Star Actress, Benita Nzeribe was at her best recently when she spoke with ORJI OYEKWERE on various issues ranging from her long absence from the entertainment scene, her role in Treasures, a popular soap opera and her very private life. An interviewer’s delight, Benita in response to a question on her marital status declared: I am not searching. I am single but I am not searching. If I want to get married tomorrow I will; it’s just a question of saying yes and accepting one of the things that has been dangling before me. Below are details of this

Why have you not been working?
I took a break for a while but I decided to start working again. I just came back from Port-Harcourt where we did an epic and historic story that has to do with Ogoni people. It was an Ogoni movie and in between I was given a language instructor to put me through their language. I will be in Ghana soon to shoot another movie but the Director just lost his brother and I’m not allowed to call his name because it’s a bad news.
Has the stalemate in the industry affected your pocket?
It’s not been easy for everybody but I also do other things. I have an NGO which I don’t talk about because it’s my little contribution to humanity, its on Kids and HIV. It focuses on the kids that have nobody to take care of them. It’s just by the way because that’s an investment. I do various contracts, modeling jobs and interior decoration. Back to the industry I look at what is happening as a passing phase; when you look at Hollywood, it has not been easy for them; they also had their difficult time before things got better.

But there are too many NGO’s on HIV?
Well, that’s another thing; I’ve never told anybody the name. There are some of these widows that are out there dying. Some of them when their husband’s die, their husband’s family will just take the man’s property and abandon them and they now turn to beggars. It’s not really a femine thing, I deal with widows and kids, motherless babies too.

Apart from Treasures you’ve not been in soaps why?
It’s not as if they’ve not been calling me for soaps but when I am involved in one, I try to stick by it. I‘ve been involved in Treasures soap opera for more than one year now and I’m also doing other movies. But let’s see how it goes this year.

You’ve not been in the news for sometime, are you re-packaging?
Oh you want me to be in the news, negative news so that you can write; I bind you (general laughter). There Nis nothing negative about me; I’m using the name of God to beg you, but I’ve been in the news for some time. I’ve had series of interviews but I’ve also tried to keep it low. From day one, I’ve been on the quiet side, I don’t like this media hype but if what you mean is that I’ve not been on the negative side don’t just let me pray for you (laughter)

How do you feel about some of the negative news on you?
My brother, you know that there is no way you can fight the press. When they write, I will just say God you know the truth. Like the time they said I was married secretly, it was funny. The other time they said I was nine month old pregnant and ran away to USA, my brother I had to come out and attend an event where everybody saw my flat tummy. But then, we are human beings, these things get to us and you can’t fight the press.

But there is no rumour without an iota of truth
All these ones, there was no iota of truth, I was not pregnant, and neither was I wearing anybody’s engagement ring.

People see Benita as a harsh person, has this worked for you?
Yes, it has worked for me. I’ve built this hard wall around me because I am a very soft person and when people know you are soft they begin to take you for granted. So I built this harsh ambiance around me and it has helped. But if you break through it, you find a very soft person you can maneuver anyhow you want. I always tell people to meet me one on one and decide if I am a bad or nice person. I accept people and I am an open hearted person. I don’t have any trace of that harshness in my nature, I just wear that thing when I have to play that role and once the camera is off, I drop it because it’s not me.

So men capitalise on your softness?
No, that’s why I said I built this hard wall around me and you have to break through before you get me, I don’t touch your ego. Every average African man has his ego and as an African woman, if you touch it you lose it. If I say no to a person, I do it the right way so that I don’t turn to your enemy and that’s the way I go about it with men. I’m not harsh but I don’t push off like that. My reason is that you can’t say yes to everybody.

But they still keep coming?
So long as you are alive and you are a woman, even the married ones, they still give you stress. So long you’re a woman, men will still keep coming but you need to device a means to handle them. I have my own tactics and it works for me. I wouldn’t make you my enemy but it works for me.

Are Nigerian men romantic?
You know Nigerian men; this African mentality is in them. Don’t touch the ego of an African man. I think it’s hard for them to really give out their hearts. So the woman should work hard to get his heart and if she succeeds every other thing follows. If you know Nigerian men, they have to show that ‘I am the man’ and you can’t fight them, if you fight them you lose them. So you have to be tactical and be like a sister and mother to them.

So it’s not easy for an African man to fall in love?
I am not a man so I cannot authoritavely say that but I know that the African thing is there. They have this man thing and even when he is in love, he will tell himself hey boy watch it, you are falling in love with this girl, (laughs). It’s like they are fighting not to fall in love. Funny

Would you completely trust a man?
I can only trust God. I believe in people, I trust you as human being but you know that human beings can fail. Not that they are already pre- planned to fail but it’s in their nature. Sometimes the man hurts you or your girlfriend hurts you, not because the person wants to hurt you but it happens.

If you catch your man in bed with another woman what would you do?
God forbid, I don’t go physical. If I walk in on my man with a girl it depends on whom he gives the attention to. If he is more concerned about explaining to the other girl rather than me, then he is not for me. I can’t create a scene, if there is anything, I will tell the girl sorry, I walked in on you and the moment I leave that place, that’s the end of the whole relationship, there is no need fighting because the guy has to decide. They don’t fight over love. If he decides you’re the one, he will stand by you but if he decides you are not the one, you can’t fight over love.

Rumour had it sometime that your family summoned you to find out why you are still single?
Ah …. How old do you think I am? I know I hit stardom when I was 18 and that’s when I did Beyond our Dream, that’s about ten years ago. I’ve not read such a thing. Jesus Christ! They’ve never summoned me for such a thing. Something like that never happened. My family never talked about something like that .Yes, I had a broken engagement once how old was I. I was barely 24 years old few years back. You see that’s the problem, people just sit down and make up the story simple because I came into the limelight a long time they didn’t bother to find out how old was this girl. They just calculated from the time they started seeing you on TV and maybe they think I am 50 years old now, it’s too bad. One thing is that age has a way of showing itself when its time it will show you can’t run away from it. My family never called me for anything like that

But you once said that you are searching
Ha… Orji, I am not searching. I am single but I am not searching. If I want to get married tomorrow I will; it’s just a question of saying yes and accepting one of the things that has been dangling before me. But I don’t want to get married because you have a fat bank account, or because it’s the in thing. I want to get married because I want to be happy, by Gods grace do the little I can. In marriage you have to deal with understanding, sincerity, deal with the man that respects you, which is hard to come by now these days and love, that’s it easy. But most people believe that because we are in this job, we can be bought like that. You can’t buy happiness.

But a lot of people think that it’s only the rich people that can marry an actress?
Well, that’s a misconception, though, when you want to talk, they will tell you this actress is married to this big boy, that actress is married to such big boy, all the actresses are not married to the big boys and there are some that are married to the average men. Why are you guys not talking about that? You see, wherever you find love, you go. I am not criticizing anybody, we are human beings, and the fact that we do these movies doesn’t make us promiscuous. If you say an actress is giving a bad light, just judge the person according to her character not according to the profession, that’s just my quarrel. It’s not an actress or entertainment thing, it has to do with individuals.

Does money count in marriage?
Everybody makes money but it’s not the number one thing, peace, understanding, love, respect, sincerity, trust they all come first before money. And this money, it’s not like the man must have a fat account it before you marry him. If you see a man that has prospect and he is working hard, you try to make it together. He must not make all the money before he comes to buy you like a piece of item. I might be wrong but that’s my little thought about life.

You started by playing the uncompressing daughter of Chief Odiete in Beyond our dreams?
Well, the little girl then has grown to a lady today. I have views about life and it was just acting. Forgive me if I was too rigid. I had to do it because it was my first break.

Has any role you played affected people’s perception about you?
I don’t know of what people think about me; but the fact is that when they come close, they will say oh gosh, so you are this nice and humble.

Ever been embarrassed?

How do you feel when eyes are on you?
I am a very shy person but I have my way around. But you wouldn’t know unless I tell you. I have a very tiny secret which I wouldn’t tell you

How many epics have you done?
I’ve done Land of Dwarfs, Cross at Tinapawhich has to do with Akwa Ibom epic movie; I think that’s a true live story. I’ve not done much of epic movies. I don’t know why they don’t like giving me epic movies.

You’re rated among the richest actresses how does this feel?
Ah… Please oh I am not among the richest, who said that, please no, I don’t have money. I am not a beggar, I am not hungry, and God has been awesome and so great to me. You have to give honour to whom it’s due. God has been so great to me; I am still working hard and believe that my tomorrow will be better.

Treasured gift a guy has given you?
Somebody sent a diamond crest, because it’s quite an expensive one

Would you insure any part of your body?
Not yet, I don’t like saying something about the future because you don’t know what tomorrow would bring. I am not thinking of that

Which part of your body do you treasure most?
I treasure all parts of my body. I like myself the way I am

What turns you off in people?
Insincerity, lies, I can’t manage it. Even my friends when they deal with people that lie I tell them I can’t manage it.

Can you do anything for love?
Ah…I can’t kill for love because I don’t have the right to take somebody’s life. Unless there is any other thing.

For example, giving out a part of your kidney to a loved one?
Well, that’s saving a life. It’s not just doing it for a loved one; you can do it for anybody. But if you can take one away and you still survive with one, no problem. I don’t know the medical implications, but if the person could be okay with one and your husband has a problem and you have to donate.

What determines your style of dressing?
Whatever makes me comfortable for a particular occasion? I have to think of my comfort and physique. I will not say because this person is wearing a pencil skirt and then I go for it.

Ever played a love role you never felt comfortable about your partner.
I have my way around it. You might not really be comfortable or you guys do not flow on set you have to know how to deal with it

About perfume
Ah… I love perfumes, don’t even go there, although I am wearing three now.

The nastiest thing any male fan has said to you.
Somebody kept calling and he was flashing consistently, it was too much. I don’t answer flashing and when the person flashed for a month and there was no response, the person sent a text and said, who do you think you are, is it because you are acting, remember people you meet on your way up, you will meet on your way down, it’s funny.

What has fame denied you?
You don’t have your life, there are some things you can’t do like eating moin moin on the road.

Have you improved on your Yoruba Language?

How did you come into acting?
I’ve always loved acting but the way I came to Lagos to stay with my brother for the holidays. So my friend said we should stroll there was this audition and we saw the poster and went in. When we got there they were pushing people around and I said I can’t deal with this one lets go. But the called me at the high table and say I should read and I did that and that was how I got my first role as Chief Odiette’s daughter in Beyond Our Dream soap opera