Celebrity, Cover Stories, Entertainment, Interviews

CHIDI MOKEME debunks auto crash, kidnap tales ‘It’s all false and the handiwork of jobless scammers’

STAR actor, Chidi Mokeme has denied being involved in an auto crash. The award- winning host of Gulder Ultimate Search also debunked tales of kidnap, ill-health and appeal for help circulating on the internet, blaming it on fraudsters and scammers.

Mokeme who’s married and blessed with a son, Noah also opened up on his new family and how he keeps in touch with them in America.

Chidi Mokeme further reviewed the state of Nollywood, its basic challenges and some of the ways to take the industry out of the woods.

The filmmaker, entrepreneur and TV personality said much more in this exclusive interview he granted Encomium Weekly Associate Editor, UCHE OLEHI on Monday, August 31, 2015.


There was this story you were involved in an auto crash days back? What really happened?

Lol. There are many different versions of that story and they are all false and baseless. At the peak of the rumours, my phones were ringing off the hook. I heard some people were circulating pictures of me as being kidnapped and the kidnappers were sending the pictures around and asking for ransom before they do more damage to me. Another version had it that I was involved in an accident and some kind of appeal fund was being raised to help pay for surgeries etc. It’s all false and the handiwork of some jobless fraudsters and scammers. The picture actually does exist, but it was from a movie scene from years back. Someone managed to dig up the picture and decided it was worth their while to use it for their selfish gains. Having said that, I am very well and healthy by God’s special grace.

So, what’s your final word to your fans, colleagues and business associates across the globe who were worried about this?

First thing is to thank everyone, family, fans, colleagues, business associates, etc, for their love and support. The outpouring of concern and enquiries about my true state was really humbling, to say the least. Secondly, I’ll want everyone to know that I’m hale and hearty and living it up. No Shakings. #Godwin.

chidiHow’s your business?

Business is awesome.  I can’t complain.  I’ve been spending a lot more time out here in the U.S., hence the need to expand my frontiers.  So right now, I’m laying the foundation stones for the next set of conquests and of course you’ll hear the buzz when it sounds.

Have you further diversified?

Exactly. Further diversification is what I’m talking about. Stay tuned.

Let’s talk about your acting career, are you fulfilled?

Fulfilment is relative, Uche.  I’m I fulfilled at the journey so far and how far I’ve come vis a vis the growth of the industry?  Absolutely! Without doubt! Have we gotten to the end of the road? Definitely, not. The end of one road is the beginning of another. As far as where I am at the moment, what I visualize down the road and where I’m headed, I’m very fulfilled.

Where are you headed?

Generally speaking, expanding the scope of what I’ve done previously, leveraging on the platforms that have been created, re-inventing the wheel in tandem with the times. The specifics will be peeled off in layers, one after the other, and served to you and all who care to know.

But the fact still remains that Nollywood is experiencing a downturn. You agree with this?

That depends on what part of the fence you’re sitting. I don’t agree that Nollywood is experiencing a downturn. I’ll say instead that Nollywood is going through a gestation period. Nollywood is metamorphosing into the industry that we want it to be. The industry has grown exponentially in different ways since conception and the growth is expected to be continuous and consistent until the necessary structures for sustenance are solidly laid. The industry has been built up to where it is now, the baton is being passed for the next set of people, events, ideas and policy shifts that will catapult it to the next level. And right now is the period of gestation that will herald the new birth. So it’s a necessary ‘downturn’ if you ask me.

What are the basic challenges of the industry and the way out?

Thank you for asking this question, Uche, because this is one area that I’m really passionate about. And I take every opportunity, public and private, to contribute my two cents.

Challenges facing Nollywood as an industry will require more than the time we have now for this interview and also require more pages than you can allocate. Lol. But I can try to outline the most pressing issues and areas that need immediate emergency intervention. For an industry, that without government support and adequate regulatory policies and legislature, has been able to contribute 1.4% plus of Nigeria’s GDP, based on the new rebasing, Nollywood really needs to be taken more seriously by the “Powers that be”. For an industry that is single handedly the laundry machine for Nigeria’s global image, it is an indictment on the past governments, that the full potential of the industry as a vital tool for rebranding, and propagating positive propaganda is yet to be fully harnessed as has been witnessed in other countries with blooming and booming entertainment industries like Hollywood, Bollywood, etc.

chidiOne of the major problems that Nollywood has is lack of credible funding and financing. Practitioners have constantly battled to surmount the mountainous challenges of access to intervention funds, either from government or the corporate bodies. If government and/or corporate organizations can set up functional, impartial, dedicated funding schemes, then issues of project financing, trainings, capacity building, equipment acquisition etc can be tackled head on.

Another challenge is that government has refused to acknowledge and leverage on the tourism potential of movies. You cannot market Nigeria to the world as a tourism destination to the exclusion of the industry that is already single handedly propagating that message. Government can use Nollywood to trigger off a “Tourist invasion”. The greatest vacation sites and destinations in the world were mostly first introduced to the world through movies. The Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, Disney Land, Tajmahal, Giza Pyramids, The Great Wall of China, and other great tourism spots in various countries readily come to mind. To achieve that, government needs to put their money where their mouth is.

Another challenge is the issue of planning and a futuristic thinking. Government needs to have a forward thinking approach towards the development and sustainability of our industry and so it is imperative that various aspects of film making should be introduced into the curriculum of select universities with fully kitted and well equipped studios for propagation of film education. That way graduates and new entrants will hit the ground running. They will come into the industry fully trained and prepared for the task and not just as accidental practitioners who come in because there’s nothing else out there for them to do.

Another challenge is the issue of co-production treaties or lack of co-production treaties. This is so important because one of the ways that government can help address the issues of inadequate funding, capacity building, knowledge transfer and also accelerate the process of re-branding and laundering the image of Nigeria is to sign co-production treaties with other countries. Co-production agreements are an open door to collaborations and partnerships that not only extend and expand the global reach and influence of Nollywood, and by so doing, that of Nigeria, but also bridges socio-cultural gaps. These treaties will enable us have access to partner or third party markets and all the government incentives and subsidies that come with those markets. And so for me, it is a shame that while we’re busy clamouring for the title of second largest or third largest movie making industry, Nigeria still does not have the necessary treaties in place. South Africa is reaping the benefits of co-production treaties with Germany, Italy, the U.K., France, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, with the first treaty signed with Canada or so, as far back as 1997 or thereabout. And Nollywood has none. Not even with Ghana with which there has been thousands of privately initiated movie collaborations. Abeg, what more can I say?

The last challenge and by far the most common, which everyone, seems to hammer on is PIRACY! Piracy and Intellectual property theft. Piracy as we all know is a global issue for all industries and Nollywood is not exempt but Nollywood is arguably the most seriously affected. In fact, Piracy robs Nollywood of close to 50 per cent or more of its profits. Nollywood movies are freely pirated and sold, even on the streets of Lagos, in broad daylight.

The National Copyright Commission, NCC, as presently constituted, is handicapped and unable to effectively carry out it’s oversight functions as concerns the audiovisual industry because of the inadequate recommendations of the NCC Act. Uche, you only need to take a look at the constitutional recommendations for dealing with piracy to understand what I’m talking about. A fine of N100 and N1000 respectively as recommended by the current act for convicted pirates is ridiculous and cannot in any way serve as a deterrent to current or would be pirates.

My recommendation is that government should begin the process of amending the NCC Act in the following ways:

1. Penalties for infringement on copyright should be stiffer and more deterring. Copyright theft is no different from robbery and must be treated as such.

2. There should be specific provisions in the Act for the award of exemplary compensations and aggravated damages for flagrant infringement of copyright by individual or corporate bodies.

3. A vigorous machinery for the enforcement of the provisions of the Act should be set into motion and this should include representatives of the direct beneficiaries of the Act, and other professional bodies.

4. All the sections that cast the onus of proof of innocence on an offender under the Act should be repealed since the provisions appear to be unconstitutional.

And my recommendations are in no way conclusive or exhaustive of the necessary measures, but will definitely send strong signals that government is beginning to take a firm stance and look seriously into the issue of piracy.

You’ve been hosting GUS. Are you not lucky?

I’ve had and continue to have a huge dose of God’s unmerited grace and favour upon my life. You can say that I’ve been lucky. But for me, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I take my job seriously, I prepare rigorously for every gig that I have and the results speak for themselves.

What special have you brought into the show?

I just do what I have to do. Fortunately, I had the privilege of hosting the first two seasons. And with that came the opportunity to set the tone, pace, and delivery format from a presentation point of view. Subsequent hosts after that had to contend with watching what I had done and try to meet or surpass the benchmark that I set. And there must be a reason why the organizers after trying out other hosts, came back and signed contracts with me for the last three Seasons. So for me, it’s more about originality. Get on stage and do what I have to do the way I want and like to do it. And there’s nothing more original than being able to do something “your way”. You know?  Being myself is easy to do. So the special thing is that I do it ‘my way’. Lol.

And what should we expect next season?

I doubt there’ll be a next season. And don’t ask me why! You’ll have to ask my Ogas at the top!

How’s married life?

Awesome. An intriguing experience and journey. A lesson in altruism.

Madam’s still in the US and you are here, how do you cope?

Oh, I’m coping very, very well. You can’t really say I’m here in that way. This year, I’ve probably spent only 6-8weeks cumulatively in Nigeria. That means I’ve spent the greater part of 6 months in the U.S. and only one third of that time in Nigeria. The structure is much more stable in the U.S. and that makes it easier to run around with peace of mind. By nature and by virtue of my job, I consider myself a nomad. Artistes and entertainers are generally nomadic in nature. Always restless with a need to constantly be on the move. The world is my stage. Whether on set as an actor or director, or as a master of ceremonies or host of an event or show, or giving pep talks and motivational nuggets to the youth, or travelling around the world collecting rare and unique pieces for my retail outlets, My office is anywhere the next project is happening. That’s how I’m programmed and configured. So being anywhere in the world with the knowledge that my family is in a very stable environment is very comforting and makes things so much easier.

You sure miss each other?

Of course, we miss each other when we’re apart and like they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

How do you make it up for your woman?

The truth is we that see each other even more regularly than peeps whose sole mutual existence is in the same city because when I’m out on location, I’m out on location and when I’m home, I’m home full time, 24 hours and I’m in total control of when, how, or where I go.

Please, tell us about your new-born baby?

Oh, Noah is doing great. He’s getting bigger, smarter, wiser by the day. He’s the General in Charge now. I’m loyal to his government. He gets what he wants, when he wants, how he wants.  If not, there’ll be trouble in the land.  I decided this whole year is dedicated to him because I’m not going to be an absentee father. I’m enjoying every minute of it.

He’s sure doing fine?

Oh yes, he is. The Good Lord that gave him to us is making sure that all is well with him.

How old is he and what do you cherish most about him?

He’s getting to five months and three weeks old now. He’s just a bundle of joy. A special gift from God. Our comforter.

Are you looking forward to Dr. (Mrs.) Mokeme relocating fully home any time soon?

‘Soon’ is relative. Lol.  Hopefully, the imminent wind of change inspired by the new administration, will become enduring and sustainable. And our socio-economic climate will change for the better. If that happens, then relocation will be considered. Otherwise… You know for someone to work and consult for the highest regulatory body in the world, FDA, and also working for one of the best hospitals in the world, Johns Hopkins, it really will be a disservice to uproot her and throw her into the chaotic Nigerian system. I bet we’ll have chronic and extensive issues of culture shock. My wife probably hasn’t had to write down anything in the office for over five years. Everything is electronically synced and networked across the whole organization. Every information is a push of a button away. How do you expect someone like her to function in our system? That Tory go get k-leg be that o.

The good Lord has been good to you. What else do you want from Him?

Yes, the Lord has definitely been good and faithful to me. All I pray is that He gives me the grace of good health and long life so as to be good to Him and to be good to all that he has purposed for me to influence. And the wisdom to recognise and embrace the moments that He needs me to play my part on His behalf.

Is that your lifetime ambition?

Yeah, that’s my purpose. That’s the burden that has been placed upon my heart. To use all that I have to ensure that as many people as possible across Africa and the world, are presented with the opportunities, the tools and the platform to achieve their highest potentials. And I’ve spent the last decade researching and fine tuning the process. It’s a task that must be achieved. And I always ask, if not me, then who? If not now, then when? And so that’s the next step for me. We’re going ‘Back To The Future,’ Uche. And that’s a topic for another day.

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