A filmmaker at the ceremony, which held last Saturday, remarked on Facebook that the fireworks was akin to the gun salute that a General in the military would receive when he or she is being honored. But Zeb, or ‘the Sheik,’ as he is simply called by close friends, is a ‘five star General’ in moviedom. In fact, a colleague said recently that if the director and producer of the long rested television soap, Ripples had decided on a career in the military, he probably would have been a General in any of the armed forces, considering his accomplishments as a motion picture practitioner.
Zeb is a legend. His antecedents as a writer, producer and director, as well as his contribution to the development of the motion picture industry in Nigeria is, to say the least, legendary. Indeed the story of the transition from television to home movie production cannot be complete without a mention of the self-made and well-built Isoko, Delta State-born practitioner, who rightly qualifies to be listed among the founding fathers of the Nigerian movie renaissance.
Also simply called ‘Presido,’ Zeb is completely devoted to the practice of movie production. Many would still recall that it was through his efforts and tenacity that Nigerians witnessed the best of television drama. He called the shots at a time many consider the defining moments of Nigeria television drama.
Those were the periods when soaps, including Ripples, which he produced and which ran on national television for about five years, were a must-watch for most television viewers. Indeed, to say that he is one of the key players, and if you like, a veteran of the Nigeria television and movie industry, is to be stating the obvious.
A mentor to a number of key industry players, among them, his younger brother, agro-economist-turned filmmaker, Chico Ejiro, the movie sheik started the business of producing movies and throwing up talents when movie making and television drama production was not somewhat fashionable.He has remained steadfast and led a production outfit that has, in the last couple of decades, produced quite a number of well-received movies and soap operas.
From Ripples to Goodbye Tomorrow and from Mortal Inheritance to another gripping television soap, Fortunes, Zeb is regarded for superintending over the productions of movies that tackle societal vices and issues. His two-part movie, Sakobi, was produced to discourage the get-rich-quick syndrome, so too for Domitila, which was designed to discourage prostitution in society.
In fact, it is public knowledge that Domitila turned out a box office hit, and observers said it ranks among the biggest selling movie in the history of the Nigerian home movie industry. His other movie and television credits include Conflicting Shadows, Intimate Strangers, the two-part movie, Fatal Desire, Gentle Solution, Amadioha, the two-part movie, Maniac, Faces of Evil, Fortunes and Broad Street, two other soaps that occupied the air time between 1994 and 1999.
Raised in Ajegunle, a sub-urban settlement in Lagos, where his parents lived for several years, Zeb’s love for motion picture was ingrained from birth. As children, it became a sort of routine for Zeb and Chico to be taken almost daily to watch films. Zeb had his early education in Lagos, worked briefly as a civil servant before deciding to air his talent at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
From television production, Zeb, like his contemporaries, ventured into home video productions. “It was the in-thing, so one had to join in,” he said, submitting too that unlike some of his other colleagues, he still found time to produce more soaps, having built a vast fan base with earlier efforts, such as Ripples and Fortune and so had to satisfy their yearnings for quality television drama productions.
A recipient of the national honour-Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON)- and one-time president of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) and member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Zeb, who has facilitated and attended a number of local and international seminars on movie production and directing and who runs a movie academy in his home town, Ozoro, has received several industry awards, including the 1999 NTA 2 Channel 5 Best Director and Producer of the year award.
“I cannot count the number of awards and recognition I have received, but for all, I thank God. To Him alone be the glory. It has not been an easy road here, but I thank God for the journey thus far and the journey ahead. We are in it already, so no going back. It is forward ever,” he enthused. Zeb looks forward to playing a long game in the movie, saying he has no plans to retire into any other thing. “Like they say in the military, there is no going back for me,” he responded when asked his career ambition, adding: “We will keep working and mentoring others to take over and mentor others, so we can keep the circle.”He assured that in spite of the harsh condition of practice, he would continue to contribute towards the building of capacity and upliftment of the film industry in Nigeria and Africa.