Popular comic actor, John Okafor, popularly known as Mr. Ibu is one man that knows how to make his audience laugh with his antics onscreen. Known for his imbecilic roles, he says his fans sometimes mistake his movie personality for his real character, and in this exclusive chat with E24-7 MAGAZINE’S TOFARATI IGE, he speaks about his career and clears the air on some misconceptions about his person. Excerpts…
How will you describe your relationship with Globacom?
Cordial! We are like brothers and sisters who do things together. We sit down to discuss things and map out what is going to be done at a particular time as it concerns me as an artiste. There are many Glo ambassadors, but only few are always on set. Maybe it’s the love they have for me, or there are some faces people want to see in a particular advert before it is generally accepted.
How do you prepare yourself before going on set?
There is no preparation; it’s an in-built thing. I love acting, and interpretation of characters given to me doesn’t really take me time to do. Straight ahead, I read and interpret my characters and I enjoy it so much. Acting is so sweet.
How did you really come about the name Ibu?
Ibu has been my name from childhood. My grandfather bore the name too and I took after him because as I was growing up, they used to call me all his names. On how I got the name in a movie, somebody was actually writing a script that I was going to act in. He was using my name as a character in it and at the end of the day, they titled the film ‘John Ibu Okafor.’ It took me time to change it from Mr. John Ibu to John Okafor; later I left it as Mr. Ibu.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Not really on stage, but on the road when I drive into my fans and they demand I should come down from the vehicle which I normally do. But the irony is that some people hate me. One day, I came down from the vehicle acknowledging cheers from my fans and shaking hands with them. Meanwhile, somebody was busy knocking my head from the back and whenever I look back to see who it was, I will see everybody smiling and laughing with me. Before I know it, another person will hit me with another heavy knock again. I felt a lot of pains but I decided to bear it because they are my fans. However, I don’t blame them because I caused it with the way I interpret my roles in films. It makes them overwhelmed, so they feel the only way to appreciate me is to hit me and to keep liking me.
You’ve worked with a lot of actors; which of them do you have the most chemistry with?
A whole lot of them, because each time I have anyone of them on set with me, I see it like a challenge because I bring people up and parley with them. I don’t go about with any airs; everybody is equal to me, so each time we’re together on set, they act well and I love all of them.
And is there anybody you’ll like to act with that you’ve not had the opportunity of being on set with?
Hmmm, I have worked together with all of them, or let me say almost all of them.
What are you working on presently?
Now I’m working on Ibu Runs Mad in America. It’s about madness all through. I had to go nude completely; I put off all my cloth and I had to use powder to deceive people so that they will not know but it was all fun. It’s a very hilarious movie, but there are a lot of lessons attached to it. There are also lots of big actors in the movie including white men and women. Part of it was shot in Dallas, Bronx and Queens in New York, and Philadelphia all in the United States of America.
You have often acted romantic roles which may entail kissing and smooching female actors, how does your wife react to this?
She is an artiste too; if people kiss her, will I kill her? If she kisses, I kiss, so we both kiss.
Is any of your children taking after you?
Yes, my first son is showing interest in acting but I’m trying to push him away though he is insisting he’s going to act. He is married now with two kids, so I am a grandfather.
You don’t look like a grandfather, what’s the secret of your looks?
I’m always happy. I believe that you should leave behind whatever problem that is hanging you up; enjoy yourself, and smile with people. Laughter is the solution to lots of problems; enjoy yourself and feel free.
Can you recall your saddest moment?
The only time I felt bad was watching my mum die. I was standing watching her leave us; that moment was so tough for me because I love her so much. She left me with a lot of orientation like beating a woman is a sin; and that any man who beats a woman will go to hell. I held on to that word until I got mature and that orientation is still in me and my siblings; I’ve never raised my hands on a woman.
What will you consider the high point of your career?
Do I really have a high point? Everything is a high point for me; the sky is my limit. In fact, the sky is the beginning because I want to go higher and train so many people, and carry them along; both boys and girls. That is what I enjoy doing.
What about the lowest point of your career?
The lowest moment in my career is going for an award and nothing was given to me. Sometimes, they gave me plaque and no money is attached to it. I’m tired of packing ‘sticks’ at home with nothing attached to it. It pains me a lot, so I’ve decided to only go for awards that are really worth it. But if it is just any award, I can send my manager or anybody else to go and collect the stick on my behalf.
Does acting pay all your bills?
Yes, definitely; acting pays all my bills. I love acting so much; it has made me who I am today and I thank God.
Do you have any regrets?
Sometimes, people think I am not lettered because of the kind of language I speak, the way I dress, and my reaction to things in films. They see me as a mumu (fool), and I say yes to it, that I’m a mumu. But I attended elementary school; I didn’t attend primary school because in my time, there were no primary schools. From elementary school which stopped in 1974, I went to secondary school in Sapele. After that, I went to Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu for my tertiary education. I did part-time there because my father died early so there was nobody to train us. We were all feeding from hand to mouth. Having known that education is a priority; and that one cannot do anything without education, I was bent on making sure that I was educated to a level that was at least equal to my mates. But at a time, I stopped and then picked up again. That was how I actually trained myself.
Have you ever faced sexual harassment?
If you go to my page on Facebook, I fight vehemently against homosexuals; both gays and lesbians because these are viruses in the industry that kill the spirit. It is not good at all. There is no harassment as I speak to you; the harassment is within same sexes. Men harass themselves, and women harass themselves, so they are wonderfully preparing themselves for the devil, and I tell you, they will all go to hell.
Have you ever been wooed by a homesexual?
(Shouts). Several times, and the man that approached me will never come close to me again in his life because I humiliated him publicly. I called him out, and shouted his name everywhere. Besides, if it was by face, nobody would approach me because I’m not fine.
What will you like to say to your fans?
What I’m trying to tell my fans is, if you know what is your destiny, follow it up. Do not go into things because people are doing it; ask questions before you do anything. Don’t delve into any business you don’t know anything about; acting is so sweet but if you don’t know anything about it, just leave it. I hate it when people pay money to be given roles in movies. Why should you pay money to be given what you don’t know how to do, then people who can do it are not working; that is stealing.