Emeka Ike trained as an engineer at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos before acting beckoned and he couldn’t resist its allure. Unarguably one of Nigeria’s best and richest, he chronicled how it all started in this exclusive interview with YES INTERNATIONAL! Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE. The session was in front of his school (St. Nicholas College) in Magodo, Lagos…
What’s your definition of acting?
Replicating, duplicating, being the perfect picture of the real role, being the role model of that character.
What do you like most about being an actor?
The leverage it gives you. You cut across so easily. You can also be easily misunderstood and less understood. That’s the best part.
What don’t you like about being an actor?
It exposes you too much to too much criticism. Even people who are frustrated take advantage of your personality and the public too makes a mess of your goodwill. That part is very disgusting when you are not what people say about you.
What is the nicest thing that acting has done for you?
It has made me opulent, it has upgraded my status.
What has acting not done for you?
Acting has not given me God. It took away a bit of God from me and I’m a Godly person, and I think I have to go back to that part of my life.
What don’t you like about stardom?
Stardom abuses you, it violates your real personality, it makes you an international object to be criticized and to be standardized. People can make assumptions and assertions about you, so it puts you up there to be a yardstick.
Most people in your line of business attain success, but find it difficult to sustain it. What is responsible for that?
I think background matters a lot. Where you are coming from means a whole lot. Now, if you are coming from a background where you understand what it takes to be successful, I think it will be part of you. But if you come from a background where you struggle to get things, you keep struggling. I think the background matters.
When can an actor be said to have succeeded?
When he has been able to convince the people that yes, he’s part of them and he’s getting back to them with his social responsibility and he’s really doing the things he needs to do. When you are able to touch the people that view you and iconize and idolize you and you are able to touch their lives, then you have achieved that status.
Most people speak well of you, especially in terms of investing wisely, how did you come about the knowledge of investment?
I had a business centre as a student at Yaba Tech. If you go to Akata, which is the girls’ hostel, I was that boy that had that business centre by the entrance; by the porter’s lodge. Go and ask, I owned that business centre there as a student. You see, I come from an enterprising home. My mother used to sell, so she believes in replicating her money to get so many things going. So, because I saw her replicate small money and it was able to buy her buses, it was able to build her a house in Lagos, it was able to build her a house in the village, I knew that I can also do small, small businesses. In fact, right now, I want to do N10, N10 business (Laughs). You can imagine doing N10, N10 business in one million places. That’s the way I was brought up and that’s why I said initially that where you are coming from has a lot to add to your future.
Most of your colleagues hardly invest; can you hazard any reason for that?
Because plenty of them are carried away by their faces. But you see, the face is nothing. It’s a process and when you are in the process, it’s like acquiring a CV. We didn’t have all that CV before now, so when you get the CV, you need to reinvent the CV, you need to recycle the CV into something of greater capacity. So, if you don’t know what to do with the CV, you’ve missed it. It’s not just about going on red carpet and being the best at whatever party is going on…
You also happen to be one of the few actors who veered into movie production a long time ago, how did you come to that realization?
We actually wanted to challenge Hollywood then. That was my idea. The way we were growing then, we were actually making the movies to look Hollywood in the face and I thought we got there before we were sidelined by politics. So, there was that interest, there was that inert interest – I wanna do this; oh, I love this; oh, I can do it like this; now I can add this. I used helicopters! You remember? Now, that helicopter, to use it took me one year. In between someone’s budget! It now accumulated so much money. It now tells you that maybe I’m a perfectionist. Maybe I believe we can get it right. I believe we can just add one and one together, like the engineer that I am, and get a good product. So, that was what happened then.
You stopped producing after that. When should we expect your new movie as a producer?
Very soon. Let’s say in another two months or a month from now, you will watch one movie; it’s a project movie, it’s not my movie. It’s my company’s movie for Amnesty people. My students that I trained in Ghana; they felt I was supposed to do a project for them and then the project; I decided to blow it up and they chose a very good topic. And that’s what I taught them – not to always look at the fickle things of life. They chose malaria and the way we treated malaria, anybody that watches the movie will know that I can prevent malaria. So, that’s the kind of stories I wanna tell and with the latest format in Hollywood.
What’s the title of this movie?
Who are the people that took part in it?
Just me. I played one scene, a palm wine tapper. The only actress that acted in the movie was Ndidi Obi. Every other person was a rookie. Apart from two of us, everybody was my student; that is the Niger Delta militants and the villagers. So, I made brand new stars, like we’ve been doing. We are gonna keep making brand new stars.
People tend to portray you differently from the real you, why? People see you as a radical…
I think it is a group that I tried to straighten things up with and they think the only thing they can do is to rubbish me in the press and that’s not because of anything radical about me; you’ve never seen me have a fisticuff in public, you’ve never seen me have a public quarrel, you’ve not seen me do anything demeaning, so when somebody goes around to pass such information about a CEO of a big company, that pays a lot of people every month; I took plenty teachers off the street, our young people; a man that people look up to in the society; a man of reputation, you will see that there’s a little bit of jealousy in it and when you look at the quality of people passing around these press releases, you ask what really is their take in life? How successful have they been? You will find out that they are only trying to get back at you or trying to use your name to get up somehow. That’s what I think it’s all about, because my father said if you are a nobody; nobody will talk about you. But I’m not what they are saying. And that’s what matters.
Each time you come across these negative things, how do you feel?
I feel very bad! Because sometimes they really are anti my natural instincts, natural impulses. The things that I ordinarily wanna do as Emeka Ike; now you are going to give me another personality that I’m not. So, I’m like oh no! They want people to see me in another light. I’m a loving man. Very loving! People love me. So, it’s like trying to fit me into a shirt that is not my size, where I don’t belong. An over-sized shirt or an under-sized shirt. I will complain. But then I know nature has a way of settling scores, so I leave everything to God. People who are close to me know I am a warm person. They love me, they love the things I do, they tell me you are the best in your job. I like it when they say it. And that you are very deep; that your interpretations are very neat. All these things make me happy. But some few haters who don’t even have a shop or who don’t even have a car and they come up to you and say Emeka Ike, Emeka Ike; what should I be doing with them?
So, who is the real Emeka Ike?
Emeka Ike is an excellent boy, because I was born in Lagos, the Centre of Excellence. I had all my education in Lagos. Lagos doesn’t like cheating, that’s why I don’t like cheating. When I was growing up in Lagos, where we played football, our set, they never cheated us. And whenever someone was cheated, all of us will say no, no, no; we no go gree. Emeka Ike is the Emeka Ike of the Ali Must Go days. Those days that people will stand for their rights. And Lagos people like to stand for their rights, they like to go the legal way, the civil way, to fight for their rights. They are educated people. They see education as part of living and that’s why Awolowo gave it to us free. I was one of those boys he gave free education in those days. So, I had a perfect touch of Lagos in my life. I went to school in Lagos – nursery, primary; then School of Basic Studies, the one opposite Cadbury today in Agidingbi. We were the students that were reported by Peter Obi of going to Airport Hotel in those days, living recklessly. We were among those children. I am an Igbobian, I also attended Yabatech. These are excellent schools, so I have lived an excellent life and I read an excellent course – Engineering. I read Mechanical Engineering and Engineering students are very intelligent. You don’t see any ‘mistake student’ around that department. So, when you see us, we have confidence in what we do, we believe in the things we drive and we believe we can create, we can design, we can fashion things out. So, that has been the Emeka Ike I am. Delving into entertainment was due to lack of job. After equipping myself with engineering and I found out there was no job, I tried my hands on it and that was it. But entertainment is not me; me is industrious, me is scientific, me is creative, me is a resource person.
As a good family man, can you tell us about your family?
My family life is beautiful. But it’s not easy to be a star in a marriage. You know how it is (Laughing). But God keeps you there because where you are coming from, your father and your mother never broke up! So, you have to sustain the tradition and like I said, where you are coming from matters a whole lot. My father took everything my mother had to offer and more. So, I should be able to take that from my wife and more. Marriage has been a huge blessing to me. I have three boys and one girl. The first one is Michael Orezimena (The one after my heart); his mother is half Isoko – Ike Nicholas; the second one is Chinonso Kelly Efe Ike; the third one is Dike Jayson Ike and my daughter is Oluwakemi Adanna Ike. My wife is Mrs. Emma Ike…
NB: First published January 2014