Nollywood actor, John Okafor has decried the absence of adequate structures in Nollywood.
Also he criticised the recent visit of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria to President Goodluck Jonathan, which did not appear to go down well with some people who queried the motive in the first place.
For these critics, the actors only went to grab a ‘piece of the national cake.’ And though the actors concerned have since defended their decision to pay the President a courtesy visit, popular Nigerian comic actor, John Okafor, popularly known as Mr. Ibu, is still not pleased.
According to the actor who rose to prominence after his breakout role in the 1997 movie, Agony, where he portrayed an imbecile, the Federal Government has yet to set its priorities right with regard to Nollywood.
“The government should stop giving Actors’ Guild cash, because we don’t know how to handle it. Some people will go to the office, process the money and squander it and we (actors) never benefit from such goodwill.
“If they (government) can give us a structure or land, we (actors) can go ahead and secure funds from investors to build five-star hotels and other facilities on it, because it will be a tourist haven. We can bring the Nigerian Censor’s board into the same arena.
“How can we be paying N50,000 to have one movie censored and then generate N5m from over 100 movies produced in a month and yet there aren’t any structures in place for Nollywood? “With such amount of money, government should be able to cater for us. If this is done, the industry will make a giant stride.”
Besides the lack of infrastructure, Okafor also drew attention to what he described as an ‘ugly trend’. “Homosexuality is very rampant in our industry and it is one thing that aggravates my anger many at times,” he reveals.
Okafor would not go into details when this correspondent probed further. Although he made a name for himself playing ‘unserious roles,’ Okafor said many fans were unable to tell when he was serious.
“Many people do not take me seriously because of the kind of roles I play in movies. But the truth is that those who know me very well know that I am a very focused and principled person.
“In fact, I teach and mentor many upcoming actors and also organise workshops and seminars regularly for them.”
The actor said his love for acting dated back to his childhood days and that the streak ran in his family.
“I think I got the gift of acting from my grandfather. I discovered this in the early 70s. My grandfather was a foremost comedian in his own right. Back in the days, he would take me to places where he performed. Growing up, I realised that I was going to become an actor somehow,” he recalled.
The journey to the top was not an easy one for the determined actor. Having worked as a hairdresser, butcher, wait-and-get photographer and soft drinks seller at various points in life, he claimed to have found fulfillment in the world of make-believe.
The year 1994 proved to be the turning point in his career after he landed his first movie role in the movie, Rolling Stone. Okafor was paid a paltry N5,000 to star in the film, but that was then. Today, he has emerged one of the most sought-after and highly paid Nollywood actors who charges ‘six digits’ to feature in a film.
He said of his new status, “Acting has not made me rich, but I’m very comfortable. I am able to feed and adequately take care of my family; neither do I borrow money.
“It has also opened many doors for me and it has taken me far and wide beyond my wildest imagination. It has exposed me to certain level where I can say that God has done it for me.”
Despite his ‘unserious’ and hilarious imbecile roles, Okafor is one comic star who is blessed with a very beautiful wife. Although this is peculiar to most Nigerian comedians, the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, Mass Communication graduate, is of the opinion that she saw through his innate attributes before making a choice.
“First and foremost, I am man in all ramifications and she has seen that in me,” Okafor said coyly.