Photographs line the walls of Nollywood actor, Chidi Mokeme’s house, weaving picture perfect, glossy tales of his decade of achievement within the Nigerian movie industry.

His face is very recognisable, from the playboy grin he flashes, to his ever-ready confident stance, it is quite
apparent this man was born to be in front of the camera.

Within the comforts of his Victoria Garden City bachelor pad, on the seat of his “throne”-his favoured chair in the sitting room, we discuss the situation of the Nigerian movie industry and his new found inspirations.

Model, Actor, Bad Boy

Chidi Mokeme stepped out of obscurity and into the limelight about 15 years ago, gaining visibility through modelling in commercial advertisements, television and radio shows.

The transition from model to actor came about while hanging around production studios, getting chummy with
actors and directors in the industry, and occasionally featuring as an extra or add on in small movies here and there.

These humble beginnings paid off, as he was able to network his way into bigger films, flexing his acting muscle and carving a niche role for himself within the movie industry as the “bad guy.”

“I have to say I love playing the bad boy role, because he gets to have all the fun, he drives all the good cars, gets the women, while the good guy is busy frustrated and running around. So yes I prefer to play the bad guy. But I play all kind of roles.”

Life Inspirations

Having worked in the industry for over 15 years, he has a rapport with just about all the heavy hitting producers, directors and actors, in the industry.

He has since learned the tricks of the trade and thoroughly enjoys the adventures that come with shooting a movie on location in Nigeria .

“Given the working conditions, the things we have to go through when we’re shooting out there on location in some remote area, we do a lot.”

His most recent movie is “Keep My Love”, starring Ghanaian actresses, Jackie Appiah and Yvvonne Nelson.

He admits to not always knowing the name of his movies. Security measures are taken to curb the spike in piracy of Nigerian movies, so protocol dictates keeping the names of the movies top secret until the very last minute
when it debuts on screen.

Finding purpose in life

“At the stage where I am at now, the accomplishments are yet to come because now there’s a conscious effort to be useful, to be responsible and to have meaning in society. I believe the accomplishments will pour in now because I have a focus and I know what I am doing this for.”

The life of an actor is about more than just partying, being famous and having a good time, such fame can be the unique platform needed to spark change in a fast growing industry.

Nollywood movies are so far reaching and have become such a cultural phenomenon, that it transcends class barriers and impacts the masses from the very affluent in society right down to street hawkers and local tradesmen.

It is the third largest movie market after Hollywood and Bollywood and has garnered much international acclaim
for telling the painfully honest stories about the complexities of Nigerian life.

These movies highlight the dichotomies of human nature and the everyday struggle between good and evil in an archaic yet technologically advanced society.

Star in the making

Originally from Anambra State, he grew up in the heart of Surulere, in a loving family with four other siblings.

“I had a pretty normal upbringing, nothing extravagant, just responsible parents trying to make sure their kids get what they need.”

He has received no professional training for acting. In his case, experience seems to have been the best teacher.

Over the years he has starred in many Nollywood hits, and enjoys working with Izu Ojukwu and Ami Amenechi, directors of the hit thriller armed robbery feature he starred in, Desperados.

“They are very focused and professional. Izu pushes you and wants to take everything out of you, because he
gives his everything and in turn you want to give him everything too. Because in the end it will only make the movie better”

Chidi Mokeme has a background in Information Technology. He was educated at the Institute of Management and
Technology in Enugu and graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the Yaba College of Technology in the early 80s.

Since the acting bug bit, he has put away the books for good, trading them for scripts and following his passion.

A Bachelor’s Life

So we know he is not married, but is he in any sort of committed relationship?

His response betrays a privacy sought after by many public faces, showing discreet modesty in the presence of the inquisitive press.

“There are always rumours. Whether you are in a relationship or not there will always be rumours, sometimes you want to keep some parts to yourself. But of course I love the ladies, you can’t live without them.”

He apparently cannot live without his boy props either; “We all have our eccentricities here and there but artists are generally like that around the world.”

His home displays a myriad of replica guns and cars, each telling a different story and revealing more about Chidi’s swash-buckling character.

Hooray for Nollywood

“We in Nollywood are doing stuff in our own way” privately driven with no government bodies or funding from big corporate financial institutions.

“We need the government to take the industry seriously to enable it to stand by itself.”

Policies should be enacted to put an end to piracy, illegal distribution and standardisation. “We might just be able to make back enough returns on investment to take the industry to another level.”

Amendments to the constitution should typify the movie industry, steering it in a way that creates a lucrative foreign exchange market for Nigeria, bringing about opportunities for people to get employment.

“A big problem in the industry now is mediocrity; every Tom, Dick, Harry, Sade, John and Yemi, wants to be an actor and everybody wants to be in the movies to make some quick fame and money.”

Blossoming Intellectual

This leading man has a heart, and nourishes his soul through the observation of the world around him, monitoring the impact and changes gaining momentum in the international political arena.

He indulges himself in the aura of Obama, a man who has grown to become his role model since his highly publicised election campaign to be the first African American president of the United States of America.

His eyes light up when recalling scenes from the recent G-20 summit and U.S President Barack Obama’s groundbreaking visit to Turkey and Iraq in weeks past.

“The guy is making too much sense, more sense than I’ve heard in the last 15 years or so. He really turned my thinking around and gave me a platform psychologically, mentally.”

“Success is nothing if it doesn’t impact on everybody else around you. Obama is a reflection of my innermost desires, to teach people you can be who you want to be and you can explore your potential to the fullest, there is no better example of that right now
than President Obama.”