July 20, 2014 – Kenneth Okonkwo Talks About Divorce, New Wife, Marriage & Upcoming Movie
Veteran Nollywood actor Kenneth Okonkwo has granted his first 2014 interview.
In this latest interview with Mercy Michael, Kenneth talked about his new wife, his life as a born again Christian, how he handles temptation from women, his upcoming movie and many more.
You come across like a very blunt person, are you?
In my family, they would tell you that if I have a problem with anyone, they can pass judgment once they have heard my own side of the story. Anything you say that is contrary to what I say is a lie. That is the truth and I wouldn’t say anything that will favour me. I will say it just the way it is; and then, I will apologise where necessary. So, that is just the kind of person I am. The truth is the truth. Yes, it may hurt sometimes, but when you tell the truth, you have done your best. Even if someone gets mad at me for saying what I said, he or she will come around. But unfortunately, there are situations in which by the time they come around, you would have moved on.
It is said that you charge as high as N2m per movie. Could you react to this?
Well, I wouldn’t want to discuss my fee because you are being unfair to me. You don’t go and ask a civil servant how much he or she is earning. But the fact remains that from Living in Bondage Part 2, I have been earning what I love to earn. It is satisfying; it is just good enough because we are in Nigeria.
By next month, I will be due to make a movie, Eye of the Eagle, in the United States. It is a very fantastic story and you will fall for it.
Is it a Nigerian/Hollywood production?
Yes, Nigerians are involved. Basically, it is by a Nigerian over there and he wants to do a collaboration work with Hollywood. So, that is why we are going to do it there.
You’re one of the best actors in Nollywood. So, what are those qualities that stand you out?
Should I not allow you to answer that (Laughs)? If you put it to me, I will say thank you for saying nice things about me. But I think it is basically the grace of God. There is this thing about charisma, which is a gift. I’ve seen a lot of actors and actresses who act very well, but are not being liked. You see, likeability is different from the acting and I think that’s a gift. I think the grace of God contributes a lot to entertainment. You see, before Living in Bondage, Nigerians would not even want to be patient enough to watch a local movie. I went to one video shop and the man had this inscription: “No local video is allowed here”. But immediately Living in Bondage came out, though we didn’t even advertise it, it was like there was an outcry. People were rushing to buy it. And with all due respect, it was the story of my character from beginning to the end. So, you can see the likeability. The real first one that came out was not subtitled. But Hausa and Yoruba people wanted it subtitled because they loved everything about it. So, we had to take it back to subtitle it. Likeability! So, that’s the grace of God, working in its highest form. And I’m grateful to God almighty for that. What can I do? What can I say? I didn’t contribute anything to the way I look or the way I talk. I didn’t go to any school of Theatre Arts. But I always carry myself into any movie and I am just accepted. That’s the grace of God. Then, do you know the secret of my success? I read a lot, think a lot and work a lot! That’s what Henry Ford told the businessmen who wanted to be successful.
So, when you are not on screen, what do you do?
I read a lot and I’m a born-again Christian now. I wasn’t a good guy from birth. So, that helped me also to cut out a lot of frivolities and I keep praying to God that I fall not into temptation. Also, I pray that ladies do not lead me into temptation because the beautiful ones are coming out every day! You don’t just need prayers only, but you need to do the biblical injunction too.
At what point did you become a born-again Christian?
It was in 1994. You know, when you think that material things, fame and fortune will make you happy and God deposited all these things in you, yet you are not happy, then, you just know that there is a vacuum. God must be interested in me. The story of my salvation is determined by the God Almighty. I just knew that truthfully without Him, I can’t do anything.
Do you have any regrets regarding your past life?
No! I don’t have any regrets about the things I did. When I was doing them then, I was enjoying it; so, I have no regrets. I thought I was having fun.
You are very stylish. What informs your style?
I think by nature, I’m just stylish.
Though the way you walk is stylish, I think it is not natural…
The truth is that, if not that people are saying it, and everybody is saying the same thing, I would have argued that it’s not true. That is the way I’ve always walked from day one. As a matter of fact, at times, I try too hard not to walk that way. But once my mind gets off it, I just return to it.
You must have a lot of admirers. How do you cope with your female fans?
What can I say? I just try to be nice to them. I relate to some of them as very good friends.
How do you handle the persistent female fans?
How are you sure that there are persistent ones (laughs)? Hmm! One of the best things that God made on earth is the woman. There is something about them. They know more than we think. They know the sincerity of your heart. When you’re very honest to them, they will see the real thing God has deposited in them. Some of them may feel hurt when you say no, but they will understand, especially when they know that you mean it and your standard is the same for everybody. And that initial feeling of hurt will transform into big love, respect and truth. When you get your act right with women, you will know that they are the sweetest things on earth. If you start messing with women, you can only have one at a time and eventually it will limit a lot of things for you. But when you’re good to them, without asking for anything in return, you have all of them at a time. Women have a way of contributing to a man’s success, if they know you are genuine. And so, I’m having a very good relationship with them now. But, at the initial stage, it was bumpy. However, it later became beautiful.
Kenneth & wife
How has marriage helped to stabilise you?
Since I got married, I have not had carnal knowledge of any other lady. But I have been very close to it. But with Jesus Christ helping me, it has not happened.
What do you love most about her?
She’s very beautiful and very brilliant. She also understands me. And more importantly, she loves me very well.
Sorry to take you back, you must be a strong man not to have played ‘side-betting’ since 2007…
(Cuts in) For what ‘side-betting’ is (pauses)… But you know, as an actor, she understands. I don’t count the ‘peripheral’ thing that we even do publicly, but I mean the real thing.
Are there not times that you guys act to things and you get some feelings for the person?
You get used to what you are a professional in. It is like asking a doctor, ‘Don’t you get tickled?’ Doctors are even closer than us.
Every chance you get, you celebrate your present marriage…
(Cuts in)The only thing I’m going to say is that this is the real time that I have a privilege to settle down with a woman and marry her. This is really the first time that I can tell you that I settled down in a marriage made for two of us without any third party. As a human being, I have very soft spot for women. That’s known. I have not brutalised any woman since my adult age and the facts are there. So, anybody telling you that I brutalised anybody is telling you a lie. But I’ve always told people that I am not going to put my neck for my enemy to cut it off. I have said it before and I am saying it again. If you leave at the mercy of your enemy, you are simply making your enemy merciless. So, the mere fact that I have not placed my neck for anybody to cut it off does not mean that I have anything against anybody.
How do you reconcile the fact that you are born-again and you are divorced?
I don’t want to go into that. But there is nothing contradictory about it. Any relationship that you get into that is made of more than one person, the destiny of that relationship does not lie in your hands alone. That’s why we are men. We are not God. And I’m not the kind of man who wants to live a lie or live in lie. A lot of people are separated and are doing certain things, but they will come out and pretend they are not doing anything. I know myself. I know the limit of what I can sustain and with my profession. So, I know I can’t stay alone for a long while without really messing up. You know the Bible says that it is not good for a man to be alone.
So, how do you cope now, since you are always on locations?
What does it take? If I’m in London and I feel so, I can fly in, see my babe and fly back to location (laughs). At times, I would be on location and after a while, I will scream, ‘Hey! Hey! I just have to go home. I don’t know how my body is feeling.’ I’m that straight forward. I will announce it in the public. And if I don’t run that time, something will happen.
How did you meet her?
She is from my place. You know what? This is the truth of how it happened. It was my mother who introduced her to me. My mother sat down and said to some people: “If there is anybody who should have a problem in his marriage, it should not be this boy. I can vouch that this guy is a Christian and a born-again one.” So, when my mother saw this lady and she knows my ‘spec’, she called me and said she had seen a lady I would marry. My mother is a very fashionable and beautiful woman. I was like, ‘Me?’But she wasn’t aware of it. And I’m like, this one that my mother is talking like this. Then, she started enticing me, telling me about her physical attributes and so on. Then, I got interested. I called her and the rest is history. I talked to her in a manner that she just couldn’t let me go. She has been known in my town as a very decent lady. My mother has eagle eyes; and since I’ve been with her, it’s been bliss.
But you were not born-again when you were married the first time?
I was. I got born-again in 1994 and I got married 2000. I can tell you another thing: from the time I got born-again till I got married, I didn’t have a carnal knowledge of any woman. And that’s me. When I am here, I am here. That doesn’t mean I don’t get tempted; I do. But I have told you the secret. When I can’t hold my body, I run away.