He is one of the most popular actors in Nigeria. This is because he’s probably one actor who has kissed all the ladies who ever acted love roles in Nollywood films featuring him.
Emeka Ike is a role model to youths too. Ike has acted in a good number of classic movies like Leap of Faith, Love Doctor amongst others. In spite of the glamour and fame of being an actor, Ike said he sometimes regrets being a celebrity. In this encounter with The Entertainer, Ike explains why he regrets being a celebrity and bares his mind on other issues.
You seem to be taking a break from acting. Why ?
It’s not only me you don’t see in movies these days. You don’t see other big names as well. You don’t see all of us the way you used to see us then. We aren’t as current and regular as before. This is because lately, a problem I have been lamenting over has sent everybody back to the drawing board. So, we are all making one movie in a year now. I just made my own movie recently. What they are doing now isn’t the Nollywood l know. Now, they are making a movie and cutting it into10 parts.
I have so many detractors in the industry and this resulted from my many grouses with some stakeholders. Another problem I have stems from my opposition to the international cable system. I questioned why they should be showing many of our movies without paying us, which is against the UNESCO charter. Contract or no contract, there is a UNESCO charter that mandates them to pay us and we are signatories to it. I’ve been complaining about it before 2009. I have been warning that Nollywood was dying. Now, is Nollywood not dead? Is Idumota open? There’s crisis in the Actors Guild. Why are Pound road and Ebinpejo lane shut down? Where are all those marketing places in Aba where we used to make noises, they are all shut down.
(cuts in) Isn’t that as a result of piracy?
No. Were you not there when the former Censors Board chairman, Emeka Mba, which you have made your NBC chairman now, stood up and said if you don’t pay me N5.5m don’t release any movie? The marketers supported him and arrested everybody and that pushed everybody out of the market. DSTV and HITV were reigning and they were pushing for these television stations to be the most watched, so that Nollywood could go under and everyone watching Nollywood could then watch the movies on the cable. That was the trick, the game plan, but I stood up against that and they went around and started using divide and rule. Some actors would talk both left and right. “Emeka Ike says TV stations are not honoring our rights” and some actors would go behind to the stations to say “no you are the best. These TV stations are doing us proud”, when the stations have not been paying them entitlements. Such entitlements should be enjoyed by their children’s children even when they are gone. That’s the crisis and they began to turn other colleagues against me. Anyone that is fighting Emeka Ike among other actors would be given free publicity.
They would sponsor the person and give him or her heavy money, because Emeka Ike wants them out of business and they don’t want to stop the multi-billion Naira business. It’s like I’m carrying the whole Nigerian problem on my head. Everyone is saying “oh! Nollywood is going to the next level. We are doing the best and the next level is now we are doing three movies in a month!” What happens to the job of those who employed hundred people. They say those are bad movies but I ask, what happens to progressive rise, what happens to competition? Do your good movies let me do my bad one? Does your celluloid let me do my HD 1?. Let me go and shoot for CDs. All the scandals about Emeka Ike today are just attacks on my person for daring to be outstanding.
How can government resolve the crisis?
The government can only address the situation by calling on all the aggrieved parties. If they can invite my guild, the Actors’ Guild, every other guild would fall in. If they can unify the various factions in the guild, every other guild would come together. Other guilds or associations come second, but they are using the producers to cause havoc. They are causing divisions, tribal divisions and segregating us and because many of us do not really think of the future of the Nigerian movie, they go and collect the $10,000 or $5,000 they’re offered. This is just part payment for showing our movies once on their channel , but they accept these peanuts and the TV stations show the movies everyday. I have the statistics. Ambassador Chris Chukwu once said that a certain entertainment firm wanted to buy our movies for $120,000 back then, but then we were just struggling to make quality movies that could pass through. Now we are making such movies, yet our movies are selling to cables for N40,000 and even less. Who does that take care of? No wonder many of my colleagues are dying.
An actor who used to land five or ten jobs in a month now can’t even boast of a job in six months. The ones he did before have become a problem. He has become too popular for his pockets. He can’t even take care of himself. There’s no piracy anywhere. Television stations are the pirates because they show our movies with impunity. The boys in Alaba are the ones now doing parts 1 to 20 movies. So, they can’t pirate themselves. Then television stations can afford to shun Emeka Ike’s noise because they know all the government functionaries. So, who is Emeka Ike to stop them? My colleagues have kept quiet about it and I sometimes wonder why I should stand alone. My wife sometimes tells me that even the people I am fighting for don’t even know the importance of the fight. They are moving on as if nothing is at stake and they are even playing with these stations. But I usually say that the fight is for our children. That is what l keep telling her. But sometimes I get tired of it all. This is because the people I am fighting for are even against me. That’s a man that has not been paid royalties for years.
If you were to come again to this earth, would you still tread same path?
No, I won’t. In fact, to tell you the truth, I sometimes regret being an actor and a celebrity. I don’t have privacy. Sometimes, people embarrass me by addressing me rudely on the streets. Some say, hey! O’ boy how now? No be you we dey call? So, because you don become star you dey do Shakara?
I am also unhappy about the way we handle things in this part of the world. We don’t like people who say the truth. There are so many sycophants out there and they only want to pull others down to rise. People that even got up riding on your back, now try to pull you down in order to be relevant.
What’s your driving force in your career?
Apart from working with God, my ability to formally attend school and wanting to obtain a better degree makes me strive for excellence in all I do. This helped me to acquire more skills and I read engineering. I am sure if you go to campuses they would tell you that engineering students are brilliant .
How about the training of 40 Niger Delta ex-militants we learned you were doing?
We trained Niger Delta militants at the Youths Academy ,West Africa in Ghana (MY Academy). It was pleasant working with them. We found out how innocent and sincere they were to know the truth and learn . It was a pleasure to be used by God to relay their next phase in life to them. Our aim was to train and empower them and we have trained them now. I worked with them at the National Institute for Film (NAFTI) in Ghana and we’re impressed about the results of their projects. When we came back to Nigeria for the market place experience, we were able to make a more fantastic discovery. It was fun working with them, we were able to shoot and edit a film in five days with HD 1 camera. We were able to realize a fantastic project. They served as both the cast and production crew of the production. They watched me shoot and edit the film on set. It was just a relaxing experience for them. The film we shot is about malaria and it has been nominated by the American Embassy for this year’s World Malaria Day. It would be screened at the World Intellectual Property/ Anti-counterfeit Day. We edited and shot the film in less than one month. You are going to see a showcase of rare talents and if these boys were able to make such quality films in such a short time, less than a month, it shows we have a lot to offer.
Ordinarily, it was something we would have gone to South Africa to shoot and make it look like the ones we have in Nigeria to look like they didn’t know what they were doing. So, what my company did was to relate with people at the grassroots and relate with the very core professionals and we jointly trained them to shoot the movie.
Tell us about your love life?
As a man, your parents would have trained you to know the qualities to look for in a lady you could have as yours. When I met her, she was down to earth. She was very humble. She was not over assuming, assertive or arrogant . She wasn’t putting on an act, and l like someone who is very natural. That was the attraction.
She is an educationist and her first degree was in English. She also holds a Masters Degree in Education Management. She upgraded her studies in my home and soon became an educationist but she had been an organized person and well-groomed before we met. She was a young girl when we met.
Outside the glamour of a screen god, who really is Emeka Ike?
I cherish my privacy so much. I have not been to a beer parlor in a very long time. I am a highly organized person. Emeka Ike is not out there where it is loud. I don’t do clubs. You don’t see me in functions all the time. I appear in places where my business interests would be protected. You find me in a serene and private place.
What’s your take on drinking and smoking?
When we attained stardom, we were so excited and we wanted to celebrate it. We took beer, Hennessey and all that. But now, I am grown-up, I don’t drink beer or any alcohol anymore. The doctor has warned me against drinking and l am adhering to his warning. I have grown up and I am now a father. I am a married man. I hope I haven’t painted an angelic image of an Emeka Ike. I’m just a human being. I am just a young man striving for excellence in my career, not a saint. My detractors should mind their business and allow me to be focused on my career.
What values did you learn from your parents?
My father is mostly responsible for the kind of personality l have grown to be over the years. I always protect my integrity. He wasn’t a cleric but he sheltered many worshippers, people from lowly backgrounds. Many who never even met him. Their welfare meant a lot to him.
What pranks did you play as a boy?
Ah! in those days, I remember we ate from rituals placed at three-way junctions. We reasoned that those who placed those eggs there were fools. We ate and enjoyed the eggs and nothing happened to us, because we never believed anything evil could happen to us.
A popular actor in the United States, Arnold Schwazeneggar, once campaigned for political office and became a governor of California. Do you nurse a political ambition later in life?
The humanitarian work I am doing is not for political purposes, but if I am invited to lead, if Nigerians or people in my state see the leadership traits in me, my integrity , I can offer myself for service. I have been a leader all along. I have led the actors’ guild, I have led several youths organizations in Nigeria too . I have led Nollywood actors even without being their leader. I have given inspirational speeches on many campuses in Nigeria. I am a motivational speaker. I was at the national youth summit at the National Arts Theatre to give a motivational speech to millions of Nigerian youths. So, it’s not something l can’t do. I think the elite in Nigeria should now get involved in politics. This is because it’s when the sane people say no to politics that the insane ones took to it and have taken over.
Christians say this world is not my home, I am just passing through, then some people heard that and said so, this world is not your own, and took guns and started killing people. Anyone can go into politics. That’s part of what I have preached in my forthcoming movie; a sister who became aware of malaria took the campaign to the villages to enlighten the people about it and succeeded in educating her people on how to prevent malaria. The movie ended on a note that anywhere you are and whatever you are, take your civility to your village and see how you can assist the dying ones. It was a movie ex-militants produced and acted in.