I’ m Not A Man Of Scandals - -Chidi Mokeme,
He's a born artiste. But his parents wanted him to go for the sciences and he obeyed them. After his secondary education at the Federal Government College, Minna, he settled for computer science.
Pharmacy was actually his first choice, but no thanks to the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) which played its usual frustrating and discouraging role, he attended the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu.
That was merely to satisfy his parents' wish. Chidi Mokeme was art-inclined but couldn't oppose them as they knew better and called the shots then.
Today, it is a different story. Art has eventually characterized in practical terms his life and runs through it, he has visibly gone more places; earned more fame and fortune, as well as garnered more respect which he mightn't have done if he had embraced what he studied in the higher institution.
Chidiebere Geoffrey Azubuike Mokeme, born close to 33years ago in Ogidi, Anambra State, hails from Oba, Idemili LGA of the state. He is one man that many people now see as a role model, an actor, model, fashion designer and businessman.
The tall, handsome, baritone-voiced and amiable young man added another feather to his cap when he successfully presented Nigeria's First Reality TV show, the Gulder Ultimate Search, courtesy Nigerian Breweries Plc.
He opened up on a wide range of issues recently in what could easily be described as a forced interview having 'dodged' it on account of tight schedules over the past months.
How has life been after the 'ultimate' experience, which visibly launched him into greater heights?“It's been good. To some extent, you can say that it took me to more places and increased my fan base, being a programme that ran daily on national television, as well as a on cable station. So my fan base went wider than it used to be.”
You returned to movie locations immediately after?
“Yes, I'm back to the locations. I still design but for selected people since I rarely have time. I've been busy making so many movies. What saves the situation is that I make their clothes in bulk so it sustains them for a while before they request for new ones.” One man into three big-time deals. Which one of them sustains him more?
“The movies basically pay the bills. And how did he escape the recent ban on some of his colleagues? What's his opinion about the ban?
“Like I have always maintained, the whole ban episode must have come as a result of dissatisfaction by the marketers as regards the way certain artistes have carried themselves in delivering their duties. I pride myself as a professional. When I take a job, I try to put everything into it and I like to concentrate. Acting is a very mental kind of job and if you don't focus completely, you won't bring out the desired effect. As a result, the producer on the long run who has made the movie for commercial purposes loses his money. I don't believe in the idea of having to gather scripts up and down, here and there, and then holding people to ransom. I'm speaking not only as an actor but from a businessman's point of view. When I invest, I ensure that I make returns. So if you have people who owing to certain attitude problems, want to tie down the capital you've put into an investment, you're bound to react in some way.”
Away from the ban, how does he manage the largesse that has been tumbling down his way from different deals? “In all honesty, I must say that I shouldn't complain. God has been really fair to me because a lot of people, way back, who started this race with me, are nowhere to be found. So, I must say that I've done quite well for myself. I'm looking into the future and I'm very determined to ensure that I make a success out of my life. I'm not waiting on luck. Every move that I make is geared towards more successes.”
Would he remain an actor, a designer or artist in future? “Acting is something I do with a passion and there's nothing like working and getting paid for what you love doing. So, I'm going to keep acting for as long as possible because it encompasses every sphere of life.
How about joining the political train come 2007?
“Come 2007, I'm looking forward to a lot of projects. I would not want to divulge them for now. The movie industry is expanding rapidly that you don't just have to be an actor to belong. So, I have plans to see what other areas one can venture into and take care of in a very professional manner.
Back to the Snake Island, camp of the Ultimate Search, how was life there?
“Have you lived in a jungle? That's what happened when we spent about four weeks there. We all went through the same experiences but it was fun doing it. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
And his relationship with the contestants?
“I think I had an open door policy which, at the same time was firm. They knew when and how to relate with me and where their boundaries were.”
So, there was nothing like favouritism in picking the eventual winner as some people insinuated?
“I'm hearing that for the first time because it was a live programme on air for everyone to see. Much as people agree with the choice of the eventual winner, I'm not sure that most of the audience were looking towards him to win. If that be the case, then it answers the question. If they say I was biased towards one contestant, I wonder why that person didn't win.”
How about his largesse from the deal, how much really did he pocket?
“I think you should ask NBL (laughs). Ask them, I think I set them back with a lot of money. Anyway, both parties were reasonable and paid commensurately for the services rendered. More than the monetary remuneration, it was more of a relationship-building process. I'm looking forward to doing it again next year because we're trying to make sure that it gets better and bigger.”
Why is Chidi not married with all the money he is making?
“I'm making sure that I prepare a good foundation for the woman who's coming in.”
The same woman he's been talking about? We still don't know her. “Yes, the same woman. You still don't know her because that is the way she wants it. She doesn't want to be known.”
When is it going to happen? “Very soon, by God's grace.”
Before the end of the year? “The year is already ended. Don't put me in a corner. But I tell you, you'll soon hear about it. Sooner than it has ever been.”
Is Chidi a very rich man, how does one describe him with the way affluence smells around him? “I think I'd like to be described as someone who has got his eyes at some place and on the right path towards getting there.”
His parents, who are very much around — dad, a retired insurance executive and mum, a retired teacher, are quite happy and now convinced that he towed a path that suited him.
“Showbiz is addictive. At the onset, they couldn't understand what kind of job I was doing. So we had problems initially but because I loved what I was doing, I stuck to it. Today, everybody is happier for it.”
He is the first in a family of four. “By God's grace, I'm taking care of my responsibilities.”
Don't they intrude into your marital status? “I'm sure they're probably worried. I mean, with the kind of industry I'm in where anything can happen. But I know that they also have faith in me — that I know exactly what I'm doing.”
How long has he been dating his fiancée?
“This is the fourth year. If you have to date anybody in the showbiz industry, you have to be patient. The fact that she is dating me shows that she has a lot of patience. She is an Igbo like me, from Ohafia, Abia State.”
He's had a baby before, from her?
“Yes, I've had a baby before but not from her,. Sometimes man proposes, God disposes. When I had the baby, the mum and I were relatively young. He stays with the mum and visits me during the holidays. He is six years old now.”