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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Presenting the Nollywood Actor - Ejike Asiegbu

Ex-chairman of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Ejike Asiegbu, is well-known in Nigeria’s film industry, but most Nigerians don’t know that the talented actor is gradually positioning himself to try his hands in the murky waters of Nigerian politics. He’s a Theatre Arts graduate and currently the Special Assistant to the Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji on entertainment. He traces his acting career to his role in Chinua Achebe’s tragedy Things Fall Apart as a warrior. In this exclusive interview, he reflects on his acting career, the raging feud in AGN, the scourge of piracy and censorship, his political ambition and his family.


You have not been featuring in movies lately . Are you taking a break or you have gone into another line of biz?

I am a stakeholder in Nollywood and a filmmaker, first and foremost. Apart from movies, there are other things I do. I am a media consultant and a trader also.

You have a stable home contrary to the general perception about actors. How did you achieve this and how have you been able to sustain it?

It’s hard work and understanding . I’m happily married and blessed with four lovely children. I have a girl and three boys, so what else can I say? It’s love and understanding . It’s about marrying somebody who is your wife and not marrying another person’s wife. It’s marrying somebody who you desire to marry.

Before I found my wife, I asked God for a woman that would tolerate me, a woman I would love and who would love me equally so that both of us could make a home. Our marriage is now 15 or 16 years and we are still counting. I thank God for that. If you’re not faithful to your wife and there is no understanding between you , it’s unfortunate. I thank God , because we have been growing and we have many more years to celebrate and we will continue to be there, because I married a woman who loves me and who I love too. I respect her and she also respects me. So, there is love and understanding in my home.

I understand you featured in Things Fall Apart. What role did you play?

I was a member of the cast of Things Fall Apart until I had to go for my exams. I played the role of a village warrior.

Nowadays, Nollywood seems to be allowing nudity in movies. Is it a marketing strategy of producers ? What’s it all about?

Well, every writer has poetic license . I have said severally that our writers need more training. A few are very good but we also have a lot who are just writing for writing sake and who believe that nudity is the only thing that can sell a movie. Such movies don’t impress me because I am trained. They should begin to look at social issues and children’s stories that can educate and make society a better place. Nollywood should focus on political and other social themes and not only romance.

I have heard them say on several occasions that nudity is what the people want. But for me it’s funny. Viewers cannot want that always. This doesn’t mean Nollywood lacks great writers, producers, directors whose works speak volumes. Things are getting better now. I know the industry is growing and we can be better.

What would you say of Nollywood in the next five years?

Five years is just like tomorrow. We are still crawling. If you say 10 to 15 years, you would have set the right timeframe within which to make a projection. So far, I must commend efforts of my peers in the industry . We all know that we fund ourselves and we are lucky to get funding . A lot of independent minded professionals have defied the odds and are making movies on CDs and people appreciate these movies, but at considerable loss eventually due to piracy.

We must appreciate the likes of Ben Bruce who have done so much through his valuable Silverbird Cinemas. Three or four movie producers from Europe are trying to set up cinemas in the country too. That’s the profitable venue to launch movies . If you shoot a movie, don’t release it on CDs, go to the cinemas and promote it. While promoting it, people will hear about it and they will watch it in the theatres and if it is good, they would want to keep a copy by the time you release it on CDs.
Government is key to producing an enabling environment ultimately. It’s not as if the laws are not there.
There are laws but who obeys them?

Why hasn’t government taken effective measures against piracy?

I don’t want to indict the government, but a better process could have been adopted in checking piracy. I’m aware that in Lagos, for example, before you open a shop, you must pay the Internal Revenue Service for the space. So, who are pirates? There are rules and regulations to checkmate them but do government officials help us?

What some of them are willing to do is just to collect their money and allow them to go. So, a lot needs to be done to protect the interests of filmmakers . Other professionals have problems too , but let’s hope that the N200million government recently gave to Nollywood will be managed by the right people who will disburse it to real filmmakers and not quacks .

Why are some of you venturing into politics? We’ve heard of Kanayo .O. Kanayo, Okey Bakassi, and RMD who have declared interest in politics.

It’s wrong for you to ask why any Nigerian adult , least of all actors, have ventured into politics , because they are Nigerians. We are Nigerians and you as an individual have a political party you admire. So, we are all politicians. Everybody or most Nigerians prefer one political party to the other. They either like a particular leader or a particular person who is in a particular political party or they want to protect them. It happens all over the world.

For instance Arnold Schwarzenegger was an actor and ex-governor of California and late US Ex-president Ronald Reagan was an actor. RMD was a special adviser to Delta state government and now a commissioner. Okey Bakassi and I are special advisers on entertainment to Governor T.A Orji of Abia state. Of course Kanayo .O. Kanayo is eligible to contest any government office. So, there is nothing new. Every qualified Nigerian is entitled to contest one position or the other. So, politics is not a special thing for a few people.

However, you know, politics has to start from your constituency and not campaigning in Lagos without going home. Some people stay in Lagos and campaign and say they are running for a seat in the Federal House of Representatives. Things don’t work that way. Go to your constituency and test your popularity. You need acceptance from your people that you have the capacity to represent them.

Do you see yourself joining the fray for elective positions in the nearest future?

Certainly. By the grace of God in 2015, I will . You know I am already serving my state government and whatever we can do to provide good service to the people we shall do, because that’s what matters in governance.

Tell us your exciting moments in acting

I don’t have “best times”. I’m a product of forward ever and backward never. I was trained by Ola Rotimi. I want to measure success by my popularity. So, to that extent, I will say, I am favored because I am recognized not just as an actor but also as a leader and someone that has impacted positively not just the Actors Guild of Nigeria but the entertainment industry as a whole. I’m a social commentator, a comrade and a man of many parts. I’m an actor, a director, producer, a member of civil society and a politician.

How do you relax?

I relax with my family from time to time. I also relax by going out to watch football and relating with friends. Sometimes, I travel a lot with my family. Sometimes, I go out clubbing with my wife.

That means you are close to your kids?

Oh! Very close, except I’m not always around, but even if I travel, I speak with them every day.

What would you do if your libido is weak to keep your wife from going out with other men?

There are certain things you don’t pray for. There are certain things you don’t need answers to and there are things that no man prays for. First, my libido is not weak. My wife can tell you that I’m quite virile even at my age. On what I will do if I’m in such state, I don’t know, because it is only when you have it that you want to do something. I have never had it. I’m a firebrand.

Sometimes, it happens. It’s not every time a woman wants to make love and the same goes for men who are workaholics. If you want to be a successful man, you have to work hard because success is also determined by how hardworking you have been. Sometimes, you may not be in the mood. As a human being you may also be tired. In such situations, you just need to relax, have enough sleep because under that condition you cannot do anything. Wives don’t understand this always. They will tell you that there’s a problem or suspect that you must have satisfied yourself outside. This is always their thinking but it’s wrong.

Women think every time we are out to meet friends in a restaurant, there must be “the other woman” there. We don’t have such time. We discuss business then. Men also want to relate with friends to talk about life, issues and other things. The same thing applies to career women . They work so hard and need time to unwind. So, sometimes, sex or anything that borders on it is not what they want. They need relaxation. At such times , go to cinemas, clubs and always remember the nice times you’ve had together . We need some time off work, to take a break and do some check-ups. Some have died and some have lost so much because they don’t rest.

What do you mean by “women want to ruin men”?

Yes, in the sense that if they have their way, they don’t want their man to have money in their pockets, because they feel that once you have money, you will spend it on “others”. So, they would ask “Where are you going ?” From here to that place, how much does it cost?” They would want to give you money for fuel. They want to decide who you relate with and in fact if you go there you must not drink. If you must drink, it’s only you that will drink.

Your friends will have to fend for themselves. Invariably, they don’t know men have a way of living. Today you buy for your friends and tomorrow, they will buy for you. Our world is quite different, because even the rich also cry, not because they are not talking. It’s not because they drive Hummer Jeeps and all the big cars in this world. Some of them don’t have money to put fuel in their cars. There are challenges like that.

But with time, he knows that dry bones can rise again. Things can happen and a man you think doesn’t have anything today can become a millionaire tomorrow. So, that’s life . There are ups and downs but how well we manage it, is what matters. We pray that God will give every man his real wife who will understand, tolerate and help him to build a home. Women need to be tolerant and patient with their men.

They should not think because a man does not have a car today, he cannot have it tomorrow. If a man is not as big as his classmates today, it doesn’t mean he cannot be bigger than them tomorrow. So, everybody has his own time. It’s only God who makes things happen for everybody.

If you quarrel with your wife, how long does it take you to resolve it ?

I make sure it doesn’t exceed 24 hours before we settle it. After discussing with maturity, we make hot love. And that’s the way to make a genuine settlement. A man should not be tired of saying sorry if he is wrong, even though I don’t subscribe to “sorry my wife ” always, because as you are saying sorry women tend to take advantage of that unnecessarily. Women are ready to say “that was how you said sorry the other day, you said it in 1984, you said it two weeks ago”.

They even go as far as writing in their diary, how many times you said sorry. And if you don’t say sorry again, they say you are so “hardened and stubborn”. They will say your friends have taught you “not to say sorry to your wife”. In all, I tell you, it’s always good not to allow your quarrel to spill to the next day . Otherwise your ego will come in and two, three days to one week, it will take both your parents to settle it. The woman should not be tired of saying sorry either. My take on this , is that I am blessed and I thank God that my wife and I are matured adults.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Presenting Kate Henshaw-Nuttal of Nollywood

Henshaw-Nuttall was born in Cross River State, Nigeria, the oldest of four children. After completing her primary and secondary school in Lagos and Calabar, she spent one year at the University of Calabar reading remedial studies, and then majored in Medical Microbiology at the School of Medical Lab Science, LUTH (Lagos University Teaching Hospital) in Lagos. Henshaw-Nuttall worked at the Bauchi State General hospital. In 1993 Henshaw-Nuttall auditioned for an acting job in the movie When the Sun Sets and was handed the role. This was her first appearance in a major Nollywood movie. Henshaw-Nuttall has starred in over 40 Nollywood movies. In 2008 she won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the film Stronger than Pain. She is presently "The Face of Onga"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Presenting Ajibola Dabo of Nollywood

Jibola Dabo actor, writer and director hails from the beautiful town of Owo in Ondo State. A holder of a Master degree in Mass Media from the Columbia State University, United States,  He is also a holder of a first degree in Fine Arts and majored  in graphics.

Recently you won the best actor award at the  Zuma film festival, were you expecting it?
Not at all.  I didn’t even know I was nominated. In fact, I was on my way to Lagos from Ibadan when I received a telephone call informing me that I am expected in Abuja and I wondered why?
Because I’m a producer, my initial thought was they were calling me up for a job or something else. But when the voice insisted that it was important I decided to travel to Abuja. I wondered why some people think they could just call me and tell me to start coming to Abuja, without telling me why.
The suspense was made worse when the caller told me that “ this is something that has to do with a lifetime achievement, I wish you’ll make it. Get to Nicon  Luxury Hotel and your expenses will be reimbursed and all that. .” I had to turn back because I’d already left home. It never crossed my mind for once that I was up for an award. To compound my situation, I didn’t have enough funds to embark on the trip. It was a total drama because I had  fifteen thousand Naira on me and I had even bought fuel from it and a ticket was about nineteen thousand naira. Somehow I got to Abuja late and I had to drive straight to the event centre and by this time, the function had begun. I was shocked when I was called and the award was handed over to me by the French Ambassador to Nigeria. The movies screened were not only Nigerian movies as South Africa, Germany and Nigeria were equally represented. I was elated.

What ran through your mind the moment you were called up for the award?
I cannot really describe the feeling.  I can only compare it to my life on stage whenever I finish a performance and people begin to applaud. The euphoria is not explainable.

Was that your first major award?
In Nigeria, yes. I have received a fellowship award for choreography and I have also received what we call hall wall awards in the theatre, all in the US, but in Nigeria, this is the biggest so far.

How credible is the Zuma festival award?
With due respect to all other awards, the Zuma award is one of the very few awards that you cannot influence. I questioned them on the reason they waited so late  to inform me about the award and I was told that the decision was reached the morning of that day I was called. Someone summed it up in a text, she sent saying ‘this is a true measure of quality’ because it is a very different and credible award.

When did you join Nollywood?
I started off with TV soaps when I returned in 2003 and I joined Nollywood in 2006. Before then, I was on stage for KOJA and the Commonwealth celebration. The theme of the play was Toy Soldier, Boy Soldier. That was the first thing I did when I came back.

For those who may not know, what were you doing before you departed the shores of this country?
Acting and dancing is what I have been doing on TV since the seventies.

Do you dance?
I was the director of the black heritage. We did the forty man dance at Sambo that I took around the world.

You still dance?
I still dance . . .

What sparked up your interest in art?
Sincerely I wouldn’t know because I would not say that I got this or that from anyone  in my family
I just grew up and found myself in the acting profession. As a child and long before I was of school age, my big sister and my brothers will cast me whenever they returned home from school as part of their Biblical plays. So naturally when I started school I became part of the school’s drama group. I remembered vividly one of the major plays that I acted in when I was in primary four.
I played the role of Samson and till date, most of my schoolmates (in primary school) still call me Samson.
I also played the role of  the traditional chief priest of my town, Owo.  That is also remarkable for me . . .

Were you born with a silver spoon?

What was life like as a child?
Rough, very rough. Imagine a situation where six children are left behind to a mother who never saw the four walls of a school and had to cater for her children.

Did you hawk to help out?
 Of course! I hawked all manners of wares and products. I hawked kerosene and I remember there was a song my siblings and I used to sing whenever we were hawking kerosene.  The song went thus ‘Keroseneeeeeee!!! gbanjo epo re o komeji, elepo n’re le o ema daroo, toba diwoyi ola, arokun epo oyinbo’. ( Buy cheap kerosene for two shillings . . . don’t wait till tomorrow)I also hawked Orii (local balm).
 I did all sorts of menial jobs to augment the little my mother could.

How were you able to get quality education and even travel abroad?
 I give thanks to God Almighty first and to my mother. My late mother was a wonderful woman. She inspired and made it clear to us that she was subservient to her brothers because she lacked proper education. I managed to get quality education, though I kept being sent off because of school fees. I repeated a class because of four shillings.  I went to farm with my mother and by the time I got back to school with the money, I lost a whole term. So I stayed away and returned the following year to continue school. Al of these made me a very bitter and stubborn child. I resented so many things in the society and I feared I’ll end up in jail. I was always fighting with the police and with people because I hate cheating and everything like that.  But what helped me in life was because I had uncles who considered education as important and they gave me reasons to say I want to be better than you. I was looked down on by a very brilliant uncle. He was versatile in the use of the English language and he could pick holes in everything you say. When I said I was going to study the arts, he refused to help out because he considered the subject as course for low lives. He preferred I read law or medicine.

You know when you want something, you long for it, you crave for it and that was what happened in my case. I did all sorts of things to survive and nobody in my family can say I did this for you or that a dime of his paid my fees.

As a polygamist, how many wives were your father married to?
 My dad had four wives and my mother was the first. But I didn’t grow up with them. I lived with different uncles and aunties. I never had the opportunity of living with my family, so I didn’t miss much. ‘

What are some of the things you learnt from your folks that may have influenced the way you make decisions in life?

Learning is a lifetime process. My mum used to tell me that no matter how beautiful a woman is, if she is married, never go near her. I held onto that for so long and it has become a part of me. She also taught me to be honest at all times.  She would tell me that if you tell one lie, you will need many more to cover up for that one lie.

On a more personal note, what really happened between you and Ayo Mogaji?
I don’t want to talk about Ayo Mogaji. She is in her husband’s house but still my very good friend. She is also the mother of my child and that suits me fine.

Are you planning to remarry?
Yes . . .

How soon?
Well very soon.

May we know the lucky woman?
No she is a private person.

What attracts you to a woman?
I am someone who sees beauty differently.  I don’t go for the artificial beauty. I love intelligent women. I love women who could challenge me intellectually.

Considering your experiences home and abroad, what do you think of the motion picture industry in Nigeria today?
We have made tremendous growth and progress but we are not there yet.

So what do we do to get there?
We will get there because the mediocre are going to fall by the way side. We have some directors producing world class movies.  It is a matter of time for things to be all right.

What if you were offered, a political appointment will you accept it?
I’m not a politician. I’d probably shoot myself on the foot because I’m not diplomatic. Political appointment is not for me. I will not be able to play the politicking that is required.

Is your beard a signature?
I shave it sometimes, but for a long while, it has been like this. If I cut it down now, my fans may protest, so I leave it.

How do you handle advances from female fans?
I don’t like women.  I love women. I am a flirt.  People misunderstand that when I say it, I love to flirt but that is if you understand what flirting means.

What does it mean to flirt?
It means interacting with the opposite sex or person in a manner that would gladden their heart. I could flirt with an old woman for instance. You know as an artiste my obligation is to make the people happy and so you need to flirt with people to do that. It is part of the job. When I’m on set, I flirt mostly with the assistants because they are looked down upon.

Why are you always in white or is it a ritual?
It is not.  I have been wearing no other colour than white in the last fifteen years. Except I‘m on set, you will not see me in something else but white. I  feel very comfortable in white and it has nothing to do with ritual.

How often do you see your children?
I’m in constant touch with my children. Some of them are married and the rest area also doing fine.

And how many grandchildren do you have? 
I have six grandchildren and they are doing well too.

How does it feel being a granddaddy?
It feels good and it also reminds that one is not getting any younger.  It gives you an additional sense of responsibility.  It is a blessing too and I am happy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I had always dreamt of being on TV - Chioma Chukwuka-Apotha of Nollywood


Can you tell us what your childhood was like?
I grew up in a very large family, a Christian one and although, we were not rich, my siblings and I were contented with what our parents had to offer.

My childhood was pretty normal, as I did all a child would do; read books, did my homework. I ran errands and did my chores properly and on time too and I also played hard like other kids of my age did.

What about your educational background?
I did my primary school at Onward Nursery and Primary School, where I moved on to Federal Government Girls College, Onitsha, for my secondary education and later graduated from Lagos State University where I studied Banking and Finance.

Can you tell us how your journey into acting started considering the fact that you studied Banking and Finance?
I had always dreamt of being on TV, so when I went for my first audition in 1998, it further confirmed my desire to be in the field of arts. I played little Skita and minor roles until I played my first major role in 2000, in the movie; ‘THE APPLE’, directed by Lancelot Oduah-Imasuen and produced by Theodore Anyanji.

After my first audition in 1998, I didn’t do much because I didn’t know anyone and how to go about anything, in the sense that I didn’t know where and what time to get to the audition grounds. But I was determined to make it on my own, with or without help from those who were already there.

So, on this fateful day, on my way to school, a producer called me for an audition and there I did my first major role and there has been no stopping me since then.

How did your parents take the news that you would take up acting as a professional career?
My parents frowned on the idea of going into the movie industry. My mother in particular was of the opinion that young girls in the profession are regarded as loose and never seen as being able to settle down in a home.

Eventually, my parents were able to accept it because I promised not to let them down. Not that I won’t do anything wrong or that I am not capable of failing, but only by the grace of God I was able to make it.

So, if you look back now, would you say the acting profession has been quite rewarding for you?
I must confess that the industry has been very rewarding. I can afford a lifestyle I ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to. Huge rewards, I can’t even begin to mention them. I do have other things I’m into alongside being an actress, but sorry, I won’t disclose them.

By and large, how would you rate the development in Nollywood in terms of content and production?
Nollywood has come a long way, a very long way. I mean, out of absolute nothing springs a great industry that is rated third in the world.

This goes to show that Nollywood has come to stay and if and when the neccessary support comes, it will be simply explosive. But in the same breath, we still have a lot of work to do.

In terms of content, technical know-how, production, detailing, professionalism (craftmanship), we still need to do more to meet up with Bollywood and Hollywood. Well, it shouldn’t be all about matching up now, but raising our standards. We still have a lot of work to do when it comes to development.

What about the two factions of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) presently existing in the industry? What are the likely implications for the industry since there seems to be no unity?
I do not have anything to say when it comes to the two factions in the AGN presently. I don’t delve into matters this sensitive. This shouldn’t be, though. A body cannot have two heads. There won’t be unity.

How do you think the menace of piracy can be addressed so that movie producers can have a better life in Nigeria?
It’s a very sensitive issue. Well, I think there has to be a proper structure before the government can even help through copyright protection and investment in the entertainment industry, because this will in turn boost the economy of our country.

Nigeria ‘s entertainment industry and Nollywood in particular are the future of this nation’s economy and the sooner the government and even the private sectors help out, the better for all of us.

Have you produced any film(s) of your own?
Produced any movie? I haven’t produce any movie of mine yet, but works are in the pipeline, so you will hear from me soon.

Which of the works you’ve done would you consider to be the most challenging?
I can’t say there’s a particular job that is most challenging because virtually all my works are challenging.

There is this general belief that you usually act the role of Holy Mary or a young suffering lady. Your fans out there would like to know why?
I am a very versatile actress. Why they give me such roles, I do not know, but it’s because I started off with those kinds of roles and once you are good at a particular role, you get boxed in.

Case in point is the evergreen Patience Ozokwor who started playing very emotional role and was very good at it, but when she played the role of a bad mother in-law, she got boxed in because she did it well and it has continued like that. There are other cases, but since I will soon produce my own movie, I would do little skits of different characters.

Who are your role models in the industry?
I have people who inspired me in the industry; the likes of Kate Henshaw-Nuttall, for her dedication to the profession. She’s just a disciplined actress, very focused and hardworking. I’m also a fan of aunty Joke Silva and Ramsey Nouah.

How has your profession lifted your life? Any award?
Like I said earlier, being an actress has lifted me in many ways than one and to crown it, being appointed as a brand ambassador for Africa‘s fastest growing telecommunication company, Globacom, has been very rewarding.

I have also been blessed with my efforts in the industry by being given awards. There’s a long list of them and the very one that readily comes to my mind is winning the African Movie Academy Awards best actress of the year 2007 and the African Film Awards UK for best actress in English language 2010.

What dictates your fashion sense, how do you get your clothing? Do you believe in African and Nigerian fashion? Who are your major designers?
My mood determines my fashion sense, but I’m a very conservative dresser. I don’t expose my vitals. I wear what makes me feel good and comfortable. From contemporary to African, I wear them all. I don’t wear a particular designer, I just love what looks good.

Does your marriage infringe on your job, being a very busy and time-consuming job? Can you tell us about your family, hubby and children?
My marriage doesn’t infringe on my job in anyway. I make sure I take care of the home front before I leave for work, especially if it’s outside town. My family, no comment on that, but we are a good Christian family.

What is your most cherished earthly possession?
I don’t get attached to earthly possessions, so I don’t have any I cherish.

What quality do you possess that stands you out among your peers in the industry?
I guess it’s my dedication to my job and hardwork plus the fact that I’m a very straightforward person.

What is your favourite food, colour, car?
My favourite food used to be beans and plantain, but I’m not really sure what it is now because if it tastes good and is healthy, I would eat. No favourite colour. Yes, I love good cars and it has to be a very functional SUV like a RAV 4 or an X6 (BMW).

What can you not be found doing?
What I can’t be found doing….. stealing. Oh, I detest it!


Why were you so unnecessarily vocal during GUS? You were so vocal. Was that deliberate?
It was deliberate. It was part of my strategy and it worked for me because everybody sees Chioma as quiet.

Everybody thinks Chioma cries and if you notice at the initial stage, I was trying to see if the “quiet” thing would work, but it didn’t because that was the jungle and in the jungle, anything goes. So I had to switch to my initial plan and it worked for me. I did my job very well. It was a strategy and I will still stick to it anytime any day.

How did you know it worked for you?
When the opportunity came for me to be a part of the Gulder Ultimate Search, I was like yes, this is the platform for me to tell people that Chioma is not a stereotype of an actor. Chioma can do something different from what we are used to seeing. She cannot just cry, she can be hot, she can be fierce she can put it to your face and truthfully that is not just who I am, that is just what I do. My friends know me and I cannot change. I cannot change at my age and after all everybody has that point. Even in your home, you are defensive one moment and the next you are not. You cannot be defensive at all times but the substance that makes you will still be there. That is not the case with an actor. Our lives are different from what we do.

I was really surprised with what you did in the camp though I knew you are not totally “buti” but I was expecting at least a little of “effizy” from you as a Nollywood diva.
As I said earlier, we were in the jungle, so all the “effizy”; all the “feferity” were left at home. When we were trying to enter the camp, we left it at the entrance to pick it when we are going home. Why you didn’t see that was because I had a strategy, I didn’t want everybody to see me the way they see me everyday. You know a problem we have in Nollywood is to stereotype a person.

They actually write a script with you in mind. Okay there was this script I had and they forgot to write the character’s name they just wrote my name there. You know that is just the height of stereotyping. I didn’t want that, I just needed this platform to tell the world that okay Chioma needs to be out of this box. It doesn’t change who I am and it doesn’t change who I have been. It is just that I want you guys to see me in another light; it doesn’t affect my person. GUS provided that platform and I grabbed it.

Is it true that while going in for GUS you said you were just going there for a day and you would leave but on getting there, you were extremely competitive you wanted to win? So did anything change your experience when you entered the house or you never planned to go in there just to pass time?
Like I said earlier, I went in with a strategy and if GUS was all about the task that we were given to do: everybody running, who got the flag, who came down the plank first and all that, a lot of people won’t be watching and because of my strategy, because of the plan I went there with, I generated a lot of buzz for GUS and that is why a lot of people were glued to their TV sets just to watch and you will see, the remaining episodes after my eviction will be very boring. It was not a plan I had in camp, it was a plan I had to work for me like I told you. I just wanted to go in there to showcase myself as a different character so that people will know that Chioma can do something different from what they are used to.

Did you plan to win?
Everybody there planned to win. Those of us that were evicted were just unfortunate that we did not make it to the end, so that is it. There has to be a winner and there has to be a loser.

Did you feel disappointed?
I felt a little bit disappointed at the point when I was leaving. But as I speak, I feel very okay.

Looking at your face when you were leaving, I thought you wanted to make up with Muma Gee?
There was no quarrel, so there was no need to make up to anyone. Like I said earlier, it was my strategy, we were cool before the camp and we are cool outside the camp.

Have you gals spoken since?
We were not on speaking terms before the search, so, I don’t understand.

Do you have a cordial relationship with Emeka?
Of course, as a colleague, we have a working relationship

Do you think this will bring the ‘ferocious’ on the rooftop like the Muma Gee and Eucharia kind of role?
Well, yes. The roles have started coming; I don’t think you are getting me. It is not that it will change my person; it’s just to let people know that I can do this. The roles are coming and if it is within the confines of what I can do, I’ll do it.

But has the platform GUS offered started ‘working the magic’?
Yes. Everybody now knows that Chioma is not quiet, Chioma is not stereotyped. She can do something different.

How has life been for you?
You are one of the few ones I know who doesn’t ‘keep friends’. You are one of the few who doesn’t live where other Nollywood persons live.
That is what works for me. Let the Chioma that people know be the Chioma that people know and me and my family. Let me cherish that, because they are all I have. I can’t share everything with people; I can’t share my family with the public. They can let me have that, can’t they? My life alone is enough to share with the world not to talk of my life and my family.

Has the strategy of separating your home from work been working for you; though it won’t be fair to say it is only in Nollywood that marriages fail?
Truthfully, I believe my strategies didn’t do that. It is God. When it comes to marriage, career and stuffs like that, there is no particular plan. I just feel it’s God’s favour. That is what I believe and things are working for me and I thank God for that.

How does it feel to be a mom?
It’s wonderful. It is not an experience that you can share; it is better experienced. I thank God for my family and for everything He has deemed fit for me to have.

How do you juggle everything you do with Nollywood, and I learnt you still go to the market. How true is that?
(Chuckles) Of course, I have to go to the market. I have to cook for my people. How I juggle it? It has not been very easy, but I thank God for the kind of family I have. They are very understanding and they know my job can be very demanding. So, sometimes they have to let mummy go and come back. They miss me when I’m not around; they just hold on for me when I’m not around.

As a stakeholder and as an actor, what do you think is wrong with Nollywood?
What is happening to Nollywood is what is happening everywhere in the world. It is the social crisis we are experiencing: the recession. People thought it won’t hit Nigeria, so when it did, it hit us very bad. Some people are acting as if it took them unawares, but we had been warned and it is affecting every part of the country.

Nollywood happens to be part of it; but it is not completely down. It is just that we are going back to retrace our steps and to find out where we missed it and to correct it, hoping that we will have a new Nollywood that will stay, that won’t be moved, that won’t crash in spite everything that is happening around the country.

A new Nollywood that will have a voice for the masses, that will have a voice for the country, a new Nollywood that will stand as a channel with which to correct ills that are happening in the society because I stand for good morals, discipline. I stand for the family and our norms. I believe in our culture, so it is going to be big. It might take time but when we come back it will be. So it’s not completely down.

I didn’t see you at 2009 AMAA awards?
I wasn’t there in 2009 because I was not in the country and in 2010; I was at the location I wasn’t given the opportunity to attend. I hope to attend by 2011.

When you look back at the years when you were not an actor and now, what comes to your mind?
I have been in the industry for ten years and looking back, first of all I will say I have no regrets. I love the peace I’ve had, I love the growth I’ve had and I love my consistency. Basically, it was not easy at the beginning because I didn’t have any godfather or anybody that will say let me get this for you, let me get that for you. But on my own and definitely with God by my side, I got to where I am today. It’s been challenging but it’s worth it. I paid my dues and you can’t say you’ve stopped paying your dues.

What did you pay?
What do you think I paid? Do you think after my first movie that was it? You didn’t know that after my first movie I was still moving from auditions and all that? After my first movie, I didn’t do any other movie until the following year. So people thought because I started with the lead role, it would be easy. But no, I still went for auditions and I didn’t get roles. I still stayed at home for some months without getting jobs. It has been an experience of a lifetime and I am so glad.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Picture Collage of Benita Nzeribe of Nollywood

From a humble beginning in 1996 on the set of "Beyond Our Dreams", a TV soap, Ihiala, Anambra State-born Benita Nnenna Adaeze Nzeribe, is now a top player in Nollywood movies.  Here is the interview she granted in May, 2012. Read on.

You have been absent from the screen for some time now. When did you bounce back?
I have been back since late last year and since then I have been very much around working. As you can see, I am on location now and by next week I will be at Asaba for another movie location.  I have been working since that last year. And I have one movie already in the market and another one any moment from now would also be in the market. After all these, I will get back to my feet to produce my own movie.
Does it mean that scripts were waiting for you, why such a rush from producers?
I don’t call it rush because I don’t rush my things. I think they saw me and believe I can interpret a particular role and they allowed me to have them. They are taking their time to know who fits a particular role.
You made mention of producing your own movie, what’s the idea?
 I intend extending my tentacles to that area. This particular movie I am about doing in collaboration with a foreign-based company. In the next few weeks, I would be able to talk about it better. Right now, I don’t just want to blow it. I am going to bring my crew from outside the country and a lot of people would be given the opportunity to showcase their talents to the world.
What is the movie about?
It is about us and our culture. We are putting finishing touches to the story and my director would not want me to blow it up yet until we are set with it. Like I said, very soon it would be everywhere.
At a point you were big in the industry. Suddenly you vanished into oblivion. Why?
At a point, it was becoming a do-or-die affair in the industry and like I said earlier, I am not a desperado. I decided to try my hands on other businesses around. That was why I took a break from the industry, now I am back.
Does that mean you have been into business all this while?
Yes I went into contract, in Abuja, but I was shuttling here and outside the country. I was on and off. But now I am fully back to my job.
What has been the secret of your fame in the industry over the years?
I don’t know about other people, but for me, it has been God and the fact that I aim high. I don’t look at people; I look at myself and God. The secret is faith in God and I am very, very patient person; when I believe in something, I go for it, no matter how long it will take to come through. Patience goes a long way in success and I have that Patience. I am not always in a hurry. I take my time and wait upon the Lord for the fulfillment of my heart desires.
You are sounding like a Christian, are you one?
Oh yea…I am very passionate about God, no apologies. From day one, I have always loved God; forget what you see on the screen - somebody has to do that, somebody has to play those roles and I play it professionally. Once the camera is on, I am that character until the camera goes off. Once it is off, I am back to Benita, a God-fearing woman. That is why when I act a bitchy role, you think I am bitchy and when I act a good girl, you think I am good. It is all make-believe. When it has to do with a bitchy role I am a bitch to the core and when it is a good girl role, I become a good girl par excellence. I believe that is what acting is all about. When you act and people know that you are acting, then you are getting it wrong; but when you do it and people see it as being real, that means you are doing it well and that is exactly what I do. The public should stop seeing me from the angle of the roles I play. You see people don’t understand me. I live my roles.
Your acting career, how did you come about it?
I loved watching movies as a little girl. I think it started from when I accompanied someone to a movie audition. I remember vividly that the crowd on that day was just too much and people where pushing themselves here and there. I wasn’t just comfortable with that scenario so I screamed out for orderliness. You need to know how tiny I was then and from that singular act of my outspokenness I was noticed and at the end given a script. I think that was in 1997. I didn’t know then that they were still searching for their lead cast so at the end I got a lead role. That is why I keep saying that my fame came from God. It was a soap opera entitled Beyond Our Dream. I was also an English undergraduate then at Abia State University. I came in basically because of my love for acting. In fact, I started coming form the east to Lagos for auditions while still in a convent school then. I attended several auditions here in Lagos. My first movie was around the year 2000. I did two movies at a stretch then, Notorious Virgin and Gold Diggers. But it was the soap opera that actually brought me to limelight.
What has been the experience so far in the industry like?
It’s been interesting over the years. Ups and downs, it is so in every business. The industry is a place you make mistakes and learn from them. So it’s been good.
And how are you coping with stardom?
I have been able to live with it over the years; it’s just a matter of respecting oneself and respecting others as well. Stardom also calls for one being extra careful in whatever you do because all eyes are on you.
Now that you have grown to this level, how are you giving back to the society?
I have an NGO that focuses on helping the widows, motherless babies, and little girls with VVF. I don’t like blowing my trumpet; it’s like announcing your offering in the church. I don’t do that. How I give back is between me and my God, even the new movie I’m going into will also serve as a means of giving opportunity to new acts to show off themselves, get footholds and grow in the industry.
Tell us about your background?
I am from Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State. I was born in Aba because that was where my parents lived and they are still living there. My primary and secondary schools were also in Aba and Umuahia. I attended a Convent school with the hope of becoming a reverend sister. But I left when I felt I was not called towards that. My growing up was also normal and nice. Growing up was fun for me. We are four in my family: two boys, two girls. I’m the third child. Dad is an international businessman and mum is a retired Chief Nurse. So I be Nwa Aba, an Aba-brought up to the core (Laughs)
What was your parents’ reaction when you ventured into movie?
I am not from a family where you are pushed around to do what you don’t want to do; though they had their reservations, I later proved them otherwise within a year. Like I told you I started with a soap opera which was on the network and I played the lead female. Luckily, it was successful. What more can you ask from a young girl as a parent?
Tell us about your academic background
I attended Abia State University where I obtained a Bachelor degree in English language.
Does the course you read in anyway give you advantage over your colleagues?
I don’t think so. It is all about loving what you do and thriving in it.
What do you think makes relevant to producers?
I think this question has to go to producers and directors because I actually don’t know. They know why they would always say this role is for Benita and no one else. Apart from that, a director has a particular person in mind when he picks up a script, sometimes during the writing process they attribute some things they know you can do well to the script (though I stand to be corrected).
Perhaps, it’s your beauty that attracts the producers
(Laughs) I don’t know about that one; everywoman is beautiful, beauty is not just physical but something of the mind and it is an inward thing.
What is the current state of Nollywood, from your own perspective?
Some would say the industry is growing while others are saying otherwise. But I tell you I see a success story in every situation, the industry has grown and will continue to grow. I see better days ahead and I believe we are on the right track.
How do you feel about incessant marriage crashes in the industry?
I don’t like it when people attribute marriage crashes to Nollywood, we are human beings and the fact that one’s marriage crashes is not because she is an actress. For crying out loud, we have doctors, lawyers, bankers, among others, that are facing similar thing and nobody is blowing them up. I try to make people believe that there are many stars that are still enjoying their marriages. Nobody is happy to have a break up because there was love before the marriage. Even the media is not helping matter; you are an actress and you lodge in a hotel with Mr. A or Mr. B, then someone will see you and go back and write what he feels about you, knowing well that nothing exist between you and the Mr. A. When you write all these things, even if the husband would understand, what about his family members? Would they also understand? And most times people take the movie roles one plays to be the person’s real self and the press still worsen it by writing something negative about you. It’s not fair. It hurts! We are decent human beings with consciences contrary to opinions about us, especially as prejudiced in the media.
 Talking about love, do you believe in it?
Yes I do, I really do believe in love but I don’t like talking about love because it is a foul cry in this area. Love is something you can’t even control, it’s something beyond definition. It’s something that accepts you the way you are – both your good and bad aspects.
How does it feel to be heartbroken?
That is what I am saying, maybe what they call love is an extreme form of likeness. It really hurts to be heartbroken; at times it would look as if the entire world has forsaken you.
Share your heartbreak experience with us
It has been overblown in the past and I have moved on with my life. It’s been over blown that I flushed my engagement ring inside the toilet. I am happy now. I made a mistake and that was in the past.
But did you actually flush your engagement ring inside the toilet?
Yes I did. I was in a relationship and it crumbled. So I did and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I have since then moved on with my life.
What did you learn from that heartbreak experience?
I learnt to be careful and not to trust any man again. Most men are not what you may think they are; they may fail you but God will never fail you.
Do you think lesbianism has really spread and affected Nollywood?
I don’t have the facts about the existence of such in the industry and nobody has approached me and nobody will think about that. You don’t just see any woman and you walk up to her for such act; I believe there are tendencies that ignites them, if you say there are lesbians in Nollywood tell me who are involved. Tell me!
When was your most depressed moment?
That was when my relationship crumbled and that was long time ago and when I lost money in business - big money and I learnt from it not to trust anybody in business. I don’t trust people when it comes to money. No matter who you are, when it comes to business, I will not trust you.
Share your most embarrassing moment as an actress with us.
That was in a supermarket where I went for shopping. Something fell from a woman’s shopping bag and I picked it for her but she turned against me and said: You! So you can be nice like this! I said “Ma, what do you mean?” She replied by asking me: “Do you know how much I hated you?” In the end, I told her to try and watch the movies where I played good roles after which I know she would stop hating me. The Second one was in an airplane. A woman just walked up to me and said:  I hate you. I asked why and she said: it’s because my husband loves you. All those things you do…taking peoples husbands and wearing those useless things”. I protested, “Madam I was paid to do that. My director asked me to do it I didn’t just do it!” At the end, she became my friend.
What is your view about acting nude?
I don’t judge people who do it but as for me I cannot because I am an African woman, I am an Igbo girl and I don’t have the guts to act nude. I can show you all the cleavages by wearing skimpy wears but I can’t go nude. Skimpy wears, fine. I have respect for myself as a woman.
Where are you seeing yourself in five years time?
I expect to be high up there.
And probably in a man’s house by then?
Definitely I will be in a man’s house.
When exactly?
I will marry very soon and I don’t want to talk about it. Don’t worry, when the time comes I will give you notice!
Talking about marriage who is your ideal man?
I want a man that is complete. A man that will understand, respect and love me. That is my idea of a real man.

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