Many Nigerians know Emeka Enyiocha as a screen superstar. He’s one of the popular actors in Nollywood. But not many know his story. First, do you know that he came from a poor background and could not go to school? Do you know that he suffered as a child, but was determined never to give up?
In a recent interview with the Sun,he talks about his background,love life,and the journey so far in the make believe world(Nollywood).
Excerpt from the interview;
Could you give us a little insight into your family background?
I am from Abia State, from the family of eight. My father married two wives and I am the first son. My position actually drained me because, when you come from a family that does not have much and you are unfortunate enough to be the first, as you grow, you must bring other people along. That is actually very difficult and it takes God’s grace to take one out of that poverty line. That is why most people will tell you that first sons don’t make wealth for themselves, that they use what they have made to make other people. I refuse to be part of that school of thought. I will make wealth for myself and use part of the wealth to also train my younger ones, which I have concluded like 70 percent. Right now, I am married. I have just had my second and last kid, by the grace of God. I had a baby on April 18; it was the day Goodluck Jonathan was declared winner of the election. And because he came on a historic day, I christened him Goodluck, so that goodluck will shine on us.
Are you of the opinion that the name, Goodluck, is working for Jonathan?
For Christ’s sake, when you have seen the man’s antecedents and watch him from where he started, you will know that God has actually smiled on him. It was not his making and it would never be his making. His being the president was by divine intervention. That is why I said that he does not have any choice than to work. Goodluck is like prophesying. From my belief as a Christian, when you say positive things about yourself, they come to pass.
What was your growing up like?
Kids of nowadays are fortunate. Some would tell you that they were born with silver or gold spoons in their mouth. I grew up with no spoons. I grew up with eba. Our noses were covered and food forced into our mouth. Growing up, for me, was a learning process. I pray that such things should not happen these days because children of nowadays don’t have spiritual knowledge or strength to understand what it means to go through a difficult situation. They cannot cope. They are born in an atmosphere of freedom and saturation of scientific knowledge. Those days, people were being born in the farm. Then, you would hardly hear of CS delivery. A woman must go through the rigours and the pains of labour for a baby to come out. That is why you see most of them, when you are going to the right, they would be thinking of the left. In growing up, we had to fend for ourselves. In those days, when someone buys something for you, fear would not let you show it to your parents. There were some people who bought cars, till their mother and father died, they never saw the cars. Then, how would you introduce your boy or girlfriend to your parents? Which mouth would you use to say it? Then, who are you not to eat at home? Or that you left your eba and took meat or fish, how would you do that? Who even told you that meat or fish was part of the food? Coming from that background, was a learning process for us.
How were you able to go to school, since your parents were poor?
Going to school was horrible. My dad’s elder sister actually paid my way through. I don’t like talking about it, especially now that I am not big. It is a testimony that I would share one day. I don’t like interviews, but most times, when I think of the people that have not gone through half of what most of us have gone through, I feel like saying it everyday, so that they would understand that they are more fortunate. There is hope for them. They are born into plenty, so, I do not see why they should not make it. If we can break the doors or barrier to be where we are today, then, they can. The inspiration I want to give to them is to read because most of them don’t. I went to school at old age, not because I wasn’t intelligent, not because I didn’t want to go to school, but because there wasn’t anybody to train me. There was nothing for me to do. After I left secondary school, I went to Bori Polytechnic; got my City and Guilds of London. I went to Government Technical College, Port Harcourt. My aunty tried in that area, because the school was one of the best then. I couldn’t continue because there was no money. So, I came to Lagos and stayed with my uncle. I will always be grateful to Nollywood and entertainment because it brought me to where I am today. Although I still wanted to go to school and had earlier told myself that I must break the barrier, it was through here that I went for further studies. I got admission three times into the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and there was no money to pay. But finally, I entered LASU and read Theatre Arts.
If there was money and you entered school when you were supposed to, would you have gone for Theatre Arts?
I was an engineering student. I was supposed to read mechanical engineering. When I came to Lagos, after taking WAEC, I enrolled into extra mural classes to enable me change to arts and retake exams. I did that because that time, arts was the only thing that was cheap and almost easy to give one admission into the university. When I got my papers, I bought a form for Sociology in UNILAG. I passed, but couldn’t pay and people bought the result. By the time I went there, I discovered that the result was sold. It was the third time that I told myself that I had to continue. I continued and focused my attention on acting. I also tried to go abroad, but I could not go, due to problems. Since then, I hated going abroad. I actually said that I was not going to use my first visa and I didn’t. When I got my South African visa, I didn’t use it. I was determined to let it expire and it did. I did that because of the horrible experiences I encountered. But the thing is that it has not deterred me. I used to tell people, including my wife, that I have achieved everything that I need to achieve. If God calls me today, I am going as a fulfilled man, but she does not understand and people too don’t. They think it is because I am a public figure or comfortable; they don’t understand where I am coming from. As far as I am concerned, I still maintain it. I live the next minute as a plus because, for me, I have rounded up what I was supposed to do. From where I am coming and where I have gotten today, I have achieved success.
What legacy do you want to leave for your children?
I want them to be what and who they want to be. I want them to actually leave their footprints on the sands of time. My mentor today is Nelson Mandela. He may not have all the money but his signature can give you anything you want in life. My lifestyle is tilting towards that area. Most people say I am harsh, but I know I am a very blunt person. I will not step on you, knowing I am going to tell you sorry. If you do that to me, I will over react in such a way that you will begin to imagine if there is anything else. People have actually taken it for granted. I am a straight forward person. If I tell you yes, it is yes and if I tell you no, it is no. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have my problems. I do, as a man. I am not perfect. But when you are talking of a positive Nigerian, I am. Catch me anywhere. I cannot do business with you and spend your money. It is not possible. If you tell me your secret, if we quarrel, till we die, I cannot reveal it. Most people don’t know who I am. I know that I am a very kind person, but I try as much as possible, not to let people take advantage of that. My voice actually scares people and I am now using it as a tool to scare people. I have a problem of saying sorry or begging people. I might say sorry when I know I have offended you. There are certain things that I don’t take. If I want to believe you, I will go to the extreme. I will believe you like a fool, but if you have offended me, you have lost my confidence. If you are a thief, you are my friend until you steal what belongs to me. If you do, it will be difficult for me to forgive you.
What caused the scar on your face?
Well, it happened when I was like two or three years old. But that is where I am going to stop, because the full gist is not what I am going to reveal now.
What is your relationship with your step brothers?
It is beautiful. People say it was my own doing, but I don’t want to believe that, but we are in harmony. There is no bickering. It could be because I am the one providing for all. When my father died, I told my younger ones that anybody who wanted to take any land should go ahead. I told them that if I had money I would buy; if I didn’t, I would let it be. That way, I took my life away from danger. But they didn’t understand it. I knew I am going to make money, so, why struggle for it or cheat someone to make it? People dupe because they are afraid they are not going to make it. Finally, when they make the money, they have stained their names. And when you have robbed your name in the mud, you cannot wash it away.
What about your mum?
My mum is wonderful. She is fine and alive. Even my step mum is still alive. Every one is happy.
What has polygamy taught you?
Well, from my experience of marriage, it is only a foolish man who will go into marrying a second wife. From the little one I have seen and experienced, I can actually say that it is the greatest mixture of good and bad that is bestowed on man by nature. It is not always good or bad. But you are caught in between the Red Sea and the whale’s mouth. If you are not careful, you will be swallowed. Before I got married, I was not discussing marriage, but now that I am, I can discuss that from experience. If one is not careful, he can be consumed by marriage. But that notwitstanding, marriage is a good thing when you have a good wife. I have a good and wonderful wife. With all sense of responsibility, the creation named woman is actually the reason for what is happening today. I have a good home and nobody would say he doesn’t have misunderstanding at times in the home, but that is why married people can never tell you about marriage, until you enter. Marriage is a lesson you teach yourself once you are in it. It is something you ask God for wisdom to be able to manage.
Constantly, there must be problem that is not a problem. I don’t want to take this from the other angle; let me just say that women are wonderful. A woman would do something to you and the next minute, she behaves as if nothing happened. She may greet you good morning and the way she greets the good morning maybe a problem. It is out of being an expert in what they do that can make someone do the way they do. Marriage has really taught me to be a more driven and careful person. You swallow, bottle up a lot and ease out a lot too. You go up and come down. It is the most interesting institution in the whole world. I am advocating that marriage should be put in the curriculum of schools for people to go and study marriage to know whether they will enter or not.
What could make you marry two wives?
Nothing on earth will make me marry two wives. How am I going to do it? You have not managed one and you want to manage two. How can I do it?
Was there any advise your parents gave you that has sustained you in life?
It was either my dad or mum. Growing up in the village helped me a lot but it is the normal thing that you will be told not to do. Don’t touch what is not yours; don’t do what the government will come after you and when you look at it, you will know there are certain things you would not do. Growing up in the village makes me weigh things and know if they would augur well for the family name. Even when the family is poor. For instance, if you traffic in drugs or commit fraud, and you are caught, the villagers will be referring to your mother as the mother of a thief. It is bad and can lead one’s parents to an early grave. So, the advice I got was to consider things before I do them.
Aside acting, what else do you do?
I don’t do any other thing. As I said earlier, I am sold out to entertainment. I just did one movie last two months. My partner, Chidi and I, set up our production company called Mc Nuel Production. It helps me to stay close to my family before junketing from one location to another. By the grace of God, I am blessed. This is the fourth year we have been together as partners. We did the Patriots; after that, we did School, which is yet to be released. It is a soap opera too. Recently, we did, in partnership with Lagos State government, the Champions of our time, a story of physically challenged individuals. It has won several awards. It is the only Nigerian film that has won the best film in Festaco, Burkina Faso. It won the best jury and film awards at the same time in Burkina Faso. In general, it has won 12 awards. That is what I am doing and a foundation is geared towards that. We want to begin to educate the younger generation about the plight of the physically challenged people. We also want to educate them because a physically challenged person can be a better journalist. The person can contribute to the development of our great nation. Look, in politics, we never had any physically challenged aspirant. We want to catch them young. We also want to take away the elderly ones in the streets by establishing one or two things for them. It is high time they began to incorporate and socialize with us. Our roads they are trying to renovate now should be physically challenge compliant. People on the wheel chair, people with visual impairement should walk on those roads and nobody will harm them. They have been neglected. We want to also begin to re-orientate ourselves, and the public towards their plight. And to also begin to give them confidence that they can become better citizens. That is what we are going to embark on.
Do you have interest in politics?
My wife has, but the way politics is being played in our nation, I don’t want to get involved. Although, with the recent transformation, if my community calls me to serve them, who am I to say no?
If government gives you appointment, would you accept?
If it would accommodate my practice.
Did you discuss with your parents before going into acting?
Even if I had discussed with them, they wouldn’t have said no because there wasn’t any other opportunity or something else to do.
Where did you meet your wife?
I met her in a show organised by a governor. I met her with her friend, Uche Jumbo. We got talking and became friends. I found out that among all the girls I have seen, she is more intelligent. For you to talk to a very beautiful girl, and she is serious with her studies, amazed me. When I was dating her, she was in Law School. If I called her at night on phone, she would be reading, having a class discussion with her colleagues. Every night, for four to five hours, she would be discussing with her colleagues through midnight calls. Somehow, I respected her. Then I didn’t think she was a wife. We were telling each other that whoever sees a better person should move. But finally, we found out that we were meant for each other.
How long did you date her?
It should be for two years, but I am not good at keeping dates. We dated very well because she is very inquisitive. Well, she would want to know why she should do some things and why you want to do some things too. She is a lawyer and such is their nature.
What turns you off and on?
Intelligence. If you don’t have anything to offer, I don’t have any business with you. For a woman, if I cannot get any intellectual discourse, I can’t have anything to do with you no matter how beautiful you may be. I like people telling the truth even at the point of death. I am happy because my wife tells me the truth no matter what it is.
You said you have had your last child at number two. Did you agree with your wife on this?
Yes. For now we are in agreement. But to be honest, I like female children more than male. When my wife was having the second and last baby, I wanted it to be a female too. I must champion the cause that female children are better than the male ones. We have good female lawyers, surgeons, etc, that can equate what the man possesses. From my perspective, female children are better. It does not mean that I will take less care of my boy but the attention that is given to male children is embarrassing.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
As a human being, I must have one or two embarrassing moments. But the ability for you to turn it to advantage is what matters. As an actor, why not? It comes everyday. You may not have money and someone would ask you for it. If you say you don’t have, the person would talk to you any how. Someone will call you too and address you as the man that cries a lot. It is embarrassing but it is your work. So I turn it to advantage and move on.
Have you done something and regretted it?
I don’t do anything that I regret. I do things that I learn from. I am not perfect but anything that I do that is not good, I learn from it and you would never see me doing that again.
What are your challenges in life?
Not being able to move with the speed I want in life, because of the economic situation of our great country and the things happening around us. My expectation is to do a movie and rest for a year.
Is there anything you would want to change in Nollywood if you have the opportunity?
I want to change the perception of anything that is bad in Nollywood. I want Nollywood to be mentioned positively.