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December 3, 2022

Pete Edochie opens up on Yul’s second wife

•His controversies, other children

•Life before THINGS FALL APART

•Wife’s revelation, classical music etc

By BENJAMIN  NJOKU & Dennis Agbo

Trans Ekulu is one beautiful estate governors of Enugu have neglected badly since the times of Jim Nwobodo who  had hand in building it.

Chimaroke Nnamani ignored the  area for the eight years he governed the state, Sullivan Chime did same although he did renovation work on the road leading into the state but left the roads inside the estate to deteriorate. Current governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, till date, has not considered the estate worthy of any government presence.

Today, many roads inside the estate are no longer motorable, so bad that many residents can’t drive their cars into their homes. Twenty three years of dilapidation. But the Trans Ekulu residence of legendary actor Pete Edochie is one of a kind. The palatable duplex is  dotted with imageries of his artistic journey, laurels and his ego as the godfather of the Nigerian movie industry. When you are eventually ushered into his living room after waiting for few minutes before  he emerges from nowhere , you are bound to appreciate why Chinua Achebe preferred to call him ‘Ebubedike’ after the iconic role he played as Okonkwo in the NTA adaptation of classic novel, Things Fall Apart.’ He roared as he climbs his throne, “you are welcome to my home, feel comfortable.

“ Indeed, Pete Edochie is inseparable from his movie characters. In real life,  he’s a man of honour and class. Intermittently, he would  smile to encourage his guests while sharing his story with them.  But unknown to many that the legendary actor is also an ardent lover of classic music and  has once  presented a programme called ‘ Music from the Masters’ while he was a broadcaster with Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, ENBC and the Anambra State Broadcasting Service.  In this engaging encounter with Vanguard Entertainment, the legendary actor shares the story of how his wife, influenced his interest in classical music, his love for his children and why he doesn’t like to travel by air among other issues raised. 

They say ‘ a chick that will grow into a cock is known from the day it’s hatched. ‘Is that true of your last son, Yul? 

Ordinarily , one or two of your children must show signs of being your children. To say  I didn’t expect that any one of my children will  take after me will not make much sense to anybody.  It runs in the blood as my father would always say. It didn’t come to me as a surprise. 

How did you feel about Yul taking a second wife? 

I didn’t feel good, but like I said I’m a Christian and I read the Bible.  Solomon with 700 wives and 300 concubines, was branded a man of wisdom . it’s his choice and for whatever reason he decided to take a second wife,  that’s what I can say. 

It seems he’s a child after your heart?

All my children are after my heart.  Whatever they   do I am still their father, and I am very close to all of them. I don’t have a favourite one. And I didn’t raise them like that. Whatever you find in  my house is accessible to all of them . I don’t contest their choices with them. If any one of them  meets a girl and he’s  in love with her and he wants to marry her, let that person  go ahead and do so.  I gave them the necessary education they require to stand on their own.  I bought  a car for each one of them when  they graduated from the university. 

But why is Yul so different from your other  children? 

He’s into show business and he tries to create controversies around himself. That’s why he  has a lot of followers on social media. 

At 75, what would you  want to be remembered for?

If people feel that my contributions  towards the growth of the Nigerian movie industry have affected their lives in  one way or the other, it means that prosperity will award me  good marks.  Our industry is very challenging . While you are playing different characters in movies, you are still expected to live up to your billing  as a man of character. Some of us, by the grace of the Almighty God, have managed to achieve what we have achieved in the movie industry. People enjoy me going by their reactions to what I do. It gives me a lot of satisfaction that people think this man knows what he’s doing. If I am remembered as one, at least, who injected some life into his audiences or spectators , I feel accomplished . 

Before Things Fall Apart, did you act in any stage or screen play?

Of course, remember that I was a broadcaster for a long time before I acted in ‘Things Fall Apart. ‘ I joined broadcasting in 1967, when I ran away from the north. On television, I was in “Every Man”, I did “ Sons and Daughters”, the “Rhythm on Violence. “ I did a lot of drama series on television . Before then, even while I was in school, I acted in a lot William Sharepare’s plays like “Macbeth”, “Merchant of Venice”, “Julius Caesar” among others. So, starring  in Things Fall Apart” , I didn’t find it challenging because I had been acting before then. 

What happened to the music from the masters , a programme you created while you were at ENBC?

When the states were created we went back to our various states. I was born in Enugu, but I hail from Anambra State. I went back to my state’s broadcasting service to start the music from the masters. While I was doing that, the Head of ENBC came to me and said “listen Pete, fair enough we have two states now and we are not enemies, come and continue the programme in Enugu state. That’s how I started doing the Music from the Masters in both states until I retired . I don’t know whether it’s on or not. This is because all the music I was playing then belonged to me. I believe I have all the classical music collection  than any radio station in the country. I can proudly say that I have all the works of Mozart, he was born in 1756 and died in 1791. I also have the works of George  Campbell who wrote songs “ Messiah”, “Saul”, “ Solomon among others. Its exclusive and not the kind of thing anybody can handle.  

How did you develop the passion for classical music?

My wife influenced me. She was very fond of classical music. When I met her and she looked at me in the face and said: “there’s something you don’t know about yourself, you are deeper than you think. You are very emotional and I see you with your friends expressing yourselves at  a social gathering. But deep down, you are a very serious person.” One day, she joined me in the preview room , where we were playing some classical music. At a point, when we were playing some aspect of Mozart’s songs it caught my fancy, forcing me to go back to play it again. Before I knew what was happening, it stuck. Today, my wife can’t remember it again as she’s now a lawyer. She was the person that influenced my interest in classical music. 

Then you were using what we call the  ‘turntables’ ,  have you been able to transit to the digital platform? 

I still have the machines, and I order a lot of classical music from abroad. A lot of my friends ,  whenever they are travelling ask me what they would buy for me. I would tell them to get Mozart, George Campbell and others. I don’t tell them to buy me shoes, ties or wrist watch. 

We learnt that you have phobia for flying?

That’s true. I don’t like flying . it scares me a great deal. And I have tried as much as possible to ensure that I try to overcome  that phobia but I never succeeded. If it’s  possible to travel abroad in a car, I will do it. That’s why I created around me the kind of life I want to live , devoid of distractions. I have a lot of books I always read , and I have mini studio , where I play my classics music. 

What’s your impression about the current state of the Nigerian movie industry?

We can do better than what we are doing now. The government should show interest in what we are doing. So that we can do productions that are based on our historical origins: epic productions that when people watch the movies, they will understand our story and the process of our development : people who created the country and what their ambitions were, and how we have managed to sustain  their ambitions.  I believe the government need to be interested in what we do as film makers and stars. 

To be continued next week.