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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Presenting Nollywood Actress Chinyere Wilfred

You have been in the industry for more than 15 years. But of recent, your face hasn’t been regular in movies. Have you left the industry to younger ones? There is no way I will leave the industry for the younger ones. Old soldier no dey die. Actually, I have not been around. I have been out of the country and I spent so much time abroad. I just came back, and since then I have been on location. My fans have been calling me. I had something doing in London, I just rounded it up.
You look like a correct chic, compared with the elderly woman you play in the movies. Not many would believe you are really chic
Well, that has to do with the scripts that come my way. Some of our producers here are fond of typecasting. If they give you a particular role and you do it well, every other script that comes your way would be like that.
Are you okay with playing stereotyped roles? You seem to play the role of a bad woman more often.
Some other people think that I play the cry cry woman more than any other role. I am here and there. My scripts are always mixed up. But I think I play the emotional woman more. The bad woman role comes once in a while. I like it when I get those parts, so that I can show the other side of me.
So you are versatile...
Yes I am. The latest movie, which will come out soon, is very different from what I used to do. It is entirely another character.
With your looks, how come you have not played the part of a high class chic?
I have, but very few times. In Government House, I played such a part. It is just that I am not really known for that. In my movies that will come out soon, I played such roles.
You are a producer as well
I just produced one movie, and I am about producing another.

Why go into movie production? Are you not satisfied with being an actress?
I am. But I have to expand my coast. I want to do other things as well. If an opportunity comes for me to produce, I will grab it. That was what happened. I needed to see how challenging it was. I needed to see the difference between producing and acting.

How has your experience been in the industry?
It has been wonderful.

Have you ever thought of leaving the profession for any other thing?
I have never felt like quitting. This is what I enjoy doing. From childhood, I have always wanted to be an actress. When I was in school, I was in the Dramatic Society. I have always been a part of this industry.

How did you get into Nollywood?
I started years back in the days of soaps like Ripples. I went to NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) and I met Zeb Ejiro there. He invited me to come over for audition. I did well and I was given a role to play in Ripples.

When Nollywood came on board, I was going for auditions as well. Taboo was my first movie. Then I featured in Circle of Doom.
Did you hit the limelight instantly?
Yes. Taboo was my breaking point. It was a sell-out. From there, I started getting jobs.

Obviously, you no longer go for auditions
No, no, no. Audition ke? Not at all. Those days are long gone. Producers just call you and send the script to you; if you feel you like the character given to you, then you go ahead and take the job.

We hear that for you to get jobs, you have to belong to a clique
I don’t believe in all that. Which clique do I belong to? I don’t belong to any clique, but I am working. I don’t know why people say this. I don’t agree with that misconception at all. I don,t buy that idea.

Do you beg for roles?
Why would I beg for roles? I don’t beg for roles! Whoever needs me calls me. Listen, I have paid my dues in this industry. I went for auditions many times. I was just climbing up, till I reached this height. I didn’t beg for it when I was coming up. Is it now that I will beg for it?

Who do you see as a rival in the industry?
I don’t have a rival. The industry is big enough. We have many marketers and producers. We have a lot of artistes and directors. There is no need for you to compete with anybody. There is space for anybody who comes in tomorrow. There are a lot of jobs.

Have you ever done a movie you regret doing?
No. You don’t have to regret a role you played. You were given the script in the first place. It was your choice to do the movie, so you don’t have to regret it. I have never regretted any movie I did.

How do you cope with fame?
I am used to it. People see me and admire me and all that. It has become part of us.

So it does not get to your head
No way. Do I look like somebody with that kind of attitude? This is my job. I see it as a profession, so there is no reason why it should get to my head. I have been in this industry for more than 15 years. If it didn’t get to my head in all that time, I don’t think it will get to my head now. I just go there, do my job, get my money and then I go.

You sound as if you are very satisfied with your job.
I am very satisfied. If I weren’t, I would have left it since. The reason I have been in the industry all these years is because I am satisfied. I am very much fulfilled.

If you weren’t an actress, what do you think you would have been?
I don’t think I would have been any other thing. I just love acting. I can’t even imagine doing any other thing. This is a job I like doing.

But how come you didn’t study Theatre Arts in the university?
I had Theatre Arts as one of the elective courses. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have an idea of what the course is all about. However, acting comes natural to me. I thank God for the gift.

So your family was okay with their daughter venturing into the make-believe world?
The kind of parents I have allowed you to do whatever you wanted to do. I have a very strict father. If he felt acting was bad, he wouldn’t have allowed me to get into it. Then again, I was playing decent character, so they were happy with me.

Are you what you act?
There is a difference between what you see in real life and what you see in the movies. As I am talking to you, this is me. You even observed I don’t look this chic in movies. As long as it is acting, it is not me.

How have you been coping with male admirers?
Immediately I did my first movie, I got married. That was in 1993. Since then, I have been with my lovely husband and my kids. He is my pillar. From time, the admirers knew I was married, so I didn’t have to cope with them.

So you didn’t have the opportunity of being rushed by the guys.
Yes, that is true. I got married as I hit limelight.

Your husband wanted to marry a star.
I knew him before I went into the movies. We courted for nine years. We were really together before we finally got married. It wasn’t as if he wanted to marry a star. I had only done one job before we tied the knots.

I would say he even grabbed me fast before I became a star. He married me when I was still coming up.
As a married woman with kids, how do you manage leaving your home and staying on location for days or weeks?
It has not been easy, but I thank God. I will always be grateful to my husband. He supports me a lot. Then again, my mum is always there for me. She helps me out most times. My dad has been wonderful as well. Each time I have a job to do, I don’t have fears because my house will always be in order. Now, I don’t even complain because my boys are all grown up.
Would you allow any of them to become an actor?
Why not? If my parents had stopped me from acting, where would I have been today? There wouldn’t have been this Chinyere Wilfred that you know. I think it is proper for parents to allow their kids to follow their dream.

When you are on location, do you fear that your beloved husband could be out there chasing other babes?
Na today? Lailai. It is impossible, not with the kind of husband I have. I know the man I married. I am not saying this because this is an interview. My husband is a very different person. He is used to my job. In those early days, he used to follow me to locations. At times, he would waits for me in the car so as to bring me back home.

There was a day we finished shooting by 1am and we were not lodged in any hotel, my husband was with me that day. He couldn’t believe it. He said, Oh mummy, is this what you see? I was happy that he was there watching us. So he now knows that it is not easy to be an actress. Whenever I come back, he asks me how the day went.
But is he comfortable with you playing love scenes?
How many love scenes have I played, come to think of it? But he understands my job. At times, he would even tell me that I didn’t play the love scene very well and he would yab me. He doesn’t mind what I do at all.

If he doesn’t complain about that, does he complain about scandals that come with your job?
It depends. It is not as if he complains about anything. It really depends on the scandal.

There was a time you were in the news.
Yes. But I tell you that my husband was with me all the way. He is one out of a million.

Was the scandal a figment of people’s imagination or were there pictures of you naked?
I don’t really want to talk about this. It has been a while and I would want everything to die. When a story comes up, people don’t really bother to find out the truth. They go to press without any information.

That is why I am asking you to tell me your own side of the story
It gets me angry each time I think of that incident. I don’t want to talk about it at all.

But did you fight with an actress over a guy?
What? I have never! How can? I have never gone physical with anybody. Please, this is not a story to talk about. I don’t know why this keeps coming up in any interview I grant

But the story must come up.
I know. I still don’t want to talk about it. What has happened has happened. All I know is that the incident made me stronger. Now, let anybody come and blackmail me again. They will see another side of Chinyere Wilfred.

Let us talk about other things. This is a story that spoils my day and I am going for a contract negotiation somewhere. I don’t want my mood to be spoilt. All I know is that I am a stronger person.
Was it blackmail?
Yes. What else would you call it? Somebody used my picture to collect money from me. The only sad thing was that it came from a very close friend and colleague. But I have learnt my lessons. Now, I am careful calling anybody my friend. That time, I was just flowing. I was too open to a fault to the so-called friend. After that whole thing, I am very careful. Thank God I came out of that incident.

Did your husband believe in you that time?
I tell you, when that thing was happening, my husband bought me a new car. Scandal or no scandal, he does not care. He could not believe that my so-called best friend would connive to blackmail me. He used to warn me about her, but I never took his advice.

So you and this actress are no longer friends.
If it were you, would you still be friends with somebody who blackmailed you? If you see me with her, won’t you be angry with me?

Well, I see myself going higher. I have not started. When I start, you will know.

Do you think you can compete with any Hollywood actress?
Why not? You don’t need to blow your trumpet. But I know I am a good actress.

Any advice for up and coming actresses?
Follow your dream. Don’t force yourself to be an actress if you don’t have the talent. Have a focus. Don’t try to hit the limelight immediately. Start from the scratch. Go for auditions, and then the sky will be your starting point.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Justus Esiri of Nollywood - The Older the Wine, the Better it Tastes

Justus Esiri, was born in November 1942 in Oria, Abraka, Delta State. He started his academic studies in 1948 at the Catholic School, Warri. He was at the Maximillan University, Munich, German, 1964, Prof. Weners Institute of Engineering, West Berlin, 1967 and the Ahrens School of Performing Arts, 1968. Esiri, detoured into motion picture production in 1968 as a staff of the Schiller Theater, Berlin, Germany, where he stayed till 1976. During the 1977 FESTAC held in Lagos, he choreographed the Modern Dress exhibition. From then onwards, the sky was indeed not the limit for Esiri. He was Production Manager for Dinner With The Devil. He worked as News translator and Newscaster with the Voice of Nigeria (German Service).

He has been a regular face through the stage, national television and of course Home video since the early 70s that he needs no real introduction. However, very few know the story of his life because he is not the kind who will readily give in to an interview that will talk about such. Some journalists dread his disciplinary disposition because he has no room for so called dullards who are not up on their feet. He gives audience to Home Video People and this is it. An explosive bang. Enjoy the story of his life.

“I am an urhobo man, come from an African aristocratic family. My forebears were educated. My great grand-father could speak English at least.
I went to Urohobo College and my principal was a very principled man who attended the world famous Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone and later to Dublin in Ireland. He later became a parliamentarian of the western region. Late Senator F.G. Ejaife. May his soul rest in peace. He was a great man, a man who allowed his students to believe in logic. We had a fantastic debating and dramatic society, we had a beautiful library which told you about every kind of things including costumes.
If you wanted costume of many years back, there were books in the library to equip you. In 1959-1961, my school came tops in the Festival of Arts and I was part of that troupe. In form four, I had already taken charge of the society. When the brief came that we would participate in the Festival, the principal called me and handed them over to me, so I was the one who put everything down. I had to make the script available to others and rehearse them. I had to go to the library to read up about the costumes required. We were well brought up in that school to be able to use our head. Maybe that was the talent that I wasted studying engineering. But God brought me back here.

I went to Germany to study engineering so I lived in the West Berlin but I had several friends in the East of Berlin because there were fantastic theatres in the east, so I often went to see them. For instance, I watched Poggy and Bess in the East of Berlin where there was a lot done for culture and the arts. The issue of the wall was not there then, just the arts. It didn’t stop a foreigner who was a student from going to the east from the west. I did go there frequently. They had great actors and actresses and beautiful theatres. I enjoyed my stay. There was nothing like racism then. The Nazi regime had gone and the government was trying to make everything available for the people. I still visit Germany now and then. I still speak German.

In those days when I returned to Nigeria, I translated and read news in German in Voice of Nigeria, I presented my own programmes in VON in German, when the late Zeal Onyia was there. We were all in Voice of Nigeria, German Service. I also remember Bayo Martins, who was drummer in those days in Germany, a fantastic one at that. May his soul rest in peace. He was a fantastic guy and there are not many artistes like that these days. The Voice of Nigeria (VON) was a part time programme for me. When they heard I spoke German, they called me to translate the news and when you did that, you read it yourself. From there, I went to present a music programme for VON. It was fun. Really fun.

Return from Europe
In Berlin, I was the only Nigerian on stage about 1968/69 when I started. I can’t remember any other Nigerian on stage and TV in the whole of Germany at that time. There were some French speaking Africans. I returned to Nigeria because I was performing on stage one evening and I saw some men in Nigeriaagbada as part of the audience. Later, news came that these people wanted to see me. They told me about FESTAC and that the Federal Government needed Nigerian artistes in diaspora to return for the festival. I was impressed. I returned for FESTAC and since then, I have been here. We have tried to do our own thing. With the attendant publicity of FESTAC, we wanted to do our own productions and travel with it as travelling theatre the way Ogunde and his likes did it.
We thought we might create another opportunity to educate and enlighten our people. But one soon realised it could not be done because of the logistic problem of transportation. Theatres were not available at that time and not available up till now. I was working with young people and any time I wanted to travel, I had to take special permission from their parents and it had to be at weekends. It wasn’t very easy for me, so I decided to do some other things, yet not forgetting the call. If you have a talent, you must make use of that talent. The bible says with thy talent shall thou feed. We have tried to use the talent to do one or two things. I am very impressed so far. We could still do more. But we haven’t used it effectively for our people. We are still there and find every other day a challenge.

Village Headmaster
Before I featured in that programme, I never liked Village Headmaster because of the pidgin English. It was already in Lagos. One day I was at home when someone came to tell me that I should come for an audition for Village Headmaster because according to him, they had tried a lot of people and decided I should come. At the National Theatre on that day, everyone was seated and they said they were going on location by the weekend. I had never seen the script before then, so I took it home and read it through. The location was in Badagry. On that day, everyone including Late Elsie Olusola, Kabiyesi Funsho Adeolu, Joe Layode, Ibidun Allison, Kabiyesi, Wole Amele, everybody sat down watching because I had not worked with them before. To my surprise, by the time I finished that sequence, they were all clapping.

When I am on set, I am a very deep person because of the belief that words have life and must be given life. People appreciated the way I handled Village Headmaster. Then Supple Blues which was a different thing entirely. Then Things Fall Apart. There was a time I was three times weekly on network television. That is why I feel very bitter that of all the programmes I had done, those who took part in Samaja that came from the North of Nigeria, those who took part in Masquerade and those who took part in other Yoruba programmes were given National honours while I have featured in several plays and have not been recommended. I am not judging them, I just feel bitter. It would come when it would. One thing I am happy is that people appreciate what I have done. One day a car was chasing me around and almost bumped into me when the woman in the car peered out of the window to tell me she was sorry but she had told her driver to chase me so she could tell me something and that is that you ‘make acting look like real life’.

My day was made. There are so many things one could do with this talent for the benefit of our country. But when you write a proposal, they sit on them or give them to their cronies to do or they ask you why you should make money when you already have fame. What is wrong in making money when you have fame? Actors are not properly paid. Maybe some of them are now getting a better pay. I believe that some of those who are coming after us will get better pay. But the actors and actresses should be clapped for. Out of nothing we have made so much. There are no cinema houses where producers or executive producers should go and show their films. You finish making a film and put it into direct VCDs and some lazy persons dub these things and pirate them.

Older the wine

In the last AMAA 2006, I remember saying that there is a saying that the older the wine, the better it tastes. I don’t know why I said it but it just came. I also remember when I was on stage in Berlin, Germany and there was a misunderstanding between the man who was directing the stage play and the actor, a well known actor and this actor had gone against the direction of the director. He bluntly refused to do the director’s bidding. This director had said to him, you are not 40 years yet and the actor said yes. He said until you are 40, you won’t know what you are doing on stage if you have a director which means the older you get, the more you appreciate certain things that you do. Every movie that I take part in is a challenge. One appreciates these things and I just feel that you must keep yourself up to date. You must try. I have not gotten to the point I want to get to. Some people think that every one who wants to act must be handsome or beautiful. That is their own cup of tea. It is how you act and how you express yourself. If you can lift your audience from their seats into the box, you have got them. It is an art and you must learn this art. You must understand this art. You must just be there. I believe that some actors are born but they must work hard to be made.

Movies all the way
I don’t like talking about my movies and you want to move me to that area. I hardly watch my movies because I am very critical and if you work with the numerous directors we have worked with, you would come to understand that some of them are not very deep. In most cases, they just want to shoot people love Forever, The tyrant, Corridors of power. etc There are so many of them. I have not watched all of them. But I still need to be challenged.

Engineering as academic accident
I actually spent time in studying engineering. When I consider the course work and the practicals, I wonder. As a young man, one had ideas. One was fascinated by the things you see. When I got to Europe, and got to Germany and studied engineering. I did not practice this course for one day. That tells me that when God has a way for you, He opens it without you knowing it. I had gone to what one would call the bureau of employment where I had friends and the woman says there is a production company who were in need a black man who was good with the Dutch language. So she recommended me and kept the letter for me. I got a date to meet with the producer. And you won’t believe it, my audition was like a joke. It lasted for a week.

Someone would come and meet with me, chat with me over a cup of tea and leave. Another one would come and leave. These people turned out to be my production cast and crew. After the production was through, the leader of the entire thing said ‘Yustus’ (Justus) you are good. I like to recommend you to the school of performing arts. By the time I completed the studies, I was part of the travelling theatre travelling all over Europe. There is hardly a city in Germany where I did not perform. There is hardly a theatre in the entire Germany I had not performed. I was in Austria, Switzerland. That is what God wants me to do. That may be, is why I am still being sustained when some of my mates are out of the line.

I love suits and I have several of them and I wear them as well. The fact is that you have not caught me wearing them my dear. I also love to dress as an Urhobo man. I have these types of caps that I wear when the occasion arises. The other day you saw me with my walking stick. I do not have that all the time. I dress very simple.
It is hot out there and you need air. When you see me wearing suits, you’d love me. I used to buy designer suits. When I was in Germany, I used to model for Selbach. I was one of the first people who wore denim in different patches of colours. My denim trousers used to match my briefs. Even my shoes were made directly for me. I just put my foot down and they measure it and make them for me. For perfumes, I love it and use them in different names but I won’t advertise for them by mentioning the names of my perfumes. I mentioned Selbach because they are not here.

I won’t tie wrapper on Monday or Tuesday. I will do that when I am going for an event that has to do with tradition. I will dress according to situation. I wear agbada if the occasion calls for that. But the bottom line is, I love to dress simple.

My children

God has been very nice to me. I have very disciplined children. Six of them. Five are already graduated. My last baby is going to the university. Three of my children are married and have given me grandchildren. One is a banker and a finance man. He is a chartered accountant, I have a daughter who is a accountant. I also have one who is an economist. Apart from these one of my sons is a dental surgeon while the other is a geologist. It is my son who is a dental surgeon that is into hip hop music (Dr. Sid) and he is doing well at it and I wish him the very best.

White wife?
I didn’t think was very necessary. Not that I didn’t have girl friends then. Marriage is when you get to that stage you get married. I knew where I was coming back to and some of the problems peculiar to us. If I had returned to Europe after my FESTAC experience, maybe I could have picked up a white wife, I don’t know. I didn’t want to run away from the situation. I decided to stay. I am married to Omiete and very happy with my wife, a wonderful woman from Kalabari land, Rivers state. At times I go out for weeks, ooh she has been wonderful. She has been a pillar of my home. I am just happy. You won’t believe it, she is a textile designer and does all my local wears. Whatever I wear that is not foreign is made by her. It is what I call Ormi’s Designs. She makes them for me. Selects them herself and sews them.

I play golf, If you were not here now, I would have been at the golf course. I play anywhere but my club is Ikeja. When you play golf, you have no time for any other thing. It is the golf course and then your house. But it is very interesting to play golf really.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kalu Ikeagwu - From a Computer Analyst to Nollywood



How did you get into the movie industry?
 My debut on TV was in 2005 with the popular Domino series. I was  into soaps before venturing into the movie industry.
What were you doing before Nollywood and acting?
I was working as a computer analyst before joining Nollywood.
Did you have challenges as a younger actor ?
I think my main challenge was the switch from stage to television. On stage, one is trained to exaggerate one’s character; otherwise one’s means of communication becomes lost to the audience. Television on the other hand requires subtlety and understatement. One merely projects one’s thought and lets the camera do the rest of the work. The other challenging bit was the ‘start and stop’ syndrome where one has to repeat an action or words up to ten times while at the same time making it look seamless and natural.
What’s the way forward for Nigeria’s movie industry called Nollywood?
The way forward for the Nollywood industry I think, is assistance from the government. The potential this industry has for redeeming the tattered image of our country abroad cannot be over exaggerated, not to talk of its ability to bring in foreign investment, tourism and export our culture to other countries. I still don’t know why Nigeria is still over dependent on oil when the entertainment industry alone can earn not only more revenue than the oil sector but can create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the country as well.
Even if the government is still hesitant about giving out funds or grants to aid the industry, let it at least put laws in place to protect the intellectual property of filmmakers,  script writers and actors so that they can benefit from royalties of their hard work. I can’t tell you how many times I have been accosted by irate fans who complain about seeing my face on movie jackets only to be disappointed on buying the movie because I end up not appearing in any scene in the entire movie.
This is entirely fraudulent of these unscrupulous people and they should be stopped from taking advantage of these hapless fans and my reputation I’ve worked so hard for!
You are very handsome, how do you cope with your lady fans and ladies on set?
How I cope with lady fans? Easy, I love them. Thanks for the compliment though. I treat them the same way I treat the women in my life; by appreciating them. That’s how my mother taught me to. Coping with ladies on set is no great hassle; I believe I have a charming enough personality to get along well with the ladies I get to work with so it’s always fun on set for me.
We hear a lot of stories about producers seeking to sleep with female  actresses before they are given roles. How rampant is this? Is it just a rumour?
Well, I don’t know much about that given that I haven’t personally observed any incident like that. Having said that, you should also know there are a few bad apples in every industry. Just as there are women who’d do just about anything to feature in a movie, so are there people willing to exploit such people. I can tell you that these producers, should they exist, are in the minority because it would logically make bad business sense to cast someone on your couch as a prerequisite to casting them in your movie. What if the girl hasn’t got the talent to pull the character off – as is the case most often – and the movie sales suffer as a result? A wise producer looks at numbers and figures instead of faces.
The gist is making the rounds that producers prefer Ghollywood actresses to
 Nollywood actresses, how true is this and why?
I don’t know about Nigerian producers preferring Ghanaian actresses to their Nigerian counterparts; that hardly makes economic sense. I for one do welcome collaborations; they make for a stronger general industry and a better garnering of the fan base. As long as there are structures put in place to protect the local industry and work force, I think international collaboration is a good thing. Isn’t that what the major international airlines are doing to not just survive, but also to beat the competition?
What’s your academic background?
I studied English Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I also did a postgraduate diploma course on Business management in the same university, and a diploma in Computer programming.
 How do you manage acting and movie production?
Well, it’s simple; on the one hand, I’m a gun for hire. All I do is concern myself with my job which is learning my character and interpreting it the best way I can. The other one is production, which I’m only just foraying into, is like a baby from conception; I have to plan how I’m going to give the audience a project they’ll love, reach as wide a range as possible, and I hopefully make a profit thereof.
This means that on the one hand, I’m a business man thinking in terms of figures, projections, marketing and quality of product, and on the other, I’m an actor working for pay who’s concerned about his fans and the image he portrays. Enough of the boring stuff, the truth of the matter is I love being in control of my environment and I have immense fun doing what I do best.
 Who is Kalu Ikeagwu outside all these?
Kalu is a fun loving person who loves living life to the full. It’s not necessarily about partying everyday per se, but about getting the best out of everything you do, and getting the best out of everyone you have the opportunity to interact with. I like to travel and experience different peoples and cultures and this has helped tremendously with the work I put out on screen. That, I feel, makes me an overall winner; neither part of my life suffers – the professional and the personal.
How was it like growing up?
Growing up was, and still is, akin to a nomad’s lifestyle because we were always moving about. I had already lived in four different countries by the time I was ten years of age. The good thing though, even though I couldn’t keep my childhood friends from school, was I had my best friends everywhere with me; my family. We were and still are very closely knit and the deeply entrenched family values still dwell in me today. Apart from that, my growing up was pretty normal; stern and conservative but with a very funny father for whom education was key and never forgot to remind us the children. We have a quiet but very strong mother whose love is still unparalleled and six rambunctious siblings with whom everyday was an adventure. What more can I say?
  Did you ever know you would become a public figure?
Well, I kind of had a feeling about it as a child. It was a pipe dream though, but it wasn’t until I was twenty that I knew it would happen. I was also made to understand that there were a lot of responsibilities that would come with it and so I have always been careful to keep my eye on those responsibilities and not the adulation and perks that come with fame.
Would you date a female colleague?
If I weren’t in a relationship, I could consider dating a colleague. My colleagues are humans aren’t they? And you cannot choose where your heart is led to. A colleague is more likely to be understanding of your craft than someone outside your field of work.
You have a foreign way of interpreting your roles…
There’s no foreign way of interpreting roles. It’s simple. I just become the character as best as I can. The secret to my endeavour in this field comes from the ancient maxim ,I forget who said it, maybe Thoreau, “I think, therefore that I am”. The bible says it as well: “as a man thinketh, so is he”.
Who do you think you act like in the foreign scene and why did you choose  his style?
Who do I act like in the foreign scene?  Nobody, I came into this industry on my own convictions and I have a purpose for it. This means I have to be mindful about the way I follow things through. I have to do my own thing and run my own race. Yes, I can and do learn from my betters and they are legion but I must leave my own mark and nobody else.
  Who would you want to act alongside with in a foreign production if given  the opportunity?
At the moment, Kevin Spacey, Nicole Kidman, Don Cheadle and Gregory – I forget his surname but he’s Australian. He was in the movie ‘The King’s Speech’. I want to know how they get to be so mercurial without moving a facial muscle. It is indeed amazing.
If you are in a strange country without a family or friend, what would you  rather be with?
If I’m in a strange country without family or friends, I would prefer to be with God of course! I can never go wrong there. The next thing I will do is find a pretty lady to chat up. I have long since learnt that the quickest way to get about a strange place and learn the language is by charming the pants off a lady – figuratively speaking and not literally oh!  A smart phone would help as well, to use the GPRS mode to find safe places to go to.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pictorial Glance at Evangelist Eucharia Anunobi of Nollywood

Dearly beloved, having being anointed last year, I’m now being officially ordained with ministerial licence and collar. Giving me the right to carry out episcopal duties as a minister of God under the fold of the ministry as an evangelist. This is happening this morning, Sunday, the 5th of February 2012, at the fresh oil ministry int’l church. This is really the Lord’s doing and it’s amazingly wonderful! God is awesome’.

The above were the words of Nollywood actress Eucharia Anunobi on her facebook wall, which makes her the first Nollywood act to achieve that feat.

More Interviews from Eucharia Anunobi from the Internet.

Nollywood seems to be taking a revolution with ‘IJE’, ‘ANCHOR BABY’ and some other movies that are rebranding Nollywood. In the movies you have participated in do you think they are worthy of rebranding Nigeria? 
 Yes Absolutely, I’ve always said that whether we like it or not the stories we tell in our movies since we actually started has always been our story in different forms; the stories of ritual, people who are non-conformist, kidnappers. So definitely, we’re rebranding Nigeria but first of all, we cannot rebrand if we don’t appraise the things that we have on ground and know we got a lot of dirt and to sweep it out we got to showcase them to tell people that this things are not good. So obviously, when we’re done with this and people have come to realize them like all this internet fraud is not right, we start rebranding. When you want to start rebranding, you must give people thanks for them to have things to do. I’ve always given kudos to all the producers who have brought money to put up this industry but we need government to come in and now by the grace of God, I heard not too long ago that the President of this country has given out some money to the industry, now they’re thinking. Whether we like it or not, everybody cannot be in the banking industry, everybody cannot be a doctor or an accountant. There are millions of people that the entertainment industry employ; the camera men, personal assistants, lighting men and editors. So tell me if this industry was not in place, where would we all be? It is better and high time that the government realizes that this industry is too big and would incorporate so many other people that rather would have been on the streets and cause havoc. For me, when you say you want to rebrand Nigeria, they should appraise the fact that they need to pump in money so that sucks in all the restless youths, and all of us as we’re all gearing to go. We got talent so if you don’t cap us and put us down in a place there’s nothing we can do about it, they’ll just be on the street looking for things to do. 
  Do you think President Jonathan will live up to his promise, based on the fact that previous promises have failed? 
 The thing about life is that faith is believing in the things you’ve not seen and hoping that they’ll come to pass. So well we have faith and believe that he’s promised and we’ll pray. What we should do is pray that he puts those things into his sect because whether we like it or not, we have to realize there’s spiritual power because the bible says ‘We fight not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities of darkness’. So whether you like it or not there are powers of principalities and darkness who are dream killers, so we want to say that this dream should not be killed by putting up our prayers, going down on our knees in our homes, offices and wherever we are that that which he has uttered will come to pass because sometimes when you utter your dream, the dream killers will kill it. There are evil forces and people who don’t want this nation to go higher than this, maybe because they’ve already sold their soul to Satan and if you don’t pray against them, they’ll hinder the promises he has made 
You have experienced all sort of controversial issues in the last few years, how do you live and cope with all that? 
 If you talk about the news concerning my divorce case, well because I’m a celebrity, they have to talk about it so I don’t see the big deal about it as I’m not embarrassed about it and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I’m not the first one to get divorced and I don’t think I asked for a divorce so I want to believe that I was the best wife and best mother that any man can get; It’s just that anyone could marry the wrong guy or girl. So maybe in my case I just married the wrong guy and I pray that very soon I’ll get the right guy and all these things would come to an end because for me I’m straight. 
So you’re looking forward to another marital experience? 
 Absolutely because our God says we should not be alone. 
So how soon is that? 
As soon as the right man comes along. I don’t want to get entangled with the one that’ll bale off with my things again. 
So looking at your recent pictures, and seeing the changes in appearance, how trim you look, I was wondering, how did you do it? 
Thank you. If I understand you correctly, I take it you’re saying I look good and beautiful. (General laughter) Well, first and foremost I am a health conscious person even though I know that a while ago I might have put on some weight. Sometimes if you are emotionally down you might put on some weight and coming from the point of view of having had a baby, which is not an excuse, I put on weight. Then I breast-fed for a while though. I was alone and lazy about my health you know, but one day I woke up and I said ‘hey, what is happening? Why will I put on weight? ’ I can’t claim to be health conscious and teaching others to be health conscious yet allow myself to get out of shape. You see the nature of my job allows no place for sloppy appearance. So I had to wake up from the slumber and take the bull by the horn. I had to stop some of those funny eating habits like taking all that chocolate, ice-cream , nkwobis and ise ewu , you see I have a sweet tooth but I had to put a stop to all that, because I realize once you get older some of those bad habits can come back at you with terrible consequences. 
So after being out of the picture for sometime, what was the motivation to come back and take it up from where you left off? 
Well to me I want to say that the quest for knowledge, in a bid to better my self was the motivation that led me to take time off in order to come back a better actor. This is necessary if one must attain the peak of their chosen field of endeavour. I have always tried to let people know that you can not be a proper actress or ‘actor’ in quote without having a good education. Because as an actor or actress you must be intellectually sound in order to properly understand your role and character. If you are not educated you will not be able to interpret properly your character and as a result will lack the confidence and bearing to properly portray your role. Definitely, acting is not for people who are not educated. Yes you might have the talent but there’s only so far your talent can go. So for me by the grace of God, having education and believing so tenaciously in education have put me where I am today. And for me it’s part of it and when you said I took time off, I know that I have showcased that overtime with education, so I give God the glory that thousands and million of parents when they see me, they say ‘oh my God I want my children to speak English the way you speak‘, people say ‘I love the way you walk‘, ‘I love the way you get your head up high you have got charisma‘. These are the qualities I have learnt over time and they are all coming from schooling and from a good heart. If you don’t have good education some of this finer attributes of life will be taken away from you. And these are what are needed for the next level, which is where I am heading. 
Of course, there’s been a lot of talk in the media about Eucharia being an evangelist and preacher. Did you ‘turn to God’ as it were, because of certain emotional or psychological challenges you faced? 
Well let me give you a precise date I gave my life to God. That was 25th of March 1996. And that was four years before I got married. That means I have been born again for more than a decade. So it’s not about turning to God now, I didn’t ‘find’ God now. And if anyone turns to God because of certain challenges, once those problems are solved, you will return to your previous ways, which is obviously not the case with me. I realised long time ago that there are a lot of negative spiritual forces that operate in Africa considering our ancestral religious beliefs. Some of us are not even aware that almost every family in Africa has some sort of tie with spiritual forces, either by way of seeking protection or for fortification, done on their behalf by their forebears. If this problem is not taken care of, it will definitely continue to affect people and they will begin to wonder where they went wrong. It’s the reason you see some people are never able to handle wealth, or relationships or family. So of course having realised this a long time ago, I decided to break with this bond. And being an evangelist today means I have been in the ministry for a while before coming out to evangelise. And this gives me joy because life is transient so the succour we should truly seek is the fellowship with God. And I want to declare here that I am shamelessly in love with God. 
How do you reconcile your flashy ways and your assertion that you are a born-again Christian, bearing in mind the stereotypical image of a ‘born again’ Christian especially around these parts? Let me ask you, have you seen God? Or do you have an idea of God? From what I gather and from what is obtainable from the Bible and even from what surrounds us, God is beautiful. And of course His children ought to reflect that beauty. Besides, Christianity is not really about the physical look of one tying a scarf and portraying ‘religion’. You do know that ‘religion’ and ‘Christianity’ are two different concepts. So it’s not really about looking tattered or unkempt in order to impress people with your piety. At the same time it’s not about trim nails or long hair or any of that. It’s really about what’s inside. But to me, you cannot proclaim the God of beauty, the God of order and look tattered because my God is the epitome of excellence. 
What’s your take on the recent bill prohibiting same sex marriages and civil unions in the country? 
I’m excited about this, I’m so excited. Before I answer this question, I’ll share something with you. Sometime ago around September, I was given a script to familiarise with for a movie. The movie was about homosexuals, lesbianism and you know, name it, and I was like ‘Hey! Who is going to do this’? (Laughter around) you know. I just trashed it immediately. But the producer called me afterwards on my thoughts and I told him straight away I wasn’t going to do it. He pleaded with me to reconsider as I was ordained to preach a message through that movie. However about two months later, I just picked up the script, which fortunately had not been destroyed, and read it and I noticed that yes the character was bisexual and all that but eventually she became a pastor going about converting everyone she had ever ‘initiated’ into the act of lesbianism. So it was really about the message. So yes, back to your question, I think it is awesome and this re-inforces my pride in my country and I say kudos to the national assembly. For once at least, we have shown that we are a nation that fears God. Let me tell you, the act of homosexuals, bisexualism and the like is purely satanic and from the pits of hell. This shows that Satan is seriously at work in this world and that the entire world is under spiritual manipulation. Soon it will be bestiality if care is not taken, so yes it is a wonderful bill and I urge everyone to pray against this trend. 
In your movies, you are prone to portraying certain characters; domineering, regal, and sometimes downright bossy. Do you feel regularly typecast by producers and or directors? 
Well I want to say I’m one lucky ‘actor’ and I’m versatile and I have played all kinds of roles so I wouldn’t really agree that I’m typecast. But when you look at if from the Nigerian context, especially from the point of view of the producers, you’ll find out that certain characters played by actors make certain movies successful therefore making it commercially viable to reproduce same. So of course, it’s not that an actor can’t play other challenging roles, but when you have this situation where one movie becomes popular and commercially successful because of the type of characters displayed, then you will agree with me that other producers will want to simulate the same pattern. Then of course as far as I’m concerned we are not paid well. Any figure under a million is really nothing to boast about to be sincere. If you say okay I’m not doing just any movie if it doesn’t fit my standards, (and I don’t even know what standards they mean), you’ll find that you’ll probably wait a long time before you get jobs. So imagine if in that situation you are paid maybe eight hundred thousand naira for your last job. If you factor it in that you have to pay the rent, take care of utility bills, education, feeding, taking care of the ever growing relatives and dependents and probably maintain the lifestyle or at least appear to maintain the lifestyle society expects you to maintain, then you can see that it is difficult to be picky about roles. Then again, everyone has their own peculiar attributes and physical make up that mainly determines the kind of roles you play. So if I get roles bordering on the attributes you mentioned, it’s because I believe I have that carriage, confidence and regal bearing that can adequately do justice to that character and in general the movie. And of course one can always enliven even the same flat characters with creativity because really it depends on who’s interpreting because there are intelligent stars and sorry to say there are the dumb stars. 
Looking at the state of the Nigerian movie industry now, what would you say is not working right? Well I would like to remind you that the Nollywood that you and I know is individually financed. Only individuals who have the foresight and the belief in the industry have been the ones that have brought money to do that which you and I watch. There has been no government support in any form to do big budget movies and individuals too have not ‘come together’, like five people, two people joining financial muscle together in doing something. It’s always been a one man thing you know, this one person thing. How much can one person really do? What is needed to do really big budget movies is when two or maybe three people can come together and say, ok, ‘you bring 10million‘, I’ll bring 10 million, we all bring ten million then we can acquire all the high tech equipments and do a very serious movie that can match any acceptable standard. Without this, we probably can’t move very far especially with the technological hindrances that has been crippling the industry for a while now. 
So essentially money is the problem? 
Oh yes, money, money, money and when I say money I mean money because in truth we have the right people to do the job but if you don’t have the finance there is nothing you can do about it. Think about it, if you want to build a house, you can have a good design but when you don’t have the money to buy the materials your dream is just going to be hanging on paper. You know that overtime we have professionals coming out in the industry, we have the best hands who can hold their own anywhere in the world, but we do not have the financial wherewithal to do the job, the enablement. We are talking millions of naira, or dollars as the case may be. 
So fill us in on what you’re up to now. 
Well for now I’m in school pursuing my Masters degree in Social Works in the Lagos State University, Ojo. And I oversee my many business interests because I have always been trying to make multiple streams of income and have been doing that because you can’t wait in one place and expect one brook to feed you. I have also tried to enlarge my coast and I’m working on a couple of movies which will soon be released. And to every one of my fans, I can’t be where I am without their love and I must say that as much as they love me they better start loving who I love and that’s God. And let me use this medium to say that I might have stepped on somebody’s toes, you know, maybe someone has been slighted by what I had done, you know called me on the phone and I have not responded or anything, I just want to apologize and say that I love them all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pictorial Glance at Professsor Laz Ekwueme, A man of many part

Professor Laz Ekwueme, 'Eze Ijikala II - Ozioko' Igwe Oko, Anambra State, is a man of many parts. He is an actor, choir conductor, music composer, a teacher and traditional ruler of his community.

We hardly see you in films these days. Do you still act?
Yes I do. I play Igwe roles and I have played many other roles. I act, but recently, they have not been paying me well enough to act. People like to buy you cheap. Though I am not a proud man. People think I am an arrogant bastard, who thinks the world should fall at his feet because he has a degree in music. But people confuse arrogance with pride. People confuse self-confidence with pride. When you do what you know how to do well with confidence, they say you are proud. They want to pay me peanuts and I say to them, where do you see any Ph.D holder on the screen? Where do you see a Professor on the screen? Where do you see an Igwe on the screen? Where do you see a one time university orator on the screen and you want to pay me peanuts? Yet, you are prepared to pay midgets millions. I know they are good; I like them and they are my friends but the Nollywood has suffered misfortune of being piloted by marketers. They are not interested in the quality of speech. The are not interested in the nuances of interpretation, and they don 't notice the difference between this man and that man. Because of it, they have not been calling me so frequently, and I refuse to be belittled beyond a certain level. I am not exorbitant, but some others play politics. Once they ask for me, they tell the people that Prof. Ekwueme is so busy and you can't get him. They are intimidated. They are in apparent competition with me and they want to take the small money since acting is the only thing they do.
You are a composer, an actor, a teacher and a traditional ruler. How do you combine all these? That is a very serious problem I have had to live with in the last 72 years. I 'm a man of multiple interest. I'm so diverse. I have more or less done everything to the point that it was so difficult to choose a career. The career I eventually find myself was at happenstance. I had interest in very many things right from my childhood. I had flare for singing, music, mathematics, English, tradition. I had diverse interest. At school, Government College, Umuahia, I had interest in the arts as well as in the sciences. Back then in school, we were fortunate to have very good teachers. A balanced education meant that you studied virtually everything including Religious Studies and Carpentry. But you took school certificate in subjects at that time, four arts subjects and four science subjects. You could then choose your career in either the arts or sciences. Most of my mates got into the sciences anyway; only a few went into the arts. I was good in drama at Umuahia. I could also play games a lot. Everybody had to play every game. Some of us even went into boxing. I almost went professional in boxing. Later, I changed from boxing to Karate. I am a black belter in Karate, but not at 73. It would be foolhardy for me to break tables with my fists now. But this is to show you the diversity of my interests. It was difficult for me to choose a career and having no money made it more difficult. My English master, P. J. Johnson, wanted me to read English. He took me to St Johns College in Kaduna to help him teach and establish the school in the way of Government College, Umuahia. My Maths teacher wanted me to do Engineering. My principal felt I should be a writer because I wrote for the school magazines. Of all these, I was at loss to choose a carrier. I didnt have money to go abroad at that time. So, I worked in Enugu. I followed my principal 's advice rather than that of my Maths or English teacher. But then, we had what we called festival of arts. The festivals were held in regional centres like Enugu, Ibadan, Zaria. I was good in writing, music and drama and painting. You could take examinations in music, but couldn't take examinations in theatre. I took examination in music and I won a Federal Government schorlaship to study music. That was how I left the country.
Were your parents able to suport your education abroad? 
They couldn't. In fact they couldn't afford to take me to Government College, Umuahia.
So how did you go to Umuahia? 
Don't think I'm being self-centered or that I am blowing my own trumpet. But at the time we went to Umuahia, you had to be very brilliant and lucky. I say that because it is the truth. My primary school headmanster, the late R. O. Iwuagwu, was a very good man. He prepared 12 of us to go to different secondary schools. GCU was the first. The first test was on mental arithmetical. It was used as an elimination process. If you didn't score up to a certain point in that arithmetic, they wouldn't bother to mark your other papers. We did test in English, Mathematics and General Knowledge. Average students could do well in English and General Knowledge, but not in Mathematics. Out of those of us that went for the entrance from Ekwulobia Primary School, we took the eight subjects. About eight among us got seven out of the eight subjects. They did not come to GCU. Three of us remaining went for the interview. There were another four subjects. One of us got three out of the four subjects, he didn't come to Umuahia. Two of us were just the ones taken finally. That was why I said luck had to do with your being accepted in Umuahia. One mistake, you are out. At Umuahia, we had three square meals a day, we had soap, we had iron to iron clothes. I had a scholarship. My late uncle paid the equipment fee. If hadn 't gone to Umuahia, I wouldn't have got scholarship to further my studies. Many of us became doctors, many became engineers and a few went into the arts. Umuahia has produced great number of writers like Chinua Achebe, Gabriel Okara, Saro Wiwa. But many of them didn 't go into the arts. Achebe initially went to study Medicine. I gave up Medicine, because the smell of formaline makes me throw up. When I started my music, I didn't leave drama; I continued studying Drama in England. Also, languages we did in Umuahia, I found them necessary for music studies at the degree level. I had to do a language course in Italian and German.
So how many languages can you speak now?
English and Igbo very well; German and Italian, fairly well; a little Yoruba here, a little Efik there. I am just trying to explain the diverse interest that made me go into different things. While I was in England, I did a lot of acting and modelling. People thought I was good looking when I was young. If you go for ten casting session and you were chosen in all sessions, you don 't need a priest to tell you that you are good looking. I did a lot of modelling and advertising in England. I was very much also into religion. I was a Lay Reader of the Anglican Church at the age of 20. Despite my sins and all, I was pure until at least 24. I had too many interest and that may have obscured my choice of a career. I thank God that things happened that way, other wise I would have ended up as an engineer which I didnt like. I would have been a very unhappy engineer.
How come you decided to come back to Nigeria after your studies abroad? 
That is a million dollar question. When I was studying in England, I was always analysing and thinking, ah, this would work in my home, this would not. I believed that when I come back, I would be the authority in music. Very few people had degree in music. I Have been very lucky to have had the best of education and having the best teachers in the world. All the shortcomings were of my own making. God has given me opportunities that are so rare. One has to be realistic. You may be a good conductor but you can 't imagine the London orchestra being conducted by a black man at that time. I had to come home. There wasn't even a question of not coming home. I came back to University of Nigeria, Nssukka, as a lecturer. I then got another scholarship to go and do a Ph.D at Yale, which obviously is America's number one university though some may say, Havard. The temptation might have come for me to stay back in the U.S. especially during the war in Nigeria. I was there in the U.S., 1966 to 1969. That was the peak of Nigerian civil war. But then, go east go west, home is still the best particularly in 1974 where there was plan to hold FESTAC '75. Prof Ade Ajayi had this vision of making UNILAG the best university in Africa. He invited the best scholars in different parts of the world to come home. I had been in America for eight years and I felt it was time go home. The war had finished in 1970 so I came back in 1974. FESTAC was moved to '77 and I played my part.
How did you adapt, coming home to teach? 
I was the second person in Nigeria to hold a bachelor 's degree in music. Two other people had a bachelor of arts in music, not quite the same as a bachelor in music. Coming back to teach at Nsukka then, I was just a young Nigerian coming back from England to teach in a Nigerian university. I founded the University of Nigeria Choral Society. We became a vibrant department. UNN was the first university to introduce music as a subject. I was one of the pioneer teachers then. It was challenging but I enjoyed it. Thank God I had set my goals in England. I was sorting myself out on what was appropriate to be taught in Nigeria and even when I went to Yale for my Ph.D, I was more careful, selecting and distinguishing what was necessary for our society.
Did your parents support you when you chose to study music? 
I am reminded of a mad man in my town who made a very witty statement though he was mad. A younger nephew of his started being mad, he was at the threshold of madness. The old mad man called his nephew and told him, 'my friend, the thing you are trying to get into is madness. Are you sure you can cope? I have been into it for so many years and look at how I am.' Anybody who watches those of us who have been in music and see how poorly we have fared financially, will not advise his wards to get into it. Nevertheless, popular music is the one that pays and not arts music. Nigerians love arts music anyway, but they are not prepared to pay for it. My father died when I was six and I had three brothers. The first one entered Ibadan when I entered Umuahia. He died early. He didn 't marry before he died. My second brother went to Kings College. He read Architecture, the first vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme. My younger brother had the best West African result in higher school. UAC gave him a scholarship to read Medicine at Ibadan. My mother was a teacher, she didnt have much say in whether we went to Kings College or GCU. There was nobody to tell us what to do or not. If you have a Federal Government scholarship to go and study music abroad, who is there to say you should not go? Will the person pay for you? My younger brother had gone to America and returned before I went to England. He had no qualms in what I was doing. He was even the one that advised me to go to Yale and not Harvard for my Ph.D.
How did you cope without a father figure in the house? 
We all gave our mother big stress. Boys will always be boys. My mother used to tell us, 'All these problems you are giving me, your children will give you more.' But my mother was a fantastic woman. She didn't spare the rod. If I tell you things we went through, you will not believe it. We had uncles who helped us, but I tell you, we had a difficult childhood. There was hardly any term in my primary school that I was not sent away for fees. We would crack kernels to sell and use the money to pay our school fees. It was just God that saw us though. My mother was a widow for 50 years before she passed on at 84.
How come you didn't marry a white woman? 
That is a very difficult question to answer. The relationship one gets in one 's youth with people one lives with, may vary from individual to individual. In England, many Nigerians were not very happy. The standard of living in England was not very high. Many of the homes were not heated. You come back home from school and you use a paraphine heater in your house. Your face will be burning and your back would be freezing. Many could not afford to live in centrally heated houses. Many of our people were not so well-to-do as to mingle with the upper class of the whites. But if you were happy in England as I believe I was, you would mix freely with the best of the society. You date white and black girls. It would be tempting to marry one of them, but if you have come from a fairly good home, even if you are not rich, you will know that it will not be convenient for you to bring a white woman home under the circumstances of your society. We found that many of those marriages didn't quite work. An average white woman would look very beautiful in her teens, but once they clock 35, they age more rapidly. An African woman will keep looking beautiful even in her 60s. I didnt go straight from Umuahia to England, I worked for some time. Even before I left for England, I had friends who were white and I went to their homes. I interacted a lot with them when I went to England. But before I went to England, I had got engaged to a Nigerian. She was my first love and nothing could distract me from marrying her. I was a member of Students Christian Movements and I had my morals. The question of marrying a white woman did not arise. It was not as if I wasn 't tempted but I learnt self-discipline in Umuahia.
Tell us how you met your first love
You must remember that I am 73 and memory fades. Everything cannot be as exact as it might have been then. The girl I was engaged to was my godfather 's daughter. We grew up together, eight years younger, innocent and beautiful. We had same characters and we were naturally attracted to each other. But we parted ways. I was in England and she was in Nigeria. As at the time I came back to Nigeria teaching at UNN, she entered University of Ibadan. There was a war and she came back to Nsukka. For about nine years, we weren't together. By the times we came together, things had changed. Many waters had passed under the bridge on both sides.
So, you eventually married someone else 
As a traditional ruler, it is allowed for you to take more than one wife? 
It is not allowed, it is said to be allowed. If you are not a Christian, you can take more than one wife. I am a traditional ruler that can 't afford one wife not to talk of another one. I have enough headaches trying to maintain one wife and three children. I dont have girlfriends.
There is this belief that for you to be a king, you must appease the gods. Did you get to do that? What are gods? When an African Religion practitioner erects a shrine in the name of his forefathers and puts a stature there and he comes to offer libation and make sacrifices there. Is it that he is just using it as a symbol to reach the main God? I believe that is his intention. Since he cannot see God, he has a visible, tangible token which represents, for him, the unseen God. He is not worshiping the idol, he is worshiping God, but using idol as a symbol. To come to your question, I didn't have to go through any ritual other than the Christianity I know. When I was coronated, there was a bishop there. There was an archdeacon. People from different churches were there. But there was the head of the Ozo. I took Ozo title. If there is anything against Christianity in the Ozo title, remove it and take the title. If there is anything wrong in masquerade, remove it and continue with the festival. It is a sport and a culture of the people. No traditional ruler in my town has to go through any pagan rite to be made an Igwe or Oba. But some so called sanctimonious Christains think that you have sinned if you take an Ozo title.
As an Igwe, does your elder brother, former vice president, Alex Ekwueme, prostrate to you?
My niece got married recently and somebody asked me if my brother would stand up when I arrived. I explained this way. He would have been the Igwe but he felt, and I agree with him, that he would be more useful to the town not being the Igwe. There was no need for him to be tied down. Moreover, as at the time my uncle died, he was still in politics vying for the presidency of Nigeria. Because he couldnt be the Igwe, the town decided that they would accept whoever he nominated. It fell on me. I wasn 't prepared for it, but if I didn't accept it, the throne would have left my family. But the constitution has been amended now. The Igweship would be rotated from now on. You see, in Oko, Anambra State, everybody stands up when the Igwe comes, but when the Ide comes (and he is my brother), everybody, including the Igwe, stands up for him.
What do you miss as a teacher? 
I have many things in my head I need to put down on paper, but I dont have time for it because I am called upon every time. After 38 years of teaching, my pension is only about N8,000 a month. It doesnt last one week. Our governor does not pay traditional rulers much. We are paid 75, 000 a month. I have to find a means of surviving. As to what I miss, I miss much, yet nothing. We dont have quality students any longer. We have many illiterate graduates and it upsets me.

Dedicated to the memory of Teslim Olamilekan Suleiman (1992 - 2005) [Click Image to read about him]