By Chioma Gabriel, Vanguard
She is one actress who has traversed Nigeria’s movie industry and is still standing tall to be counted. She has acted in movies shot in Yoruba, Igbo and English languages. In Yoruba movies, she has accolades to tell her story. In Living in Bondage shot in Igbo language, she gave Nollywood its first real wet kiss on the set .
In this encounter, Ngozi Nwosu, the Arochukwu-born screen actress talks about her career, her failed marriage and her new found faith.
You’ve been in Nollywood for quite sometime. But now you seem to be digressing. What’s going on?
I have not left Nollywood. But I had to chill out for sometime because I have other things that I’m doing. But at the same time, I’m still with them because I still have time to do some movies.
Have you done up to 50 movies?
I can’t count the number of movies I have done. The last time I needed to include some of them in my CV, they were more than that. The person I gave my CV to was like, ‘wao!’ What’s going on! So, I can’t count my movies. They are more than 50.
So, what are you into now?
You know that the movie industry at the moment is going through some stress. We are trying to rectify that but that doesn’t mean that people are not shooting movies. But if you take a look at the way movies are being churned out, it’s being regularised. It’s not like before. It’s not even selling like before anymore. Before a marketer churns out a movie, he has to consider all these.
Which movie gave you your highest pay?
I cannot say exactly which movie because, really, I didn’t go into the movies because of the money I hope to earn.
Acting is a passion. It’s not money that drives me. It’s the inspiration that I get from a script. If I’m motivated by a script, I accept it. But like I said, things have changed and I accept increments here and there.
What’s your most challenging role?
To me, every role is challenging but it depends on how you play it. If you ask my most interesting role, I will tell you. We kicked off Nollywood with Living in Bondage. Before I acted that movie, there was nothing like kissing and all that.
What used to obtain in those days were the Yoruba movies and kissing was not existing then in the movies. But Living in Bondage signified the birth of Nollywood and I acted a kissing role. When we were on that set, I had a kissing scene with the lead character played by Kenneth Okonkwo.
Everybody, the entire crew, was wondering if I was really going to kiss him or not but it was a script and before they knew it, I kissed him and everybody started cheering and clapping.
If kissing him was such a big deal then, what about now that romancing and heavy petting are common in the movies?
That was then. Go and check movies then, even TV. People found it difficult to kiss then. When I did it, they were surprised.
So, does that make you the first woman to kiss on a set?
Movies? Yes. Before then, if they wanted to express endearments in a movie, they would just come together and hug or touch themselves, and it was okay then. When I kissed Andy (Kenneth Okonkwo), they could not believe it because then, we had not gotten the boldness we have now. So, kissing someone on set at the initial stage demanded a lot of boldness.
From that point to the present time, how would you say the movie industry has fared?
I will say the movie industry has improved tremendously but at the same time, it has crumbled because so many things are going wrong. The scripts are no longer strong. It’s copy here, copy there. Before you see two scenes in a movie, you have already known where the story will end.
People are no longer creative and sometimes, people play too many roles at the same time and they shift a character from one movie into another. At times, you see two different movies with the same faces playing similar characters and you cannot differentiate one movie from the other. You see an actor, because of the load of work he has, he will carry his character from one movie into another.
And then, you see Indian movies translated into Nigeria . Movies shot by the British or Americans are Nigerianised. We are lacking in originality. It also happens in Yoruba movies.
But I believe it will be rectified when writers start going on retreat to research for stories and organising script writers’ workshops or retreats. We need to write original scripts, strong water-tight scripts, scripts that will challenge an actor/actress to bring out his/her best. As a writer, it’s necessary to go on retreat, not to copy Indian or American story and change a few things. I believe God will help us.
How did you get into acting?
I started acting from school because I was in the dramatic society and before I got into Living in Bondage which metaphorsed into what we have today as home-video, I was in the Yoruba movies, the 36mm celluloid.
I had even made a name in Yoruba movies before Living in Bondage. I was on TV. I was popularly known as Madam V-Boot in Ripples. But before then, I was doing movies. That is celluloid, which you watch in cinemas.
It’s not like home video you buy to watch at home. So, I’m not today’s chick-o!
You acted inYoruba movies but you are Igbo. Do you have any link biologically with the Yoruba?
No, I was brought up in Lagos. If you look around, you will see my awards in Yoruba movies: Best Actress in Yoruba, Best Upcoming Actress in Yoruba. I also have awards in English movies. I grew up here.
But there are people who are even born in Lagos who don’t understand Yoruba…
It’s because they don’t have the flair to learn the language. Growing up in a place is different from having the flair to learn the language of the people. Some have been here all their lives but they don’t speak Yoruba because they don’t want to learn.
Maybe, your family made Lagos home and maybe stopped visiting Igboland.
To me, anywhere I find comfort and happiness is home. But I’m from Arochukwu in Abia State. My mum is from Umunoha.
She’s not Yoruba?
No, I’m a typical Igbo lady but I imbibed the culture and language of the Yorubas because I find peace here. I speak Igbo very well and acted in Igbo films too. Anywhere you find peace is your home. Anywhere you find love is your home.
It’s an advantage and I can tell you, I’m good in Yoruba. I’m good in English and I’m good in Igbo.
How did your parents react when you started acting?
My parents were never against it. Anyway, it was my mum and her children. May her soul rest in peace. She was a comedian too. People who knew her know where I got my character. When she was alive, she could make you laugh and laugh.
So, you’re like your mother?
Was she also very fair like you?
She was chocolate. Not very dark but not fair. My father was fair. My mother had four kids. Two have her complexion. Two are fair like my dad.
So, where’s your father?
He’s also late.
Were you daddy’s girl or mummy’s girl?
Unfortunately, I couldn’t be daddy’s girl because I didn’t grow to know him very well. He died during the civil war. We became drawn to our mother after our father died.
Did your father die in the battle field?
Yes. He was fighting on the Biafran side but he didn’t return after the war. All his brothers returned.
So, you were not even sure he is dead? What if he is alive somewhere?
He was killed in the battle field. Somebody who knew us saw him die. He later took us to the very spot where he was killed. He was shot and killed in the battle field fighting for Biafra.
What about your brothers? Is any of them in the entertainment industry?
My mother had only girls. Four girls.
In Igboland, it’s an issue to have only girls. You hear about the male child syndrome. Is it affecting you and your sisters?
You know, when our mother died and we went for her burial, people didn’t believe she had no male child. We took care of everything. We are not interested in property or getting our own share of things. We were all girls and would get married. So, we left everything. They even invited us to come but we were not interested.
If our father had a male child, we would have gone for his inheritance but he didn’t. They asked us to come and take our father’s land but we didn’t go.
Perhaps, you ran away from being killed over property belonging to your father…
Not really. Why fight for land in the village when we are aspiring to build our own houses in the city? So, what are you struggling for land for when as a woman, you should be in your husband’s house and then you can buy land anywhere and build on.
And moreover, gone were the days when if a man had only girls, one is asked to stay behind and bear children that will answer the father’s name.
But they still do it in some parts of Igboland…
Yes. But not us.
Maybe, one of your sisters should stay?
Impossible. They have moved ahead with their lives. Two of us are married, remaining two. My younger sister and I.
You got married sometime…
Yes I did. It didn’t work out and so I quit.
I would rather not talk about it.
You married a Yoruba. Maybe you should try Igbo this time…
I found love and peace here and so, I remain here. We need to cross-marry as Nigerians and it goes a long way to keep this country united. And if you say marry Igbo, who told you that because you are Igbo, the Igbo man will be better? Let me tell you, they could be worse.
Even if you marry your town’s man, a bad husband is a bad husband anywhere. It doesn’t matter. The most important thing is to marry your own husband from God. You see, life is how God wants it to be. Whatever happens to one in relationship, one should take it in peace because God has a different plan and purpose for you.
So, what happened? Were you desperate and then made a mistake?
No, I was not desperate, even though I didn’t marry early as I would have loved. But they say it is better late than never. So, I wasn’t desperate even though I was not expecting to get married at the time I did. The only thing is that I just thank God because that marriage was an eye opener for me.
I was like a child who felt this was the way it was being done. But I was wrong. If I knew then what I know now, maybe, I would have been able to forgive and patch it up because then, I believed that if it was not for me, it was not for me.
You speak in parables. What happened?
I didn’t handle things maturely because I didn’t know a lot of things. I didn’t seek advice because you don’t know who will give you a good one or a wrong one. I acted on impulse but all the same I didn’t regret it. The only thing I regret is not knowing what I know now.
If I had known that that’s what men do, that a lot women cover up their own, I would have forgiven and stayed.
I could infer from what you are saying that perhaps your husband had other women and it didn’t go down well with you…
I am the type who believe that my husband should be my husband. I was in love and it was so blind.
And perhaps deaf and dumb as well?
Thank you. You got it. But I was wrong. Even when people were telling me, Ngozi, see what was going on under your nose, I didn’t believe. I was the last to know the truth that was happening right under my nose. I believed so much in my husband and this Mr and Mrs thing until I saw! That’s when I went hay wire.
A cheating husband is not much of an issue these days…
Did I know that? I thought my husband must remain mine. If I had known what I know now, I would have known what to do. But then, my head was hot. I was boasting about him and then this happened and I was so shattered. I didn’t believe it could happen to me.
You were already a celebrity at the time you got married. Perhaps, he had complex? He didn’t know how to handle it.
Limelight and marriage are two different things. I don’t want to talk about it. It really shocked me. Let’s not talk about it.
But he spoke about it.
Yes, he alleged all kinds of things in the newspapers but I’m not saying a word. I left it to God. and God has judged. You know, sometimes, human beings do things and they don’t reckon with God. That is a mistake. So,
I said, let God be the judge and He judged. He has already judged and vindicated me.
It’s my personal life.
One of your biggest roles was playing Peace in Fuji House of Commotion. You were Chief Fuji’s third wife. What was really the role of Peace?
I’m no longer in that comedy. But Peace is a woman who knows her onions. She loves her husband very much but she knows the kind of man he is and tries to tolerate his excesses but the ones she could not stomach, she would refuse vehemently. She knows how to get around things unlike the other wives who bow down before their husband.
The man’s wish is their command . For Peace also, the man’s wish is equally her command but when she sees that there is another thing, she stands her ground and says no, your wish cannot be my command now.
My own wish will be your command and that is why whenever there is a problem in the house, it is Peace that they run to because they know that Chief will listen to Peace, they know that Chief loves Peace very much and they know that when Peace says no, this will not work, other wives will join, the children will join and it will not work.
It’s just that people don’t understand her but she is just an Igbo woman who understands her husband and knows how to tame his excesses and that explains why other wives lean on her for support.
Fuji House of Commotion is a polygamous setting and Peace is an Igbo woman married to a Yoruba . You, Ngozi Nwosu in real life is an
Igbo woman married to a Yoruba. Why didn’t you tap from your screen experience?
My dear, I didn’t go into marriage with polygamy in my head. I went into the marriage out of love and in love I stayed. But when I saw the fire coming towards me, I had to move. It’s very difficult to live in a polygamous setting.
Even before I married my husband, I had a lot of offers from other men but because some of these men were already married, I said to myself that I would never marry a married man. I wanted my own man.
But if I had known I was going to see fire, I wouldn’t have bothered my life. This is the seventh year. We have not obtained divorce officially. What we have is a court separation for three years to see if we could still come back together.
And none of you has made any attempt?
My husband has made an attempt for me to come back but to me, it can’t work. After what I passed through, I don’t think it can ever work. I really passed through a lot.
I have even said I will never remarry but after people talked to me, I’m asking God for grace to settle down again and maybe, now that I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and personal Saviour, I will see things differently.
You must have passed through the valley of shadow of death…
It’s unbelievable but I will not say more than that. My husband wants us to get back together but I don’t think it will work.
But you can’t marry another person without a proper divorce…
Of course, I can marry again because he too has remarried and so, if I remarry, that makes the two of us. The only thing is, I don’t want to rush into anything. Now, I just believe in God to do His will concerning me.
You said you left Fuji House of Commotion. Why?
I left a long time, about two years. I’m already into other things: Films, TV series, other things.
Usually, asking for more money causes such problems?
And what is wrong with that? Things have changed, even the cost of living and we all know it. So, I have left the TV comedy series. I have shot some home-videos. I’m a radio producer and I’m in many TV series. I shot home videos recently. Some are out, some are not
In one interview, you were quoted to have said roles are no more coming as much as they used to.
I never said that. What I said was that they should not because they have discovered new faces, forget the old ones. But the truth is that I have been working.
Have you produced any video?
I used to say one thing-acting is my thing and I’m good. That you are a good actor does not mean you must produce or direct. You can specialise in any of these fields.
So, should we say you are still searching for love?
I am not searching but I know I will find love again. Just take a good look at me. I will find love again. Everything is in God’s hand. I won’t bother myself again and I’m not rushing into anything.
In the movie world, politics has crept in. Between KOK and Segun Arinze, who is right?
I don’t want to talk about that because there is politics everywhere, even in the church.