January 30, 2018 – Nigerian Actor Femi Ogedengbe: I Relocated To The US Because Nollywood Is Plaqued With Tribalism
Nollywood Actor Femi Ogedengbe Opens Up About Life In America, Says He Battled Poverty In Nigeria
I Moved To US Because Poverty Almost Killed Me In Nigeria..How Fayose Disappointed Me After Election
Nollywood funny man, Femi Ogedengbe who relocated to the US some years back has opened up on his widely reported security job in America.
Here is what the actor told City People’s Gbolahan Adetayo in a telephone chat recently.
Your fans have been asking about your whereabouts. Can you please share with us what you are up to these days?
I have relocated to United States (US). I got there in January, 2016, and my family joined me in July, 2017.
Why the sudden decision of relocating abroad?
I relocated because I just couldn’t cope with the way my life was going for me in terms of poverty.
Can you explain better?
I saw myself as one of the very great actors in Nollywood. In 2005, I discovered that the Nollywood industry, where I belong, was becoming more and more a tribalistic industry because a few financiers who were throwing in money for productions dictated who appear in the movies.
So, more and more, we discovered that those of us, talking about Emeka and others, we were not getting the jobs we should get based on merit, I had to move over to the Yoruba genre and even at that, I discovered that the Yoruba genre was more like a help me, I help you outfit that couldn’t pay my bills, I just couldn’t cope.
In 2010, I made a terrible decision, which I regretted by saying I wasn’t going to act again, I stopped acting and many people were no longer calling me for jobs. The people I earlier acted for were the likes of Saidi Balogun, Femi Fadeyi and even at that, I told them I was just doing it that, I was not going to do another. I know you know them, ask them and they would tell you the truth. I said I wasn’t going to act again because the money was nothing to write home about. But, It was a mistake because the moment I stayed away, everybody forgot about me.
So, I found it difficult to come back and at the end of the day, I blessed God for a good wife, everything got messed up, I was practically begging to feed. I looked into it, I have been travelling out of the country since 2007, I told my wife that we have to make a sacrifice. I need to move out of the country and seek a greener pasture and as God would have it, the plans worked out. To the glory of God today, we are in the US together to cut the long story short.
Which job are you currently doing abroad?
I am a Security Guard, a job that takes care of me, my family and my people back home, while I upgrade my film-making skill.
Can you throw more light on this?
I work as a security personnel, I trained to be a Security Guard and I obtained a guard card, which is the criterium to work as a guard, and maybe I might own my security company soon too.
Where did you get your training and which company are you now working for?
DOJ approved training facility. G4S company and I was posted to Keysight Technology (best employee in America for 2017 ) according to Forbes. It is located at Bay area, California. They have branches all over the country.
Did you consider the fact that you can as well do the same thing in Nigeria with your status and make big money?
No my brother! I cannot do same job in Nigeria and get the kind of money I am getting in the US. If you know me too well or you have read my previous interviews, you will see that I say things the way they are. Nigerians of my status, who are in America, cannot come out and say this is what they do for a living. The first time I came to America, I did all sort of irritating jobs we talk about in Nigeria. I packed shits, I bathed corpses and all that because I read something in the Bible the verse says:
“A man that cannot care for his home is worse than an infidel and he has betrayed the faith”. So, if God is saying that, it means that you do everything that is possible as far as it is legal to take care of your family. In Nigeria, to start with, the question you asked is that if I could do the same in Nigeria, where do I get the money to start a security company? Or do you want me to wear a uniform and stand in front of a bank? Hunger and poverty have sent armed robbers on rampage. I saw a video where a person was killed around Lekki last year. A police officer was killed. It was hunger that led these people to embark on such an act. So, I will say no I cannot do a security job in Nigeria.
Even if I own a security company in Nigeria, where do I get the money to start it from? I owned a barbing saloon back in 1993. I ran it for 4 years and I shut it to go fully into acting. When things got tough for me, I said okay, let me go back to my early trade and I opened another salon in 2015. I spent almost a million naira to open it. My dear brother, by 2016 I discovered that I hardly made 100,000 Naira from it, so, I was forced to make the decision to leave Nigeria for the US. I was very rugged when it comes to hard-work in Nigeria. Using myself as an example, Nigerian youths are trying. Let me give you an example, because I am a filmmaker, I reached out to politicians, I told them about my trade and to the glory of God, I worked for Governors Ayodele Fayose and Adams Oshiomhole.
In fact, one-on-one, I set up a team working for Fayose during his campaign in 2014. I was standing with Fayose looking at him eye balls to eye balls. He told us that he didn’t have money to give anybody, but he promised that if he won, everybody would smile. He gave me a room at a hotel in Ekiti for 30 days, myself and my crew were there working, doing commercials and sharing them at the universities in the state. We did comedy to promote the brand called Fayose during the run up to the election that he eventually won. We did all that, I spent money that I didn’t have to produce banners and all that, but after he won, I couldn’t even pass through the gate to see him. I am not blaming him because I know there are many security officers, who will prevent me from seeing him.
That was how far I went to try to make things work for me in Nigeria. I spent 30 days, my wife was heavily pregnant at home with twins, I was shuttling between Ekiti and Lagos, working endlessly to make sure that, at least, I have something after the election. At the end of the day, he got too busy to even remember me. I am not blaming him; in fact, he is my number one governor now because he is saying it the way it is against that the APC, administration liars, who have made the country worse. I am not saying that the PDP is better, but APC is worse. Now, if I had done all that and nothing worked, I came to America and I started all over again, I never tried to claim that I am an actor because nobody would listen to me. If you decide to come to America, you would do the lowest job available, but you would make better money.
I got to the US and within 2 years, my story changed. With my security job, I can feed myself and my family compare to when I was in Nigeria that when my family were eating in the morning, I would not know where the afternoon meal would come from. That country has been messed up that no matter the number of ideas you have as a youth that will work, it cannot work because the criminals who called themselves politicians would not make it to work. All they do is godfather-rism. I did all I could, took the risk of shuttling between Lagos and Ekiti and all we could get was hotel room to lay our heads for those 30 days. He eventually won, thinking that he would call us, who worked for him. He didn’t. I don’t want my family to die of hunger, so I had to relocate. I tried my best even for the then governor of my state, Oshiomhole, during his second term in office, I know all I did, but nothing to show for it.
How else does a young man or you expect me to work? This is one of the ways of advertising what I did as a filmmaker. I didn’t earn something from it. Today, I got to a country that is not mine, regardless of whatever insult or anything, I got a modest job and it is now left for me to plan a future around it. I thank God that my daughter’s tongue has changed, she attends a better school in the US and this gave me assurance that there is a future for the little girl. Nigeria is one of the best countries in the world, but what do we, have to show for it? Is there a curse in Nigeria? Imagine yourself a journalist, you find your ways to reach out to me to interview me, which is the best and very fine, but the truth is that many people are there in Nigeria who are working, but earning peanut.
I don’t know how much they pay you or how much your employer has, but this same work, if you come to US to practice it, you would know what you are worth, which you can’t compare with what you get in Nigeria. As a filmmaker, I produced a movie that marketer couldn’t release. I shot a film in London, Nigeria and US in 2009 and it is still in a cupboard in Nigeria because technology has gone beyond the system that produced it. People are now using better cameras to shoot films, but I couldn’t release the flick then because of piracy. There is no law against that. Everything isn’t working in Nigeria my brother. So, if anybody says that actor is now a security man, I will just advise them to go and hang or they make use of third mainland bridge to join their ancestors because I know how much I earn now.
Now, should we say that you have finally dumped Nollywood?
Never! I love Nollywood so much that I named my child after it. I am just working to strategise. I pray that God will grant us the grace to be a reference point in the game soon.
You said it earlier that God gave you a good wife, who was there during your trying time in Nigeria, can you explain better?
When God blesses a man with a good and praying wife, everything in his life goes automatic devoid of hindrance. And because she is so good, I had to honour her by keeping our marriage bed sacred since 2012, even while away for 18 months. That is how much I appreciate her. That is if you know how dirty I was with women in the past. She did not only stand by me, but she was contented with the little I could provide (very meager).
How did you meet her initially?
I was lucky to meet her. I went into a serious praying and fasting session before God pointed her to me when she wasn’t in number 20 of my female friends, but in what I could call a dramatic twist, somehow God chose her for me. And today I know she is happy with me.
How can you describe your journey in life?
It has been rough and tough, but according to God’s plan, it is to make me appreciate life more.
Share with us your growing up. How was it like?
I grew up at Pako Eleja/Itire in Mushin area of Lagos. It was a tough environment and I had a very humble background. The look of everything about my upbringing was not palatable.
Your growing up in Mushin, what impact would you say that has made on you as a person and on your career also?
Well, I made my entry into film business without an iota of fear in me, so I took some very daring decisions. Though, I am a timid person today, I guess because I am now responsible for some people other than myself. Also, I have learnt to endure any situation or condition. My background taught me to respect men who deserve respect and to be generous with the “F” word. I can square up with those who don’t respect themselves no matter how highly placed they are. I also gathered from experience that a Mr. Nobody can be somebody and a Mr. Somebody can be a Mr. Nobody at any point in life. My life then taught me even at my lowest state to always contribute the little I can afford to support a total stranger without singing it to the world. Not to those who ask from a greedy point of view, but those who visibly lack. I can go on and on with what I learnt from my growing up.
You are from Edo State, but you have a Yoruba name, “Femi Ogedengbe”, what is the connection here?
My parents came to Ibadan/Lagos when they were very young and they made many Yoruba friends and blended into the Yoruba ways of life since they had us in Lagos. They gave us many names including Edo names. The Yoruba name (Femi) stuck because people call me that more. As for Ogedengbe, our people answer that name too as the Deltan goalkeeper, “Best Ogedengbe”. In fact, I was Femi Ogedengbe from primary school to secondary school, but I had to change it to Olufemi Omokafe Ogedengbe at a point just to tell people that I am from Edo. That is why I have a dual profile on the internet today. Google Femi Ogedengbe or Olufemi Ogedengbe they are still the same person.
Between your job in America and Nollywood, which one gives you joy more?
Nollywood, but the new work in America is the only thing that can guarantee my going back to Nollywood to continue getting the joy that comes with it. It is the only way for me since our leaders don’t have the ace card to lead us to such freedom to enjoy our chosen careers.