Emeka Ike is often regarded as a controversial actor, but that has not stopped him from speaking against anything perceived to be an ill bedevilling the industry. In this interview with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS, the father of four, who presently has a divorce issue with his wife, speaks about Nollywood, an alleged mismanagement of a N3 billion grant given by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to Nollywood, his plans to set up a television station and his marriage
You’ve stayed off acting for some years. What have you missed about Nollywood?
I have missed the real Nollywood where there was so much love, prospect and where we all had the same interest to build an industry. I miss the Nollywood that gave jobs to every Nigerian youth in different places. I miss the Nollywood that made 100 movies in a week. What we have now is people recycling the money the government had given to the industry among their friends and relatives, and they are claiming to be the new champions of Nollywood.
What are the specific things missing in the industry?
We need contact addresses and there is no structure in this industry. You hear every day that Nollywood is big. We have to integrate Nollywood well so that the young people who are interested in entertainment would have a place to walk into.
Who is Emeka Ike behind the camera?
I am very romantic, I am simple and loving. As a child, I was always around many women and I was lavished with care. I have so much love to give, though I made a mistake in my marriage. But it would not take away the good man in me and the godliness in me.
Do you regret getting married to your wife?
In marriage, you are supposed to give love and get it back. But when you are giving out so much love and you are not getting back, you have made a mistake. It is possible you married the wrong person.
There is so much risk in celebrity marriages. Somebody could just wake up and begin to create an impression of you on the internet. If you do not correct it, it goes on and changes people perception about you.
Does it mean that being famous is a burden for you?
It is not an all rosy affair. You would enjoy the love and feel so invincible, but stress comes with it. At times, you just want to be left alone. You like to go to a supermarket without attention or people wanting to take pictures with you. There is nothing like privacy, the press men are always on one. You would see some headlines and you become confused on how and where they got it from. Public life is a very dirty one; I cannot be my normal person again.
What is the most challenging role you’ve had to play in movies?
I have played in over 200 movies. Most of the roles I have played are challenging, but I think there was one in which I played an armed robber. It was a real life story, the ‘Derico.’ I needed to tell the story like the man himself, Derico Nwamama. I needed to think like him, eat like and talk like him. I had to do a lot of research. I got newspapers and visited police stations for information about him. When it came out, I did very well. The family even came to look for me to commend my efforts. Whenever I go in the east, motorcycle men still call me Derico.
What other businesses do you do?
I cannot state my businesses here, but I have a lot I am into. My television station is also coming up very soon.
Do you agree that Nollywood experienced a major growth under the administration of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan?
There was no growth during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan; money was only shared. And where is the N3 billion? This administration should be careful in dispensing mone without having direction.
As a president, you can’t be giving out money to individuals. If you give money to individuals instead of registered associations, it is not for the good of the industry. You give money to associations that are properly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and are known.
The money brought confusion into the industry; some people have used it as their personal money while others are stranded. And the people who benefited from it are trying to use it to control others.
Does it mean you did not benefit from this grant?
You can bring out where I have done wrong. I am here to answer you. I do not have to be criminal to say the truth. Must we all be criminals?
Nobody benefited. Call any celebrity; you know the names that made Nollywood. We could not track that money. We just knew the money was spent, but we could not say this was how they spent it.
The Minister of Finance came to give us certificate of 247 people who were trained outside Nigeria and Ibinabo told me she only gave 7 people from Actors’ Guild. So, where did they get the 240 people from? Nobody is asking this question and they told us that N799 million was spent. We are the most powerful association, but they used the AGN crisis to sideline us. They did not even give Ibinabo the right to bring in people. I feel the money was moved into personal pockets.
When the money was released, we called a stakeholders’ meeting. We all gathered at the National Theatre to celebrate it and they came up with the idea of ‘Project Arts’. I was the first to speak against it and I told them that it was fraud. No way would you have such amount and the next thing to think of is to train people. Does that mean we were all illiterate from the beginning? This is an industry that has trained people by itself; all we need to do is to annex it to become self-driven.
Now they have trained them, where is the balance? What would they do with their certificates? We concluded that we were not going to do ‘Project Arts’ and set up a committee, which I was a member.
But how come AGN did not speak bitterly about this?
There is so much oppression in the Association. Who wants to talk? Do you want all your brand endorsements to be stopped? They would blackmail you. We have an institution that when you talk, you will be blackmailed. So, everyone is scared and just wants to hold on to what they have.
Don’t you think President Muhammadu Buhari is not paying attention to showbiz?
The attention we have generated before now, what did we do with it. We were given N3 billion, where is it? I now hear that there is no more money. If Buhari decides to ask questions, they would say he is witch-hunting people because they are PDP. Let’s begin to call a spade, a spade. To get things right in Nigeria, we need to start punishing people. There is a way you eat money and you look so stupid. The way people were moving money during the last administration did not portray us as a responsible people. It has found its way into the industry too. Do you want Buhari to release money again to the same people who lavished the N3 billion? I heard they formed another committee last month to share the remaining loot and asked the president for more assistance. Where is the one given?
What are your plans for Nollywood?
My television station is coming out very soon. You will see many things I stand for. There is need to pay artistes their royalties, and we need to show our social responsibilities as communication experts and gurus. We need to carry the industry along and make it a Nigerian product, not South African.
Since you were a member of the committee, how come you did not know how the money was spent?
I was the most outspoken; I was the very controversial one who kept saying the money must not go in this direction. I was sidelined and by the time I knew it, they were not coming to the place we used to meet again at Ajebo’s office. As the chairman of the committee, he would tell you that he was going for exams or one urgent meeting when we were supposed to meet. That was how they played their politics and eventually weakened the link. From nowhere, they formed another committee and that was it. The design was to kill the associations in Nigeria and set up new ones. I expected them to channel the money through the associations.