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I miss acting like crazy – Omotola

Source: nigeriafilms.com
What has the response to your new album Gba been like so far?
It is wonderful. I hear that they have run out of the initial copies pushed out and people are asking for more. I guess that means it's doing very well. The last time I spoke with the record company, they said they are getting good orders.
What about videos?
We have a video that was shot in LA. It's not here yet. We are shooting other videos and they may be out by January.
Who is shooting them?
Of course there is Uzo (Uzodinma Okpechi). I think they are trying to get DJ Tee to shoot some and they have some people from the UK. For the club songs, there will be a lot of dance, a lot of up-tempo stuff. Then we have some ballads like Honey Boy and Life or Death.
Will there be some flesh?
You have to wait and see
How much flesh?
As much as your eyes can take. Everybody knows that sex sells but not in an obscene or vulgar way. Where you at the album launch?
We were not
No wonder. You would have seen what we did.
What did you do?
Nothing much. I think we raised the bar a little bit.
Which is the video you've shot?
We have shot a video for Show Me Love. We have a lot of people in that video, and we actually have an American actor in that one. He is quite known but I don't want to mention his name now.
Is this project self sponsored?
I sponsored it to the point of the launch. I needed to get some standard and I knew it was going to be difficult to get people to believe in what I believe in. when I met Sound Factory their dream tallied with mine. They were the ones that came closest to what I had in mind and everything just worked out.
Is music taking over from acting?
I didn't want that to happen, but that seems to be happening right now. But really, I don't want that to happen. After I did an interview about not wanting to act again, I got a lot of reactions from people. Many of them were angry, asking why I would do something like that. Others just wanted to advise and tell me what to do. It's staggering the kind of response I have had so far. It shows that people still like you. Although they welcome my coming into music, but they still want me to remain an actor as well. I'm seriously thinking about my options and I don't want to jump into something because people say that is what I should do. I'm going to take my time, think about it and decide what to do.
It would appear as if you have conceded victory to the marketers who blacklisted you from acting
Of course not. It's very sad that in this country, we do not have a sophisticated way to distribute our work. That is the truth. The only way you can distribute your work is through traders who probably have put most of their efforts into things like selling electronics. They don't understand who an actor is or their uniqueness. They don't understand that you have to protect your intellectual property. I can shoot a movie now believing it's a one-part thing and they would cut it into two parts. If you say anything, they tell you to go to hell. If you go to court they would blacklist you like they have done right now and you may not even get judgment in ten years. These are some of the frustrations we face.
We hear that the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) called a meeting with the blacklisted actors and those who cooperated had their bans lifted
It wasn't the AGN that called the meeting; it was the marketers that called the meeting. They told us to come to a place in Awka or something. You blacklist people without telling them the reason or giving them fair hearing, you don't let them work for one year and you threaten others who want to work with them. They threatened others who wanted to shoot movies with us with things as low as area boys. I had people coming from London who wanted to shoot a movie with me and they disrupted the set with area boys in Owerri. It is on record and other actors have similar experiences.
After doing that for one year, you now say for you to stop threatening people to work with us that we have to come and meet you in your village, sit down and have a meeting with you. I just said I'm sorry I won't do that. I don't have a problem with us having a meeting but you will not tell me to get on a plane, my life is not insured, my husband did not tell me to go and meet you and leave my children and everybody to go to a place I have never been to in my life. And you expect me to pass the night there. For heavens sake, I think that is incredible! All that just for you to consider me and take me back. What is my sin?
People are lying about everything that is going on and some people are trying to cover their head. I have nothing against those people that went. Everybody has different conditions in life and ways to approach things. Those that went did so because they thought that was the best they could do and I am happy for them that they are back to work. Everybody does not necessarily have to go A or B.
Were you one of those who would collect money from two or more producers to shoot different films at the same time?
I state it here and I challenge Remmy Jess or any other marketer to come and say to my face that I have collected two people's money at the same time. I have never done that. I, Omotola Ekeinde, have never shuttled two sets at the same time in my ten years of practice. There is nobody that will say I have kept them on hold on a set because I was on another one.
The only set that something like that almost happened was that of Ifeanyi Ikpoenyi and the case was well known. It was for Royal Family. What happened was that he had paid over six months ago and I had actually refunded his money to him. I have witnesses. Olu Jacobs is my witness; Ralph Nwadike, Fred Amata and all the elders in the industry knew about it because I went to the film market. I told them I did not want to do his movie anymore. I gave him his money, he refused to take it. He kept begging and I told him I was off to do another movie in Sierra Leone. I signed a contract and the contract had a time. He couldn't shoot his movie on time and kept postponing for over six months.
When it was time for me to go and do another movie, he called to say he was ready. I told him I couldn't go to do his movie because this other people wanted to do their movie. I had signed a contract and I wouldn't want them to take me to court. I told him he either took his money back or we postponed but he pretended as if he did not understand what I was saying. He then went around to people and tried to blackmail me, but he definitely knew I was travelling. I told him two weeks before I travelled. Even a day before my trip, he still pretended as if he didn't know I was travelling. Jim Iyke was on that set and everybody on that production knew I was travelling.
That was the only case I ever had and everybody knew about it. In my own case, I have heard a lot of things said about me; like me not being an Ibo person and that they've been trying to clamp down on me. I try not to believe it because I believe that in life, you will have people oppose you for different reasons. Even if they can't find a good reason, they would look for a flimsy excuse if they don't like your face. If you are saying there was indiscipline in the industry, I would say yes there is, but it wasn't just from the actors, the producers or the directors. The entire industry was undisciplined. If we the actors have to reel out what this so-called marketers do to us, you will be amazed.
Tell us some of them
There are some movies I didn't shoot, but my face is on their posters and jackets. I don't know the producers, the directors or when the movies were shot. You do a movie and they actually sign a contract with you that it is a one-part film and they cut it into three parts. They are like saying it to your face to go and do your worst. Do I want to count the insults we get on set? Sometimes, they insult you blatantly.
Do they throw sex at you sometimes?
They wouldn't try that with people like us. I don't know who they throw it at but I am sure the younger ones go through that. People will do some things just to intimidate you. They couldn't do that to people like us because we had risen above all that and were calling the shots. It wasn't a matter of sex but a matter of money. The worst they could throw at you was money. They think because of their money, they could throw anything at you. I tell someone I am doing a job and he will ask you, 'how much are they paying you on that job? Is it N200, 000? I will pay you N500, 000. When you say no, you become an enemy and they look for ways to blackmail you.
Inasmuch as I don't want to call names or reel out anybody's sins, why are a bunch of people pretending as if a few people were the ones that were bad? I have been on set where a waka pass have held production to ransom. What are we hiding? I have been on set where someone with just two scenes will hold everybody else to ransom because he probably has shot one scene. We will all sit down waiting for that person, and the person is on another set. Why are they trying to turn the public against us and make us look as if a few of us are very bad? I am not saying there are not some people among us that are probably doing that, and they know those people. Everybody did not do the same thing. Come out and let me know why you are trying to soil my name.
May be the major reason was to reduce the fees you guys collect
I think that is one of the basic reasons why they did that. And because they were scared of the public they had to look for reasons that would make the public have no sympathy for us. If you don't like what I charge you, you have the right to go elsewhere, and if you don't like my behaviour, you don't have to patronise me. That is just the way it is.
Obviously, they have to do all these things and what annoys most of us is not because they refused to patronise us. What annoys us is that they are abusing the position that God has put them in. It's like you saying, you are the president of this country, you will kill anybody who annoys you. That is satanic. Because of the very delicate position that God has put them they have decided to spite other people's livelihood. That is what they have decided to do. Because they are the distributors of people's work, they decided 'we are not going to patronise you'. That is fine but do you now tell everybody else not patronise us and if you patronise us, they would fine them.
Imagine, I'm coming in from England. I have my own network in England and I don't want to market my works through you and I am fine with that. And I come in to shoot and then you disrupt my set. Then they start to instigate other actors on that set against you. I can't blame actors to some extent even though I get angry with my guild because they did not protect me or my right. You cannot get angry with those actors because how many people are employing actors anyway? If they call you as an actor and say 'don't go on that set if you go I will blacklist you,' let's be realistic, it can be a little bit scary and confusing as well. Except a body comes to fight, individuals cannot fight. Now that the AGN is getting up to its responsibilities and gearing up to do things, I am watching and trying to see if Ejike (Asiegbu) has genuine plans.
Do you miss acting?
Of course, I am missing acting like crazy. I mean something you've done for 10 years. I will be lying to myself to say I do not miss it. I even miss it more when people call and are like, 'oh God, we want you back'. That's what you know how to do and that is what you love, your passion is.
Do you also miss the money you make from it?
Sincerely, the money I make from it is relative. For me, personally, I don't particularly miss the money.
Of course, it's good to have money come your way. Right now, I'm not earning less. That is just the truth. I'm not going to lie. I am earning more right now.
My record deal, you would not believe what I earn from it or what I'm really earning from it. It is a very good deal for an artiste.
Besides, I do shows. I am one of those few artistes in this country that get paid to make an appearance in a place. I do not just go to a place free of charge. For me to make an appearance in a place, you have to pay me. I am branded and well established.
I make money through so many other ways. Plus, I have somebody that takes care of me anyway. What am I using all the money for any way? It's not like I am suffering or I'm a single parent and I have to take care of so many kids. My parents are late. I don't have families on my neck that I have to support. I have two young brothers that are doing well. I have a husband that takes care of me.
What I am saying in essence is that I'm comfortable even if I don't make any money. But then I make loads of money even without the movie industry.
Basically, first and foremost, it is the love of what I have done for so long and I love to do what people know me for and what I know I do very well. And of course, the perks that come with it; that is your fans that are like 'oh I watched that movie and I really like it'. Of course, there is the financial gain but most important, is the joy that you do what you know how to do and you want to improve on it any day.
If you were not married, would you have explored acting outside Nigeria since this blacklisting thing started?
Definitely, oh so definitely. In fact it won't be just when this thing started; it would be long before all this happened. You would not believe the kind of thing that I can do.
The Omotola you are looking at here is a fighter. I have a boiling spirit. I am a rebel to the core. Everybody noticed that about me when I was small. I am one-man warrior. I fight my way through anything. It takes me time to fight for something but when I decide to fight, I don't look back. I fight to the end, and until I get victory, I don't look back.
We heard that your mum was very strict
My mum was very strict. I think 70 percent of who I am today I got from her. As at that time, I hated her with all my heart because I just felt like she was a demon in my life because I could not just breathe, I thought she was stifling and there wasn't anything I could do.
How did someone with a mother so strict end up getting married at 18?
I just believe that was meant to be even though she fought me and my husband then. The way things happened, I think there was hardly anything she could do because I was so gone. I think she had to make the choice between either letting me be me or we would have parted. Of course, I was going to follow my heart immediately I was sure that this was the person I wanted to settle down with and he was not going to wait. He was like, 'I have found you' and when my husband wants to do something, he wants to do it now. I told him to go everywhere. Even when my mother had not fully accepted him I told him to go round all my family because I was just trying to be sure he was the one. I put him through so much. My daddy was late and from a polygamous family. He had sisters and brothers everywhere. I just kept sending my husband everywhere. He went to all of them. He went to Ado Ekiti, Ife and everywhere. He kept going and everybody liked him. I guess she didn't have a choice anyway. And then, he is a very likeable person.
Besides, if my mother had found anything wrong with him, she would have said so. Anybody that meets my husband knows that this is a rare human being.
He is a very lucky man
(Laughter) I guess I am lucky too. He is incredible. He is working too hard to please me.
What do you think of the other men who stare at you, what are they looking at?
We are not going there. I don't know because I have not been looking at them anyway. Most times, when they are staring I am already gone.
Tell us something that will make us finally take our eyes of you
You won't take your eyes off me anyway, so what is the big deal?
After Gba, what's next?
Keep your fingers crossed. I will be telling too much if I tell you what's next. We really can't tell what next. There is always something nice somewhere. God is good.
On a last note, what will Christmas be like?
Christmas is going to be somehow. I had a few things I wanted to do but I don't know if I still want to do them. I'm not particularly excited especially with this last plane crash. My husband flies for Sosoliso and he was the one that transferred the plane to the captain that died. He stopped flying that afternoon and Captain Adebayo took over the plane. I am still in that shock that it could have been my husband.
And all those kids. I am a mother and I know what that feels like. I saw this woman that lost three kids.
I know how careful Sosoliso really is. I'm not saying this because my husband works there but because I am privileged to know. My husband is always travelling out because they have to go bring in this part or that one. Now to think that all that was for nothing? People are now saying they don't maintain their planes and are jeopardising people's lives? I feel that all this while I have been alone all those times he was not around.
Captain Adebayo was a very close friend. Every time my husband was not around, he was the one that came around to ask how the family was doing.
I'm not scared of my husband flying. It is like being married to a soldier. You know he would always be in the battle front. I have accepted his profession. We believe in God and I know He will not let us down. I know it is not his destiny to die by any plane crash.