Popular Nollywood actress, Patience Ozokwor a.k.a. Mama G, in this no holds barred interview with https://www.nigeriafilms.com, speaks about her career and sundry issues
Q: How have you been coping, as one of the leading actresses in Nollywood?
A: It’s been smooth and challenging. This is because whenever I’m on set, I like working with icons and veterans. I also take my time to do whatever is good as a professional, because I usually go for the best, since I’m aware that my fans expect nothing less from me. So, I don’t get carried away, rather I organise myself for maximum result while on set.
Q: How soon should your fans expect a follow up album to the one you released sometime ago?
A: Very soon, but if I can have my will done, I would love to start with my own gospel album, just that my schedule is always tight. Let me also tell you that I have a personal dance troupe that I’m funding. It is called Rhema Entertainment Ministry. It is made up of a group of Christian dancers. It is my little way of encouraging the youth to desist from dancing naked on stage or in musical videos. The group is based in Enugu State, but very soon, we shall work on having a branch in Lagos.
Q: With your popularity and fortune, a lot of people are still wondering why you do not have a corporate office in Lagos, but in Enugu State where you operate solely.
A: Unknown to many, I was actually brought up in a place called Yaba and later moved to Surulere, all in Lagos. I still speak a little of Yoruba but choose to remain in the East because I made it in Enugu and also became what I am today in the coal city. I believe sincerely that since I made it in Enugu, there is no need staying in Lagos. People, who want to reach me, know how to do that. Even at that, I rarely stay in Enugu. The only reason I may decide to have an office in Lagos is because it is going to make people reach me faster, except for that, there’s obviously no other reason. Even in Enugu, I don’t have an office, but a home.
Q: How soon are you opening a Lagos office?
A: Anytime I am able to pay for the rent of the place and the salaries of my workers.
Q: And how are you coping with life as a star actress in the coal city?
A: It’s been nice here. Our people are very supportive, enlightened and exposed. Gone were the days when people throw stones and abuse artistes for acting a role in a movie. They now appreciate us more for exposing evil and re-moulding the society through our movies. They also know we are doing it well. People know I am different from my roles in movies. I meet my fans always and they are happy to call me ‘Mama G’, and my response to them is, ‘G’ for general. That also makes them happy too.
Q: How did you come about the name and what does it mean?
A: The ‘Mama G’ was my name in a home video from the stable of Amaco Movies titled Old Skool and the ‘G’ stands for general as I said earlier.
Q: Over the years, your career has been growing from strength to strength. What has been the secret?
A: The secret is God and I know He does not intend to bring me down. Even in retirement, I don’t intend losing my stardom. For me, it is the gift of God and you just can’t explain it. If I’m not doing my job very well, people won’t appreciate me. Most times, my fans scream whenever they meet me and that embarrasses me. I don’t even know why I am still at the top of my career today. In fact, I don’t even know how I got there in the first place. God has used my fans to make me whatever I am today, because if they don’t appreciate me, nobody will give me jobs.
Q: How soon do you intend going into retirement?
A: I don’t know yet, besides I’m still in hot demand courtesy of my fans.
Q: In movies you look and act tough roles. How tough are you in real life?
A: On the contrary, I’m the opposite of my character in movies. I am a very emotional person in real life. In fact, I’m even a shy person and would you believe that little things can make me cry?
Q: Little things like what?
A: Like when I see people hurt and humiliated and maybe, pass through stress, all these make me cry.
I’ve also passed through a lot in life. Even with my gentle disposition, I don’t take nonsense from anybody. Naturally, I’m a very sensitive person and an extremist to the core. I also have feelings a lot and keep records of what happens around me always. Above all, I don’t like insults or people insulting me because I don’t insult people or myself. I also love children to a fault. Being around people, especially at home, excites me a lot. I don’t like staying in quiet places. In doing all these, I also try to always please people I come in contact with. But it also upsets me when people I hold in high esteem let me down.
Q: Politically speaking, do you intend aspiring for a public office in the nearest future with your soaring profile?
A: Why not! If my people call me to come and serve them at any level, I have no right to say no. But before going, I will have to give them some prerequisites. I hate to tell lies, maltreatment and embezzlement. I want to go into public service and be like Dr. Dora Akunyili – the former DG of NAFDAC – now the minister of Information and Communication, because she has truly represented the womenfolk well in Nigeria and the world at large.
Q: Have you ever had the opportunity to meet her one-on-one?
A: I met her just once, but it wasn’t an official appointment. It was in a flight, but from the look of things that day, it was evident that she didn’t know me as one of her admirers. I don’t like things done the wrong way; rather I want due process to be followed always. If you give me positions that won’t allow me operate with a good conscience, I will definitely turn it down. I want my country to be the best and not what we are currently witnessing. I can never force people to vote for me if by tomorrow, I decide to go into politics. In fact, I don’t have interest in the kind of politics played in Nigeria because of the way they are currently operating. In my opinion, politics is played the wrong way here.
Q: You have no doubt, touched lives positively through your movies, but deep down, do you think you have also done enough for the womenfolk through the same medium?
A: I am trying, but I have not really started with what I want to do for women as a crusader. Now, I’m just trying to bring out the ills in the society, especially where it concerns women, through my movies. But to mobilize women and get them on the right track, I have not done anything yet, though I intend to do that soon. A good example was my role in Superwoman, where I played the exemplary leadership role of Dr. Dora Akunyili and got commendations. My aim is to use drama and music to encourage our women and further champion their cause. Mind you, those days, women hardly come out to act in movies, but these days, many of them are in the field, slugging it out with the men folk. I am happy that people like us have given them the boldness and leverage to do what God created them for on this planet.
Q: As a crusader through movies, do you also have the intention of setting up an NGO for women in the nearest future?
A: I have given that a thought severally. I had gone to the Enugu State government which coincidentally is my state, to ask for a land to build a home, for widows and orphans, who I hold very close to my heart. But unfortunately, the immediate past government of Chimaroke Nnamani, was playing politics with me. At a point, they even invited me, all to no avail. I have told them severally that over 50 per cent of the movies shot in Nigeria come from Enugu and that is a big investment and employment opportunity for my state. I have tried my best, hoping that this current government might revisit the issue and partner with us to do great things for the state.
Q: Going down memory lane, how do you describe your foray into acting; was it by accident or an act of volition?
A: You may not believe it, but I have been acting all my life. As a child, I was a member of Tarkwa-Bay Children Club, from which I went to represent my secondary school at the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977. Even at the Teachers’ Training College, I acted in several stage dramas, especially Hamlet, and people were coming to pay gate fees in order to watch us. I was a teacher for years, before going into broadcasting. I was an announcer with Radio Nigeria, Enugu. Though I loved teaching, I still miss broadcasting. I thoroughly enjoyed my days as a broadcaster, but I can’t go back to it again.
Q: Can you still remember your first ever movie in Nollywood?
A: Yes, it was in 1998 when I acted in Sins of the Father. I just walked to the audition and eventually did just two scenes in my debut movie. My second appearance was Out of Cage.
Q: You may have lost count of the number of movies you have featured in, but are they close to a thousand?
A: I’m sure they would have been up to a thousand.
Q: And that makes you a billionaire actress?
A: You can call me anything, but it’s just the gift of God.
Q: But how comfortable are you as an actress?
A: I don’t beg for food; I’m comfortable and okay. I thank God for everything.
Q: What would you say is the greatest thing acting has done to you?
A: The biggest thing acting has done to me is the fame and doors it usually opens for me. The life changing status too is worth mentioning.
Q: And what has stardom denied you?
A: The only thing stardom has denied me of is going to the market to buy things. Also, I don’t have bargaining power again like before.
Q: What would be your advice to upcoming actresses, who are desperately seeking to get to the top of their career?
A: As a child, my dad usually tells me that whatever enters the mouth through the corner equally gets out through the same avenue. It is one of the reasons some people would come and shine today and if you check tomorrow, they are gone. Rising through the ranks, is always the best because with that, you will have stories and testimonies to give. But going through the short cut, you might end up nowhere. It’s like marriage in the real sense of it. You know it is not easy throwing away a legally married wife. I always tell the young ones that becoming a star is not the problem, but how to manage stardom is very difficult. Some people also erroneously think that because they have played one lead role, they can begin to feel like stars. This is common among the girls. My sincere advice is that they should be humble and try to maintain what they have by working hard.
Q: At 50, you look younger, what is the secret?
A: First, I see it as God’s blessing and secondly, I think that I take good care of myself, I neither smoke nor drink. I’m not saying that people who smoke and drink are not responsible, but I know what my body wants and can also take. I also try to avoid stress and engage in lots of exercise. I also do water therapy.
Q: As a pretty and famous widow, how do you cope with overtures from Nigerian men?
A: Well, I won’t deny the fact that they still run after me, but don’t let us forget the maxim that says, as you make your bed, so you shall lie on it. If you want men around you, they will always come. We are women and know how to invite them, and even if you don’t invite them naturally, they will still come. But a mature lady should know what to tell them. I have respect for God and children. I am a practising Christian. It may interest you to know that I’m a deaconess in my church, The Dominion City. One of my married daughters is a pastor, my footballer son, is also a pastor.
Q: When did your husband die and what led to his demise?
A: He died in 2002, following a protracted illness.
Q: How often do you miss his absence in your life?
A: I miss him everyday, because there is something always reminding me about his death.
Q: What exactly do you miss most about him?
A: The encouragement he gave me when I newly joined the industry. Even when the fame and fortune had not come, he stood by me 100 per cent.
Q: Which among your numerous movies would you say brought you to limelight as an actress?
A: I regard some as the foundation ones, but Authority actually shot me to limelight.
Q: Do you have plans to remarry?
A: I’m already into a second marriage with my first son.
Q: Is he the only man in your life?
A: I don’t have the plans of remarrying, though I have more male pals than female ones. As you can see, I’m getting old now, so marriage is ruled out.
Q: What advice do you have for the womenfolk?
A: I want to encourage women to take up their honourable profession as priority and make good use of it. Remember God said someday, we must give account of our stewardship and whatever talent He gave us. We don’t have to retire, but rather continue to pursue our goal in life and use it to impact positively on the society. Our men are suffering and very weak these days, it is the women that are making things work in most families. Since government has refused to give us free education, let us assist our husbands in sending our kids to school. If you earn more than your husband, don’t use that to intimidate him. At a point, I was the breadwinner of my family and nobody knew. Even our current house, I built it, but still call it my husband’s house.
Q: How many children are you blessed with in your marriage?
A: I have four biological children: three boys and a girl. Because of my love for children, I adopted some, who are now living with me.
Q: What is your take on Nollywood?
A: Nollywood has come to stay because we have also come a long way. The industry has grown tremendously. Hard work took us to where we are today, so we must not relent in our efforts by keep doing what we know how to do best. Right now, we shoot the movie of the people, for the people and by the people. The stories are our stories. People should appreciate Nollywood, the way they appreciate and respect Hollywood. It is baffling that most embassies in Nigeria blatantly deny us visas. They should start treating us with respect and not disrespect. We are heroes, icons and national role models. The government should look into this. Enough of this unwholesome insult and embarrassment. Nollywood is the pride of Nigeria and Africa. I am more than fulfilled being in Nollywood, which has also come to stay permanently.
— Bayo Adetu & Olatunji Saliu