In Nollywood today, one of the names that rings a bell
when it comes to action packed and quality movies is
Teco Benson. He started first as an actor, later
producer cum scriptwriter, before finally berthing and consolidating as
a top-notch director.
And interestingly, he has been at the top of his
thriving career since his debut in 1994, getting accolades and
winning several awards locally and on the foreign
In this interview with AZUH AMATUS, the movie-maker with
over 30 hit flicks to his credit, among them the
recently released “Explosion”, bared his mind on
several issues, especially those germane to Nollywood.
He also spoke about his recent trip to Tel-Aviv,
Israel, where he took the gospel of Nollywood to and
came back with a sweet tale and song.
Enjoy the interaction!
You just returned from a trip to Tel Aviv, Israel, what took you there and what was the experience like?
Honestly the trip was very, very exciting and I
brainstormed, it was an experience I would not forget in a
hurry. Well we got to Israel safely and we were
checked into a hotel because we went as a delegation
kind of contingent, it was before the war with Lebanon
. I said it was very wonderful, I must say it is very
good for Nigeria as a nation that we went there, we
did very much to launder the image of our country and
our dear nation, and there’s no other country we can
call our own. I am a staunch Nigerian and I believe so
much in Nigeria, it’s a country I love so much that
even in my own industry when people are talking about
how to get to Hollywood I tell them that I am going to
stay here and transform here to something beautiful
than Hollywood and I believe that is how it should be.
The trip was organized by the embassy of Nigeria in
Israel and it was part of a cultural exchange
programme to show the Nigerian culture, paint the real
picture of Nigeria. At the event we had exhibition of
fashion shows, all the fashion in Nigeria, we had
cultural shows all the tribes in Nigeria, we had
dances and so many drama presentations, and we had
Nollywood which was represented by “Explosion”
directed and recently released by my humble self. The
premiere was wonderful, the turnout was impressive
and what actually touched me was that people were
clapping intermittently as they were watching the
movie and at the end of the whole show the impression
about Nigeria changed. Yes, the theme of my movie is
419 and all of you know the negative and ugly trend it
has done to Nigeria’s image. It has given us a bad
name, for some of us who travel often, we face a lot
of embarrassment at the airport and at other port of
entries in other countries; once you have that green
passport you have a kind of inferiority complex, they
will search you even to your pants, even sometimes
they take your private part and manhandle it
unnecessarily all in the process of conducting their
search and this is very embarrassing. I have
taken it upon myself to see how this image about
Nigeria can change because like I said there’s no
other country I can call my own no matter how you want
to run away from Nigeria one day you will still come
back and no matter how you run away you are a
Nigerian. We were there for five days actually, at the
event, you could see the excitement, you could see
appreciation of Nigeria in there, because, before we
came the only impression they had about Nigeria were
that of illegal immigrants because they had to even
deport all Nigerians there, most of those deported got
there illegally. Minister of Information Mr. Frank
Nweke Jnr. was also there; he stood up and spoke so
beautiful about Nigeria as a nation. I feel so glad
that I was chosen to be an ambassador of Nigeria and
What would say is the impact of your trip on Nollywood?
Well, the major lesson is that out there, there are
lots of regards for Nollywood, there are lots of
expectations from Nollywood. Our films have gone much
farther than we believe and people expect much from
us, so for me and my colleagues I think it’s time we
sit up because I believe to whom much is given much is
expected, we have to really buckle up and eschew
mediocrity, pursuance of money at the detriment of
professionalism kills the industry and honestly I feel
very bad when I see people throw professionalism to
the gutters because of money that will be here today
and tomorrow is not there anymore. God has given this
industry to us as a medium for a purpose. My vision is
to change the society through the medium of film and I
have been following it squarely, all my films have
instant messages. Yes, for now I don’t have access to
government, I don’t have access to political power,
and I don’t have access to the pulpit, but I have
access to this medium of film. So whatever I want to
get across to my people I know how to do it so and I
use the film medium.
Why are you so passionate about your latest project, Explosion?
Honestly ‘Explosion’ is about my biggest project in
recent times. The drive for that movie was borne out
of a big burden on me. I sat down for more than eight
years to look at Nigeria, the people of Nigeria were
not created to be thieves, we are very hardworking
people, but all of a sudden this 419 thing came and
every young man abandoned what they were doing and
jumped into it because of the fast cash that comes
with it and I must tell you it has done more harm than
good. 419 is robbery, theft, murder, it is evil
personified, but we have clothed that in very
beautiful attire and call it some beautiful names and
people tend to forget that this is a big sin not just
against God but against humanity. You rob a man under
a guise and you go home and enjoy your loot, live in
glass houses with your family without knowing that you
are inflicting curses on your children, you are
inflicting curses upon yourself and the man that you
have robbed will never be happy with you, he will even
pray to God to punish you for that crime. So people
don’t know the other side of it, all people know is
that they make money from it. So I have sat down and
observed that many of our young people who are even
into legal businesses already are leaving them for the
fast lane because they make it faster when they come
over here. I decided on my own to contribute because
government has done much to curtail their excesses but
it has not been easy because of so many bottle
necks. Since I have this medium of film, I think I
can through this medium tell or contribute in my own
little way so that the menace can be stopped. My style
is to expose the tricks and modus operandi of these
guys to the international community to make sure that
people won’t fall victims to this ugly stuff any
Are you not afraid for your life and that of your immediate by exposing these heartless souls publicly?
Well I am an apostle of change, God has sent me to do
this and God will protect me.
I am not scared of anything. It’s already out and
doing wonderfully well in the market, courtesy of my
recently floated marketing and distribution outfit.
Honestly, a lot of millions was spent trying to make
this movie measure up to international standards.
Permit me to be silent on the particular figure, but I
would tell you that a lot of millions have gone into
the production but I might not be very, very specific
as to the exact figure.
Aside Explosion, are you also working on other projects?
Honestly, aside Explosion I haven’t done another
movie. My plan is to release it before I go into
another, if my colleagues can borrow a leaf from me
the problem we are experiencing would not be there
because most of them are rushing and releasing movies
as if the world is coming to an end tomorrow. It is
absurd that sometimes a production company can do like
seven films within one month sometimes ten, which is
terrible and by the time you push all these films into
the market and you expect the same Nigerians to buy in
a month fifty films, it’s not possible. Producers
should be disciplined do you understand. I want money
as well, I need it to exist, I have my family to feed
as well, you know but I just don’t look at that money.
I look at the value of what am doing I look at the
effect on people, I look at the buying power of
people; do you understand these are things we need to
consider. There’s no way somebody can buy all these
films. That is why I also encourage people to buy
films based on the name of directors they respect, it’s
much better, by so doing they will not be deceived.
Unlike other production houses, yours release fewer movies on a yearly basis, why?
It is maturity, I think I am getting more mature and
understanding the reality of life. So many producers
churn out thousands of movies and in the end they
don’t even have any money in their accounts to show
for their efforts. I believe it’s good for one to be
focused there’s no hurry in life, anything you want to
do, do it well, do it properly. I might not stick to
three films every year, sometimes if I have the fund
and time and if I have other people who can also work
under me I can increase it to five or thereabout but I
can never go the other way where people churn out
movies as if they are making popcorns. Apart from
movies, I am into commercials, T.V series, and studio
use and equipment rentals.
What was it like, starting your outfit, TFP Productions?
Actually this company was established in 1996 but not
registered then, but in 1997 I registered the company.
In 99/2000 I got a place and moved in. it’s been a
very nice experience, we have made tremendous impact
in the movie industry. We have edited movies for
almost all the big names in the industry. T.F.P stands
for Teco Films Production.
As a leading name in the industry, what would you say are the major challenges facing Nollywood and its practitioners?
The biggest challenge here is the Nigerian factor,
number one, most of us are used to making films in one
week, so when a Teco Benson wants to work, it
stretches into three weeks because I want to get
things right, you see people complaining here and
there giving you hell, you know, complaining and
harassing you and all that and sometimes you feel you
are doing something wrong. The problem with most
artistes is that they are always in haste; secondly,
is the financial challenges. Our counterparts in
Hollywood, Bollywood and other advance nations who are
making movies sometimes are opportune to work with a
budget of about two hundred million U.S Dollars but
here we have very lean budget and our economy is so
poor our movies are released directly to videos and
the scenes are not encouraging at all. Sometimes you
make movies you don’t even make profit, even when you
make profit it’s not even enough to take care of you
until you do another movie. So these are problems that
we confront and sometimes there are things you would
ordinarily want to achieve in a movie but because of
financial constraints you have to cut corners to make
do with what you have and manage and sometimes it
doesn’t make me feel good. The economy of the nation
might be the biggest problem that is what is
contributing to these problems. People don’t even have
enough to eat let alone lavish money on acquiring or
buying movies, you know that is the problem. Then
another big problem is the lack of expertise, I have
done a lot of action movies. You discover that as a
director I do my job and the job of so many other
people because of lack of experts, we have in advanced
countries what we call stunt coordinators, we have
technicians, we have a lot of things, and a lot of
people that can help you achieve a lot of things. You
want to fire gun now there are experts that can help
you even to burn cars professionally among several
others. But here our engineers cannot even make a
razor blade let alone trying to do a dummy of a car
for you, so it’s a shame and they are the people
sitting at home and criticizing Nollywood that we are
not doing well. Meanwhile till now, we don’t have a
100% Nigerian made bicycle, it’s a shame; do you
understand so they should sit up as well. You see
Nollywood is part of the same Nigeria but we have gone
ahead of every other sector; I know it’s doing well
now, Nollywood has gone ahead to turn water into wine
because from nowhere we have been able to make
Nollyeood a brand. The name Nollywood was even given
to the industry by the Washington Times, it wasn’t
even given to us by ourselves, that would tell you the
extent we’ve gone and everyday you see analysis of
Nollywood in foreign magazines, foreign papers and if
you travel abroad you receive a lot of accolades from
fans all over the world, you get e-mails from all over
the world, anywhere you go, which goes a long way to
show the extent Nollywood has gone. Another thing that
makes me happy is the fact that in Africa for now the
birth of Nollywood marked the death of Hollywood. Do
you know that in most African countries people don’t
watch Hollywood again, Nollywood is it everywhere, and
they don’t watch Hollywood movies anywhere again?
As a director, your passion for making action movies is legendary, why the special interest in such films?
Good, before I delved into action movies I have cut my
teeth in other genre of movies, I have done lots of
Christian movies, I have done lots of thrillers, I
have done lots of other genre of movies but my
entrance into action movies was borne out of the
messages received from people. You see, the quest to
be different was what pushed me into action movies.
How and why did you join Nollywood?
Well, I came into the industry in 1994, but before
then I was a civil servant that didn’t find
satisfaction with my job. I was working with Anambra
State, actually I read sciences in school, I read
Environmental Health and Pathology. I discovered that
what I actually read in school was not actually my
calling. Is all about calling, before you were formed
in your mother’s womb God has already destined you and
planned what you will be. I thank God for the
experience. After acting in some movies, the offer to
produce a movie came my way in 1996, Sunny Collins
told me that he wants me to produce a movie for him,
but I had never produced a movie before then. Yeah!
That was my first movie and his first movie as well.
So that was how the journey began “Compromise” was the
movie’s title. I also produced other hit movies like
“Suicide Mission”, Scores to Settle, Abandon,
Confusion, Narrow Escape, Atrocity and many others.
Later I directed “Waterloo” and went on leave because
I was not satisfied.
Which was your breakthrough movie in Nollywood?
Honestly, the funny thing was that from the time I did
Compromise the name was everywhere, but when I now did
“Eye for Eye” an action film people starting raising
eye brows, because I was a writer and a producer and I
was an actor too, the face was there. I want to use
the medium of film to change the society I have to
supply the content in that case, you have to choose
the script you are shooting. Honestly, it will be
difficult to answer the question because you keep
doing jobs and people appreciate you because almost
every of my films is a commercial success. It’s so
because I take my time to do all my movies. When I did
State of Emergency in year 2000 it was a big shock to
the nation and I think it ballooned me to higher
grounds. Even with the entire name as a director, my
movies are less than 50.
Is the government doing enough for Nollywood in terms of support and technical assistance?
You know the answer before you asked me this question
but I will still answer you. The truth is that
government was not prepared for the boom that we
experienced in Nollywood, they never cared, just out
of nowhere Nollywood just started from efforts of
individuals, the industry has so boomed now that
it has attracted the attention of government.
Government is beginning to notice the impact of the
industry and is trying to make an in-road into the
industry. So if there’s anything they are going to do
it is now, but I must say that Obasanjo government has
impacted positively on the industry because for the
first time in this administration the former minister
of information, Chikelu Chukwuemeka did a lot for
Nollywood; and after his exit, Frank Nweke Jnr is
doing one or two things also to encourage the
industry. They have not done enough, everybody knows
that but with the effort they are trying to make now I
believe the future is brighter and by the time
government comes in properly there will be a change.
Nollywood will now get to the next level.
As a major and critical stakeholder, what would you say is the biggest problem facing Nollywood?
The biggest problem facing us now is piracy, and then
the second monster is anarchy.
Anarchy because the industry is in shambles, we are
not together; we have problems facing us here and
there, associations here and there, multiplication and
duplication of associations. You see an association of
producers here; you see another association of
producers there. That is why there is no
professionalism and that is why one person can release
forty films in two months and nobody can tell him not
to do so, there is no control. So there is total lack of
control in the industry and that is because the
industry is not together and that is why the pirates
are feeding fat because there is no law. We are not
united. And any nation that is divided against itself
can never stand, until we come together; to the
drawing boards we can never, never make a head way. So
these are the two biggest problems from my own
perception in the industry and until they are uprooted
to their roots, we cannot make any headway.
So, what do you think or see as the way forward?
The way forward is still connected to what I have said
before now, by coming together government has already
started to establish film makers council and the aim
is to professionalize the industry and bring everybody
together and eliminate the problems I have enumerated.
So if they can follow that to the latter I believe the
industry will move forward because the industry can
have standard now, you can decide on anything and
follow it to the end, you can agree on minimum
standard that nobody should go below and there would
be penalty if anybody goes against it.
We would like to have your views on the rampant issue of sexual harassments in the industry?
It is a very difficult question to answer; I don’t
think I will be able to answer the question. The
accusation we hear often is that male producers are
harassing female actresses.
As a leading filmmaker, what motivates you?
Basically, for every man created on earth there’s a
purpose, God created me for a purpose and that purpose
is part of my vision unconsciously I took that vision
as my vision in Nollywood but later I realized that,
that was even my purpose in Nollywood. God planted me
in Nollywood to be able to accomplish these things
through me and I’m going to do a lot more of exploits
in the future, and my dream is to even have a movie
ministry where I will be evangelizing through movies,
but my own kind of evangelism will not be the full
blown type, you see when you look at a situation you
know the best way to approach circumstances and
situations. Like in the world of today, if you just do
a film and make it a full blown Christian film, it is
only born again Christians that will watch it, the
unbelievers who you are targeting will not watch it.
They will give their lives to Christ without anybody
forcing them, without anybody harassing them or
anything, but when it comes overtly, when it comes
from the beginning you make it obvious as a Christian
film, you are only preaching to people who are on the
side of God. But God has told us to go inside the
world and make disciples of all nations, the people you
need to convert are the unbelievers.Tthe only message
you need to give the believers already is to encourage
them and warn them against backsliding and the dangers
of it.To constantly remind them of their covenant
with God, but for the people in the world there is a
different message for them and that is why am here. My
motivation is first of all from God, it comes in your
mind, you think it’s just your mind talking to you, but
it is God speaking to you through your mind.But first
of all like I said earlier, I look at things happening
wrongly here and there, I don’t feel happy about it,
but I feel bad about them. So there’s this push in me
that the nature and creation is waiting for me as the
only person who can solve the problem. So whenever, I
am doing films I put my life down, I put my life in
every film I do even if I am doing the film for
somebody. I must have to change the script to make sure
that there is a message at the end of the day, there
must be a moral message at the end of the day.
We would like to know more about your background?
Oh I am married to Uju Blessing Benson, Uju is a young
beautiful lady in her twenties and God has already
blessed us with three kids, three boys. I have a
wonderful family; we are from Ojoto, Anambra state. I
read Environmental Health at Enugu State School of
health technology like I said earlier. Then I did a
P.G.D in Pathology at Nnamdi Azikwe University Nnewi
Campus, I am planning to further in an area related to
First published, September 2006