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.
As an ex-president of AGN, what can you say about the schism in the guild now? Emeka Ike and Segun Arinze are claiming to be president of the guild…
This issue has been over-flogged. But, let me say again for the record that there is only one president. When elections were conducted in Port Harcourt by my administration, with 22 state chapters and nine delegates from each, Segun Arinze was elected the president. So, it’s absurd for you to begin to mention Emeka Ike. You are giving him undue publicity.
Pressmen were invited and an election was conducted. An election that was conducted by a reputable senior artiste of Nigeria, Uncle Sam Loco Efe which some people are now saying is not supposed to be. I don’t know what else to say. The media is fuelling this feud but ultimately you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free; unless of course the media, which is the fourth estate of the realm has taken a backbench and want to sensationalize the issue. People like Emeka Ike want undue publicity and they want to be spoilers . If the media is helping them to do that, it’s a shame. This issue has been long rested. The election was conducted since 2008 and this is 2011 .
You are taking us back by two years. I know you came to me for other issues and not to talk about an issue that has been over flogged. If you ask me about the AGN president, I know who I handed over to and I know the people that came to conduct the election. Emeka Ike was nowhere. He neither bought forms nor contested the election. So, what he is now trying to do is tantamount to wanting to hijack the guild illegally . It cannot happen.
He will fail because he has no locus to even want to sue anybody over the matter. So, it is good he wants to spend money, which he claims to have. It’s good for him. But you are asking for the benefit of those who don’t know. So, let me reiterate that at the time I was the president, I was the one mandated to conduct election. Members of the guild were asked to buy forms to contest the presidency of the guild. Emeka Ike neither bought nomination forms nor was he among those screened for the election . Segun Arinze had the largest votes and was declared winner .
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.