Sunday, 6 December 2015

Cliques and homosexuals stalling Nollywood’s growth - John Okafor (Mr. Ibu)

John Okafor (Mr. Ibu)
Nollywood comic actor, John Okafor, popularly known as Mr. Ibu, speaks about the industry and his personality

What projects are you currently working on?

I am involved in a shoot for some churches as well as some commercials. I also recently shot a movie in the United States of America, titled: Ibu Runs Mad. I have other projects in the pipeline but I am soliciting sponsorship.

What challenges does the movie industry in Nigeria face?

The management of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria is the major problem. Also, cliques and homosexuality are another issues currently marring the industry’s progress. Piracy is not left out because the investors in the industry are not allowed to reap their profits. A lot of countries depend on Nigeria in terms of moviemaking and the challenge is the administration. People at the helm of affairs in the Nigerian Tourism Development Commission do not show any concern about the industry. Also, some producers request that aspiring actors pay them some money before they are assigned roles. That way legitimate actors are out of jobs.

Aren’t you bothered about being a typecast actor?

To the best of my knowledge, I think I am a versatile actor. However I think some people might have been drawn to my movies as a result of some of the characters I portrayed. Some also probably think I am a never-do-well or almost an imbecile as a result of some of the roles I have portrayed in the past. But, in some movies I have played the role of a wicked person or a business executive. I do not limit myself to just a certain role.

How do your family members react when you portray the role of a foolish person in a movie?

They laugh as hard as any other person watching the movies. I put in all my effort to interpret a character and if I am not convinced about a particular role then, I will not be able to play the role convincingly.

Are your movie roles similar to your personality in real life?

I am a tactician, strict and a disciplinarian. People love to spend time with me because they have a lot to learn from me. Most times, they are amazed because I am different from the man they see in movies. Sometimes, I crack jokes with them to an extent that they would not know when I have left because they would still be laughing.

What determines the roles you play?

I accept well-scripted movies and good stories. I reject scripts when they are not good or when the equipment required to shoot are not up to standard. A bad crew could spoil a good story. Most times, the viewers do not know who owns a movie, they only see the actors in it and criticise them. I try as much as possible to avoid such a scenario.

Did you take any professional courses in acting?

No, I studied Mass Communication at the Institute of Management Technology, Enugu, and I majored in radio and television broadcast. I felt I would not fit into broadcast because I felt it might be limiting. But, I had always known that I have a sharp and creative mind and more so, I wanted to be independent. Before I started acting in movies, I starred in a number of soap operas in the late 70s. I also own a production company; I shoot commercials and also lease technical equipment for movies.

How did you feel when American model, Amber Rose, recently posted your picture on her Instagram page?

Amber Rose is my friend, although we have not met personally. When she put up the pictures, I asked her to come to Nigeria if she was interested in me. We are both professionals and she did not have any reason to put up a picture which portrayed what I am not. She is aware that I am not begging her for anything. She is beautiful and I like her, but she should desist from saying things that are not true. She eventually removed the picture of the other man she compared me with and put up a picture of the both of us side by side.

Ali Baba rose to your defence immediately after the episode. Did you reach out to him?

Ali Baba is my friend and most of my friends were out to fight my cause but I had to calm them down. Incidences such as this are common place in the industry and bound to happen.

You are currently a brand ambassador to some companies. How wealthy are you?

I do not partake in any job or movie engagement for free. I recently bought a house in Lekki, Lagos, and I did not buy it out of proceeds from farm work. I am happy about my endorsements, my family is comfortable too and I try to follow suit with what my mates have done. I am looking forward to other endorsements in the future.

You were enmeshed in a rape scandal recently…

Yes and it was published in a soft sell magazine. I was alleged to have raped 10 girls and I imagined how that could have been possible. I was not angry when I saw it because I knew it was not true. Rather than kill my career, it improved it. I made a light joke out of it and got over it in no time.

How do you strike a healthy work-life balance as a father, actor, husband and ambassador?

My wife understands the industry I work in because she was once an actress herself. She knows the nitty-gritty of the entertainment industry and she would know if I lied about anything. I neither drink nor smoke and I do not keep friends who do any of these vices. When I am not on set, I am always at home by 8pm.

Did you stop her from acting?

Both of us could not afford to be away from the house at the same time. If I am able to put food on the table, then I do not see any need for her to work.

How did you meet your wife?

I never believed we would get married because she was in a relationship when we met and I never bothered her. I met her at a beauty pageant she partook in which she either won or was a runner-up. She is a beautiful woman and being an ‘ugly’ man, she compliments me. After she was jilted, I counselled her. Shortly after, we met at Port Harcourt and when I took a closer look at her and realised that she was beautiful and still is. I was separated from my first wife at the time and needed another wife. I asked her to marry me and the rest is history.

Did she nurse any reservations about marrying you?

No she didn’t. I do not consider her a second wife because she is the only woman I have ever wedded.

How do you relate with your female fans?

I respect women a lot and I treat them like eggs. However, I am not a womaniser. My mother told me that any man who beats a woman would end up in hell. Whenever I am tempted to go astray with my female fans, I simply walk away.

How do you keep fit?

I was a martial artist for 16 years and I am also the second Black Belt titleholder in Nigerian Martial Arts. Also, I was a full member of Shotokan Karate-Do International Nigeria Federation and Shotokan Karate-Do International Africa Federation so, I take my fitness quite seriously.

How do you unwind?

I like to watch football. I used to own a football club, Ibu United, in Enugu and I am also a professional draughtsman.

How would you describe your style?

I am flexible and I wear things that make me look neat. I hate to appear dirty. I like big cars and big, fanciful wristwatches

Credit: Peter Okeugo/Punch

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