Celebrity | 12 April 2009 06:22 CET

Emeka Ike’s touching story : Faith, the prostitute who saved me

Source: http://nollywoodgists.com

He sauntered into our newsroom like the boy next door, not too casual, not too formal. But movie stars are not allowed free movement anywhere in the world and so Emeka Ike couldn't really carry off successfully his I'm-just-like-the-next- guy pose.

Though he drove himself, no chauffeur, no BG (bodyguard), as soon as his Touareg SUV sailed through the gates, he was reminded of his goldfish status. But life has not always been cozy and rosy for this lover boy of the big screen. He has had his fair share of life on the other side of town. He once had to make do with the cold floor of a hotel when a treacherous 'friend' threw him out on his ears.

With his tears for company and his worldly belongings in one backpack, Emeka camped on the corridor of the hotel until a prostitute had mercy on him and saved him from pneumonia, among other things. Today is a better day. Success written all over him, Emeka shook hands good-naturedly and smiled like he was one of us. He cracked jokes and responded easily to banters as we made our way upstairs.

The father of three boys, for instance, confessed that he was hanging his reproductive boots because he had concluded that he had no female chromosome in his body and another attempt at making a baby would most likely see him being handed another son by the family doctor. His smile and good mood stayed in place until Mike Awoyinfa asked him why he said Nollywood was not only sick but crumbling. The activist in him surfaced as he passionately drove one nail after the other in the coffin of those he believed are undermining the movie industry and jeopardizing the careers of practitioners for a few shekels of silver.

Nollywood has crumbled
It has crumbled now. About two years when Sam Olatunji came to interview me, I've been shouting that Nollywood is going down. Before now you could make about 30 movies in a month in Enugu but now you don't make more than one movie in a month. You could make up to 40 movies in Asaba but now you make less than five in a month.

What went wrong?

I think government's intervention was negative. They didn't do enough research before intervening. Another thing they did wrong was giving people license to rent out our movies. If you have an alternative to buying, people will choose the alternative. 85% of those who could buy movies now rent, that was one major undoing. If you try to arrest them they would tell you they are licensed. Now, you have people that are licensed to mass-produce your works without recourse to you. Another undoing of the industry by the government is bringing in the cable stations to show our movies. There is also the hunger factor in Nigeria and some producers are afflicted with this. About 70% of our producers are hungry. Again, people prefer to subscribe to watch our movies on Africa Magic which is the selling point. What is the use of buying CD when you can watch our movies on Africa Magic? And our producers have no choice than to run to them after video rentals must have battered their movies.

Let's assume they have 10 million subscribers, calculate N9000 paid monthly and see how much they've milked out of our industry. You can see that our industry is nose-diving while they are getting better. They just pay $700 to air our movies and they sometimes come up to $1500. Some of these things have led to what we call oil in the industry. That is if you sell a movie for N250 when you release after about two weeks you send it into oil and it begins to sell for N50. I think we need to chart a way forward.

When we started acting, Ambassador Chris Chukwu called me when we made 'Cross Roads' and said he could get us up to $120 000 to air our movies on Black Entertainment Television (BET). That was $120 000 for airing once. We need to go back to our drawing board and sort some things out. Lack of structures have left us with nothing. As I speak to you if there is any movie shooting in Lagos, it must be the one I just finished last week with Nadia Buari, on the bill of Global Update Network.

I am a Mechanical Engineer

I read Mechanical Engineering at the Yaba College of Technology and graduated with HND in Engineering. I tried to work and got a job with Aswani Print, but by the time I saw the office they assigned to me, it was as if my life would be going backward. I left and kept looking for jobs. I then met Ernest Obi who was in Mega Fortunes, a soap opera. He was the one that told me that I had a TV face and that I could do what he was doing. He took me to Charles Owoyemi and I got into Mega Fortunes.

I started acting in the Assemblies of God Church, Isolo which started in my father's house.
I was in the drama group of Assembly of God Church Isolo. I was also in the choir. The church started in my father's house. I was the son of a church elder. I rose to become the youth drama leader. We were doing inspirational drama, dramas that touch the soul, dramas like Burning Hell and so on. After our drama presentation, the altar call and prayers were usually impressive.
Those in church drama group and choir should not take it lightly. They should take whatever they do seriously. Then I felt I wanted to make a point. I did not know I was gaining what I could not in a university.

Why I left Assemblies of God for Redeemed Christian Church of God

At the time I left, a couple of people were not willing to make the necessary change to accommodate the new world we live in. The church was becoming too archaic, it was refusing to imbibe the changes around and I'm so dynamic; in my time I wanted to rule the world. Pastor Chris Oyakhilome's wife, Sister Anita was a member of my choir. She came to Christ through my immediate elder sister, Chidinma. Then, her father was Chairman of NDIC. We had a strong squad. But we had people with grey hair who were seeing us, the young people, from a different light. They began to think we were bringing strange fire onto the altar. I thought that was not good for me.

I changed to RCCG because I believe in Pastor Adeboye. He is a man of God that I did not think is there for the money. My problem with churches again is that they accepted to be incorporated in the time of Abacha. No mosque is incorporated but churches are incorporated. I don't know how God will judge Abacha since I won't be on God's seat but God will judge the men of God that lacked the will to say no. Churches should not be incorporated like money-making ventures. Lately, the church is turning into something else. Most people have their wives and children on board of directors. I think that was not good enough. Redeemed Church is flexible, there is nothing like don't use ear-ring or sisters should not wear trousers. The bible is supposed to guide us not guard us..

Some pastors are now richer than three churches combined.

Look at Jesus that preached to millions of people, he did not have a church building. Is it that Jesus could not have built the biggest hall if he so desired? You see this idea of building gigantic and ultra modern church buildings is vanity. All these big buildings can be converted into hospitals to save people on the street because Jesus came for the poor on the streets. I traveled to bury my father in 2005 in Imo State and the biggest buildings as at that time there were churches.

I was so disappointed. I am God-fearing but I feel if those efforts were converted into missionary schools where those who pay tithe will not have to go through hell to pay their children's school fees, then the church would be doing the work of the kingdom. Churches should not lose their major focus. The focus of the church is to redeem people on the streets. Bible says Jesus was doing good everywhere he went. How many of our pastors' lives are characterised by that goodness? They
(pastors) now drive posh cars trying to compete with governors. That is fine, they should not look poor but they should do the basic job of the church. There should be no hungry orphans and widows in the churches.

I don't have a problem with Pastor Adeboye's new jet

If he's touching lives, I don't have problem with him buying a plane because the ministry demands that you need to leave where you are immediately. Gospel of Christ has gone global and we have to operate as such. Every branch of a church should have a cubicle where poor people can deliver their children and the poor can come to get medical service for near to free. He should also provide education for the poor.

I see the church as the alternative government. If you say the government out there is corrupt, you should provide alternative governance. We all know that to some, church is a big business where people pay tithe.

I sneak into church when the congregation is praying.

One of my greatest challenges is going to church. I love God, I couldn't have been anything without God. I love to have a one-on-one fellowship with him but I hate it when I get to church and everybody's eyes are on me. That prevents me from having the one-on-one with Him. What I do is, I try to sneak in when people are praying and their eyes are closed and find myself a corner. I try to tell the ushers not to put me in front. I find myself a corner and connect to God. Without God you are nobody. If you try him as the president he will unseat you the next day. So, I'm a nobody. He has only brought me to this level to be a mouthpiece to build a better world. It's not easy to be a star sir (general laughter).

God is in Nollywood

God wouldn't be angry because what we do in home video is like a ministry. Our stories are interactive, they are like things you hear from the pulpit. It is about the triumph of good over evil. I see it more like ministry. Before we started home video, the issue of step mothers maltreating their step children was rampant. We explored the theme extensively and that helped a lot.

In the boom days, I earned up to N1.5m per movie

My first movie, Deadly Affairs, earned me N75,000
Yes, we had the boom era. I started from the grassroots. I got N75 000 when I did 'Deadly Affairs'. That was my first pay. That was before the boom and the boom era came when we earned as much as N1.5 million.

The industry was skeletal, budding and growing then. Not many knew about it unlike now. I wish those days would continue. You just sit down and somebody is begging you with N1 million or more. They would come to you with N1 million and you say no, it is N1.5 million or nothing; you might eventually take N1.4. If that era had continued I should be earning about N10 million in Nollywood. We were so good that we tried N1.5 and it worked, we would have tried about N10 million if not for those factors. It would have just been matters of negotiation.

How to negotiate a good deal

Never take anything below your last figure. If I tell you that it is N900 000 and tell you to keep it to yourself, you will still go and tell your best friend about it. I've come to realise that every best friend has an alternative best friend. Never mind all the talk about it being an open market. Next time if you try to go above N900 000, they will remind you that you collected same amount from so and so person. Once you know that, try and stick to your gun.

What I did with the money I made during the boom years and why people say I'm one of the richest actors.

I made some money. I bought shares, buildings and invested. I grew up knowing so many rich people. Some of my friends at YABATECH are now working with oil companies, some are working with government, Honourable Akeem Lateef, Ndudi Elumelu in National Assembly are my school mates. With such friends around, I don't think you want to come out and play for less. I also learnt my lesson from the 419 cliques. In the era of 419 we had so many of them living in quantum wealth but if you look around many of them are as broke as secondary school boys today. So, if you see all that I don't think you want to make money and think you are the first to make money. It's only when you are not in the circle of those who have made money that you start living on the fast lane. Money is not your friend, the best way to keep it is to tie it down and make it work for you.

Encounters with 419 scammers

Even last week one stupid man called me and said, he was Engineer Sam from NNPC with a business proposal. I'm too smart for that. I can't fall for that.
I'm prudent. I'm judicious. I don't believe in cheap money because I believe 'easy comes, easy goes'. I don't believe in money that cannot be explained.

I know where I'm coming from and where I'm going.

You must sit down and think. You need to think when you start making money. If you don't know what you are doing you might go and buy Hummer Jeep. I would have been among the first set to buy a Hummer Jeep. But believe me, I refused and was living in one small house at Shangisha. You won't believe I was living there. But I know that nobody will give me if I don't have. If you call any of your friends they will put you on speaker phone and disgrace you. So why would you want to believe that you are the first to touch money? I was living in a small three-bedroom when I already had a big school, St. Nicholas College in Magodo (Lagos). I was paying for a duplex for my principal while was still staying in a flat. Life is all about knowing where you are going and where you are coming from. I bought a big car for the first time last year, why did it take you so long a time?
Money is nothing. I could have bought a big car long before now but I bought my Touareg last year. I have five cars now and they service so many things.

I left Ejigbo Community High School with one credit, five passes, the rest were F9s.

When I left Ejigbo Community High School, I left with one credit, five passes and the rest were F9s. I thought it was the end of the world. Then I went to School of Basic Studies at Agidingbi. It was like a remedial school. The place is now a technical school. The school had everything we needed. When you are talking of burettes you were shown one. When you talk of pipettes, litmus you were seeing them. Our studies were not theoretical. Believe me I left that school with A's in all my science subjects. I was a brilliant student that came from bad system. So, I decided to do something in the education sector. I was trying to get fast money by building a hotel but something just struck me and I made a u-turn and that is what gave birth to St Nicholas College.

Day armed robbers 'arrested' Omotola, Rita Edochie and I

I have empathy for the people on the street. The people you call area boys, I don't see them as such. I just see them as stranded individuals. You can't imagine how many times I've been stopped by armed robbers and when I turned on the light they called me 'warlord'. They hailed me as 'Baba Emekus'. It happened recently in the East. I was with Omotola and Rita Edochie. We were coming from a movie location around Agbanni, you know it's a new campus, so a lot could be happening around there. We were on the high way when we suddenly came across a total blockage. I announced to my colleagues that 'gentlemen and ladies, please turn off your phones because we are about to be robbed'. If it were to be a police checkpoint they would have left a leeway. Somebody came with a torchlight and said he was looking for somebody. I said I was the one he was looking for. He was shocked and looked at me. When he saw me, he said 'ehh! Emeka Ike'. He shouted my name to others in the bush and before you knew it about 20 people came from the bush. We related and I told them not to touch my location bus that was coming behind us. I gave them the little money I had with me and they let us go.

'Maga don pay, shout halleluyah'

The way I reason with the youth out there is different from the way the government relates with them. The youths are
losing depth. We were now operating on a fake platform where somebody can sing 'Maga don pay, shout Halleluya' and the youths believe that it is the way. If the Maga doesn't pay what happened to the time you wasted pursuing him? So, I started thinking of the effect of School of Basic Studies on me and decided to invest in the youths. I don't like the idea where you only give admission to brilliant students who pass the common entrance and reject those that failed. Afterwards, you would say your school produced excellent students when you selected excellent students in the first place. I say no to that method. The challenge of being a proprietor is to change that boy from a dull-head to all-brain. There was a boy like that in my school that they wanted to turn down. I asked what their jobs were; they placed two teachers on him after school and today that boy is as brilliant as everybody else. We believe every parent's dreams is achievable in the

To be a successful school proprietor

The challenges are more than expected because when I was building I thought it's all about changing lives. I found out that many want salary but plenty don't want to work. You have to be five steps ahead of them if you want to survive their onslaught. It was a challenge for me.
As it is now I am not making profit. We are still paying the dues of changing lives.

My wife is the catalyst to my growth

I'm married to Mrs. Emma Rero Ike. My marriage is successful. So far, she's been a part of me. She is someone you can delegate duties to when you are not there. When I was a bachelor, buying lands was nothing to me. She was the one that made me start thinking along that line. The first land I bought was half a plot. When the guy came with half a plot proposal, I said how can a whole me buy half plot; but she said buy it. That was when I started buying properties. She is a catalyst to my growth.
I met her while I was editing a movie at Tade Ogidan's studio and she came to see him. That was when I saw her and went for her.

My relationship with Dolly Nnachukwu

That was press hype. That wasn't me. I never agreed in any paper that I dated her. Why would I agree now? (laughter).
But you know members of Redeem don't lie (another round of laughter).
It was a working relationship. She helped me to grow because she was a big star before I came in. She helped my career to grow. I never dated her.

Genevieve and I

I was tempted to marry an actress but she did not see it. She was too carried away to understand that I was for real.
She didn't refuse but you have to know how to read the signs of the time. When you don't know how to read the signs of the time you will be carried away by vain things.
I don't want to call anybody's name. No, it is not Genevieve though my relationship with her is beautiful because she is my best colleague. We understand ourselves when we work together. Sure I was tempted to get closer to her. Why not? She is a beautiful girl. Is this confession at gunpoint? Look Genevieve is a wonderful lady. She is a diva. She is a celebrated star, the sky is her limit.

My favourite actresses

As for Mercy Johnson, she is humble. Sky is just her beginning. When you get stardom and you are humble, the sky will be your starting point.
I haven't seen Funke Akindele much. The last time was at City People's award where she was the best actress and I was the best actor. She is good. Stephanie Okereke is good.
Omotola is also good?
Eucharia Anunobi is a hardworking mother, and you can see that in her roles. Uche Jombo is great. (Blows her a kiss)
Everybody I've worked with is good

I'm no longer playing Mungo Park with women

Before now, it was like being given a brand new car by The Sun. You want to explore the car and go everywhere with it. But it will get to a point you'll be more careful. Now, I've become more brotherly to my fans because I realised that they look up to me as a role model. Imagine someone calling me that her boyfriend had just broken her heart and crying, I'm not expected to take advantage of her. I'm supposed to console her. You have to be a counselor to ladies than discovering what they have between their legs. I prefer to be my sister's keeper than being a Mungo Park.
Mungo Park discovered River Niger, I don't want to discover the girls (general laughter).

Success is being able to give back to the society

It is when you are able to change lives, not when you have so much money.
I think people can look at me and say I've changed lives.
If you can give back to the society, you are successful.
If you can interpret your roles without an iota of yourself, you are a good actor. You don't put yourself into your roles. If they tell you to play wheel barrow pusher, you have to do away with your big man status.

I'm famous for lover boy roles

I'm known for lover boy roles. I've played criminal roles too. The real Emeka is a free human being that is accessible. I'm a simple human being

The bitterest betrayal I'd never forget

My father told me that my worst undoing would be with people I call friends. I did not know what it was until I was badly betrayed. I now keep only business relationships. It all started left my father's house when I saw the way things were. I felt the challenge was for me to go and multiply since I had finished school. I left with my small bag and that was the last they saw of me for one year. I moved in with a friend that could house me, he had a big room.

We used to live together in the same area. His father was one of the jurors in the industrial court. He always respected me for my age. I was with him for about six months until one of his friends moved him. That his friend was the kind that could eat your food, finish it and go away. He would show us his new shoes and belt and never contributed to the house upkeep. On that issue, my friend said he should go away and I supported him, I didn't pretend. Three days later I was invited for an advert by Charles Owoyemi and we were shooting when one of the big stars came to me and started crying that the bag he had was all he had then. He was a big star and I was just starting out. I was

confused because I just supported my friend to kick out his friend and I don't want him to think that I did that so I could bring in my own friend. I was driving my cousin's car. My friend understood and told me to bring him in. The next day he was up early to clean the car, I had to tell him not to worry. Later that day he discovered I was not the owner of the house and the attention shifted. He became more friendly with the guy that owned the house. He told me he was going to leave the following Tuesday but he was there till Friday and days that followed. I was shocked to discover that the world was about dog eating dog, survival of the fittest and rejection of the unfit. What I noticed was that my childhood friend had become my worst enemy.

Whatever I said became cause of a fight. It was obvious I was no longer wanted. Before I knew it, this star brought in another star that had accommodation problem. They would go to a nearby pub to play snooker, drink and smoke. I would call my friend and warn him that I did not want his father to think I was a bad influence on him but he would say I should get away and asking me if I was his father. The shocker came when I got home one day and met the house empty. At about six o'clock in the morning, the owner of the house came in and said the landlord had given us quit notice and we had to leave immediately. He said he came with a truck to pack his loads. I went to peep and saw the truck with the friend I brought in smiling. The truth was, they had rented a three-bedroom flat without my knowledge. I couldn't go back to Isolo where I used to live. They would abuse me and remind me that I should have stayed in the church. That night I slept at the corridor of the hotel I used to tell them not to go to. I saw so many people coming and going. I didn't have a place to sleep. It was the biggest pain of my life. I was out there with the dew falling on me for three days, and I was in tears.

A prostitute eventually came to me and asked if I was okay. She said Bros, what is wrong? What are you doing on the corridor? She went to buy me a bottle of Stout and a stick of St. Moritz. Today,I don't smoke anymore. That was a turning point for me, because I almost lost it there and then on that cold corridor. I gave her my bag, she kept it in her room and I went to look for where to live. I was away for three days and came back to collect my bag from the prostitute, Faith. Anywhere I see Faith today, I want to change her life with everything within my power.

Faith if you are reading this, I want to help because I have not forgotten that little show of kindness. Since then I have redefined the issue of friendship. When I made my first money I moved to Ogudu from Surulere, far from where you can easily access me. From Ogudu I moved to Magodo, I was to move to Mowe when my senior sister asked if I was moving back to Imo State (laughter). What were chasing me were human beings.
Faith knew me as a reputable man, she respected me. I rarely went to that hotel. So seeing me there at midnight on the corridor with tears must have really moved her.

Any child that does not remember his mother is eating fruits of sorrow
We were nine because they were looking for a son.
I was the boy that came.
It's always good to know your history because my mother was to be kicked out of the house when she did not give birth to a boy. My father was the one everybody was looking up to. In Ibo land you must have heir apparent. My mother started fasting for 40 days. You need to know what women go through in life. Any child that does not remember his mother is eating fruits of sorrow. I came after a crusade at a church near Winnis Hotel in Surulere, may be that's why my office is near there. They made altar call for those who wanted male children and from the testimony I heard five people came to dedicate five boys nine months after. I was named Third Samuel.

Life was tough after my father was fired

My father used to work at SD as a foreman before he was fired. Life after that was not funny. He took it as God's way. My mother took over and started doing petty business to see us through life.
I was a little stubborn. I've always had opinion about issues. As secondary School student I wrote an editorial to Vanguard Newspaper challenging one Alhaji Balogun that was president of World Witches. I've always had an opinion. My father didn't like that. Fortunately he lived long enough to see me become something in life. I also did my best to make him comfortable.

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