring Kannywood and Nollywood together. Some of the movies which he has produced are Mai farin jini, Maja, Oga abuja,Hassana da hussaina,Har da mijina, Duduwa, Under, Power of Tomorrow, Red, Dark Closet which features Jibola Dabo, Eucharia Anunobi and other. Uzee exclusively told LEADERSHIP Friday that he has just finished another blockbuster from his staple #Thorny. The young Kannywood producer moved to South Africa where he studied Special Effects. Over the years, the Actor cum Producer has produced over 20 movies both in Nollywood & Kannywood which earned him multiple awards both locally and internationally.

Ali Nuhu:

Though the Kannywood actor who is also the first popular face to star in some controversial roles in Nollywood is renowned for his master interpretation of scripts. The actor turned producer has produced more than 15 Kannywood movies which include, Ni dake mun dache, Daga ni sai ke, Dijangala, Gamunan dai and others. The actor cum producer has also won the prestigious Leadership entertainer of the year awards for his prowess in the industry. He has also starred in lots of Nollywood flicks which made him somewhat controversial in the well-known conservative Kannywood movie industry where he’s a big player.

Kunle Afolayan:

He’s the son of the famous theatre, film director and producer, Ade Love. He wasn’t as passionate with his banking job as he was with acting, which was why he was doing some casual acting while working in the bank, before deciding to move into full-time filmmaking and taking a course at the New York Film Academy. Though, he didn’t champion Nollywood, he opened a new chapter in the industry with his movie ‘The Figurine.’ He was also responsible for ‘Araromire’ which was in the Yoruba and English languages and ‘Phone Swap’ which featured Wale Ojo, Joke Silva, Nse Ikpe Etim and the legendary Chika Okpala.

The Figurine won five major awards in the African Film Academy and experienced tremendous success in the Nigerian movie theatres. Kunle Afolayan appeared at the Subversive Film Festival in 2011 where he represented the Nigerian film industry, with his colleague, Zeb Ejiro. In May, 2013, Phone Swap premiered in France at the first edition of NollywoodWeek Paris and won the Public Choice Award. Afolayan’s father, Adeyemi Josiah Afolayan (Ade-Love) was a renowned Nigerian artist of the second half of the 20th century. He worked in traveling theatre and turned to the film making industry. When it comes to movie production and directing, and when it also comes to the richest movie maker in Nigeria, there is no doubt, saying, Afolayan is the man!

Uche Jumbo:

This Nigerian actress, screenwriter and producer, who is a graduate of Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Calabar, and Computer Programming from the Federal University of Technology, Minna, since venturing into the Nigerian movie industry in 1999, starring in the movie ‘Visa to hell’, she hasn’t looked back, featuring in over 60 movies to her credit. As a screenwriter, she has written and co-written several movies, some of which include: The Celebrity, Games Men Play, Girls in the Hood & A Time to Love. Jombo went on to produce films such as Nollywood Hustlers, Holding Hope and her latest work, Damage which deals with the issue of domestic violence. She is a woman of substance and someone to emulate in the movie industry. She is worth the word that says, ‘ what a man can do, a woman can do better. ‘She later ventured into the movie production phase with her business named Uche Jombo Studio in 2012. Uche Jumbo’s Studio has since produced close to five movies and they include; Damage, Misplaced and many others.

Amaka Igwe:

Though Uzoamaka Audrey ‘Amaka’ Igwe is no more today, she would be remembered for the great impact she has had on Nollywood before she passed away. As a child, she acted as Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture.

Igwe, was an accomplished writer, producer, director, entrepreneur and teacher. A visionary and pioneer of modern Nigerian TV drama and film, she hit national limelight as the writer and producer of award-winning TV soap, ‘Checkmate’ and its offshoot, ‘Fuji House of Commotion’. Her Nollywood projects include Rattlesnake and Violated – two critically acclaimed movies that set apart Amaka Igwe Studios in the much-criticised Nollywood industry. She is the founder of BOBTV Expo, founder and CEO of the Lagos mainland based Top Radio 90.9FM station, the quality content production powerhouse, Amaka Igwe Studios, and Q Entertainment Networks, a DSTV channel she was working on before her death.

Tunde Kelani:

Kelani holds a Diploma in the Art and Technique of Filmmaking from the London International Film School, London. After many years in the Nigerian Film Industry as a Cinematographer, he now manages Mainframe Film & Television Productions, an outfit formed to document Nigeria’s rich culture.

Tunde Kelani has worked on most feature films produced in the country in his capacity as a Cinematographer. Some of his 16mm feature films include: Anikura; Ogun Ajaye; Iya Ni Wura; Taxi Driver; Iwa and Fopomoyo. In the area of video productions, he has to his credit award-winning feature videos: Ti Oluwa Nile; Ayo Ni Mo Fe; Koseegbe and Oleku. An advocate of ‘Alternative Technology’ in motion picture production in Africa, Tunde Kelani has successfully produced and directed two digital features, Saworoide and Thunderbolt. He also completed work on one of his latest digital films ‘Agogo-eewo’ shot on widescreen digitally on Dvcam. In addition to the M-net short feature films, ‘Twins of the Rainforest’, ‘A Place Called Home’ and ‘Barber’s Wisdom’ (35MM), he also photographed, produced and directed a short feature in 16mm ‘The White Handkerchief’ in the same series. He has since added The Campus Queen Abeni and The Narrow Path, the first set of works to probe further the possibilities of advanced digital filmmaking.

He recently added a new film, Arugba which has just concluded free, open-air community screenings in 57 local governments and development council areas of Lagos State in Nigeria. Tunde Kelani uses the Mobile Cinema Project, designed to take information and entertainment to the grassroots.

Zeb Ejiro:

He is called the Shiekh, though, not of any oil-rich country in the Gulf. He is, rather, Shiekh of the Nigerian movie industry known as Nollywood. His contributions to the movie industry stands him out as a grand master of the make-believe industry. Most of the brightest stars the sector can boast of today were midwifed by him. Just as he produced most of the films that raised the industry to international recognition, Ejiro, in his more than 25 years in the entertainment industry has been instrumental to major productions such as Nneka the Pretty Serpent, Ripples, Sakobi, Fatal Inheritance, Candle Light and several others. The Delta State-born movie producer and director is engrossed in a privately-owned movie academy which he set up in his state – an institution that he said would impart rich knowledge to those who want to take up acting or television business as a career.

Kingsley Ogoro:

The veteran entertainment mogul ventured into the movie world many years ago as an actor, producer and director with the establishment of his highly respected outfit, Klink Studios in 1992. Kingsley, who produced and directed top grossing movies like Osuofia in London, The Widow and many others, was previously married to popular 90s musician, Esse Agesse. The respected filmmaker also ventured into music production years ago which participated in the grooming of several upcoming singers under his Kingsley Ogoro Records. He announced years ago that he was building a film academy (Kingsley Ogoro Film Academy) in Surulere. The project, which was in conjunction with the French Embassy was reported to be worth a billion naira.

Ikechukwu Onyeka:

Ikechukwu Onyeka, a prolific and consistent Nollywood filmmaker hails from Umuoji in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, Nigeria. Undoubtedly, Mr. Onyeka, regarded as one of Nollywood’s most proficient movie directors, in a very uncanny manner rarely seen in an industry like Nollywood, rose through the ranks in the course of acquiring on-field training. He started out as a property manager, then a production manager, and then a producer. During this time of quiet understudy, he worked under almost all the big names in directing and before long, he acquired enough experience to work under these big names as an assistant director. To his credit as a revered and respected producer/director are such blockbuster flicks like the Unforeseen, Eagle’s Bride, Slave To Lust, Warrior’s Heart, The Captain, Corporate Maid, Intimidation and many more. Mr. Onyeka also co-directed Reloaded and A Private Storm.

MR & MRS, an award winning chart buster flick, was also released on DVD nationwide. Mr. Onyeka, a few years ago pulled off a landmark achievement when he became the first and only Nollywood director to pursue a degree program at the prestigious Colorado Film School, USA. On completion of the program, Mr Onyeka, is in serious discussion with the leadership of the Colorado Film School to set up an academy for film studies in Nigeria in the near future. The movie, Brother’s Keeper that he shot on his return from the Colorado Film School, is having a fantastic run at the cinemas as one of the longest running movies in a Nigerian cinema. He is also the CEO of Lykon Pictures Ltd, a Lagos based motion picture production company which produced record-breaking movies like Intimidation and Just in Case.

Emem Isong:

Emem Isong is a Nigerian home video industry screenplay writer and producer. Beginning her career in 1994, she has excelled in writing and producing movies. With provoking and well thought out plots, she has earned her place in Nollywood as one of the best screenplay writers. Since 1994, Emem has written and produced more than 17 movies, some of which have won awards both nationally and internationally. She has also written about 10 for other producers, and she is renowned for writing and producing highly thrilling suspense movies. Emem combines the rich cultural roots of the Ibibio people and her degree in Theatre arts to churn out some of the best scripts that have come out of Nollywood. “Breaking Point, She Devil, A Minute To Midnight, Master Stroke, Play Boy, Rumours, Shattered Illusion, Promise Me Forever, and Emotional Crack… not forgetting Private Sin”, Hit And Run… that made people sit up and notice what she could do.

Some of her movies includes Promise Me Forever, Girls In The Hood, Private Sin, Behind Closed Doors, Darkest Night, Enslaved, Games Women Play, Masterstroke, Men Do Cry, Blind Obsession, Silence Of the Gods, Mfana Ibagha, Ekaete, For Real, Endless Lies and finally Critical Decision, which Emem describes as the very best she has ever written. Be sure to watch these thrilling movies that highlight love.

Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen:

Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen’s success in the movie industry did not come by accident. And he would gladly tell you that. He believes strongly in the maxim; ‘experience is the best teacher.’ And his experience, acquired over several years of sustained practice in the performing arts, has served him very well. He directed his first movie in 1995 titled Twisted Fate. And several others followed: Chaise, Apple, Ordained, Bond, Anointed, Aziba, Burden, and Issakabaa, which according to him, was the highest selling of them all. He also directed the Harbinger-nominee Best Director, Reel Award 2000. He produced and directed Yesterday. Also, Lancelot, a founding member of the Directors Guild of Nigeria (D.G.N.) has directed: Behind Closed Doors, Games Women Play, Games Men Play, Traumatized, Men Do Cry, Emotional Crack, Master Stroke, Official Romance, Issakaba, Django, Family Battle, The Mistress, Ekaete, The Pope Must Hear This, Private Sin and More.

Tchidi Chikere:

The producer has over 50 films to his credit. Tchidi, who hails from Mbaise, Imo State, is also a musician. He has had duets with Marvellous Benji, OJB Jezreel and Pat Attah. He started writing film scripts when he was still in school. While in school, he belonged to a musical group of three. Chikere, is an actor, director, producer, script writer and singer. He is married to Sophia Tchidi Chikere who is also an actress and the union has produced three boys together.

Desmond Elliot:

Popular Nollywood actor cum director, Desmond Elliot is a well-known household name in the Nigerian entertainment industry who has also gone into politics. Desmond Elliot has co-produced about six or more films including, Guilty Pleasures, Holding Hope, Reloaded and some others.

Omoni Oboli:

She was nominated for the Best Actress in a Leading Role award at the 2011 Africa Movie Academy Awards. In 2014, Omoni won Big Screen Actress of the Year award, at the 2014 ELOY Awards, for her movie, Being Mrs Elliot. After a long break from the Nigerian movie scene, Omoni made a comeback, featuring in Kunle Afolayan’s award winning movie, the Figurine, which starred top cast like Desmond Elliot, Yemi Blaq and Mercy Johnson in 2009. Wives on strike with Chioma Akpotha, Uche Jombo, Kalu Ikeagwu

Rita Dominic:

Dominic started performing when she was a child, appearing in school plays and children’s television shows in Imo State. In 1998, she starred in her first movie, A Time to Kill. She won the City People Awards in 2004 as the Most Outstanding Actress. She has starred in over 100 Nollywood productions. She has made herself a priceless diamond among other actresses in Nigeria, in the sense that she always pulls herself out to be noticed in any of the movie she Starrs in, she happens to be a very wonderful actress. She has grown over the years, from an actress to an award winning and recognised producer. ‘The Meeting’, presented Rita in a character as never before. Rita played the character, Clara Ikemba; a powerful secretary to a minister. None of her movies better exemplifies her talents and strengths as an actress better than ‘The Meeting’. The movie hasn’t failed to bring in awards and nominations. ‘The Meeting’ won the ‘People’s Choice’Award at the just concluded Nollywood Week in Paris, France. It also got Rita the ‘ Best Lead Actress’ award in the 2013 Nigeria Entertainment Awards amongst other awards.

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