YES, I WALKED OUT OF MY MARRIAGE WITH ABIOLA ---CLARION CHUKWURA
Inspired by Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor, she featured in her first movie at the tender age of fourteen, Clarion Chukwura obviously has an interesting story to tell about herself when it comes to movie, marriage and social life. Clarion, in this interview with SEGUN ADEBAYO, speaks on her charity organisation, clothing line, marriage break up with Abiola and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
CLARION Chukwura initiative was 10 recently, what has been the story so far?
We support orphanages and motherless babies, using my fans' strength and influence. We have consultants who seek corporate support for products, foods, toiletries, etc., for these orphanages because some of the founders of these homes are dead and they handed over to well-meaning people who go all out to help children who don't have parents. And this should be the responsibility of everybody. Ten years ago, I was invited to a programme for motherless babies, there I saw their labour of love and I was moved to contribute my quota. Outside of this country, especially in the US, stars are the ones who support these children because they know that they can influence opinion. I am doing this so that the conscience of others would be awakened towards supporting these children. So, every year, we go to different states of the federation. Four years ago, we were in Ogun State, three years ago we were in Lagos, two years ago it was Ondo State and Oyo State last year.
How have you been able to raise funds to sustain it, considering that a number of initiatives like this have been used to amass wealth?
This is not about making money, it is about what makes me happy, what I am doing gives me a great sense of fulfillment. But knowing that people are not supporting it is very frustrating.
Are you frustrated?
I cannot be frustrated because the passion brings happiness and happiness brings about satisfaction. I enjoy what I'm doing and I believe that I am consciously, or unconsciously, opening other people's minds towards programmes like this.
You just said that the fact that people are not supporting the programme is frustrating, what kind of support do you need from people or are you talking in terms of sponsorship?
Initially I tried to get sponsors but I discovered that they were not ready to support me, what they were interested in was publicity. They wanted a big entertainment event that would blow their trumpets to the whole world, but for me it is not about publicity, if you don't want to help without announcing it all over the place that you have given 10 million naira whereas what you gave was two million, then to hell with it. I spend my own money and I also have a marketing consultant who sources for companies to bring in their products that will help the children grow.
Let's talk about what brought you recognition among the people, I mean the movie industry, you have not been frequent in movies these days, have you decided to quit as it is being said in some quarters?
I have been very busy with other things now. I have been getting scripts from time to time but the truth of the matter is that I have not been doing movies for two reasons, one; if the script is not right and you are not ready to make the necessary changes, I won't take it from you. Two, I have had the scripts that were right but the producers could not afford my fee.
Why do you think the producers could not afford your fee, are you that expensive?
Let me tell you, the industry is growing up rapidly on a daily basis, you get to see new things being introduced, this tells you that we are no more in the era of low fee. People now make quality movies that go to the cinema, yet they still want to be paying the same fee, that is rubbish and I won't take that from any producer.
So, what is it going to cost a producer to bring you on set?
It is going to cost N700, 000 if you want me to be in your movie. If you can't pay me that, you can go to hell.
Don't you think that kind of amount would scare the producers, are you saying the era when movies are produced based on friendship influence is no more?
That is absolute rubbish, and that is the problem the Yoruba movie industry has, being based on sentiments and relationship, this is a profession for Christ's sake, and making movies is business. These are professionals who live on the proceeds from this industry, that is the reason you find out that everybody is a producer in the Yoruba movie industry because they do movies based on relationship, 'help me do my own and I will help you when it is your time too.' So, you have 70 per cent half baked movies in the Yoruba movie industry and 30 per cent good movies. They do have fantastic story lines, give it to them, they write superb scripts, in fact they have the best story lines in Nollywood, but the mode of production is quite worrisome and we have to change that.
Is that why you have not featured in Yoruba movies for a long time?
Yes, that is why I stopped featuring in Yoruba movies since 2002. They have to realise that we have to be professional about it.
You once said that Nollywood did not make you, don't you find that statement unpleasant, giving the fact that most people got to know you through your roles in movies?
Nollywood did not make me, I became a star when I was 18 years old with my first movie, Ola Balogun's Money Power that was released in 1982. I was an undergraduate at the University of Ife in 1984 with the first nationwide soap opera, Mirror in the Sun, I became a household name. I did my first Nollywood movie in 1994, I was already an household name when I did my first Nollywood movie at the age of 30. So, that was 12 years after I became a star, I have made my name way back and when I have properly positioned myself I will be making my movies.
What do you mean by proper positioning?
What I mean by that is the capital. I will need to work towards that before I begin to produce my movies, I cannot make a movie and start to beg somebody that 'please come and act for me' neither can I make substandard and half-baked movies because I want to be relevant. I have made my name and I thank God for what He has done for me.
From what you have said so far, are you saying you are out of Nollywood principally because the scripts are bad or the fee is ridiculous?
I am not out of the industry, I have only not been doing movies like I used to do and it is pathetic but it is only in Nigeria that as an actress, people expect you to be acting almost every week. In Hollywood, it doesn't work that way. It may take two years before the right kind of scripts they want to do next come up, the right director and even the package, but in Nigeria, if you don't act for six months they will say you are out of the industry.
For some time, your name used to be Clarion Chukwura Abiola, but now it has changed, what happened to the name Abiola?
The Abiola name stopped in December 2003.
Why, I mean did you walk out of the marriage or what?
Yes, I walked out because it was not good for me. I got a divorce.
Why did you walk out, did you try to salvage the situation then?
That is my private life and I don't want to blow it on the pages of the national dailies.
It was learnt that you have since remarried, how has it been?
I remarried to Femi Oduneye since February 2004.
What attracted you to him?
Ours was love at first sight, we met each other in London and it has been wonderful.
But you were said to have separated for a while before you later reconciled, what actually went wrong?
I don't want to talk about that, we are together now and that is the most important thing in life, being together.
But why have you not changed your name to Clarion Oduneye?
That's quite interesting; I don't want to talk about that. Does that change anything?