If I, Ejike Asiegbu, have ever asked you for sex, stand up and say it’
Star actor Ejike Asiegbu has seen desperate young women who would do anything to get a role in movies, but he has come out clean. At least, that was what he told Saturday Sun recently. Once, during an audition, a girl wrote on a piece of paper to him: “I will do anything you ask of me.”
Now, 43 year-old Asiegbu, one of those seeking to become the president of the Actors' Guild of Nigeria (AGN), has thrown an open challenge to all the ladies. He dares any to prove that he had slept with her: “If I have ever asked you out, stand up and say it.”
Sex for roles
Ejike would later come to know about the ugly episode of 'sex before roles' in Nigeria's movie industry.
In a baritone voice interspersed with flashes of smiles, the Abia State-born actor narrated a “terrible experience” he had as a director. He wanted artistes for a film “and a girl wrote me that when I was ready to do anything I asked of her. I got interested, asked for her to come forward. She did. And I announced publicly to the whole house that I, Ejike Asiegbu, would not lend my dignity to adherents of excesses. I told her that hard work pays. If she had been successful with other directors or producers she could never be with me. If she has a talent and showed it, as far as I remained the artistic-director, I would give her a job based on merit. I was not that type who was used to the sort of piece of note she gave to me.
“And I make bold to say it, you can check my pedigree, if any girl comes forward to say that Ejike Asiegbu has either as an actor, or a director or an artistic director asked her out, she should stand up and say it”.
After 24 years of acting - from TV to stage to home video – Asiegbu has garnered enough years to act as a counsellor. “Don't sell your body to become a successful actress. You must remain focused, hardworking, tolerant and you must be humble. These are some of the things that'll endear you to the directors' hearts. If you are given the opportunity, make hay while the sun shines”.
Asiegbu started acting from primary school and soon, his name was known in almost every household in his neighbourhood. “Right from my primary school and secondary school days, I had always found myself in a situation where whatever I say titillated people, making them happy”, he said. And those were early signals that he would probably end up an actor. That was “coupled with the fact that I come from a family that treats serious situations in a comic way I believe per chance it must have rubbed off on me.” So, after he found out that he was “called out” to be an actor, he did not waste time when the occasion arose.
Like many other actors, Asiegbu started small. “When I was in the Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu in 1981/82, I was the president of the Basic Students Theatre Group. After acting in Salt of Tradition and The Child of Circumstances on Anambra Broadcasting Service, it was a major hit and I was sought after by a lot of directors. I had without knowing imprinted my name in the sands of time and people had begun to appreciate my presence. I became so popular in the Old Anambra State, even though I was at the IMT studying for my advanced level. Late Ken Saro Wiwa drafted me into The Bassey and Company. I played the role of Papa (in some episodes). I was the father to Mr. B. I was also exposed to senior artistes and veterans in our profession at that time. Hilda Dokubo, Bob-Manuel Udoku and some of us were brought in as people who they felt would add colour or pep to what they were doing and the rest is history. Ejike also acted in The New Masquerade where “I played the role of 'Professor'– the brother of late Jegede Sokoya.
Asiegbu for president
Having been a leader from school, the attribute couldn't hide for long. Hence, Asiegbu is out again canvassing votes so he could lead again – this time as President of Actors' Guild of Nigerian (AGN). If he wins the election slated for April 23, 2005, the bulky actor promises to instill discipline into the practice. To achieve that he pledged that he would hold a bi-monthly or quarterly meetings with marketers, producers, directors and other stake holders “to look ourselves eye-ball-to- eye-ball”. Moreover, Asiegbu said he would consider the relationship between AGN and other related bodies important “to take the AGN to the next level”.
He also spoke of the need for a movie library, to avail practitioners of “modern day tricks of motion picture practice”.
Actors, said Asiegbu, should be involved in conflict resolution. “An actor is a role model in the society. So an actor should be used as an ambassador for conflict resolutions”.
Ejike, a former Student Union President of the University of Port Harcourt, knows what leadership is all about. “I was supposed to have graduated in 1992 but I did in 1993. Why? Because I was a detainee under the IBB regime, because I continued the tempo of opposition to dismantle all forms of military dictatorship. I did that at that level and I paid the supreme price of being detained for 26 months. And I came back unruffled.
Last year, some actors reportedly banned by marketers, Ejike as well had his own share of dark days. “Because of my avowed interest in the welfare of AGN members, I was sidetracked, bastardized and sidelined for two and a half years by the marketers.” The difference, however, was that his “ban” was not made public.