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By afric.iWRITE 7 comments

The Light is Not So Distant - Part 1(an initial account of Onyeka Nwelue's movie, The Distant Light)

Now, let me say this. I need to talk, because I am part of the birth of this great thing that is about to happen to the history of Nollywood. People may think we’re kidding, but they’ll all be here when it will happen. Some of us have been with the crowd, watching series of movies produced by various producers in Nollywood, and we have been quiet about them. We have been with the viewers, so we know what they feel about this industry that has been sustaining itself since inception. This industry has strived without support from any government body, or funding from any financial institution. Yet, we have seen Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde. It is this same industry that brought back Pete Edochie from Things Fall Apart, and made young minds like Enyinna Nwigwe to be heard. If they have been operating this industry on low budget, why then should we bother about the low picture quality and a cliché in story lines?

I met Onyeka Nwelue on Facebook about two years ago, but the way we have been fertilizing our friendship will make one think that we have known ourselves from childhood. Between both of us, I can not remember who first requested for friendship from the other. I think we just happened to pick interest in each other’s talent. I am a writer of poetry, short fiction and prose. I divorced my hunger for my first degree in Architecture, and welcomed my original talent; Writing. While I was busy reading this young man’s works online, he was busy googling my works too. Hey, I found out he was from my state; Imo. I wanted to meet him. He wanted to meet me too. Vandoz Inn was the place we decided to meet, since I could not go to Hollywood Hotel, the previous day, to meet him. I resided in Federal Housing Estate, Egbu Road, while Hollywood Hotel was at Prefab Housing Estate. Vandoz was likely the best place to meet with him, since it was along MCC Road, between both of us. I was the first to get there, with a friend of mine, with my big screen laptop, and a bottle of big stout.

When Onyeka walked in, I knew he was the one. I hadn’t met him before, but seeing someone with the hairs he had on his head was more convincing. Who else could have had those scattered hairs? Onyeka. He came straight to where I was, we exchanged pleasantries, and he sat down. He was a young man. A very young man. He had already turned twenty-one by the time we met for the first time. We did not talk about that. We have never talked anything about age, since it has never mattered. I started off the discussion. I wanted Onyeka to be part of those of us that wanted to revolutionize the way people perceived the art of writing or literature in Owerri. I wanted him to join a few of us. I told him that the Association of Nigerian Authors in Imo State and a few other literary associations had been greatly politicized, and that a few of us who had the real talent were no more so eager to join their camps. We were setting up a new association to be spearheaded by young writers. We had already registered it as The Literary Club, Owerri. I went ahead and said many things that were true about literature in the eastern part of the nation, and how we needed to act fast, so that our generation would eventually not be seen as a failure.

Onyeka smiled, after my long speech. He said Igbos were good story tellers, and that he felt for them. He was not going to be part of any association, or rather, the setting up of any association. He also brought one fact to me, that the same politics I was running away from was the same politics I was giving birth to. He wanted to concentrate more on his writing first. He was going to take part in associations later on in his life, when he must have achieved a lot. I listened to him while he talked. He had his point. I had mine. We discussed The Abyssinian Boy, his novel, and how successful it had been in the market. We talked about my unpublished collection of short stories, and he said he couldn’t wait for it to be published. He knew I was going to do well in the market, he thought. The meeting ended with a few more bottles of stout. He left to meet with Uche Umez, while I went straight to the construction site.

It took a whole year before I saw Onyeka again. He was back from India, where he visited for medical reasons and for a literary festival in Jaipur. He had gone to Jaipur with Wole Soyinka. It was part of his promotion plans. I think it was during the same period that he had a problem of racism with the Hong Kong Embassy, after they denied him visa because he was black. He won them through the media, and they gave him the visa, and an apology letter. He told me all this over the phone. We finally settled that he was to visit me in Bonny Island on the 10th of April, 2010, where I had just started my new job. He was to come to Bonny Island, after attending the African Movie Awards in Yenegoa. I made sure I kept him updated on how to get to the boat jetty, and what to say to any personnel he met on his way to Bonny Island.

I met him at the visitors’ center. He still had that same scattered hair. He had also grown skinnier than the last time we met. He was having a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in his right hand. I received him with huge expectations, knowing that I was finally ready to publish my collection of short stories, and we were going to talk about it. He also appeared happy to see me again, and followed me into the estate, after getting his pass into the estate.

I took him to room 18B (a historical room for those that have been opportune to read one of my short stories). He kept his bags, and followed me to the canteen where we had lunch. Everyone at the canteen knew he was a foreigner. No one in the whole camp had his kind of hair, and no one dressed like him. Onyeka was wearing an orange Indian top. In fact, Onyeka had become a black Indian. I swallowed my opinion, and went ahead to ask him what next. He said he wanted to achieve something while in Bonny. He wanted to start the draft for his next work; a movie. He came with his Apple Notebook and medicated glasses. He was ready to write. I was to meet him only in the evenings, for us to take a tour of the environment, and talk about things that mattered in our careers. We were to discuss other people too. We were to talk about A. Igoni Barret and Uche Peter Umez. We were to discuss the future of a few talented writers like Jumoke, Sylva, and Richard Ali. We were to talk about how well Ayo had done with DADA Books. We were to discuss our love lives. Adaobi for me, and Chizi for him. Onyeka went into 18B, and I went back to the office.

Dinner came, I went to see Onyeka. He had already strained his eyes, and he looked a bit used. He was wearing an Arabian kaftan, but he was not sleeping. “I have already written five thousand words,” he told me.

“Five what?” I was surprised.

“Oh yes, five thousand words,” he continued, “and if I go on with this rate, I’ll finish this movie.”


“Yes, I will,” he replied. “Uche told me that he was able to write about seventy thousand meaningful words in India, before he came back. Now I see.”

My spirit was inspired. That was exactly what I wanted to hear. I had been alone, with colleagues that knew nothing about literature, and anything you said sounded alien to them. I was happy that Onyeka was around to inspire me to move on. Fire On! In the evening, we took a tour around the serene estate, and stopped at a pub for a bottle of Gulder each. We were brandless when it came to beer. ACB – Any Cold Beer.

Guys, we talked about you.

I concluded that Igoni was a strong and gifted Niger Deltan, but his words were a bit heavy for ordinary readers. We thought Uche Umez needed to come out with a complete novel, and that Ayo Arigbadu was trying to work on Sylva Ifedigbo’s work. Onyeka said Chimamanda was engaged to a man. I felt disappointment within my spirit. I had this fantasy of getting married to her. Poor me. He laughed.

Onyeka met with German anthropologist, Sabine Jell-Bahlsen, while on nation-wide tour for his book, The Abyssinian Boy. Sabine had spent 26years in Oguta in Imo State, writing about the Lake Goddess. Her research gave birth to a work titled, Ogbuide of Oguta Lake Goddess. After his discussions with the German lady, he was inspired to make a movie out of the myth surrounding the Lake Goddess. He was surprised by how a foreigner would be the one to tell us our own story. That was not about to happen. Onyeka went straight to Oguta, his maternal hometown. He met with a lot of the rural people. And as if that was not enough, Onyeka traveled to Asia, where he enrolled into the Asian Academy of Film & TV, where he studied Cinema and Scriptwriting. He did all this because of Ogbuide. I smiled when Onyeka told me this story. I smiled because he was meant to be an atheist. Why then did it seem as if he now believed in gods? He immediately wiped that thought from my mind, saying he needed to tell a story of his people and their beliefs. When I asked him what he was going to call the movie, he said he was not very sure. He only gave it a proposed title; The Distant Light.

While he was busy writing The Distant Light in 18B, I was busy sending him food supplies. It was day 2. It was the day he broke his glasses. He refused to be discouraged by the omen. He was about to write a movie. As expected, he had already written more than ten thousand words. He was almost done. In the evening of Day 2, we went to pay my elder sister a visit. We had a lovely chat with the family, and everyone was laughing with his ribs. Later, we visited another pub, and had two bottles of Gulder each. It looked like Gulder was becoming the brand.

In the morning of the third day, Onyeka gave me sad news. He was to leave Bonny Island the next day. He had something to attend to urgently. I was to get him boat booking by all means. How about our story? He was to complete it before dark. I called for breakfast, and left him in the magical bedroom.

In the evening, Onyeka was through with the first draft of The Distant Light. He was so excited, and I was too. We went to Woody’s Bar, with some colleagues, to enjoy the live band. It was where Onyeka read my manuscript, and was himself excited about the stories. He promised he was to tell Ayo about me. He was hopeful I had a story. We made promises that we were going to work together. He gave me an offer; to be a member of Blues & Hills, a literary agency for young writers and artists. I accepted. But we were bothered about the funding of this new movie, because none of us had money. We had the product, at least. I did not even read the draft of The Distant Light. I only saw a few words, and that was it.

In the morning, Onyeka boarded the NLNG Flash Boat, and was on his way to Nsukka via Port Harcourt. I succeeded in getting him a booking, which looked almost impossible. He left Gabriel Garcia Marques’s One Hundred Years of Solitude with me. When I went back to the office, slumped into my chair, I knew at once that something had changed in me. One visit by one writer gave me all the inspiration I needed. I went into work immediately. I wrote two more interesting stories.

Two months later, Onyeka sent me the electronic copy of the “final” draft of the script; The Distant Light. I read it and was greatly impressed. I felt like running from one end of the estate to the other. I wanted to tell people that Nollywood was about to change. I wanted to tell them that we were about to have another Kunle Afolayan. I wanted to tell them that we were about to win all the Oscars. But we were handicapped. We had no sponsor. No one to bring money for this beautiful movie to be shot in Lagos and Oguta. Someone had just disappointed us. He said he was not going to fund the movie again. I immediately went into action, calling everyone I knew. Someone else was interested in the work. He demanded for terms, but before we could even send him the terms, he was gone. I felt what every other movie maker in Nollywood feel everyday; not being able to place their movies on normal budget. Onyeka felt worse. But we decided that we were never going to stop searching.

After a few months, I must confess, I lost touch and stopped searching. Onyeka never stopped. That is the result we’re seeing today. Today, there is a page on Africa Movie Academy website for The Distant Light (, and hope is alive again. Everyone in Nollywood is talking about the movie and the young man behind it. Onyeka is 22 years old now, and it seems he is about to walk on the red carpet of Nollywood. The first rehearsal for The Distant Light was held on the 21st day of November, 2010. The cast of the movie is intimidating. It promises to feature the popular and veteran actress, Onyeka Onwenu, O.C. Ukeje, David Nnaji Cyprian Iwuala, and Bollywood actor, Arun Jay. It is to be produced by DADA Films, under Blues & Hills Production, and K-Stunts of Johannesburg. Kunle Afolayan, Adaora Mbelu, Jaffey Nwelue and Tee Mac will be involved with the production. I also got my fair share; to work on the Behind-The-Scenes.

Another one came. My collection of short stories was accepted to be published by Serene Woods of India, and Swapnil Chugh had become my publisher. We knew that our meeting in Bonny was not a waste, after all.

“THE DISTANT LIGHT” is an adventure, but happens to be a very simple story about arrogance and belief.

Professor Mba and his students are on an excursion to study the pristine People of the Forest, when they meet a group of ‘desperate and over-ambitious’ young people: Andrews Herrera (the arrogant son of a drug-peddler), Claire Winifred (a desperate travel writer), David (a loquacious anthropology student), Suresh Gupta (a gentle-hearted Indian photographer) and Dozie (an aspiring musician whose desperation for fame and success brings him to the Lake Goddess)

There’s Padro, the long-haired man with supernatural powers who leads them on this journey.

It is in the Forest that they discover their weaknesses and strengths.

The message of “THE DISTANT LIGHT” is this: a people’s culture and tradition are there to be respected and tolerated and that the new generation has lost his culture and needs to be reunited with it.

So, you see? Nollywood is about to change for good.

Lets support this movie. Lets support genuine talent.

The light is no more distant.


7 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    I pray for this change. Onyeka, the sky aint your limit son. Deco

  2. what a chronological coincidence ! Events occurring at the right time. The distant light- a project to revolutionize Nollywood!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    If movies are made this way in Nigeria, we won't complain. Onyeka, we are looking up to you for an immediate change. Shaka D.

  4. Azafi says:

    Binyerem...this is a beautifully written piece (I only spotted One tried) I enjoyed reading it. So congratulations all round, we're looking forward to the book as well as the movie...change starts from some point I see it happening with the both of you.

  5. wish to join your camp as an up and coming name is uchechukwu obiakor

  6. Ekene says:

    The distant light is a project I have been ever willing to fund! I will ensure this movie is made someday!

  7. @Ekene, you can still pledge your we're still working on the movie...tnx!

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