Yes, I’m an ugly man‘...But women still flock around me’–John Okafor aka Mr. Ibu
I can't really pinpoint anything physical that lured me into acting. However, I can say that my getting into acting is all about spiritual realisation. When I was growing up, I lived with my grandfather who happened to have had an uncanny sense of humour. I enjoyed him more than I enjoy myself today.
The way he cracked his jokes or put up funny attitudes was unique and quite different from what obtains today. Our own comedy these days has gone digital, but then, his own brand of comedy was completely raw. It was too raw for my liking.
While people laughed when my grandfather put up his comic acts, I found it hard to laugh with them. For example, when my grandfather met two people fighting, instead of normal separation, he would walk up to them and ask them to leave the fight for him. And funny enough, they will listen to him.
Thereafter, he will go to a nearby tree and begin to throw punches at the tree. Sometimes, he would use razor blade to give himself marks with blood gushing out, all in a bid to separate the parties in a fight, such kind of things don't happen today.
While the elderly men then found my grandfather's acts as comedy, such was hard for me to swallow. For me, his acts were too raw.
But living with him kind of robbed off on me and as I got on in life, I began noticing that uncanny sense of humour in me. This realisation, which to me is spiritual, is what kind of got me into acting, and particularly, acting comedy
Choice of stage name
The popular stage name for which I'm generally known is Mr. Ibu. It's one of the names that my grandfather used to be identified with when he put up some funny acts. So, getting into acting, I quickly adopted the name and it has paid off.
Comedy for me is a therapy. It is passing on truth in a funny, less controversial way. For me, comedy is my nature, may be because I'm not handsome. I'm an ugly person, so whatever that comes out of my face is one of the materials I use in my acts. This is okay for me.
The kind of comedy I build is unique to me. As a versatile person, I use any object within me, around me to frame up something and then give it a position that when I release it, you hardly see somebody else composing that kind of thing.
I'm the very first person in the country to act imbecility in a movie. After I did that other people took to such acts. I like to set standards in anything I do, so whatever comedy you see me act, which is not universal is my personal product. And believe me, I don't know how such acts come. It's just natural and a talent from God.
Entering into character
For a movie, once I hold your script, you have to give me a little time to go over the script and get myself ready. When I read a script, I try to build my attitude, build into character so as to become that person in the script.
So, it doesn't take me much time to get into a character. As much as I love the script and love the story, immediately I read the script over and over, may be two times, I will get into character immediately before the shoot.
Challenging character so far
Imbecility in the movie, Agony, has been the most challenging character that I've acted so far. There had been other challenging characters that I've acted in movies, but acting as an imbecile in Agony was most challenging. It's not easy for a normal person to transform himself to an imbecile as I did in the movie Agony.
I had to stiffen my body, make some parts of my body look deformed, etc. All that wasn't easy at all, coupled with the fact that I had to ensure that I didn't miss my lines.
Dealing with female admirers
Women will always admire and flock around any man who is successful in his chosen career. This is normal and found in all spheres, not just movie stars like me. I'm happy that a lot of the female folks have fallen in love with my acts.
For me, there's nothing wrong with that. The good thing is that I've learnt how to deal with them. I don't think that women flocking around me will in any way distract or make me do anything stupid.
I don't really have problem when it comes to managing the girls that flock around me. I love the girls that flock around me as much as they love me. We talk together. There are so many of them who have been talking with me on phone for over one year, without us seeing ourselves.
Yet, we are friends; we talk as if we're close friends before now. Let me also say that I treat the men that flock around me the way I handle the girls.
So, for me, girls admiring or flocking around me is okay. I like them flocking around me. I've no problems with that, rather, I enjoy it. Their flocking around me will not make me do things that I choose not to do. I keep my boundaries, no matter the legion of women around me.
Parting ways with wife
Yes, I've parted ways with my wife. This has nothing to do with any personal problems on my part or hers. Our parting of ways had to do with traditional things. We were not to marry in the first place, according to tradition.
There was this rumour that my wife's late father left an instruction that she should not get married because she is an only child. He instructed that she should stay back in the family to have a baby-boy who will carry on the family's name, before ever she thinks of marrying.
Unfortunately, the kinsmen of my wife did not oblige me this information when we were starting the relationship. Though I heard the rumour, I did not believe it was anything that serious. So, we continued the relationship.
We finished everything about the marriage and began living and enjoying ourselves as husband and wife. However, as we went on living as a couple, we began facing a number of temptations, attacks and experiencing strange things. On some occasions, I saw my wife's late father in my dreams. I discovered that may be the man is not happy about my marriage with his daughter.
Disturbed, I had to consult some men of God. After extensive prayers and investigations, they advised that both of us were not supposed to marry for now. They urged us (my family and my wife's family) to follow up the problem with prayers.
While my family was following up the problem with prayers as advised by the men of God, the people from my wife's side failed to do so, resulting in the prayers not working out as expected.
At the end of the day, both families had to come together to take a decision. Her people, my people and the entire elders in my town and hers took the decision that both of us should separate. So, they in essence, dissolved the marriage. That's how our marriage came to an end.
Feeling about the separation
Actually, I didn't find the dissolution of my marriage an easy pill. It kind of destabilized me for a while. I really felt sad, but the temptations, attacks and strange experiences that I was confronted with after our marriage was consummated, left me without any other choice.
If I had insisted on her living with me, if anything happened to her in future, her kinsmen would hold me responsible. On the other hand, if she had continued staying with me, and anything untoward happened to me in future, she would be in trouble.
So, not being an arrogant person, I had to heed the decision of my elders that the marriage should be discontinued. I had no reason to go against the decision of elders of my town on this.
So, despite the sorrow that the parting of ways inflicted on me, I had to put up with it for my good and that of hers (my ex-wife). No one prays for this, but when it happens, we have to move on. It's a sign of maturity when people learn to live with whatever they can't change.
I'm not in a hurry to re-marry. I already have four children, three boys and a girl, though they are not from my immediate past wife. The two women that bore them for me incidentally are from my town. I married them officially, but due to different problems, I parted ways with them.
So, I intend to do all I can to raise my four kids before ever thinking of re-marriage. And when I choose to re-marry, I may have to marry a white woman. The reason is that I will not like to have another kid. If I marry a black woman or a Nigerian lady, she may want to have her own babies and I'm not ready for that.
My kind off woman must be tall and any colour. She must be slim, have good hips, moderately endowed breast-wise with small eyes. She must be flexible with her body and dresses smartly, not walking like a cow.
Upsurge of comedians
I see increase in the number of comedians in Nigeria as a good sign. Some people who are coming into the industry have money as their main target, while others are doing so because they want to uplift the standard.
Both are okay, but I like those who are coming into the comedy sub-sector of the entertainment industry because they are good materials and desire to uplift the industry. This is because after those of us on the scene right now, there will be others who will replace us. We can't be on the scene perpetually. There were people who were in the industry before us. We came and succeeded them, so, will others take over from us.
The important thing, however, is that those of us on the comedy scene right now are doing our best to keep the flag flying. We are trying to build a kind of comedy that will last longer than the ones we met. Those who are succeeding those of us on the scene now will be faced with the challenge of moving the industry forward. Moving the comedy industry forward will have to take a lot of creativity from stakeholders.
For instance, Nkem Owoh alias Osuofia came out with a unique idea of drunkard, which had never been in the industry, despite the fact that we had comedians like Chika Okpala, alias Zebrudaya of the New Masquerade fame and others. It was the creativity of Nkem Owoh that separated his work from others before him.
The same creativity is what separated my own kind of comedy from the rest of the pack. When I came on the scene, I brought my own idea of trying to infuse stupidity in acts.
Homosexuality in Nollywood
Yes, a growing number of people in Nollywood are becoming homosexuals and lesbians. It is unfortunate. These homosexuals some of who are producers are now harassing upcoming male actors in the industry sexually. My view is that this should stop. It is unnatural. I don't see myself descending to such unnatural behaviour.
For God's sake, where is this world heading to with the growing band of homosexuals in Nollywood? I totally agree with the statement of one philosopher when he said that any man who makes love to a man, reduces 10 years out of his lifespan. It's only natural for a man to make love to a woman, but when a man makes love to another man, something is wrong. I will quickly say sorry and accept that a man raped a woman, than to hear that a man raped or slept with another man.
Philosophy of life
As a man, I believe that we come from somewhere and we're going somewhere. So, within the time that you are living, there is need for the person to make a mark and leave a good legacy for posterity.
As a man that is living, let there be evidence that you came into this world. As you are coming into this world, you don't have a programme. You were delivered a kid. But spiritually, each of us have destinies to fulfill and this is what every person must strive to actualize as he/she grows up.
Actualization of destiny is what brings about legacy. It is this legacy that will make a person's name to be remembered long after his/her physical demise. This is my philosophy of life. It is this idea of leaving a legacy that has made me to keep struggling, never resting on my oars.
As a man, I believe in continuous struggling. I don't believe that a man just comes to the earth and goes. A man is here to leave a mark and that is what he must strive to do as long as he lives on this side of the planet.
I swim a lot and I drive anything that has engine, except airplane. However, I can't drive boat. This is because even though I swim, I'm skeptical about water, particularly the swinging of the boat while in motion on the river.
Love for martial arts
I'm a black belt holder in karate. Somebody introduced me into it and when I got into it, I loved it. I loved boxing first before going into karate, but I was beaten mercilessly in a boxing competition.
My opponent in the competition really beat the hell out of me. In order to save my life, I dropped boxing and moved into karate. When I got into karate, I discovered that karate has some nitty-gritty of positive creativity and fast decision making.
Karate teaches you to be quick in decision-making in order to outwit your opponent in a fight using your hand or leg. So, I love the sport and grew up quickly in it. My love for karate climaxed with my becoming a black belt holder.