I BLAME JUJU FOR MY CRASHED MARRIAGE –RACHEL ONIGA
Rachel Oniga, known for playing matronly roles in movies, talks about her life as a single mother and how her separation from her husband turned out to be a blessing in disguise. She speaks with ADEOLA BALOGUN. You surprised everyone during the Nollywood Nite at the Coliseum when you jumped onto the stage and danced heartily to Olu Maintain's Yahooze...
Dancing is one of my passions. As a child, I loved dancing; and all my kids love dancing. They even teach me the latest dance steps, we all love dancing in our house. You shouldn't be surprised I dance to any latest music.
Anything: R&B, hip-hop, in fact, any stuff. I am into it, any music.
Some people thought Rachel Oniga was a very shy person…
I am not a shy person; I am just like a mother. I am just like any other woman. I have my reservations and, sometimes, I can be moody. Some other times, I will just be by myself. It depends on the situation.
When did your acting career start?
It started in 1993 when I got separated from my late husband. He died last year but we got separated over 14 years ago.
Probably, he prevented you from acting while you were together…
No. You know, while in school, I knew I had flair for showbiz and stuff like that. But I got married, I started having children, I went into computer programming and other things. But it was after we got separated that I had the opportunity to really go into what I think I was destined to become.
But some of your married colleagues act...
Well, maybe it is destiny. Maybe, the time I started in 1993 was God's appropriate time to do it, and maybe without the separation, I wouldn't have got into acting. God has a way of doing things.
Are you saying you never attempted to act while you were married?
No, I was occupied with other things.
What led to your separation?
Well, the Nigerian factor; the African factor.
Or, are you one of those ladies who, because of their popularity, believe no man should control them?
I do not belong to that school of thought. If a person is the loose type and and she cannot keep her home, her profession should not be blamed. It is your personality, not your job, that should be blamed.
Acting is an honourable profession, it is just that people see us more than others. But how many broken marriages do we have among those who are actors and actresses? It is just because our profession exposes us to the public.The press writes about anything that we do. That is why people tend to see us as people who cannot maintain their homes. I don't believe in that.
So you would have loved to keep your own?
But you left…
I have told you it's the “Nigerian factor,” and I want to leave it at that.
Since then, you have not considered remarrying?
Yes. My children are there for me and I have my profession to keep me going. My children are my husbands; in the Yoruba context, they are and I thank God for it.
How has acting been?
It's been beautiful. It's been fun, although you have your ups and downs; you have happy and unpleasant moments. Nothing good comes easy; there is no profession where everything is rosy throughout. But generally speaking, I think I'm happy doing what I am doing and I have every cause to thank God.
You cry so easily in movies, how do you do it?
It is part of my job. I have to psyche myself in situations like that. The scripts help most of the time.
You often play matronly roles; do you seek these roles?
I am a homely person; I love children, I love the home. I believe that African traditions support that.
How was your growing up like?
I was a tomboy, but as I grew older, I shed some of these tomboyish things. I was a terrible tomboy as a young girl. I would fight, I would climb trees, I never saw myself as a girl then. I had so much fun as a kid.If you had fun as a child, you've seen it all. So there is nothing more, so, you just settle down to a happy home and keep your home.
You had the dream of keeping your home, but…
But I still give glory to God because now I sit back and say if it never happened then, I wouldn't be in this profession. I am happy because I have been able to make a lot of people happy. Although along the line, you still see some people who are not happy about your progress, it s not out of place, it's natural. You just overlook it and count your blessings and give glory to God.
How do you respond to scandals?
I have never had any terrible scandals that should bother me except one, which was not really a scandal. Some years back, it was written that my husband left me for a woman who had seven children. That's the only thing that has been written that I consider negative.
Was it not true that he left you for a woman with seven kids?
No. Although he really married another lady, the way some papers reported it was something else. It was a front-page story; I just said they wanted to sell their papers.
But why would a man leave a beautiful lady like you?
That is the “African factor” I told you about.
You never regretted it anyway?
How did you feel when the man died last year?
Well, for fourteen years, we were separated. So it was like, what a waste of life.
Can you recall how you met and what really led to your marriage?
It's all about party and dancing, that is how it all started.
How would you describe him?
Before the whole trouble started, he was most loving; a perfect husband that any woman would wish to have. We never quarrelled, but all of a sudden, within a month, I was out of the house with my three kids. He didn't even want to see them at all.
Did you suspect African remote control, juju?
That was it.
Who did you suspect could be behind it, a rival?
There was a woman in my husband's house. You know, some women they will see a man, he has money, he has a fine home, his wife is beautiful and comfortable and they think they have to put their head there. Not even going there, they want the person there to move out for them. But today I give glory to God, I don't feel bitter about it.
Apart from acting, what else do you do?
Being a mother.
So how are your children now?
Oh, they are wonderful
No, they are still in school. My first-born is in the university and the other two are getting ready to enter
You are responsible for their upkeep...
Of course, I am the father and the mother of my children. For fourteen years before their father died, I was the only one responsible for them.
In Yoruba tradition, a woman is expected to mourn her husband even if she got separated from the man before he died. Did you do this?
I did the bit I could do because I was legally married to him before he died and the family respected that. I was the only woman who actually mourned him; I was the one that performed the rites and all that.
What of the one at home?
Which one? My brother, let's forget about that, let's give glory to God. In everything we do, let's be clean. I knew it was not his fault, so I forgave him. And for the sake of my children, especially my son, I had to go out of my way to do all that so that in future, nobody will embarrass my children. In my own way, I know I gave him a befitting burial not for anything but for my children.
Why didn't you reconcile with him?
I didn't have to do that, I was busy and more so, I give glory to God that I was okay; so, why? Anyway, I have forgiven everything.
Some Yoruba artistes complain that they seldom get roles in Nollywood, is this true?
We need to be honest with ourselves. A particular tribe dominates the modern Nigerian-English movie industry, so it's difficult for other tribes to easily break in unlike what it used to be when we started. But those who bankroll the show dictate what happens there. That is why others have to put down their money too. And I must be frank with you; the west and the southern part of Nigeria generally have the best hands in the movie industry. This tribe that we are talking about, took the risk by investing their money in a virgin industry, they can call anyone who suits them.
You are known for your good diction, how did you develop this?
I told you that I was into computer programming before I got married. When I got married, I stopped work; I was very comfortable. You see, I was initially bitter when we separated but with time, I stopped. See how God took me to where I never expected, it's not just about money or the splendor of life. You see, God lifted me high, benefiting people. People see me as a role model, so what more do I want from God?
How do you manage stardom?
You have your fine moments when people appreciate you. You also have moments when you are embarrassed.