I just wear what suits me - Emeka Enyiocha
'I Walked Myself to the top' - Chukwuemeka Michael Enyiocha, top Nollywood actor
A lot of people would certainly find it difficult remembering his real name. This is so because since 2003 when he appeared in the commercially successful home video, End of the River, Ezebunafor, the character he played in the movie simply stucked so much so, that till today, anywhere he goes to you'd hear people calling him by that name.
It is just as well, as Emeka Enyiocha (Ezebunafor) disclosed to The Source recently that he is not depressed by the misconception about his real name. Instead, he said, it is an occurence which comes with the job. According to him, appearing in that movie gave him prominence and kick-started his journey to stardom after 10 years of sweating it out in the industry.
Enyiocha, remarkably, did not just make up his mind to go into acting as a profession. Indeed, it will come as a surprise to many to know that he was once a model who even though had the flair and physique for the business, unfortunately found out the bitter truth that the very noticeable scar on his forehead prevented him from netting enough jobs to make him soar as a professional model.
Before becoming a model, however, the Umuahia, Abia State- born Enyiocha had completed his secondary education at the Government Technical School in Port Harcourt. As he told The Source, he would have preferred to continue his education but couldn't because of severe financial difficulties. So, as the first child and of course, first son in a family of eight he had to set out in search of greener pastures.
“I came to Lagos because it was our “London” then. But before I left, my parents advised that I should make sure I don't do anything against the government rule;” he told The Source with coyish relish.
After a stint in modelling, he veered into acting. His first major acting was a popular soap opera on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Memorial Hospital. Being a greenhorn, he almost messed up that opportunity, but today when you see him act on screen, you'd never realise that he is the same fellow who had gone through the rigour of struggling with his lines.
Enyiocha later got the chance to further his education in 2002 as he sponsored himself to obtain a diploma in Theatre Arts from the Lagos State University (LASU).
If you are wondering why he still resides in Surulere, instead of joining the bandwagon of those 'star' actors and actresses who have moved to the highbrow areas of Lekki and Victoria Island, Enyiocha, who stressed that he is not a night person, simply explained that he is in love with Surulere as he doesn't have to struggle in traffic for hours. “For now, I don't see myself leaving Surulere, he told The Source.”
For those who might have formed an opinion on Enyiocha, believing that he is a snub, he kind of cleared the air, saying “I am a very blunt person. I do not intentionally hurt people and so I do not expect people to.”
Though his father died two years ago, what this young man would forever be grateful for is the proud manner his father always behold and describe him. His mother, who is still very hale and hearty is also as proud of this son of hers who has brought honour to their household by appearing in movies such as End of the Road, Isakkaba, Love Affair, Pretty woman, Sharon Stone and many more.
One of the things your admirers always take note of whenever they see you is your style of dressing. You are what some people will call “a power dresser.' Tell me, what determines your style?
Nothing. I just wear what suits me, that looks nice. Well, considering where I come from, I'll call it my alma mater in Port Harcourt, you know that the people there like good things. When you refer to them you describe them as power dressers. Maybe that's where I learnt it from. Anyway, I've always loved to look good.
Even when it costs a fortune?
Hmm! Well, you'll be so shocked to know that I make up things and wear them. I am really not crazy about designers wears. If it looks good on me I put it on.
Can you give an estimate of what you are wearing now?
I can't really tell because I bought what I am wearing now about two-three years ago. My wardrobe is big and I don't wear anything in vogue. I create my own style and go along with it.
Okay away from that. You are undoubtedly one of the popular faces in Nollywood, but I must say that over the past few months, I've not seen you in any production. What's been happening to you?
You are quite right. I have been putting an office together and it has not been easy. I had to deviate and focus my energy towards building my own business. Right now, I am doing a project with my partner, its called The Patriots. That alone has taken all my attention and time because I want to make a statement and contribute my quota in the industry. We want to do something different from the normal style of making film productions and soap opera. That is what exactly informed our trying to get it right. I know we can't be perfect but we try to make sure we move towards perfection. So, that is what has taken me off-stage for now. Acting is my life because I can't do any other thing and do it perfectly without acting. When I am through with this project I can go back. But right now, we are planning to go back on set for The Patriots because we have already shot 13 episodes.
What is The Patriots all about?
It is a soap opera purely on NAFDAC. It's about trying to educate the populace on the negative effects of dealing with and consuming fake drugs. Trying to let them know that whenever they need to buy any drug they also need to ask for the NAFDAC registration number, batch number and expiry date before purchasing because in most cases, it's not the sickness that kills but the ignorance. I just can't fathom it. After working so hard to make money, you now use that money to buy what will kill you. So, we want to take it from where NAFDAC started from, put it on a TV series for people to see and know. Its just my way of giving back to Nigerians what they have given me because without them, I wouldn't have gotten to this height I have found myself. I can't meet everybody one after the other, that's why I am into this. See, even you, Osas, I know that atimes you don't check for all this important informations when buying your drugs. That's why we want to use this project to imprint the message in the minds of the people.
Do you believe that ignorance can be totally eradicated with this soap, even though NAFDAC hasn't been able to even after countless sensitizations?
Look at it this way, we cannot eradicate it totally but the consciousness will be there and people who fall short, who buy without checking will now change.
How involved is NAFDAC in this project?
They are very involved in it because we got their consent. The people at NAFDAC love the project but we were scared that we could misrepresent them, like the Nollywood thing, but they have been very helpful. This is business and we also have the passion to save lives because if you see someone who has died as a result of fake drugs, you'll understand what I am saying. With the research we conducted, we saw that people are dying everyday.
Do you have any close experience?
Yes. This happened in Ikoyi. This woman was pregnant and asthmatic; she got into labour and unfortunately had an attack. The inhaler could not help her because it had passed that stage. The doctor recommended Aminophylin injection to calm her down. It was injected into her. But just two hours later, she died. When they did more investigations concerning that injection, they found out that what was injected into her was merely water. It was so convincing that one couldn't tell from the fake and real injection. Again, a Nigerian doctor abroad was forced back home by his people. He then had malaria or so and went to buy one drug. After five hours, his body started peeling and later he died after just two weeks that he arrived the country. Just like that. A lot of different stories abound. These happen in the cities, what then are we to expect in the villages? They are just dieing like rats. They call a chemist attendant who mix concoctions for them “Doctor.” So, this is what we want to put in the consciousness of the people. Even here (Surulere), if I want to buy a drug and ask the pharmacist if it has a NAFDAC number, he will say 'please, please, please.' If they receive 30 customers a day and 25 ask if the item has a NAFDAC number, they will have a rethink and buy from genuine outlets themselves. So, we can't eradicate it totally but we can reduce it to the barest minimum.
Who are the major characters in this soap?
We have Nollywood greats like Joke Silva, Kanayo. O. Kanayo, Ejike Asiegbu, Keppy Ekpeyong late Joe Adeguah – may his soul rest in perfect peace, and myself. The project started about a year and a half ago.
Is NAFDAC sponsoring you, I mean are they involved financially?
No, but they are giving us anything we need to make us succeed. Including their complex. We had to interview the Director-General and other people and a few things that are public knowledge.
Now. let us talk about you. How did acting start for you?
Acting started in late 1992 and early '93. I can't remember the first movie I appeared in but I can remember Memorial Hospital, an NTA soap opera directed by Last Eguavoen, a wonderful director. I appeared in it and I can remember that I was one of the worst actors on earth.
How do you mean?
I was, believe me. In a situation when they will ask me to romance a girl, I'll touch the girl and forget my lines. I was the Personal Assistant to the medical director and I had more than 30 takes on that scene alone. Lancelot Imasuen was a production assistant on that set and he advised me to enjoy my character, instead of fidgeting and all that. That was when I knew acting is not an easy job.
What where you doing before delving into acting?
I was trying to survive and trying to get into school. I had come from Port Harcourt after finishing school.
In almost all the movies I have seen you, you are either playing a lover boy or a tough gangster kind of role. Why is this so, especially as some people are beginning to see you as a stereotype?
The truth is that the script writer or the director after they read the script have a mental picture of who might fit into what role. And when they see you: a good looking guy, tall, they say 'okay people like him are casanovas.' Or if they see that he is muscular and a bit on the tough side, they take you for the role and when you do it and it is okay, it becomes the norm.
But do you by any chance have a favourite person you like being paired with?
No, I enjoy working with anybody, I can work with even the Devil.
What if the person is slowing you down and in the process hurting your acting style?
I will leave you and move. I don't think he or she would dent my acting style because I know what is expected of me. Essentially, Nigerian actors are talented and these days everyone has improved. If the person is a green horn, you only have to calm him/her because they might just be scared.
How expensive are you?
Well, it depends on my mood. Or what I want to collect at that particular time. I can go for the highest or the lowest.
I don't understand: are you saying that if you are in a foul mood now and I come as a producer to offer you a job, its your mood that would determine the amount you will tell me?
Yes. Also, the script will determine and secondly, I am always very reasonable.
What's the least you've received so far?
I always shy away from going into my financial earnings because as you are here now I don't know what you receive and we both know the kind of country we live in. I do not want to get chased. I am comfortable, I get by and it pays the bills.
How old are you now?
Well, I am above 30.
You are one of those who are still not married?
I am almost married.
You are very good looking but a lot of people would want to know how you got that scar on your fore-head which in a way has become like a trademark for you?
Oh!, the scar. It happened when I was a baby. I was less than a year old. It has been with me, I grew up with it and it has because somewhat like my identity. The last time I traveled abroad, I almost went for surgery, but somehow, I thought about it and changed my mind because I see it as my identity.
What really happened?
It was caused by a domestic accident.
Tell me about your likes and dislikes?
I am blunt, honest and outspoken. I don't take nonsense from people because I don't give it and don't step on people's toes, so please don't step on mine because I won't take it. I know nobody is above mistakes but when one does something intentional or not, you'll know. Though sometimes, anything goes for me because I am a very peaceful person. I am just a wahalaless person.