Pirates die young, says John Okafor
By TERESA ANYABUIKE
Popular actor, John Okafor, a.k.a. Mr. Ibu has expressed a desire to make people happy always and says that "any name that offers happiness, gives you a lot of meanings, determines your mood and this applies to me."The popular comedian says that he would bear any nickname as long as it will make his fans happy.
Okafor, a father of three, and a native of Nkanu, Enugu State attributes his acting prowess to acting talents that runs through the family. The multiple award-winning artiste who also has a film in his name confesses that he is fulfilled as long as he is able to put smiles on peoples' faces.
In his comments on Nollywood, Okafor says that the industry holds great promises but raises fear on the activities of pirates who feast on other people's works. In this chat with Daily Sun Ibu spoke about his person, talent, Nollywood, piracy, and suggests better ways to market films.
Between John Okafor and Mr. Ibu
The name Ibu belongs to my grandfather. He was a great comedian. I think that I inherited comedy from him. I lived with him as a child and he was so funny that people most times hardly take him serious. But those that knew him knew him to be a serious person.
For me, I am the same person anywhere I go. Mr. Ibu is not just any name but it is my name, which I inherited from my grandfather. Just like my grand father, I was born a comedian and when it comes to entertainment, I am always a happy person. Mr. Ibu and John Okafor is the same person, the only distinction is that he can be serious when the occasion calls for it.
When I am given a role, I make sure that the character is well interpreted so that I can make it appear natural. Why I do things this way is because most of the time, the character given to me is so familiar to the extent that I have to make it real. If I am not good in the role, the whole work will be messed up. For the simple fact that my grandfather was a great comedian although he never appeared on screen, I learnt most of my acting tricks from him. Above all, God has been my backbone in all that I do. I owe Him gratitude for all that I have achieved.
Nomination as best comedian
It's okay. This is about the fourth or fifth time I would be nominated as best comedian. In 2002, I received a letter of nomination from London for the award of Best Comedian. We were about 15 in number from Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Egypt among others. The award was organized by an organization in London known as FNEI. Before I travelled to London, I was interviewed on phone and I scaled through.
When I finally accepted the offer to fly to London, the radio station over there wanted to be sure that I would be travelling down to London. Before then in 1999, I won PamPam Award for Best Comedian. But the London award was for Africa. I never believed that I would win the award and when my name was mentioned after 15 minutes of suspense, my heart was in my mouth when I heard my name. I couldn't believe it but it was real that I won the best comedian award for Africa. Now, I have just been nominated for another award by the Virgin Organization.
Yes! Nollywood has come up well. It has surprised other movie industries by coming third best after Hollywood in USA and Bollywood in India. It was. If Nollywood is given as much support and equipment as in Hollywood, then it would be better for producers and artistes.
Stephen Spilberg, a film director in the USA uses about seven cameras to shoot a film and he doesn't repeat shots. Give a director about five cameras and he will perform wonders. Nollywood has many talents like Ifeanyi Onyeabor, a stunt director and Ade Williams who is the best glamour director and a host of others. Given the right equipment, producers will have good shots and new ideas will be brought in.
The journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. Since we've been motivated, we shall reach the greatest height by God's grace. In the nearest future, Nollywood will grow beyond people's expectations.. As far as artistes are concerned, we improve everyday, so the sky is not only going to be our limit but our stepping stone. The only thing is for us to work hard and achieve our goals and aspirations.
The works are well distributed . Now we have just three distribution outlets; Lagos, Onitsha and Aba. We should try as much as possible to bring in more marketers to man the outlets. And my idea is this, for the benefit of doubts, let me assume that Nigeria's population is 150 million. It then means that 75 million are out of the country and the remaining 75 million are in the country. Out of these 75 million, let's say five million are disabled leaving the remaining 70 million people.. If out of the remaining 70 million, 30 million see films legally, the remaining 40 million may be excused from seeing from their hospital beds and in the vehicles while travelling. What happens to others who make it their hobby to rent films from the video clubs? That's why I said that our distribution outlets should be increased so that others who can not reach us will not go and duplicate the films which others have laboured for.
Message to fans
I love my fans and I want them to stop buying pirated works. Whoever steals another man's creative work is only reducing his life span. You don't have to sit down all day only to feed on someone else's sweat. Such a person would have reduced his life span by 10 years. When you struggle and make legitimate earnings you will make a good name for yourself and your family.