By Bridget AMARAEGBU
At the recently concluded month long Carnival held in Calabar the Cross River State capital, Nollywood hunk,Â Kalu Ikeagwu shown like a million stars as he dazzled all in his Obong (paramount ruler) of Calabar attire.
The handsome dude from Abia State who remains one of Nollywoodâ€™s most eligible bachelors shares his pains and desires to find the companion who will grow old with him and more. Enjoy it:
Can you recall your experience at the last Calabar festival?
Yes, my experience was quite good and that was my first time in Calabar. It was a very interesting and vibrant festival. I also experienced the hospitality of the people. Though I had to put in a lot of hard work, it was amazing and I really enjoyed myself.
I also had the experience of the runway (modeling) with other celebrities, like Dbanj, Ikechukwu, Uti of Big Brother Africa, Gbenro Ajibade, Rita Dominic, Lilian Bach and others.
We all had great fun. The runway was actually meant for Destinyâ€™s Child (Charity). The children also had the opportunity of doing their own modeling and we were able to raise fund for them.
We had fun but with plenty of hard work. Iâ€™ll say I slept only for about 15 hours in a total of six days.
15 hours in 6 days?
Well, thatâ€™s my profession for you. Iâ€™m used to such sacrifices and I also think Iâ€™m a strong man.
What role did you play in all those days?
My role was that of a King in my band and Lilian Bach was the Queen. It was a great competition and our band won. The good thing was that our band carried the day. We won the best senior King, Senior Queen, Junior King and Queen.
So how did this Igbo man feel wearing an Obong attire?
The Calabar people are the ones that recognise the value of tourism and culture. I didnâ€™t feel any different. I couldnâ€™t have lost my own culture because I wore an Obong attire for a while. I felt great like the real Obong on it. Senator Ita Giwa was my band leader but once Iâ€™m dressed in that Obong attire, Iâ€™ll ask her to respect me as the Obong (laughing).
And I got a lot of accolades. Even the Obong himself liked the way I was able to fit into his shoes for the while (Still laughing).
Beards have been partÂ of you. Why did you shave them?
I prefer the clean shaven look. However, my profession is such that could force you to have different looks. You have toÂ remember this Igbo proverb (Ada akwu ofu ebe ekili mmanwu) you have to move around to see a masquerade because it is ever moving.
As an actor, you have to interpret roles and bring out the best. So, you need as much help as you can get, especially facially.
Iâ€™m one of those people that could still look good no matter how I change my facial look.
I usually grow beard about three times in a year. Right now, Iâ€™m beginning to grow another one, though I donâ€™t know what to do with it yet. But Iâ€™ll look atÂ the projects coming up and movie roles coming up too.
In your opinion, why, do people talk about celebrities?
I think itâ€™s because everyone needs a hero, someone they can look up to, a mentor, so to say. And it starts from the home. In my house, I and my brothers were always struggling to be like our dad. And then, when we grew up, it started changing gradually. I didnâ€™t want to be as short as my dad, for example.
So people want to mirror their lifestyles to celebrities they admire and they want to see whether he/she is living up to expectation.
But that has helped some of us because if I know that a child is looking up to me for example, it means there are certain things I should not be caught doing.
So, have there been scandalous write ups about you that make you regret being a celebrity?
Not really. Iâ€™ve been lucky so far, although I know Iâ€™m not a saint. Yes, there has been some part of my privacy that has come out but I still thank God so far. Sometime ago, some ladies almost knocked me down just trying to rain abuses at me.
They were calling me an armed robber just because of a role I played in a movie but I have no regrets.
Why were you not picked on the GLO ambassador list like others?
I donâ€™t know. I didnâ€™t lobby for anything.
Did they lobby for it?
I have not said so but I didnâ€™t hold meetings with anyone to be there. May be they felt there were more eligible people than myself, or it wasnâ€™t just my time.
What was your relationship with your dad like?
My dad was a very short man but in personality, he was a giant. My father was a believer of character and principle and he made sure he imbibed that into his children. He taught us to always do whatever we do to the best of our ability and the money will come later.
My relationship with him was that of father and child. My father was one of those that brought the first church in my village. He fought and stood for what he believed in. My father stood for an upright life and he did so many things to prove it.
What was your experience with tradition when he died?
Before he died, we were still begging him to come and stay with us in England because he was almost retired as a lecturer at the UNN (University of NigeriaÂ Nsukka) but he refused.
I really miss him though we were not really friends. He was just like a father to me, giving orders like any other father. If he was still alive, this would have been the time for us to be friends. Then traditionally, it was very challenging having to deal with burial rites. When my father died, our people forgot everything he did for them and descended on us.
They accused my mother of leaving her husband in Nigeria while she stayed in England. They said she didnâ€™t come home to feed him and stuffs like that but they forgot that he was always coming for vacation.
How will you describe widowhood practices judging from that experience?
Judging from that experience, Iâ€™ll say itâ€™s sad. My mother has five male children and yet she was given that kind of treatment. Imagine what would have happened if she had no male children. Generally, people just like to trample upon the defenceless.
Even the church people didnâ€™t show mercy. They asked us to pay several dues. It got so bad that I had to bring my pastor friend to officiate the funeral and got caterers from Lagos down to my hometown.
So, you can imagine what people who are helpless like widows and orphans go through. And itâ€™s even sadder that nothing is being done to people like these. It continues like that upto the will of the deceased. The villagers want to take over everything.
The movies now. What is responsible for the turn out of movies produced in Nollywood today?
There could be so many reasons for that. The first one is that the censors board tried to narrow distribution to few marketers but I donâ€™t know how effective that has been.
The second one is the issue of piracy and the kind of deal some producers make with cable TV stations all over the world. Sometimes, I wonder if the details of transferring this right to some of these cable companies are properly evaluated.
I think some individual producers sell this right at a very ridiculous rate because they lack confidence and the fact that our industry is yet to have a permanent structure, so they just take anything.
While some are just too anxious to get the money, others have decided to stop producing movies completely because they canâ€™t stand whatâ€™s going on. Until this industry is well structured, the problem will continue because people no longer see the need to buy movies when they can just watch it on cable stations. As far as I can say, distribution in this country is still absolute rubbish.
In the last AMAA awards, Kenyan movies got most of the awards. Why?
Iâ€™ll say our movies are not as good as they used to be and that was caused by â€˜short termismâ€™. People want quick money without taking time to produce movies that can appeal to the wider audience.
We are the largest producers of movies in Africa in terms of quantity not quality. But these smaller countries are being smarter than us. While we produce quantity, they go for quality. They dedicate more time to produce one movie so that if it gets to anyÂ festivals in Africa, it can win something. We really need to step up again.
What do you think this industry can make out of 2010?
All that happened in the past has helped to shape this industry for good. Take the Glo ambassadors show for instance. I can say that it has created a lot of awareness for others to take us seriously. The entertainment industry generally still has a lot to offer.
I still think thereâ€™s money in the industry that can at least take care of 10% of our workforce. 2010 is a better year for us and I know that we will soar higher than weâ€™ve never this year but that will take a lot of hard work. I can assure you that in five years time, this industry will be completely different.
What do you make of the entry by Kunle Afolayan, Stephanie Okereke and recently Chineze Anyaene?
I know Kunleâ€™s Figurine, Irapada did very well. I also got to know that his father was a cinematographer as well. So, with people like these, I know that this industry will not collapse.
I heard that he spent so much time to shoot and produce his movie, though I donâ€™t know him one on one. Another thing that should be taken care of is the marketing and publicity of our movies. I believe we still have serious minded people who are ready to take this industry to greater height.
There are reports that you were denied the staff of office (after being conferred with a chieftaincy title) in Abia State because you are not married…..
(Laughs ) Point of correction, I was given the staff and itâ€™s in my house. What really happened was that I was denied the red choral beads (bracelet). Only married people are given that. The chieftaincy titled was conferred on me by Eze Ugwu of Ngwu Ugwu in Abia State where I come from.Â And he told me that if any chief passes by me and does not recognise me, I shouldnâ€™t question him but nobody can tell me that Iâ€™m not a chief anywhere.
We were given the brown choral bracelet and not the red. We are supposed to get the red one sometime this year but they wonâ€™t call me for it until I tell them Iâ€™m married (laughing).
Going by what youâ€™ve just said, whatâ€™s you relationship with women today?
(Still laughing) I want to answer chief by force (Iâ€™m just kidding). Iâ€™m working hard towards getting married, hopefully very soon.
Iâ€™ve read a lot of your interviews where you kept saying soon and soon. Tell me how soon is this soon?
I canâ€™t get married for beauty or because sheâ€™s very well behaved. Well behaved women sometimes change and become terror.
What Iâ€™m actually looking for is a companion, someone I can grow old with. Someone I can always make up with, no matter how many times we fight or quarrel.
So youâ€™ve not found that companion?
Iâ€™ll let you know but for now no comments.
Lastly, Alex Okoroji granted an interview where she claimed to have dated you.Â Was that a kind of blackmail or something?
No, we actually dated for a while and broke up.
I think we broke up because our personalities are different but weâ€™re still very good friends.