Can we meet you please?

My name is Fifi Godwin – Nwokedi from Imo State. A Nigerian-Cameroonian born. A Creative designer, from the makeup department. I was appointed CDGN National P.R.O in 2012. The CEO – Dieu-Donne Couture, a fashion school in Asaba, Delta State. Presently the Executive Director – Nigeria AIDS Counselling Organization (NACO) in charge of HIV/AIDS, Orphans/ Vulnerable Children(OVC) and their caregivers. Married to Dr Jones Nwokedi, a doctor based in Denmark and we are blessed with three lovely children. I graduated from the University of Calabar , Theatre Arts Department (DTA). As an achiever, a goal getter, a pacesetter with positive mindset, I am not afraid to express myself where necessary. Those who know me know how equally passionate I am about my primary guild CDGN and her affairs.

How did you become a member of the NOLLYWOOD sector of the Creative industry?

How did I become a member of NOLLYWOOD? Hmm, it is a long story. Talk about flash backs with sweet memories. It was an awesome experience but not without obstacles. I have been in the NOLLYWOOD sector of the creative industry for 2 decades, but as a professional the journey started in 2002. It all began the day I stepped into Zeb Ejiro’s office as a reporter with Kiddie Times Magazine. I was there for a different mission but like a dream come true an opportunity came with it. My mission was to get an article for my column PERSONALITY PROFILE in Kiddie Times Magazine where the kids read about their IDOLS. The quest for a NOLLYWOOD star to grace my column took me to Zeb Ejiro’s office. I had a written note from one of his friends and respected musician, MIKE OKRI who had also graced my column. The note was for Zeb Ejiro to assist me with notable Nollywood stars for interview. The first obstacle was the receptionist (now my friend) who stood me up for hours. I felt bad but was determined and persistent. Armed with a positive mindset I did not come all the way to be discouraged from my mission. The opportunity presented itself when I saw Mr Matthias Obahiagbon thinking he was Zeb Ejiro, and I came up with a strategy which had worked for me before. I remember that Nigerians love foreigners with a passion, and haven being born and lived in Cameroon for years I can speak their English very well, so I immediately walked up to the receptionist again feigning my exit, I spoke to her in Cameroon accent telling her how I felt.

My strategy was to draw attention and it worked. I saw the expression on the faces around. Even the receptionist became reasonable for once as she told me that her boss was in a meeting. Mr Matthias watched with a keen interest. I heard a voice ask behind me what was the problem and it was Mr Matthias’ voice. I stepped up my game and I maintained my accent and claimed to be a Cameroonian. I told him “I wan see patron but this sherry dey harmburg my skin”!!! He started laughing and said I was the one they were searching for. I was a bit confused. Mr Mathias asked me to follow him. I followed him to Zeb’s office, he asked me sit, and he left to fetched Presido from the conference room. Mr Zeb Ejiro explained to me that Nigerian Breweries had contracted him to produce a soap for NTA Network. They were ready but a particular character (one of the major) that was to speak comical pidgin English was holding the production. He was contemplating casting someone with a Calabar or Warri accent. But God just sent me. He offered me the role and requested for the usual 5x7size photograph. I was given a script to go and come back for contract signing the following day. It was a five-year contract. I was then taken to the conference room to meet with the stars on the project. I almost fainted with joy when I saw the line-up of stars: Clarion Chukwurah, Saint Obi, Omotola , Alex Usifo and other notable stars. He introduced me as the one he was waiting for , that I just arrived from Cameroon and I played along. I was given refreshments. Now the stars were interviewing me instead of me doing the interview. I was entertaining them with my country talk, they were all excited. A week later I moved with them to our shooting location at the Nigerian Breweries guest house in Ibadan.

When did you join the CDGN ?

While on set, the make-up artist Mr Ebere Pretty left for Lagos on an emergency but he never came back. So in line with my passion for creativity and my knowledge as a theatre artist, I decided to help with the job. The actors were pleased with my job. So, I was issued another cheque for a dual role. That was how I became an in-house make-up artist for Zeb Ejiro’s production Ltd. But on a fateful day some group of people stormed our set led by Late Pamela Olisa of blessed memory. They presented themselves as members of CDGN task-force .They categorised me as a non-member to my boss Zeb Ejiro. He told them “She is my employee”. They backed down but as they were about leaving late Pamela Olisa invited me for lunch. At lunch she explained the importance of being a bonafide member of CDGN. I was pleased, I attended their meeting the same month in 2004. I was screened and certified and from that day onward I became an active member till date. CONGA (Coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Associations) was an umbrella body for all the guilds in Nollywood back then. Did you feel the impact of CONGA?

CONGA (Coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Associations) was first introduced under the leadership of the then President of DGN and was meant to bring all guilds and association together. An MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed by all the guilds then but it didn’t last much because of personal interest from some persons. Its presently being put together by some interested practitioners under the leadership of Mr Fred Amata the current president of DGN with a new name Congress of Nollywood guilds and association but with same acronym CONGA and I hope personal interest allows it this time

Has anything changed between then and now?

 Focusing on CDGN, tremendous progress has been made in the area of structural leadership, functional offices, separation of Lagos State chapter from the National administration and the creation of geopolitical CDGN regions

Please explain what you mean by this?

In our CDGN meetings back then in Lagos I observed that there was no administrative structure for Lagos State chapter. It seemed National was acting for while Lagos was at the same time the National. I also discovered that most of the offices within the guild administration were not functional. I agitated for the clear separation of Lagos chapter from the National. Around this period I had to leave Lagos to Delta to set up my business and do some other things. But I am happy it is a dream come true.

How can the Guild move on to greater heights?

We should create a mandatory CDGN training institute as the channel for repositioning our professional code of conduct. This will definitely upgrade our guild’s status and respect in Nollywood and world at large. Member should become more active in promoting their jobs on social media, they should also hype our social functions and meetings. To create a CDGN Magazine which can be distributed in many places, government establishment, shops , with members showcasing their jobs , being graduates of CDGN institute. We can earn more from advert placement. With you Leo as the Chief editor., great job you are doing…

Can you give us the gist of an unforgettable experience you had on a set. What did it mean to you.? How did it influence your professional practise?

Out of the many experiences I have had, one stood out and made an unforgettable impression. The incident occurred in 2006 on my first corporate job assignment with Storm vision (who were producers of the first BBNAIJA.) Among the makeup artists for the job were notable makeup houses outside the Nollywood industry. I was the only one from Nollywood and the youngest. Believe me at first, I was intimidated by the big names. The Producer required the judges to be made up before the contract. The judges are Ibukun Awosika (Chairman First Bank) , John Momoh of Channels TV, Chris Park from USA, Femi Tejuoso (The Oba’s son) and Alexander Amosu (the youngest of them all, British- Nigerian luxury designer, entrepreneur who became a millionaire at the age of 19).. so these were really big folks. There was now a noticeably big challenge. Alex Amosu does not trust Nigerian makeup artists and he insisted he would not participate with doing the makeup part. Very bad news and serious challenge for the producer of the reality show – (DRAGONS’ DEN) sponsored by MTN and UBA. For this issue to be resolved the producer gave all the makeup artists a task to convince Alexander and change his mind. The big names went but he stood his ground. You should have seen how I was praying in my heart. But I had an inside information about his personality profile. This assisted me to tackle the situation in conversation. I called his attention to his success story in comparison with mine. I drew the parallel that we are similar, with me in this case being the young person who is just having her very first cooperate job. I told him that I needed this job profile more than the money please. He started laughing and in his words he said “You gat me there”. Everybody was wondering what I did to Alex to laugh like that. I was awarded the contract. Second part was the pricing, and that is a story for another day. From this I learnt how to deal with high profile jobs. I see my profession as integral relationship with my client. To always have better understanding of our clients is paramount to the success of our job as clients differs from one another. What do you currently do?

I am the CEO of a fashion house/ School. Dieu-donne Couture. Asides that, I am the ED -Executive Director, with Nigeria AIDS Counselling Organization (NACO) engaged with Caritas international.

What was your best paying fee (with year) and lowest fee (what year)? My best paid fee was still the 2006 MTN/ UBA DRAGONS’ Den reality show. The contract was awarded to me. I was asked to name my fee I said N600k (in todays money N2.6m.)”Done”, she said. Just like that! She subtracted the tax and issued a cheque to me. I was so happy, so excited that when I got home, I put a call through to the insider who informed me about the contract. He asked how much I billed. Joyful, I shouted 600k. He said I should have asked in 7 figures , the project being huge with big sponsors like MTN/UBA . Well half bread is better than chin-chin. I call that experience. My lowest pay was from my Oga at the top , a short film made for Kenyan students for their project. (LOST IN LAGOS) It was 50k.