On typically hot Friday afternoon in Lagos, I found a flower-filled oasis at the beautiful home of Ego Boyo set in lush gardens and with a pool to match the luxurious ambiance.
Ego Boyo gracefully descended her romantic winding staircase as she said, “I hope you haven’t been waiting too long?” We sat down and as I observed her neatly tied, green patterned Ankara scarf, paired with a skirt and blouse matching fabric, she asked warmly, “Would you like some tea?”
Best known for her early Nollywood roles, Boyo has emerged from acting, to producing, to becoming a society lady (she has long been married to Omamofe Boyo, Deputy Group Chief Executive of the Oando energy company). She is a mother of three and most recently became the President of the International Women’s society (IWS).
Her 1996 film, Violated, was one of the highest selling home videos at the time and the impact of that and her role in Checkmate is evident as her fans are still vocal about her movie career and beg her to return to the screen. However Boyo is now taking on a much bigger role as a society doyenne. On the 60th anniversary of the IWS, she embarks on a journey to impact the lives of underprivileged women and children in Nigeria. According to Boyo, “My goal is to extend our reach beyond where we are and get us to where we need to be.”
Following her new set of responsibilities, will Boyo return to Nollywood? Or is this a chapter closed for good? Ego Boyo invited Guardian life into her home, to talk about her background, her future in the Nollywood and unveil her plans for the IWS organisation.
Boyo and Nollywood
Boyo’s entry into Nollywood was quite natural as she explains, “I think from the very beginning I was always sort of a performer, I was known for putting on little skits and playacting all the time. It wasn’t a stretch when I decided to go into acting and eventually into film making, it was always a part of me.” Boyo’s audience has seen her behind the camera as a producer and in front of the camera as an actress. Although it’s clear that she has a flair for both, she talks about a defining moment in her career being the transition from acting to producing. According to the actress, “I enjoy acting, it is something that I do have a passion for and I will always love it, in terms of careers I like being behind the camera more.”
Furthermore, Boyo talks about the progression of the Nigerian film industry, as she emphasises the need to explore other genres. She adds, “The idea is to continue to strive for quality in all our productions…everybody has a comedy out. There are many other parts or genres we can focus on. I think we have done so well, but I think we can do much more.”
Taking on the role as President of the IWS
Recently, Ego Boyo took on the role as President of the International Women’s Society. The organisation, which was founded in 1957 by a group of women in Lagos, has been involved in changing the lives of women and children for the past 60 years. Boyo talks about her reason wanting to become President after being a part of the organisation for about 18 years. She explains, “I had a clear vision of where I thought the society needed to go and I thought I was in the position to be able to move them to that point and I had great support from all the ladies.” According to Boyo, being the President is quite different to a regular member as it is “an enormous responsibility.” She emphasises, “When you’re President you don’t get that, you can’t leave, you have to stay from the very beginning to the very end. Then you have to be part of the decision-making, you are involved in making sure progress is made.”
The organisation has several projects such as the day nursery for children, the scholarship program, the Skills Acquisition Centre, the widow’s trust fund and social services. Boyo expands on the importance of each project as a method of empowerment, she says, “For the widows, we don’t just give them money to pay off the bills; we give them sustainable plans to take care of themselves. They tell us what business they want to get involved in and we empower them by giving them funding and direction.” While the children from nine months to five years are imparted education, the skill centre offers a variety of vocational skills from adult literacy to computer literacy skills.
Although these programs have been up and running for many years, Boyo speaks passionately about the girl child education as a main focus. She explains, “In Nigeria, and other parts of the world, girl child education has been identified as being endangered… and since our organisation focuses on women and children it is an area I would like to highlight.”
Challenges, exciting projects and future plans for the organisation
Like many other NGOs in Nigeria, sponsors fund IWS, Boyo talks about the issue of funding being a major challenge the organisation is facing. As the country lacks adequate social services, most times the onus lies solely on NGOs who give support to people in need. She says, “All of our funding is by donation, the generosity of benefactors. The fact that there are so many NGO charities and we are all looking for the same money to do what we need to do. Social services do not exist, as they should, so in some cases we are the only support. I know social services are set up in most local government but they do not run as effectively as they are supposed to. This society and society like ours have been a saving grace for people.”
Judging by Boyo’s abundant and magical garden, where she grows tomatoes, pepper, ewedu, okara and garden eggs, it’s obvious that she has a growing passion for agriculture. She emphasises the need to grow our own food, especially during this recession. The IWS is also taking an initiative on agriculture she says, “We aim to teach our prospective agriculture students the need to grow what you can eat but also the way to grow our food needs without compromising the environment and creating wastage.”
While Boyo has only just been elected into office, she already has a few plans lined up, starting with increasing the membership to include particularly younger women. She explains, “My main goal is membership. Now we are an old society, so we have a lot of older members but I know that we need younger members for the simple point that we need to move the society forward…. People aren’t getting any younger, so we are going to need young blood. Where the world is now, it is so technologically driven, we need people that understand the space and are able to use the platform.” According to Boyo, younger members will enable growth, as they will bring along “tools”, which will enhance the organisation technologically.
What’s next for Ego Boyo?
Boyo’s fans have been waiting patiently for a come back for many years, and many have speculated the actress might have left Nollywood behind. According to Boyo, “The film will always be my day job; it is my passion and what I do. I am able to work on that and on the Presidency and IWS as well. I have the wonderful women in the committee who take on the roles of chairpersons and I oversee all of that and seek support from other organisations. I am able to do that and still do my film business.” Boyo talks about dabbling into directing soon as well as unveiling her project. She says, “I have a project coming out, it’s a short film called A hotel called Memory. It was directed by Akin Omotoso and stars Nse Ikpe Etim.” According to Boyo, the executive producer, the film was shot about 18 months ago in Lagos, Zanzibar and in Cape Town. She adds, “We are in the process of editing it for release, so that’s definitely something to look forward to at the end of May/early June.”
Photographer: Emmanuel Oyeleke
Stylist: Funmi Daniel
Make up: Jumoke Tychus