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Aki and Pawpaw: We are not just colleagues but brothers

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Aki and Pawpaw: We are not just colleagues but brothers

Many people love witnessing the antics of popular actors Osita Iheme (Pawpaw) and Chinedu Ikedieze (Aki), who frequently appear together as naughty little boys. They have developed a bond that goes beyond the film business. They discuss their relationships, professions, and other matters with TOFARATI IGE.  READ FULL ARTICLE

I admired Chinedu before meeting him — Osita Iheme

You have acted in a lot of movies. Which do you consider to be your most challenging role and why?

I can’t really say any particular movie has been the most challenging. However, movies such as Mirror Boy, Criminal Law, are some of the movies that demanded a lot from me.

Some people have said that the movies you act are predictable and without suspense. What’s your response to that?

I don’t agree because they have not watched a lot of my movies. The fact that I started with mischievous characters does not mean all the movies I act are the same.

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When was the first time you met your colleague and friend, Chinedu Ikedieze. And what was the first thought that ran through your mind?

Before I met him, I used to watch him in movies and I admired his talent. So, when finally I saw him, I was surprised.

All the times you watched him in movies, did you wish to see him and act with him?

Of course, all those times I watched him in movies, I had the intention of seeing him and working with him.

You both have good chemistry on set and it seems to come naturally. Do you rehearse before going on set or you just improvise?

It is normal for every actor to rehearse before going on set. However, even after rehearsals, we still improvise.

Many of the characters you play in movies are mischievous. Do those characters share any similarity with the kind of child you were?

Not at all. I have not played any role that bears a semblance to the kind of child I was. All those mysterious characters are make-believe.

What kind of child were you?

My childhood was a bit rough because it seemed nothing was there for me. I had to start fending for myself at a tender age. I ‘hustled’ a lot as a child.

You had a rough childhood but you’re now successful in your career. What about your childhood made you the person you are today?

It made me know that no condition is permanent. Wherever one finds oneself, one should know it is temporary and one should look for a way to get out of it.

It also gave me a spirit of determination and to always move forward. That I am here today does not mean that I will remain here, so I have to look for the next step. Coming from my background and getting to this level is a great achievement.

Whenever you have disagreements on set with Ikedieze, how do you manage it?

Whenever we have disagreements, we resolve them. Anyone can have disagreements but one must ensure one irons it out. People should learn to disagree to agree. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing and arguing out things to get the best results. Most times on set, we don’t disagree because the director would have assigned different roles to us.

You have been to a lot of African countries and in some of them, you are given a royal treatment. Where is the most festinating place you’ve been to?

I am grateful to God that everywhere I go, they treat me specially. However, I had the warmest reception in Uganda.

There have been rumours that you and Ikedieze are not on good terms. How would you describe the relationship between the both of you?

We are cool. It was a journalist that started the rumour that we were not on good terms.  He interviewed him (Ikedieze) and misquoted him. Many journalists interview us and give it different headlines. There is nothing wrong with us. We are not quarreling. It is just false information that has spread so widely.

What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your career?

It has affected all businesses, not only entertainment. But we are hoping that before the end of the year, things would go back to normal, and we would have a fresh 2021.

We don’t seem to hear much about your political career these days. What’s happening?

That you haven’t been hearing much does not mean the aspiration is not there. It is not everything that must be in the media. There are still some things that have been going on. When we want the media to come (to us), we would let them know.

What do you aim to achieve with your political career?

I just want to make a statement and let people know that they can also be involved and use the political platform to achieve good things. If you want to make a case, you need to be involved (in politics).

In my personal capacity, I have done a few things for my people and I feel that if I have a political platform, I would do more.

Some people believe that entertainers don’t perform well in politics. What’s your take on that?

Nobody knows who would perform well. It is an individual thing. If a banker or lawyer goes into politics, they person may also not do well. It is not something you can blame on only entertainers. There are some entertainers in politics that are doing well.

What do you think are the three most important qualities every leader should have?

The qualities one needs as a leader are tolerance, wisdom, and accessibility. One needs those qualities so that one would be able to understand the people one is leading.  You should be able to understand the feeling of the people out there.

Some people have said that Nollywood portrays a wrong image of Nigerian culture to foreigners. What’s your take on that?

Movies have both positive and negative impact. I would implore people to focus on the positive side. If you watch a movie and it shows something negative, it does not necessarily mean it is trying to portray a wrong thing but to make people understand what is happening out there. And it is not only in Nollywood. In Hollywood movies too, they do all sorts of bad things. Movies are educational and the most important thing is to get the message that is being passed.

When a movie shows someone doing rituals, it is because some people out there do things like that. And at the end of the film, the person would did those terrible acts would face the repercussion for their action. Some people may say they don’t have those experiences but when the watch films, they would be enlightened.

What changes would you like to see in the movie industry?

I want big investors to come into the industry. I want people who have the capacity to really come into the entertainment industry because they are not interested yet. And they are not interested because the government has not really paid attention to the movie industry. If we have more investors, more prospects would be created for the industry.

Investors would improve the technical aspect of the industry and build bigger studios and film villages. When big investors come in, more jobs would be created and the government would also benefit from it. It would be a double win for the government, and I don’t know why they are not doing that. It would ultimately boost tourism, create jobs and the government would make a lot of money.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration gave some money to Nollywood but it was alleged that beneficiaries of the funds mismanaged it and didn’t use the money for what it was meant?

That is the problem. They (government) keep bringing money and at the end of the day, major stakeholders in the industry would not see the money. However, why can’t the government create a Ministry of Entertainment, just like we have for agriculture, finance, health and others? We need to have a yearly budget (from the government), so that we can use it to develop the industry. Instead of doling out money, the government should rather establish a viable structure in the industry. Some ministries don’t generate any money for the government, yet they are given money yearly. Meanwhile, they don’t attach importance to Nollywood that has been employing a lot of youths. It is obvious that the government does not have any plan for Nollywood. Everything you see in Nollywood today are the efforts of individual. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, there are funds available for the creative industry. And if one wants to do any project, they can assess the funds. Sadly, there is nothing like that for Nigerians. The government would just say they have $2bn for the industry and we should go and apply for the loan. By the time the application is open, everybody would go for it, including those that are not in Nollywood. I think it would be better for the government to use the money to set up a structure for the industry. That would help us to work smoothly.

Look at the cinemas, they are doing well but it is a combination of individual efforts. The government does not have any cinema. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing stopping the government from building national theatres and film villages in all the six geopolitical zones of the country.  It would show that they are interested in us. They would also serve as tourist attractions and people would pay before they can get into those places.

Meanwhile, if you look at other sectors that are not doing well, the government is putting money there. However, for an industry as powerful as Nollywood, which is recognised globally, there is no budget. International companies such as Netflix are coming to Nigeria to set up offices because the entertainment industry is doing well. If the government puts more effort, more international companies would invest money in the industry and it would benefit the masses, especially the youth.

Anyway, we would keep doing our best because we have been surviving without the government all these years. We provide our own security, power, and every other thing we need. However, we can’t continue like that because it is a setback. We are not where we should be because the government is not taking the industry importantly. A lot of people have pulled out from Nollywood to delve into other businesses because they did not get any support. Many of those who started this industry are no longer here. Even if the government says they don’t want to build, they can donate lands to Nollywood, so that we can build whatever we want.

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How have you been able to manage your business and political careers, so that they don’t clash with your job as an actor?

I can’t leave acting. The good thing is that the movie industry affords one the opportunity to do other things. I could be on set and after shooting, I would go to my hotel room and start managing my business. Acting does not stop me from doing whatever I want to do.

How do you relax when you are not working?

I love playing football because it helps me to relax.

Ikedieze got married many years ago and there is no doubt that you are one of the most eligible bachelors in the industry. When would you be signing the dotted line?

Everything must not be in the media. There are a lot of things that people don’t know.

Is it that you are married and are keeping it from the public?

No, I am not married. When I want to get married, it is not something I would disclose to the media. But when it happens, you would all know.

Acting with Osita comes naturally ― Chinedu Ikedieze

What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your career?

It is like pressing the ‘pause’ button; it has affected everything. We couldn’t make movies because movement was restricted and the fear of being infected with the virus was another nightmare. When the world is on standstill, what do you expect? The only people that somehow had it easier during the lockdown were the food vendors, pharmacists and essential workers. Our job as actors is using drama to bring stories to life. But, it was definitely hard to function at such a time.

What lessons have you learnt during this period that would influence how you conduct your activities?

The pandemic has made filmmakers to realise the usefulness of digital technology in filmmaking. The use of smart phones, coupled with the pandemic, has made people to spend more time on digital contents.

Recently, Nigerian film distributors opted for video on demand platforms, such as Netflix, to help extend revenue streams for some Nollywood films, especially those released before the pandemic.

However, no matter how convenient it sounds, I’m of the opinion that we can never take away the glamour of having our movies streamed in cinemas. If we have more cinemas in every city in Nigeria, and the government drastically reduces the level of insecurity and improves on infrastructure, there would definitely be a surge in box office revenues in cinemas. It has happened in the United States, India and China, and it can also happen in Nigeria.

We equally need to organise periodic seminars or workshops for filmmakers on the usefulness of investment, welfare, training, job ethics and the business of filmmaking.

What do you love most about being an actor?

It gives me the joy my heart desires. It’s my passion and I’m enjoying every bit of it.

What are the disadvantages of being a celebrity?

Being a celebrity takes away one’s privacy and sometimes, one’s individuality. Most celebrities find themselves always living to impress people (fans). One’s activities are usually limited. The more new friends one makes, the more new enemies one makes. It’s hard sometimes not doing what one was used to doing before. But I’ve learnt to live with that.

As one journeys through life, one would meet different people. Some would stay, while others would leave. Personally, I try to keep in touch with friends that stayed with me in what I call the pre-Aki and Pawpaw era. Those are friends that understand me and my aspirations.

What is your greatest motivation?

I have always liked to be myself. Knowing where I come from and the kind of upbringing I had, coupled with the fear of not letting down people who believed so much in me, I am constantly driven to give my best to whatever I do.

Though rated as one of the biggest movie industries in the world, the quality of most Nollywood films still don’t measure up to international standards. What do you think is responsible for this?

That would be the problem of funding and professionalism. If one has the wherewithal to make a good movie, one would definitely employ the services of professionals to help one produce a good film. We have top class filmmakers: script writers, producers, cameramen, directors, actors and others in the industry. Those people churn out top-notch movies. But if one doesn’t have the finances to make a good movie, one would simply go to ‘sharp sharp filmmakers’ and the result is such movies you complained about.

What was your first impression when you met Osita Iheme?

I just said to myself, “I have seen my twin brother”.

You both have wonderful chemistry on set. How do you achieve that?

It comes naturally. As actors, we rehearse our scripts and decide on what artistic direction we want to go. We both love what we do and we give it our best.

How would you describe your personality?

I did a bit of psychology in school and I observe the attitude of every person I meet. I try not to ‘front’ myself as a celebrity. I let people see me first as Chinedu Ikedieze before any other moniker. More so, once one understands the mental picture of the other person, it would be easy to flow with them.

I don’t like arguments, especially unintelligent ones. When such arguments come up, I let the person do the talking and only chip in words when necessary. Once one understand those principles, one would be able to flow with anyone, even an insane person.

Beyond being colleagues, are you also friends with Osita Iheme?

Yes, our friendship goes beyond the industry. We are not just colleagues but have also become brothers.

How do you prepare yourself before going on set?

I try to do some research on the character before playing the role and that has really helped me in my career. I make sure that I understand the character and sometimes, I put myself in the character’s shoes, so I would be able to act the role in the best way possible.

Though you and Osita Iheme have denied that there is any rift between both of you, there have continued to be reports that all is not well. Why do you think that is?

I don’t know. Maybe such writers are bereft of ideas and just want unnecessary traffic to their websites. But, that’s unhealthy and unprofessional.

What’s the most significant thing marriage has changed about you?

Without mincing words, I would tell you that marriage has made me a better person.

How do you unwind?

I hang out with friends, play both real and virtual soccer (video games), watch television, read, surf the internet and travel.

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