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Why I am not angry with Okotie for saying Catholics will go to hell – Pete Edochie

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Scheduling an interview with Pete Edochie can sometimes be
quite cumbersome. One reason was because he is not based in Lagos. Another is
that you cannot be sure of when he is in town. But when you eventually get him,
he is any reporter’s delight. He is always up to date with his fact and never minces
words when discussing serious issues.
In this no-hold-barred interview with JOAN OMIONAWELE , the veteran broadcaster cum actor threw
highlights on some disturbing trends in Nollywood, his long absence from home
videos, his perceived enmity with fellow legend, Olu Jacob and several others.
Sir, you were rumoured
to have died last year. How did that make you feel?
It did not make me feel anything.
People have said you
withdrew from movies because you were kidnapped years back…

I did not. I decided to pursue an undying vision, an
assignment I was given by the church, and I gave priority treatment to that. I
still act but that’s when I have the time. I am in Lagos today, and by the time
a role comes, I will be in Aba. I did six movie productions last year.
Let me take you back
to the year you were kidnapped. Do you still think about it?
No, though once in a while you recall an experience that is
haunting; but what can we do when we are in a country with little or no
security?
So you did not have
nightmares after the experience?
No, I did not. I am a very strong-minded man and if
something explodes here, nothing will happen if it doesn’t touch me. Though I
am hypertensive, I don’t scare easily.
Recently, Pastor
Chris Okotie said all Catholics would go to hell because they don’t believe in
Jesus, and that the Pope is an anti-Christ. As a Catholic, what do you have to
say about that?
He is entitled to his opinion. He has a right to say
whatever he likes and he is using that right. Constitutionally, he is entitled
to it. Stupidity is what we all have in common as human beings, but some people
insist that improving it is their entitlement. So, you expect Pete Edochie and
other Catholics to be angry? No, I won’t. I knew Chris some years back; he was
fond of me when he was still in school. When I was still a broadcaster, a Hausa
man presented him with a car and he came and showed it to me. He is someone I
have always liked and he is entitled to his views. When people condemn T. B.
Joshua and say he is using devilish powers, I tell them, ‘Go and use devilish
powers and do what he is doing too.’ I don’t believe in running people down
because you can’t reach their gifts and depriving others of their hard-earned
credit.
What do you think
about the political situation of the country?
Look at people crossing from one party to the other. It just
shows that our democracy has no meaning. The people you owe your obligation to
are those who elected you, who make up your constituency. Before you make any
decision or defect, consult them. It is rather unfortunate. By the time they
want to pick a presidential candidate,that is where the problem will come from.
Let’s watch. You were elected on a particular political platform, and you
switch over, hoping to maintain… Can I ever be a politician? God forbid! Will
any of my children become politicians? Let God forbid it now that I am still
alive.
What if one of them
comes up and says he wants to become a politician?
Except he is not my child.
It seems you don’t
like politician much. Am I right?
You see, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was my ideal politician. If
he said I would do this project with a million, he would tell you where the
million would come from. He was an incredible person. Awolowo introduced and
innovated a lot of programmes in this country. He introduced free education
first. If you were not born then, you would not know, Today, we don’t have
politicians with conviction. We only have people who hobnob with the public
truncheon of the society to milk us dry. Awolowo would go to universities to
campaign and get people to do meaningful researches for him and provide him
with necessary materials. But we are not doing anything again. They found oil
money and got drunk with it. Haven’t we had enough?
The proverbs you use
in your movies, are they scripted or from your repertoire?
(Laughs) They come from me.
Pete Edochie always
acts the role of a rich man or an Igwe? How rich are you in reality?
Well, I eat three times a day, when I feel like. I trained
all my kids and take care of them without borrowing from the bank. People
always ask why I am always given such roles and I ask them in return, can you
cast me as a driver? No. Can you cast me as a gateman? No.
But I heard there are
instances you rejected such roles?
It is not that. Let me assume that you are given the role of
a very big woman, then Pete Edochie is made your driver; I come and open the
car for you and I can even physically throw you up and eat you up. If you are
looking for a rich man, look for a tall and huge man, with a congenital and
aristocratic disposition; then you got me – not someone who trains himself to
try to look big. When I sit down as an Igwe, I radiate authority. I am not
saying it to flatter myself, but I know what I represent. There was a time I
was cast in the role of a poor man, and I was trying to mend nets at the river
side, and people looked at my legs and saw that my legs were so smooth and big.
I have a physique that makes it difficult to play me down. If all the actors
audition for a big role, I will be chosen, because nature has denied me some
roles. But I enjoy the roles I am given.
Is it true that you
correct some scripts?
Yes. Some scripts are written very badly and I am compelled
to take them along. I don’t allow them to drag me down or remain there. Some of
my colleagues know how those scripts are written.
How do you cope with
stress?
I watch some young actors and actresses and when they get
angry, they kick something and throw things. That is not our culture. I smoked
for 21 years before I quit, and each time I got tensed up, I looked for a
cigarette, and psychologically I was puffing away the anger; but there is no
other thing it does for you physically but to destroy your lungs. We allow the
foreign movies we watch to influence us – particularly the younger ones, who
want to talk like Americans and say things like ‘Oh poo!’, ‘F..k!’ The African
Americans who employ these words use them in protest against the suppression of
the White man. They use those words to annoy the White people. Nigerians don’t
need those things because we are not under any international suppression –
except from ourselves. We cannot express our anger in four-letter words.
Someone brought me a script and it was filled with ‘poo’, ‘f..k’, and I told
him I don’t do such movies, I am sorry. People learn from me. What will they
say if I dump my proverbs for such gutter language?
Are there actors you
admire in the industry?
I respect my good friend, Olu Jacobs, because his diction is
impeccable. I haven’t also been seeing Bimbo Manuel. That man is a good actor.
I have not seen him for long and I am not happy about it. Also, Keppy Ekpeyong
also speaks well. I complimented him once and he went home and brought his
daughter to greet me. He could not believe it. I told him people think I am the
ultimate, but I told him that was untrue. ‘You people are doing very well and
making me proud.’
Do you think about
death?
Yes, I think about death. Why shouldn’t I? I think about
death not because it is inevitable but because I would like to be prepared to
meet my maker when the time comes. That’s why I am afraid of death. There is
nobody alive who likes dying. Even if a man is 100 years, loses his sight,
becomes a vegetable and inconveniences others, he still wouldn’t like to go.
So, yes, as a normal human being, I think of death. Merely thinking of death
encourages me to avoid excesses.
What are those
excesses?
As a young man, I drank a lot. I could drink any bottle under
the table. It was because of peer group pressure. We enjoyed diverting
ourselves alcoholically. We were not given to subduing the womenfolk as a mark
of accomplishment; we always got together to drink and smoke cigarettes. As we
got older, I felt there is a need to cut down on all these excesses. I gave up
smoking though I smoked for 21 years. I gave it up when I discovered it wasn’t
serving any purpose.
You said you smoked
for 21years to ward off anger, now that you have stopped smoking, how do you
ward off anger?
I don’t get angry easily anymore; I used my Fabian
philosophy to stop that.
You earlier talked
about being alive in the days of the (civil) war. What do you remember of those
days?
We suffered a lot from hunger and malnutrition. We were
killed a lot. It’s not something I would like to remember, so let’s skip it
please.
You have lost a few
of your colleagues – your good friend, Justus Esiri particularly. What are
those memories that you will never forget about him?
Oh, very good question! We always challenged each other
whenever we were on set. The camera would come to you to take your lines and
some people stumbled over their lines. Some people just smoothly presented
theirs. And whenever Esiri presented his lines, he would look at me and say ‘Emenike,
one take.’ So I started calling him ‘One take Esiri’. I went for his burial and
took photographs with his family. There was one thing he (Esiri) enjoyed most,
which was quarrelling and making up. I would quarrel with him during a movie
production and take him in my car to eat Isi Ewu (goat head) and then we would
get back into the car and continue the quarrel till we got back on set. I did
Things Fall Apart with Esiri, and his death was a huge shock to me, because I
did not even know that he was ill.
Most entertainers
believe that Lagos is the hub of business in Nigeria. Why did you decide to
stay back and reside in your hometown, Enugu?
You did not even ask me whether it is ideal to call Lagos a
hub; it is not. You see, the people who sponsor the production are mainly in
Onitsha; they have branches in Lagos. Check all the big names you know. But
again, they took off from Lagos. I don’t have to come and settle in Lagos to
make a living. When I was doing journalism, we were taught to go after our subjects;
they shouldn’t come to you, and that is the mistake a lot of you younger ones
make. They say ‘I want to interview you sir’ and when I tell them I am in
Enugu, they say, ‘Ehh sir, when are you coming to Lagos?’ instead of them to
come and catch me in my own habitat.
Is it true you were
against Olu Jacobs acting as Igwe in Nollywood movies?
First of all, I didn’t say that. The people who direct those
movies with Olu are not fair to him because they are not grounded in the
culture; therefore they make him do the wrong things. People just want to
destroy my friendship with Olu Jacobs. I never said that a Yoruba man should
not play Igwe. The last time I saw Olu in Asaba, I got down from the car and we
hugged and tears came to our eyes and Olu said to me, ‘Pete, our colleagues are
going.’ This was after Esiri died. Even as I am saying this now, it affects me.
Olu has been my friend for God-knows-how-many-years. I was born and raised in
the North. Olu had some orientation in Kano; he speaks Hausa. There are jokes
that are peculiar only to two of us. The press sometimes likes to
sensationalise what makes little or no sense. Sometimes they even argue about
Pete Edochie earning more than Olu. These people are crazy. The people who
direct most of the cultural films that feature Olu are not competent to direct
him. Olu is an accomplished actor.
How do you mean?
What the director tells you is what you do. Number one, in
our own culture, you don’t hold the horse whip like they do in Yoruba land.
Yoruba people hold it at the head while we Igbos hold it at the middle because
we use that head for shaking hands. When Olu plays Igwe, they don’t tell him
that, so he holds it like a Yoruba man – which is wrong. Number two, if you are
addressing your cabinet, you do not stand up and talk to them. As the Igwe, you
sit down on the throne. Go and watch me play the Igwe; I am in perfect control.
People don’t shout or haggle when I play the Igwe. Number three, you do not
leave the palace to go out and consult the native doctor as the Igwe. No; the
native doctor is one of your subjects; you summon him to the palace to do his
divination. These youngsters who direct Olu don’t know these things. So, when
people watch these things, they come to me and say how can you be there and
this man is killing our culture, and I tell them that it is not his fault.
Whose fault is it?
It is the fault of those who are directing him and they
don’t know these things. Please, I want you to emphasise this because someone
also told me he read it on the Internet that I said Yoruba men shouldn’t play
Igwe. Why are we acting? I went to the North where I played Emir in a
production. Olu speaks Hausa and he also did a production where he played a
Hausa man. This is why we are actors for God’s sake. To credit me with that
kind of statement is being unfair to me and my status. They want to knock heads
so we will be at daggers drawn when we’ve been friends for over how many years.
That’s nonsense.
Have you ever
discussed it with him?
It’s not necessary; I don’t consider it a topic. People just
wake up and cook up stories. Look, I was sitting in my house and someone phoned
me that he just read on the Internet that I fell from a height of 50ft while
shooting a film in Austria. People kept phoning my children here and there. But
Pete Edochie doesn’t enter any airplane. I don’t fly.
You have a phobia for
flying? What was the experience behind it?
Yes I do (have a phobia for flying). I went to Egypt in
1975, we flew out from Kano and we flew for hours until we got to the Sahara
desert, and it was sand all through. Someone who was sitting next to me said
“Eh, so if something happens to this plane and it crashes, nobody will know
where we are.” From that moment, I developed that phobia. I am also claustrophobic.
If you put me inside this house now, I won’t be able to stay. I was stuck in a
lift once and it was a very harrowing experience. Also, if I stand on the
ground and look at a very tall building, my head would begin to swing. I don’t
like heights at all
By JOAN OMIONAWELE
Follow @Citypulse_ng
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Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis is a communicator, Journalist, blogger, business coach and, of course, a prolific writer. He has Dip (Journalism) and B.A. (History & International Relations) from the Lagos State University (LASU). The self-effacing young man has worked for national, regional and local newspapers. He had worked with THISDAY covered community news for ISLAND NEWS and corresponded with P.M. NEWS (evening tabloid). Presently, he is the editor of CITYPULSE MEDIA and senior correspondent of PHARMANEWS, West Africa foremost health and pharmaceutical journal.

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