Peace Anyiam- Osigwe: The true measure of success

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By Dakuku Peterside

How does one measure success in life, career, business, or politics? There are different yardsticks for different folks. Some measure success based on the material quantity one accumulates, while others measure it based on the quality of life one gets. Some assume it is both and, to a considerable degree, a high level of qualitative and quantitative life experiences linked with material, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. Many, however, are indifferent to the rigour of defining success criteria, especially in a society that has deified materialism and worshipped hedonism.

Therefore, success means many things to so many people. Clayton Christensen, a serial author, and teacher, gave a straightforward yet profound advice on success. He said, “Success is measured by the lives you touch and impact.”

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Here, the extrinsic value of success is the externality of its impact on other people’s lives rather than the person whose success is measured. Considering Christensen’s definition, success transcends the myopic encumbrances of the self and moves into the realm of the selfless. It is no secret that this was the guiding philosophy of a quintessential Nigerian lady who was intentional in lifting many young people out of poverty using their God-endowed raw talents, lifted an entire industry – Nollywood, from grass to international acclaim, and became a beacon of hope for the hopeless, and voice for the voiceless. My Friend, Peace Anyiam Osigwe was an amazon, a rare iroko tree that proved  warmth, love, and kindness to everyone who crossed her path. This fantastic woman, whether in the entertainment industry or her personal life, was conscious of  touching lives and making an impact.

We lost a true hero, a woman of big dreams  and  a bank of ideas  to the cold hands of death on that cold January 7th. All those who loved her had a rude awakening on getting the news of her demise, and if you are like me, you will never forget where you wereor what you were doing when the shocking news hit you. We never expected it. We know everyone will one day pass on to glory, but Peace Anyiam Osigwe was one person you would assume would live on if there was justice and fairness in this world. She was a good woman and a kind soul who  could not stand someone in pain or suffering. I have often wondered why good people die young and bad people live longer. If death is a punishment for our evil deeds, Peace  would have still been here with us.

Last Saturday, I was at the night of tributes ceremony in honour of this great daughter of Africa, and the intensity of emotions in the atmosphere touched me. A ceremony graced by the captains of the entertainment industry from across Africa , A-list actors and celebrities, and her family members turned out to be a celebration of her life as one celebrity after another made emotional renditions of how she touched their lives at difficult times, how she inspired them to be the best they can be, and how she shaped their career and industry in ways no one has done. Celebrities talked of how she took over 200 of them before they became famous to the United States and “disvirgined our passport” and covered all the expenses for the trip. Family members talked about how she was the glue that bonded the big Anyiam Osigwe family. The voices of the ten poor women from a village in Enugu she sponsored to South Africa reached a crescendo in their wailing for their departed benefactor. In the audience, I had an epiphany. It suddenly dawned on me that my friend lived the best life ever – a life of giving joy to people. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “When you give joy to other people, you get more joy in return. You should give a good thought to happiness that you can give out.”

Peace Anyiam Osigwe was an accomplished literary artist who published a collection of poems. She was a known word artist, psalmist, and renowned filmmaker. But most of all, she was an extraordinary leader. She developed a vision of an entire African film industry and set out to put Africa at the centre of world cinematography recognition. She thought local and acted global. A true African that set out to change the narrative of African films globally. She was among the first known artists to take African Movies to film festivals worldwide, and in doing this, she challenged African moviemakers to raise their standards to global acclaim.

In 2005, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe founded the Africa Film Academy, now known as the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). AMAA is a continental film/movie platform created to reward excellence and professionalism in the film industry across Africa and create opportunities through capacity building and idea exchange across Africa. The award ceremony is one of the most recognized awards for Africans in filmmaking. Films that have won awards at AMAA or even been nominated have gone ahead to do well at international film festivals like Cannes, TIFF, Berlinale, and others.    

To demonstrate her selfless intentions, at the 10th edition in 2015, she stepped down as the Chief Executive Officer of the AMAA. Besides recognizing and celebrating filmmakers, AMAA invested in capacity building, helping over 12,000 budding artists build skills and understand the intricacies of the sector. Peace made it a duty to bring the finest talents worldwide to coach our young artists. She mentored many and offered her network to help them advance in the industry. In the same year, she began the AfricaOne initiative to commemorate Africans in the entertainment industry.

Another impactful initiative was her television programme, “Piece off my mind “, which focused on people’s reactions to societal issues not regularly seen in the mainstream media. This fulfilled her passion for always putting out the other side of the story.

 Throughout her eventful life, she engaged and committed to the cause of the less privileged in society using whatever platform God gave her.

Beyond her creative entrepreneurship, philanthropy was her second nature. She helped countless people and championed numerous causes selflessly and without any noise. Her philanthropy was the actual sermonic act of giving where her ‘left-hand does not know what her right hand was doing’. She was not noisy about her kindness, and that’s a mark of true success. Mister Rogers opines, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” Peace embodied this ultimate success.

Peace Anyiam Osigwe’s success was seen in her equanimity and Peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing she tried to become the best of which she was capable. Nigerian political and business leaders have a lot to learn from her, especially during this election period and the transition from one government to another. One essential lesson for all is that leadership is about the impact on the lives of others. A good leader loves his people and community  and will be ready to sacrifice himself for the good of the people and the community . Leadership success is only measured in serving the people and the impact that serving has on the people. Just like Peace dared to dream and work for a better entertainment industry for Nigeria first and Africa and the rest of the world later, our politicians must dare to dream and work for a better Nigeria and Africa. Peace has shown that our actions as leaders’ matter. And the intentionality to make a difference in people’s lives is the best approach to successful leadership.

Peace’s leadership was more remarkable as a woman. Nothing stood in her way of success when a woman decided to lead and make an impact. We need more women leaders in the ilk of Peace Anyiam Osigwe. Sheryl Sandberg posits, “We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.” We heard Peace’s voice! She created the platforms that gave voice to lots of women in Africa. She began a narrative change in conversations about the film in Africa, but mostly about women occupying executive roles in the film industry dominated by men. She was a titan that other women must emulate.

George Meredith rightly says, “A witty woman is a treasure; a witty beauty is a power.” Peace was a treasure, a beauty, and a powerful woman. Her demise shook the entertainment industry to the core. Her end took a fashionista from us. Her passing away took a mighty African amazon from us. Her death has left a gaping hole in our hearts. As we pay our last respects to this Amazon of Peace named Peace, a woman who gave limitless opportunities to and impacted a generation of young people, it is essential to remind ourselves that leadership is not about a title or political office. Nor is quality living about the material acquisition. Success is about the impact and doing the greatest good to the most significant number of people.      

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