In this exclusive interview with Daniels Ekugo, actor, scriptwriter and film producer, Nwachukwu Emioma, talks about his life: fortune, stardom and how he came crashing down from the Pinnacle of success and his resolve to stay afloat.
Question: As a notable filmmaker in Nigeria, how many movies do you have to your credit?
Ans: I have produced over 20 movies and about 18 of those movies are mine. let me try and count them. I started with indigenous films, Yoruba films to be precise because when I was ready to invest in production, the English sector of Nollywood where I originally started my career as a writer, was not stable at the time so I went straight into producing Yoruba films since their own industry was booming then. So, my first three movies were Yoruba films; namely Orogun Megun, Abbey Eleregbe and Ife Afeju. I also produced The Wannabe, Desperate Sisters, Torment, Silent Pain, Karma, A Perfect Place to Die and One Good Turn. I later added Trading Lives, Rivals, Secrets Are Saviors and The Slave Driver – these were all sponsored and produced by me including others that I produced for People Super Dads, Why Do Men Cheat, A Hard Place and Beautiful Pain, amongst others.
Ques: How do you rate the Nollywood brand, is it comparable to Bollywood, Hollywood?
Ans: Well, whenever this question comes up… my rating of Nollywood…my answer tends to favourably navigate towards Nollywood. Yes, we have grown by leaps and bounds (in Nollywood) and I am proud of what has become of us although I admit there is room for improvement, but we are not doing badly in the face of the funding and piracy issue which have robbed us of our dues from time immemorial. Bollywood and other industries have what we don’t have which is structure. structural reforms in terms of funding and support from their government. Nollywood has grown independently and is still growing. If we have the kind of support Hollywood and Bollywood have then we are global – maybe I should say more global because we are already global. So, I wouldn’t want to compare what we have here and what they have there.
Ques: What has kept you away from scandals?
Ans: What has kept me away from scandals, are the values instilled in me from childhood. My mum, who I have grown to appreciate almost more than myself, raised me like a prince even as a child who didn’t have a lot of privileges because she thought me to be content and always hold my head high. Whenever I remembered where I am coming from, I see that my options are limited as to what I should do in a compelling and competitive environment like ours and then being in the public eyes, hmmmmm, my brother, God hand join…(laughs). I try as much as I can to uphold my integrity and pride which differentiate me from others. Besides, I am not out there. I do my things on the low to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to myself.
Ques: Do you believe most actors live ostensibly careless lifestyles, if yes, have you been engrossed in that pattern of lifestyle?
Ans: Yes, actors live above their means. Maybe it’s the way the industry was structured: make believe, showmanship, fake it till you make it. In my own case, I was never impressionistic until a few years ago after I produced One Good Turn, I realized that we all deserve the luxuries of life. I felt the need to give myself the good things of life. Fast forward to last year, I had already unjustifiably and uncontrollably become very ostentatious! Suddenly, driving at least four exotic cars in a year became a tradition. Shoe shopping and changing my cars became a way to kill boredom. Just in 2020, I drove 5 posh cars from Mercedes Benz Glk 350 to BMW x6 which I even used two of, V8 and V6. Life seemed so good that I bought over 30 pair of shoes which have not been worn till date because I have tons of shoe boxes that hasn’t been unboxed. I became addicted to this high lifestyle, I was frittering money like a ritualist and a “Yahoo boy” which by the way, some people already speculated that I was, Lol! During the #endsars protest, I was in Ladipo fixing my BMW x6 when a fight broke out between two sets of hoodlums and they were killing one another and people were running for their lives. For the first time in a long while I had to made that kind of decision under duress where I had to choose between my car and my life. It was a nail biting tale and it’s one encounter I can never forget. I ran for my dear life leaving my car unlocked with documents in the car and other valuables, all that mattered to me was my life as much as I knew I would be losing over 7m if anything happened to that car. For 3 days, I didn’t know the state of my car. I had sleepless nights, I was traumatized. Eventually when I took possession of my car, I already had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which I’m dealing with or maybe I should say I have dealt with considering that I had to sell that car last month just to completely heal. Last year, came with a lot of goodies but mine ended in premium tears because of my decision to be vain and materialistic.
Ques: What do you think motivates celebrities live this kind of lifestyle?
Ans: What I think makes celebrities live this kind of vain lifestyle? Well, I will say Nigerians are naturally loud. We like to show. A lot of Nigerians pray for wealth just to impress and oppress. Take away the gate man that would condemn this kind of lifestyle, put him in the position to live this luxury lifestyle and you will realize that his uniform as a gate man, his underprivileged condition, are the reasons he condemns it (vain lifestyle) not because he wouldn’t do same if he attains the same position. So, I would say this authoritatively because I have been through it… just that the difference between myself and others is that I didn’t borrow to impress or live this kind of live. It was all my hard earned money.
Ques: Can you tell us some of the challenges you faced with the kind of lifestyle you got yourself into?
Ans: The challenges I have faced because of this lifestyle are endless. I am now vain, I want to do vacation in dream countries and as usual do shopping but it doesn’t look like I can currently afford buying designer vintage shoes. I’m gradually adjusting because now I am bored but I can’t change my car or go shoe shopping as usual. Let me deal with my Post Traumatic stress disorder first and every other thing will fall in place, I guess.
Ques: Who ministered to you that made you start retracing your step?
Ans: I was fast losing it! I woke up one morning and was looking for my stockings that I bought in Dubai because I wanted to dress in a certain type of way and I had to ransack over 70 pair of shoes – both the boxed and unboxed – and then I realized I have over 30 pair of shoes I haven’t even worn. It didn’t make sense to me because why buy them if I wasn’t going to wear them? That was a wake-up call for me and I realized I had to retrace my steps.
Ques: Now that you have retraced your step, are you finding it funny or has it been a blessing?
Ans: I am not finding it funny because first, I have to find another way of relieving my frayed nerves other than shoe shopping, and then how else to keep boredom away other than by changing my cars! What was I even thinking! How did I get this vain? Well, I haven’t been on any international flight since 2019 because COVID-19 happened last year though, (laughs) yet I am still alive although I need a vacation to completely heal. I need a huge distraction. I was advised to register in the gym and channel my energy into building muscles which would hugely distract me but I will work on that as soon as I can walk away from Naija for at least one week even if it means holidaying in Benin republic, to mention the least…lol.
Ques: You had expensive and fancy cars, tell us about them and what you have done with them?
Ans: The greater part of last year, I had two personal cars parked in a rented apartment which my siblings didn’t find funny. While use such cars and still be in a rented apartment. Well, I sold my BMW x6 and I’m currently left with A 2014 Ford Taurus. At least, it will still serve the same purpose as two cars.
Ques: Summarize your actions compared to who you are now.
Ans: My action? I regret! I regret bitterly. I didn’t have to be that vain and materialistic. I could have done better. Maybe take up courses on filmmaking abroad and even broaden my technical know-how but then again, we learn every day and thank God it’s a new year and I have time to heal and adjust unconditionally.
Ques: What’s your advice to youngsters who are living this kind of flamboyant lifestyle?
Ans: My advice to youngsters who live or intend to live flamboyant lifestyles, make sure you have futuristic plans. In my own case, I worked hard for my money and I have a great career which is still ahead of me but whatever you can’t sustain don’t embark on it because I came out of it without much ado but not everyone has the strong will. I can’t decide for anyone but I can advise based on my experience. Live a purposeful life regardless.