Sunday, 2 June 2013

Tony Ogaga Erhariefe Breaks the Silence on Nollywood Actress, Mary Uranta’s Allegations


 In its travel advisory, the Goethe Institute had warned: ‘Pack an umbrella and a sweater.’ For no particular reason I had ignored the warning and I was about to learn the hard way.

As soon as we touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, for the 10 Cities project, sponsored by Goethe Institute, Nairobi and designed to capture the evolution of club culture and music in 10 cities across the world, I knew I was in a different environment. For one, the air smelt clean but the weather was cold, so cold I could feel it in my marrows.


We had spent two brainstorming days that included power point presentations, in-depth discussions and debates. Now the organisers felt we should take a retreat and visit one of Kenya’s treasured resorts, Lake Naivisha, located in Nairobi’s countryside and elevated at 6000 feet above sea level.


It promised to be an exciting experience as we had been informed that the journey would take us through the rift valley, which I had read about in the Geography books back in my secondary school days.
Though, it rained the previous night and the weather was cold and I was shivering, I was excited and looking forward to the journey. I had scarcely settled into the tour bus with my colleagues from around the world when my phone beeped.

“Hello,” I said recognising the voice to be that of Mercy (surname withheld).

“Tony, that headline was not good, that headline was not good, how could you have done that,” Mercy moaned endlessly. “I was confused and perplexed, what was she talking about on a Sunday morning...what was happening...?

“What are you talking about?” I finally found my voice. I had forgotten that I had done a story on actress Mary Uranta, her client, which was yet to be published before I left for Kenya. However, it soon dawned on me that she was complaining about the headline.

“I am in Kenya. I haven’t seen the story,” I said with a promise to revert to her as soon as possible.
As we drove through Nairobi’s countryside, I was deeply troubled. I couldn’t wait to make it to Lake Naivisha and view the story online myself. However, when we finally made it to Naivisha, Internet connectivity was poor and so I couldn’t access the story and attempts to recharge my phones were not successful.

I had scarcely settled into my apartment by the lake when the deluge began. In less than an hour, I had received over 20 phone calls from Nigeria; calls from concerned friends and family members including my wife. They were all bothered by a broadcast that had emanated from Mary Uranta declaring that she had never met me and did not grant me an interview. She added that my story which was published on the cover of Sunday Sun of April 28, 2013 was downloaded from the Internet and bogus!

I was troubled. On a dozen occasions, I tried to either call Nigeria or view the story online but all my attempts were futile. While I could receive calls from Nigeria, calling out was a great challenge. What compounded my plight was that Internet connectivity though available was very unreliable at Lake Naivisha. Consequently, I had to endure three days of suspense and sheer torture.

 It was until when we returned to Chester House where we were lodged in Nairobi on the evening of Tuesday, April 30 that I finally had Internet connectivity. I quickly went online and logged into my email. It was then that I saw the mail forwarded to me by my desk head, Mr. Tosin Ajirire entitled, Broadcast from Mary Uranta. For over five minutes, I stared in utter disbelief at the mail credited to Mary Uranta, which had been trending on BB, Facebook and Twitter. So acidic was the tone it had the capacity to destroy my reputation as a journalist.
What hurt me most was that the mail claimed that I had been begging Mary Uranta for an interview. I find that most ridiculous. In my 11 years as a journalist, I have interviewed the hottest acts both in music and Nollywood, and I never had to beg to have these interviews. So, why would I beg Mary Uranta for an interview?  Furthermore, she denied never knowing or meeting me and I was surprised at her declaration.

Setting the records straight
Until mid to late last year, I had never heard the name, Mary Uranta. The first time I heard her name was when Mary’s publicist, Mercy, had approached me at an event in Lagos and asked how she could get her client on the cover of the Sunday Sun or TS Weekend, our Friday pullout.

As Mercy tried to sell Mary Uranta to me, I admitted that I knew nothing about her. However, Mercy insisted that the actress needed visibility and was in the process of rebranding and so would love to grace the cover of the Sunday Sun or TS Weekend. According to her, if I could deliver, there would be financial gratification as her client was willing to part with cash to achieve her desire. However, knowing fully well that it was against journalism ethics, I had declined the advance and advised that she should make Mary available for an interview and if she gave me a good story, she would definitely make the cover. It was on this note that we ended the discussion.


However, a couple of weeks later, I received my first mail from Mercy on her client, Mary Uranta. She had sent to me a material which was published in my weekly column, Skoops, on August 24, 2012 entitled, “Lover boy spoils actress Mary Uranta silly: Buys her SUV, posh apartment”. The only reason I agreed to publish was because Mercy assured me the news was exclusive to The Sun.

After the publication of the story, Mercy called to thank me that her client was pleased with me. Again we had discussed the issue of an interview with her client and I assured Mercy that all she needed to do was make Mary available.
Also in early January 2013, Mercy had forwarded to me another story; “Mary Uranta bags UN Ambassadorship”, which was also published in The Sun. A short while later, Mercy and I met and she thanked me for the earlier publications and again raised the issue of an interview with Mary Uranta.
Mercy, however, fixed an interview a couple of times but it was either Mary was not available or I was busy and so the interview could not hold.

Meeting Mary Uranta
The first time I met Mary Uranta was when I was invited to Sugar N’ Spice, an entertainment/fashion programme on NTA 2 Channel 5 anchored by Rose Peters-Graham. Mary, Mercy and I had participated in the live programme together after which Mercy introduced me to Mary Uranta who thanked me for my earlier stories on her and promised to make herself available for an interview at her earliest convenience.


However, during the one-year anniversary of Sugar N Spice, which was held at Jade Palace, Victoria Island, Lagos, on February 16, Mary and I met again and we joked and discussed at length and we became friends. Before we parted that night, we exchanged phone numbers and fixed another appointment for an interview. The climax of the night was when Mary and I posed for a photograph together.

This completely debunks her claims that she has never met me. That night Mary Uranta dropped me off at Eko Hotel & Suites where I had another engagement. However, once again, the interview was unable to hold, as it was either Mary was not available or I was too busy.

A while later, I met Mercy again and we discussed and she suggested that since Mary nor I was available for the interview, she would interview Mary and send the materials to me like she had done for a couple of other journalists before. Eventually, Mercy sent me materials on Mary from which I built the story that was published in The Entertainer on Sunday, April 28.


I would like to state here categorically that I have never received payment of any kind from Mary Uranta. In this profession, the only thing I have is my reputation, which is directly tied to my name. Consequently, in my 11 years of journalism, I have never plagiarised anybody so it was with shock that I read Mary’s broadcast that cold evening in Nairobi, Kenya. As a professional, I know the implication of downloading stories from the Internet and passing the same for publication as my own. Such is beneath me and I find Mary’s accusations most embarrassing and damaging.

All I wanted to achieve from the outset was promote Mary Uranta’s career. Little did I know that my effort would culminate in such an embarrassing situation for me, my family and loved ones.

Culled from SUPERBASSNG


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