By Tony Ogaga Erhariefe
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Contrary to the widely held view that men are the initiators of the 'sex-for-role' malaise in Nollywood, UK returnee actress, Dolly Onachukwu, star of the now defunct Fortunes and Checkmate, soaps that ruled our screens, has declared that the reverse is the case.

She sensationally made this assertion in an exclusive chat with us in Lagos, her first, since relocating to Nigeria recently.

“The question is 'who is harassing who? We must begin to look at things objectively. The women are harassing the producers as well as the directors. Why did they not harass us in our own days? The reason is that today, everybody wants to act. Everybody wants to be popular and for this reason, these girls are ready to do anything, including throwing their bodies at directors to get roles. But the mistake they make is that, as long as you are not goods, it won't get you anywhere. If you are not talented, you are finished.

How many men are you going to sleep with? There are some that would say a capital NO! In desperation, these girls start 'distributing' themselves around and end up sleeping with even personal assistants when directors have finished with them.”
According to her: “It is all about up-bringing. The moment we start bringing morals into the industry, we would see a change. Some of them are prostitutes. They are the ones giving us a bad name. That is the reason people say that actresses are so loose and useless! This is the trade they know how to do. It is there profession. Check these people well, check their background. These people don't have back grounds. They are loose and demonic.”

If you are a director, beware, she has a warning for you: “I look at them and I see that they don't know what they are getting into. They carry these women up and down. They are demons looking for whom to devour. It is not only AIDS that they share, they take away your spiritual life.”

UK years
Dolly quit Nollywood suddenly in 2000 at the height of a promising career and relocated to the UK, to join her husband. She shared her experience thus.
“I've been in the UK for seven years. I did not abandon my acting. I took it with me. I have been doing films and videos and studying at East London University. I took a degree course in film and video production. I also acquired an European Computer Drivers License (ECDL), when I discovered that the world had become a global village.

“I did not know much about directing when I left but I have learnt a lot now. I am going to contribute my own quota to the industry in terms of movie directing. Even while I was in the UK, I shot and directed a movie, 'The Empire.' It was released last year. I intend to do more of directing now.”

“Nollywood has moved forward and I am glad to be part of it. We are more acceptable worldwide. Back in the day, acting was not seen as serious but today, there is a shift. Today, every home is watching Nigerian movies. It's impressive that we are appreciating our movies. Look at African Magic on MNET, the world is watching us too. It has become a very serious business with awesome potentials. Nobody cares about foreign movies any more.

Artistes are earning incredibly more. We did not earn like that those days, we did it for the passion but because Nigerians are now accepting our own thing, it is beginning to impact on the lives of practitioners. Nigerian films have become a brand. Some get over a million naira per flick. In our days, the highest ever paid was about N600, 000.

Love life
Following the break-up of her second marriage, Dolly has turned to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for succour.
“I don't want to talk about my love life. I don't want to talk about any man in my life. The only man in my life right now is Jesus Christ. Since I came back to the country, there have been different stories in the papers. One said I was looking for a third husband, another said that I did not care about marriage. My love life is boring. People should leave me alone. People are tired of reading different rumours about me.

Fatal attraction
According to her: “What attracts men to actresses is because they are stars and glamorous. Men see us on TV and want to identify with us. They want to reckon with us on the basis of what they see not knowing that what they see on TV is a personae we have created but they want to reckon with you on that level. When they come and they see the real you, they end up not liking the real you and are disappointed. I am not the same as the characters I play. I am a very private person, I am myself. Once I live the stage, I am a different person entirely.”

Single parenthood
Dolly is saddled with the responsibility of raising two kids single-handedly. She talked about the challenges.
“It is challenging and fulfilling being a single parent. You look after these children and know that they depend on you. It is great to know that you have the responsibility of bringing them up. You are the one they live with and know. It's not that they don't know their fathers but you are the one they believe in because you are the one they see every day and is always there for them. It's not easy combining acting and raising a child. Now I have to share my time. I remember when I shot my film in the UK, I had my son on set. The few times he was not on set, I missed him. It is quite demanding though. I have two kids and I make out time to relax with them, take them on holiday. I work out a way so that we can be together very often.”

“Honestly, if I was to live my life all over again, I would be a lawyer instead of an actress. All my life, I had always wanted to be a lawyer. It was my dream growing up but along the line, acting came. It is not like I don't like acting but the exposure and publicity takes away your privacy. You are always in the limelight. The attention is too much. Sometimes it's overbearing. I can't talk walk down the street. Even if I am in a bad mood, if people greet me, I must smile back at them.

You can't be yourself. I am a human being just like any other person and I have my bad and good days but they don't care whether it is your good or your bad day and if they are meeting you for the first time, they go with that impression. So you have to be nice to them all the time but they don't know what we are going through. There are times when you want to be left alone. That is why a lot of actors don't know how to manage the fame. If I were to come again, I would want opt for a peaceful life. My stay abroad was peaceful. There was a place to hide and nobody wants to know who you are. Sometimes I wish that I was not as popular.

Current project
I am doing a project on women liberation right now. It is a movie that I have always wanted to do. I am not saying that women should not be under men, it's just a way of educating our womenfolk.