How I fell out of my law ambition – Chinedu Ikedieze
by OMONIYI ALLI
‘Aki’ Chinedu Ikedieze is a Nigerian actor, entrepreneur, and serial investor. Having featured in countless films and numerous entrepreneurship projects; Aki became one of Nollywood’s most successful & sought-after actors after he landed a role in the 2002 comedy flick ‘Aki Na Ukwa’.
In this interview, he tells OMONIYI ALLI, about the journey thus far, his many ambitions, handling distractions amongst other issues.
Q: Following the remake of ‘Aki Na Ukwa’, titled ‘Aki and PawPaw’, it seemed like you were reminding the Nigerian audience where the name came from.
A: No. The truth is that the moniker, Aki and Pawpaw are household names and have come to stay. The executive producer just chose to remake it, and this time decided to go with the character names, Aki and PawPaw.
The movie is a sequel to the original ‘Aki Na Ukwa’. If it was an embryo, this remake would be considered long overdue. Osita and I had wanted to do it, we had discussed it severally, but it is not the kind of movie that can be done in a wishy-washy way, it is an epic story, and we didn’t just want to jump into it.
We were still on it when Charles Okpaleke approached us. He had already started doing other remakes, ‘Living in Bondage: Breaking Free’, ‘Nneka the Pretty Serpent’ and the rest of them, so we felt comfortable working with him.
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Q: Were you worried at any point that your fans would not receive the movie well?
A: No. I am an actor, why should I be worried? You simply have to be convincing, and I let them know that we are still there, and we will always be there.
Q: Please tell us the back story behind Aki Na Ukwa?
A: When Osita and I got our scripts, we didn’t think of it as a comic movie so we were acting normally. The screenwriter wrote the script and intended for it to be a film that was heavy on life lessons and morals.
Maybe there was a bit of comic expectations, especially from some other actors like my father in the movie, the late Sam Loco and some other big comic actors, but not from us. We were just acting like little kids with no intention to make people laugh or roll on the floor. We were just acting normally.
If you watch the film again, you will notice that we were just interpreting the role of innocent children
Q: Did you foresee the film becoming a success at the time?
A: I didn’t really think that the movie would be an instant hit but I think it was a success because of the chemistry Osita and I share. The movie was a first, something Nigerians and the movie industry hadn’t seen until then. It was the first time people would see two child actors who blended easily in one movie.
Q: Having starred in over 150 Nollywood films, do you have a favourite?
A: It definitely has to be ‘Aki na Ukwa’ because it was the film that shot me into limelight. I am also eternally grateful to the late Chukwuka Emeliyeonwu. He took a very big risk when he invested his money in that movie.
Even though he didn’t write the script, but for him to agree to invest his money, even after he was banned by his union for distributing the movie, he managed to market the movie using his brother’s distribution company. ‘Aki Na Ukwa’ became the highest-grossing movie for him selling throughout Africa and other parts of the world. He made money, even though the movie was massively pirated as well.
Q: Your role as Efe Johnson in the Africa Magic series ‘The Johnson’ was a surprising addition to your repertoire as an actor. Surprising because the audience did not expect to see you in a serious role like that. As an actor, what kind of roles do you embody more?
A: All of the above. I never want to limit myself to a particular genre of acting. Yes, I started as a comic actor, but that is not all I want to be known for.
I may be a comic actor, but I am an actor in general. There is something about comedy, it gives you the opportunity to evade people’s lives and find a way in between to generate happiness. So everything that you can do to evoke that feeling gives you joy. That is why it seems like I love comedy. The situation in the country is brutal, and the only way we can survive is to be happy.
In Nigeria, you must force that happiness. That is why I seem to pay more attention to comic roles. Wherever I go, I radiate the feelings of people, I bring in life. People see laughter and joy, and so if my presence alone can stir such feelings and emotions, then I am doing great since this is my profession.
Q: Will it be right to say you are fulfilled as an actor?
A: In all sincerity, I will say yes. As a little boy, I grew up with so many aspirations. I wanted to become a doctor because my uncle is a doctor. After I had some encounters in secondary school, I wanted to become a lawyer. But aside, I nursed a love for acting. It, however, wasn’t a part of my dreams.
I always knew that I could do those things I watched on TV. As a little boy, I did not believe that anything was impossible. I always had the belief that if I tried I could do it, even though I may not have the financial capability to achieve it. I had a lot of wild pool of ideas. Looking back, I’m glad I took to acting and I am beyond fulfilled.
Q: What happened to your law ambition?
A: I was denied admission into law because I didn’t get the JAMB cut-off mark. I accepted to study Mass Communication at the Institute of Management & Technology (IMT) in Enugu after my sister-in-law persuaded me to.
I took up Mass Communication in a polytechnic with the thought that it was part-time so that I would sit for another JAMB exam so I can try Law again. I tried JAMB and got Law, but at that time I had already fallen in love with Mass Communication so I rejected the admission. The moment I fell in love with Mass Communication I began to see a path to Nollywood and I grabbed it.
Q: In many ways, your popularity was recently renewed with the advent of memes on social media with your face on it, even as far as global Twitter. Do people ever send those memes to you?
A: Yes. A lot of times, many of the memes and gifs are mostly culled out of movies that I have done. You would also be surprised to learn that most of them are from India.
Q: How do you handle constant, distracting attention from fans and movie lovers who simply want to hang around you?
A: It can be distracting but you can’t run away from it, it has become part of my life. I live with it, so I can’t deviate. There is something about managing human beings that I learned from one of my psychology lecturers. He used to say that the most difficult species to manage are humans, not even animals.
He would say that if you can stay with three people in a house for one year without fighting, then you can live with anybody. Even when there is a problem and you argue, so far as you can make up and move on, then you can be with people. When I was in school, in my first and second years, we were six in a room. It wasn’t even a room; it was a kitchen. We lived amicably and there were no issues.
Whenever we had arguments, we settled them without anyone knowing anything was wrong. I always tell people that even when I am not in a great mood and people approach me, I must be courteous.
There was a day I was almost in tears and people came greeting me; they didn’t know what I was passing through, but I managed to squeeze out a happy face because these people were unaware of what I was passing through emotionally.
I see them the way I see myself, and I relate with them the same way. I try to let that relationship exist because if you begin to act like they don’t exist, you make things worse for yourself. Without them, there would be no me.