From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu

ACE actor in the popular television series, The New Masquerade, Chief Chika Okpalla alias Zebrudaya, yesterday refuted rumours of his death, saying he is very much “alive and kicking.”

Okpalla, in his usual comical manner, said in Enugu that he is still breathing “like the rock of Gibraltar.”

The comedian disclosed he has been alarmed through over 400 telephone calls on the rumour of his death, which he said started making the rounds since Easter Day.

He joked: “But why should people call a dead Man? They should be calling my wife and not the supposed dead man.”

Okpala was rumoured to have died along the Enugu-Abakaliki expressway in the communal strife between the Ezza and Ezillo communities in Ebonyi State.

But the veteran actor said: “People want me to live longer than I am now. How did the rumour even come about? It came to me as a surprise. Between Easter and now, I have received about 400 calls over the rumour. They should have been calling my wife instead of the dead man.”

Suggesting the possible source of the rumour, Okpala recounted he had actually travelled to Abakaliki, using the Enugu-Abakaliki highway where he was trapped in the crossfire of the communal war while returning to Enugu from Abakaliki.

He said he actually ran into the Ezillo gunmen unaware that that there was a communal war going on but was saved by the police.

His words: “As I was returning to Enugu from Abakaliki, at Ezillo, I heard two gunshots behind me and I thought that the boys who previously snatched my car at my gate in Enugu had trailed me again.

“But when I got to Ezillo market, I saw a group of boys who had blocked the road carrying guns, machetes and clubs but I didn’t know there was communal war there. I turned around but they had also blocked the other end leading back to Abakaliki.

“So I was trapped and the only option left for me was to drive into the Ezillo Police Station where I was told it was communal war. But three hours later, the road was cleared and I returned to Enugu. That was two months ago. As you can see, I am still alive.”