Mr. Nigeria, Kenneth Okolie, nearly lost his life in an armed robbery attack weeks back in Festac Town, Lagos. The model was said to be driving in his Prado jeep, along 24 Road, when three dare-devil armed robbers accosted and dispossessed him of some of his personal effects (jewellery, wrist watch, wallet, ATM card). The injury sustained from the gun shot fired at him by the robbers led to his being rushed to a nearby hospital where about 11 pellets were extracted from his body. He has since returned home, but still recuperating. He recounted his experience to ENCOMIUM Weekly at his Festac Town, Lagos home on Thursday, January 20, 2011.
Give us a graphic account of how you were attacked by the armed robbers.
It was on Tuesday, January 4, 2011, around 8 p.m. I was coming back home, driving towards 24 Road, Festac, when I came across a speed ramp, so I slowed down. All of a sudden, I saw a bike just emerge, one of the men came down and gave a warning shot, then the remaining two came down. I couldn’t move again, so I came down. They removed everything on me, my chains, wallet, then they demanded for my car key. I didn’t put off the car because I thought of escaping when I came down. I closed the door so they didn’t know the car was on. So, I started begging them. One was holding me, one was on the look out, the other one was on the bike. The guy l was begging tried considering, then the other one came and the harassment continued. He looked at me, moved into space and shot. At that point, something told me to jump, so before he fired, I was already in the air. He actually aimed my chest. But I was able to jump, so the bullet hit my hand, my hips, then I was on the floor.
What brand of car were you driving?
It was a Prado jeep.
Was it taken away?
No, it wasn’t stolen. They left the jeep after they shot me. Some guys who were around when they shot were contemplating if it was a knock out, but after the second shot, they started coming nearer. They saw some men and me on the ground, so they started screaming, ‘Ole, Ole.’ That was how I was saved, because they aimed at me again. I couldn’t get up because of the pain. They pursued them, but they fled. Good Samaritans assisted me to ML Hospital in the neighbourhood where the doctor administered first aid on me. He helped me pull out five pellets, then I went to the police station to make a report.
How are you recuperating?
I have been recuperating very well. The doctor gave me proper drug prescription. I have also gone into another round of surgery where the doctor removed six more pellets from my hands. For now, no more surgery until it heals.
What has the incident deprived you of?
Actually, the whole incident has given me time to think more about everything I want to do in 2011. I am generating more ideas for my plans. In a way, it’s been helpful, but it’s annoying I got shot. It’s not a laudable thing to happen to me.
It is the will of God and the power of prayer. I believe that God knows and wants me to accomplish something and I am not going anytime soon. God has made me the way I am, so He kept me alive and gave me the strength and the instinct about what to do at that particular time.
Who and who have been by your side since the incident happened?
Everybody has been wonderful and helpful. My parents, especially my mum, who is like my wife now (laughs). My friends, everybody in the entertainment industry. Denrele was here last night, he was here till like 11 p.m. Everybody has been helpful, Uti (Nwachukwu) and the rest. It’s really nice to know I am loved. I really appreciate that.
When are you likely to bounce back?
I want to use this time to plan, so I will come back when it’s necessary to come out.
When will you relinquish your Mr. Nigeria status?
I got crowned February 28, 2010, so by February, I should be out.
What has been the experience since you won the crown in 2010?
It’s been a jolly ride, it’s been really exciting, it’s been wonderful, it has opened doors for me, more exposure, more ideas on what to do. Silverbird has been a good family. They really supported me. Mr. Guy Bruce is like a father. Every edition, they get more ideas on what to do. I believe the next guy will do much better.
The targets you set for yourself, were you able to achieve some of them?
I am working on rebranding. I won’t be Mr. Nigeria forever. So, I am going to be rebranding as Kenneth Okolie. Those are the things I am working on currently, something that will last forever.
Don’t you have any pet project?
Yes, I have a project, but there are certain disappointments. Some delays have prevented me from doing my project and that’s why I want to do proper packaging. I still insist on orphanages. Once in a while, I am going to visit them, after I have recovered, to allow them celebrate with me.
Tell us a bit about the project you are working on.
It’s a TV family show, something the family will sit down and watch and enjoy. Very entertaining. I don’t want to go into much details. I am sure people will love it when they see it.
The female version of your pageant, MBGN, seems to always enjoy the needed hype while that of Mr. Nigeria is merely mentioned, why is this so?
The thing is women have more percentage of promotion and publicity because one, women are more attractive and endowed. When you talk about beauty, you talk about women. But with men, we have less publicity. But with time, people will talk about it. I and some guys are already doing something in that direction, where we hope to repackage the industry for male and female models. However, you can’t compare the MBGN with Mr. Nigeria that has less world audience.
Where should we expect to see you in five years?
You should see me running one of the biggest TV shows, running my own company or just building my own empire the way I have dreamt of it.
What’s your experience with women in the course of your reign?
You are a model, when last did you strut on the runway?
It’s not like I have been restricted from the runway because I am Mr. Nigeria. I have done a lot of shows. The last one I did was the National Film Festival in December, 2010.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, January 25, 2011