Hate or love him, Charles Okocha is, presumably, the stuff of Hollywood. From playing the role of an American returnee, ‘Igwe’, to other chequered roles, Okocha has – through his internet skits – built into his fame a larger-than-life character in Nollywood, Ferdinand Ekechukwu writes
• My Skits Are For My Fans
• I Have Never Lived In America
• I Don’t Smoke, I don’t Do Drugs
A first-hand experience of the Delta State-born act tells much about his acceptance in the entertainment industry; and a testimony of a kind to what not a few would agree about his persona. Here it is: Charles Okocha had turned up for a meeting and had parked on Commercial Avenue at Sabo Yaba Lagos, just opposite Ozone Cinema.
Moments after he made his way back to where he had parked, his appearance had caused a spectacle as cars snarled-up as people excitedly stepped out of their automobiles to take a photograph with him or get his autograph while chanting his nicknames. With a handful of passersby parodying his trending skit, ‘Haters Shove It Up Your Ass’. Remarkably, the skit has gone viral with media, corporate and A list personalities on it goofing around.
In a way, it appears the Yankee-guised Nollywood star has long started a movement without even knowing. Explaining how his wave-making skit got on, he said, “That movement I don’t even know. Even how I started, I don’t know.” But knowingly and for whatever reason, following comments on the blogosphere are mixed followers who, as a result of his acts, hate or like the comic materials he posts online.
That, he acknowledged as “most definitely”, saying, “Even while you are not successful you have haters. When you are successful you still have haters. So is it good for you not to be successful and you still have haters or for you to be successful and still have haters? Its good for you to be successful and have haters. Because when you are successful and you have haters, trust me the love will always overcome the hate.”
Okocha says he’s just a simple guy that knows where he is going to with the crazy skits and things he posts online for his fans. Apart from the false impression raised by his image, his acts have given him a different colouration.
“Some go about saying perhaps I’m into this or that or perhaps I smoke. But trust me, I don’t even know how to smoke cigarettes. I have not even tried it one bit in my life. I could just make things up in movies. I have never really done it. I don’t do it. I’m just naturally hyper. It’s just my kind of person.
“Even at home, I’m hyper like that and that’s why if I leave home or I travel out of the country or travel for a movie, my family will miss me a lot. I’m this kind of person. I’m hilarious. There’s no dull moment with me when you are around me,” he explains.
The ‘Akunatakasi’ star would argue that he does not owe his popularity to the Internet; that he has always been popular even before the online buzz, which his roles in movies fetched him. Okocha, however, admits that the social media is one of the best things that have ever happened to his career.
“My roles have given me that popularity but trust me, the social media made it extraordinary. Do you know why? If you’re not watching me in movies you are with your phone watching me on Instagram.
“The fans I have are in the Diaspora. I don’t just have fans like you do movie and your movie don’t cut across like you’re doing movie and people just know you only in Nigeria. On my Instagram page, you see people following me from many cities beyond this shore,” he added.
With a seemingly diverse personality, Okocha is one of the most active Nollywood actors and so to say, appears the most popular on the Internet.
Inspired by the likes of Pididdy, Jay-Z, and the rest, Okocha is like a scion of western hip-hop who draws from the pop culture.
His style of showmanship, original and characteristically reflective of his persona is a signpost of his childhood.
“It’s just the orientation,” Okocha said this of his background. “I used to watch these American movies and music of the likes of Pididdy and Jay-Z. That thing got into me and took a better part of me. So the music part has always been there.”
Quite unlike popular thoughts about him, Okocha was raised in the streets of Ajegunle; from there to Oworonshoki and then to Surulere. From Surulere, he moved to Ikotun and on to Okota, his present neighbourhood. He has never lived in America.
Okocha studied Business Administration but his passion dragged into another field.
“You know passion, like they say no matter the school or anything if you got passion for something, it’s just where your heart lies. So movie took the better part of me. From movie to music even while I was young, I used to mime rap music. I’m hip-hop inclined.
“That’s why sometimes when you see me, even a lot of people think I stayed in America or perhaps I was brought up there or born there. Everything about me is Nigerian. I started going to America in 2014. Even in America people get interested in my character when they see me they say, ‘Where’re you from?’ Thinking I’m from America; Los Angeles or Houston,” he said.
His breakthrough role came sometime in 2002. He was merely walking around Aguda, Surulere in Lagos when he caught the attention of a seasoned Nollywood movie producer, Teco Benson.
“So when Teco saw me and asked, ‘Have you acted before?’ I told him no. He said ‘Okay, see me in my office; there’s something I have for you.’ I was so elated it was like my best day, best moment in life. I went to his office and that was how he gave me a role and I acted alongside Justice Esiri in the movie, ‘Wasted Years’. After that one scene, I nailed it. And there on, Teco started giving me more roles. From there, the big ones started coming,” Okocha narrated.
One of such subsequent offers and a career launch pad came through a role he played in the movie by the same character, ‘Igwe 2Pac’. The movie was shot in 2011. He was called for the movie, though according to him the script wasn’t well written. But the director believing in his craft asked that he improvised.
“Then the director just told me ‘Charles Okocha, I know you can, just do your thing.’ Of course, I did my thing and I interpreted the role very well. And that was how that name ‘Igwe 2Pac’ got stuck to me,” he recalled.
Since then he has remained the man producers and directors go to first when in need of one of an American returnee character.
Although perceived as loose cannon, Okocha is often seen as attractive to scandals. The tale of how he got hit by bullets in 2015 where he had gone for an event in Asaba has been told overtime.
Following that unfortunate incident, he stayed off movie shoots for quite some time after which he miraculously survived and returned to acting.
“For me to have survived six bullets pumped into my system and somebody close to me got hit by just a bullet and he died, it goes to show that God have a good purpose for me in the future. My intestine popped out at some point – I just know there is a reason for that.”
How does he handle the attention female fans give him?
“They have been coming,” he said. “They come now more since ‘Amoshine’ (his single). Girls are just coming to me; they don’t need the money. They just want to feel like, ‘hey I’m with this guy.’ At the end of the day they just want that moment of a Snapchat, Instagram, do this with you and they are cool and before you know it, the whole world sees it. But you as an artiste it now depends on you.”
QUOTE: My roles have given me that popularity but trust me, the social media made it extraordinary. Do you know why? If you’re not watching me in movies you are with your phone watching me on Instagram. The fans I have are in the Diaspora. I don’t just have fans like you do movie and your movie don’t cut across like you’re doing movie and people just know you only in Nigeria. On my Instagram page, you see people following me from many cities beyond this shore