…Mr Ibu answers
By Desmond Ekwueme
Multiple award winning actor John Okafor popularly known as Mr. Ibu is multi-talented. He means different personalities to different people.
But he prefers to be simply called an actor. He speaks with DESMOND EKWUEME on a wide range of issues hinging on how to tackle the major challenges in Nollywood and improve the lots of actors…
Recently, you and some of your colleagues were at the candle night of your Late colleague Bambino at the stadium in Surulere. Promises were made to his family. How far have you gone in redeeming some of the promises?
Promises are an individual thing. Those who made promises are capable of redeeming them. They know that promise is a debt especially when it’s about the dead. They are friends and colleagues of Bambino, therefore, they won’t want to disappoint our Late colleague’s family. I think the promises would be fulfilled if not totally perhaps partly.
Most movies you have been involved in lately are outside your terrain which is more of comedy. Are you branching off?
When you talk of terrain you make me look like my career is fixed on comedy. That is far from the truth. First of all, I am a professional actor and my profession demands that I should be able to play any role especially as demanded by the producer or director.
So that I play comic roles does not limit my potential and talent. Perhaps, I have done more comedy movies because the scripts given to me suit the character I am demanded to play. Again may be because I play such roles with ease and may be because the jobs came in floods then. However, it does not stop me from doing any job as demanded by my producer and script.
But your fans have come to know you more as an actor of comic movies?
I would want to disagree with your position. My fans know me first and foremost as an actor. But they love my interpretations of comic roles. I think that is the way I would prefer to describe it.
Most Nollywood fans who enjoy comedy have compared you with your colleague Nkem Owoh (Osofia), thus suggesting a debate on who is better. How will you react to this comparison?
We appreciate our fans for the immense love they have been showing to us over the years. We love them too. It is this outpouring of love that often leads to such comparison or debate like you called it. But really there shouldn’t be such debate because both characters or personalities or actors are not the same.
No two soups taste same or alike. We may have same gift of acting but different delivery techniques. We have our unique strengths and weaknesses. We have our separate style of performing or interpreting scripts. And we thank God for ensuring that the little we do are enjoyed by our fans.
You are arguably one of the few actors who enjoy great patronage of endorsement deals by corporate organisations. How rich are you?
(Laughs) Rich? Well the word rich is a relative word. It depends on what you mean. But if you are suggesting money or wealth, I am not rich. I am just blessed by God to be able to afford my primary needs.
How do you react when people say you are funny?
(Laughs) Technically, you have said so. Well, if it is related to my job, I take it as a compliment. But outside my job, I am always quizzical about it.
Some people cannot differentiate between when you are serious and when you are acting. Some people find it difficult to separate the actor from the man. They always see you as been on stage even when you are discussing business.
What is your greatest professional challenge?
It comes in three folds. First, piracy. Second, government is not paying enough attention to our industry by way of boosting it like what we have in Hollywood and Bollywood and third, professionals are not accorded their full dues, rights or reward by industry stakeholders.
How can these challenges be addressed?
Once the will to fix them is displayed then the rest things will fall in place. Like they say, when there is will, there is a way. The way out is to first show genuine concern and interest in fixing these things. A bold step in the right direction and total commitment by stakeholders are all we need, not lip service.
What about the perennial issue of leadership tussle of Guild of Actors, isn’t that a major problem?
You are right. It is but I think it is being handled appropriately now. I think commonsense is prevailing over mere desire to lead. There is peace in the Actors Guild. With time that problem of leadership will ease off. As I speak, I think that matter is given adequate attention by all concerned and everyone is on the same page now.