In a recent interview with Pulse Nigeria, Nollywood actress Omoni Oboli shared her sexual harassment experience in Nollywood.
According to Oboli, sexual harassment is not peculiar to the entertainment industry. However, being in the limelight draws attention to the actions of individuals in the industry.
“Doctors proposition nurses, nurses proposition doctors. It happens in banking [industry], it happens everywhere,” she told Pulse.
“Where there are men and women, someone will proposition the other. Somebody will think, “I’m in the position of power [so] I can ask for favours and the other person has no choice but to accept it because I have power over them.”
Like several other women in several other industries, Omoni has her own sexual harassment experience. However, that part of her life wasn’t published in her recently released book, “The Stars are Ageless” – a tell-all book about her life, marriage and career.
Addressing the decision to omit her story, the actress said, “I don’t have a strong story so to speak, because it could be read as the guy wasn’t really propositioning me.”
Omoni Oboli’s sexual harassment experience
In 1996, Oboli, who is now one of the most successful film-makers in Nigeria, took a break from acting. She took a break to complete her education and then, take care of her family.
When she returned to the industry in 2009, it was difficult for her to find her way back in. She couldn’t land any role.
“Everyone had their place and nobody really wanted to give a new person a chance. It was such a struggle trying to get roles,” she told Pulse.
That was when she got a call from a director who was shooting a movie in Asaba, and wanted her to come over. She was really surprised and excited.
“So I went to Asaba and he said I should come to his hotel. To be honest, I didn’t really think much of it because a lot of movies are shot in hotels.
People don’t have offices [so] they use hotels. So I went [to the hotel]. It was a big room and had a lounge area.”
According to the actress, she couldn’t remember seeing a bed. “I think maybe the living area was separate,” she recalled.
As they sat down to talk about the script, the director unexpectedly asked her to kiss him. She was shocked and confused.
“I asked why. I think he saw my reaction because I was quite shocked – [then] he goes, “oh no, it’s part of the audition.”
Oboli asks if he was her love interest in the movie. He says no, but adds that sharing a kiss with her is part of the audition.
“No, I can’t kiss you. Aside from the fact that I am married, I really don’t think it’s a good audition process. If you want me to read, I would read, and you can see if I am good enough for this character you have called me for, but I am not going to kiss you,” Oboli told the director.
The disappointed director said it was okay if she didn’t want to kiss him, and asked her to come on set the next day for the role.
The next day, Oboli was on set where she spent the whole day waiting for a role. Unfortunately, she neither got a role nor an opportunity to showcase her talent.
After being on the set for two days without any positive result, Oboli decided to return to Lagos.
“I borrowed myself brain, entered a bus and went back to Lagos. Till today, I haven’t acted any film by that director.”
For Oboli, it’s not a matter of ‘will you be propositioned?’
“Yes, when there are men and women, you would be propositioned. It’s left for you to make the decision – “no, I am not going to do this.”
The filmmaker believes that anyone who thinks that she is worth having a role, position or money, would give it to her without making her trade favours.
Other actors and filmmakers who have spoken to Pulse about sexual harassment in Nollywood include Ufuoma McDermott, OC Ukeje, Blessing Egbe, Joke Silva and Shirley Frimpong Manso.
Omoni Oboli is a commercial phenomenon who has produced, directed and starred in box office hits such as “First Lady,” “Okafor’s Law” and “Being Mrs Elliot.”
Her upcoming works include “Moms at War,” “King of Boys,” a star-studded film by Kemi Adetiba, and a small screen adaptation of her hit movies, “Wives on Strike.”