NATIONAL Chief Whip of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Princess Comfort Ene Ikwuonu, simply addressed as Empress Ene, has cleared the air on the tale that Jonathan’s campaign largesse tore apart the executive arm of the guild. She described the tale as nothing but unfounded.
Speaking with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Thursday, May 14, 2015, in her Surulere, Lagos office, the Idoma, Benue born thespian also opened up on other issues revolving around her life and career.
What’s the latest concerning your career?
First, I want to give God the glory. I also want to say a big thank you to you and your company for supporting my career. I pray God will continue to be with you all in your endeavours. So far so good, I have been enjoying a very wonderful moment in the entertainment industry. Right now, my name is going round on a new TV series, New Man Street, it’s on AIT and other platforms, including NTA Startimes. And the role I played in the series is such that everybody recognizes me anywhere I go. So, I believe in who I am and also believe I was born to be great. And by the very special grace of God, I know I will be celebrated even beyond the shores of this country.
Since you became AGN National Chief Whip in October 2014, has that given you any leverage as regards your career?
Yes, as the National Chief Whip of AGN, I now have a lot of respect and work which I never had before becoming the Chief Whip. The post actually ushered in more roles for me. And it gives me the opportunity to meet many personalities within and outside the industry. And anytime I go to locations, before leaving the location, I would have more jobs, more scripts and all that, all in the name of being the AGN National Chief Whip. For instance, when I was working on the set of Nollywood Concept Productions (NCP), I was surprised that after the production, that’s the production of New Mainstreet where I worked with Bimbo Akintola, the manager to Sunny Danger, the producer, Mr. Coker called me and I was given a role in his own production as well. And I was so happy to work with someone like Halima Abubakar. It was so wonderful working with her. And anytime I have the opportunity of granting an interview, I always like talking about the two Nollywood stars. They are so wonderful to work with. You know in the industry, some people wouldn’t even like seeing you being an upcoming actress, they regard you as nobody. But I was surprised and excited that somebody like Halima Abubakar will bring herself so low to have identified with me on the set. We both worked on the set of The guys must be crazy. She really encouraged me. She is a very nice human being. And I pray God will continue to open more doors for her and take her to higher and higher level. The same thing goes for Bimbo Akintola because she even wanted to make me look like her, even more than her in the industry.
I was so happy working with her. I just came back from Owerri, Imo State where I also took part in Tears of Somadina where I played the lead role. So, I believe the ladder I am climbing makes me a wonderful person right now. And I am so happy about it. I know more are still coming. I appreciate God and give Him all the glory for being with me all the time.
Would you say you’re now making more money than ever?
I would say yes, because being in the office has not prevented me from honouring a call to duty as an actress anytime it comes. Even when I am not in the office, that means I am on location and when I am not working, I am always in the office to make sure I fulfill my duty. I am glad my National President, Chief (Mrs.) Ibinabo Fiberesima-Osigwe gave me the honour that whenever you have a job, go for it and whenever you have an assignment always make sure you’re there. No one is too big for audition. So, I still go for that anytime there is need for it. And that has never stopped me from performing my duty as National Chief Whip of the guild. I give God all the glory for giving me that strength to accept whatever that comes as the Chief Whip of AGN. I personally see it as an opportunity to serve my people and tap on that to advance my career as an actress. So, I am very grateful to God and those who gave me the opportunity to showcase my talent in every sphere of the industry.
But we learnt really some people protested that it wasn’t quite long you joined the industry that you became the Chief Whip, what’s your reaction to this?
Yes, it happens everywhere that some may want to contend such a thing. Even I couldn’t believe it when it came my way. I was short of words. It was a shock to me and some of my colleagues because I had never held any office in the state guild but now I am at the national level serving them. So, it’s a surprise to everybody, even myself. I believe it’s the grace of God that’s on my side. A lot of people said, “You’re not on posters, you have not really done many jobs. We don’t see you in many movies. So, how come your name is spreading to the extent of you becoming National Chief Whip?” But I look at the whole thing and said, “As long as God is there, He will always find His own way to promote whoever He wants to promote. Not only by appearing in all the movies of this world.” And I want to give kudos to my manager, Mr. Ume who has been standing for me all this time. I see him as a manager that’s called to me by God. He’s so transparent and straight forward. Even if he’s not doing any job and he gets a job for me, he will make sure I am well paid.
A lot of people have said many negative things about the industry, especially about actresses. They said most of you have become prostitutes to politicians because movies are no longer selling, what’s your reaction to this?
About that, I want to say that it all depends on what you want to use your life or body for. It’s all about who you are as an individual. It has nothing to do with the industry. I want to tell you the truth, the government has recognized the industry. So, what the people think about we actresses is no more there. Yes, those of us in Nollywood campaigned for President Goodluck Jonathan because it’s during his regime that we’re recognized. It’s during his time that some people who have valuable talents deposited in them were able to use the talent to advance themselves career wise, instead of going out and doing all sorts of nonsense. And our President made a way that some of us were sent out for training. Before I even became the National Chief Whip of the guild, I was nominated as one of those that will be going to Colorado Film School, USA for one month training. And an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed for me from the National Guild. But unfortunately, we have not gone for the training, but I believe that some day, I will still go for the training. So to me, it’s awesome that something is coming on well since the government has recognized the industry. It makes actors to be focused in whatever they’re doing. So, I don’t believe in that impression that actresses are prostitutes. It all depends on individuals.
That reminds us, the tale was that the AGN collected about N100 million to campaign for President Jonathan and the money caused crisis within the executive members of the guild. How true is that?
That’s so surprising! Let me correct the impression that President Jonathan gave the guild money. He didn’t give AGN any money, let alone the said money causing any rancor among the executive members of the guild. I don’t see any reason people would say that because the National President, Chief Ibinabo Fiberesima personally campaigned for President Jonathan and those that supported her were appreciated. This woman took her time to take along everyone that stood by her and made sure that everybody was comfortable. If they’re criticizing that, why didn’t other people come out and do their own campaign for President Jonathan? If I come out today and campaign for someone and I was appreciated, will I now come back and pay whatever I am given to the guild? No, that can’t happen. So, what I am saying in essence is that the guild as a body didn’t campaign for Goodluck Jonathan, the president of the guild Ibinabo Fiberesima personally campaigned for him, and those people behind her supported her and continued with her for that. So, whatever people maybe saying about that is as a result of envy and lack of trust in the industry.
One thing I believe is that, instead of criticizing her, they need to stay by her side and make her stronger. She is a woman and has made the guild go far, even to the level of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, why can’t they come around and support her? Then, let whoever is agitated wait until it’s his or her turn to become the president of the guild then do whatever he or she wants to do for the guild. As for me, I don’t think there is anything going on because Ibinabo Fiberesima still remains the president of the guild.
Now that President Jonathan has lost the election, what do you think will happen to the guild and all its national projects because it’s obvious that almost all of you supported President Jonathan during the election and Buhari eventually won?
Yes, as the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan has conceded defeat. And I must tell you the truth, we’re not regretting it all because he has been there for us all the time. President Jonathan is the patron of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, and there is no doubt that the guild will grow even after his exit as the president of this country. The guild will surely grow. Despite the fact that most of us didn’t campaign for Buhari or voted for him, we still see him as a father of all as far as the country is concerned now that he has won the election. We’re all Nigerians and as a father of the country, he will definitely stand by anybody whether the person voted for him or not. And, I must tell you, we’re expecting a lot from Buhari because politics is something I am sure he also believes it’s a game where you either lose or win. So, he can’t pick a tent of enmity against the guild. Even, some of us campaigned and voted for him. So, I believe wherever President Jonathan has stopped concerning the guild, he will definitely continue from there. He’s our Baba and hero and I believe Buhari is a man we all love and much is expected from his administration.
What are you expecting from his administration?
I am expecting a lot. And I am sure he would never listen to back biting. He would never want to go astray. So, definitely, I am expecting a lot of changes from him. Whatever some people may be saying he won’t achieve, I am sure he would even go beyond them. And I believe everybody will enjoy his administration within and outside the industry just as we enjoyed Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
Let’s go private, a lot of your fans are expecting you to have settled down but you have not. Are you still searching?
As of now, I am still single. But I believe God will still work His miracle on me soon because I know marriage is of God. And it’s not an institution one will just want to come in and walk out. So, one needs to be very careful. And if you’re prayerful and you’re contented, the sky is going to be your limit. I know very soon, I will be under a man who will hold me like a baby.
Were you in a relationship before?
Yes, I have been in a relationship which couldn’t work out but I don’t want to go into details of that.
Let’s know what really happened?
Nothing, let’s close the chapter for now please.
But it’s good you share the experience with us for the benefit of those that may learn one or two lessons about it…
But I don’t like talking about it.
You know you’re a role model, don’t you think it’s good the younger ones within and outside the industry learn from your past experience be it good or bad?
Okay, I would only advise that one needs to understand whoever one is with as far as relationship is concerned because understanding covers a lot of things. When you’re in a relationship, whether you fiancé or fiancée is rich or not, be contented. And be prayerful and believe every other thing will fall in place. You try as much to love his or her people. Then you plan your lives together with whoever you’re in a relationship with. The person must be made your friend and partner.
What are the sterling qualities you want in a man you will like to settle down with?
He must have the fear of God first. My man must be loving and caring. And must appreciate my freedom. He must also be sociable and humorous enough to make me happy all the time.
– TADE ASIFAT