In Nigeria, Acting Provides for Basic Needs, Not Financial Security
Mike Godson is an actor, activist and entrepreneur. He began his acting career in 2010 and has grown to be a household name in the Nigerian film industry. He has featured in over 100 films and starred alongside veterans like, Pete Edochie, Clem Ohameze, Kenneth Okonkwo, Van Vicker and John Dumelo. Mike is also a successful entrepreneur, who runs an agro-processing and commodity trading company in Lagos. As an activist, Mike plays a major role encouraging youths to voter and help build Nigeria. He tells Tosin Clegg about his acting career, starting a business, the down side of the COVID-19 pandemic and more
I was born and raised in Kano State
I grew up in northern Nigeria. I also got much of my education over there. I am the fifth of seven children. We grew up with strict parents. My mother was an educator. My father wanted me to study Law just like one of my sisters, because I would ask bold questions no one dared to ask. They never saw me becoming an actor, but they knew I was open-minded and unpredictable. Growing up, I didn’t have many friends because I was instructed to always stay indoors and read my books. I was only seen outside when going to church or going to school. My parents were relatively conservative and religious.
How my background shaped my life
As much as my upbringing made me extremely introverted as a human, people who took my calm and introverted nature for arrogance have most times got the wrong impression about me. In some other areas, I will say it has a positive effect on my life too.
Playing love roles
The Bible says ‘a man’s gift makes a way for him.’ Maybe producers think I’m excellent playing love roles? Speaking of being romantic in real life, I understand the actor’s role is to imitate, but you can’t offer what you don’t have inside you.
Most difficult thing to ever happen to me and how I overcame it
An American woman I’ve never met, called me out online to say she’s married to me and pregnant with twins. It was absolutely not funny. But at the end of the day, I discovered that she was a fan who just wanted my attention, but I was not comfortable with that situation at all.
Becoming an entrepreneur and the business I do
I run a commodity trading business that manufactures and sells tonnes of raw materials to companies and end users. I do backward integration, which means what we supply, we produce and process. Having understood the creative industry’s demography, I realised that creating other streams of income is very important. In Nigeria, working as an actor provides for your basic needs but might offer no financial security. However, it can give you access to the right people and investors. I had watched Aliko Dangote’s interview on Aljazeera a few years ago. He talked about his early stage as an entrepreneur, and how he took his uncle’s loan to start a company, paid back the loan after three months, worked very hard and turned the business into a conglomerate. It had been my biggest inspiration. I have always believed you should move with visionary people if you want to go far in life. So, I pitched a business idea to a friend of mine who runs one of Africa’s fastest growing shipping companies successfully. I invested and started my business after two years of his coaching and mentoring. The goal is to create jobs, reinvigorate our communities and generate economic growth.
My challenge building a successful business in Nigeria
As an entrepreneur, it can be very difficult to own a business in Nigeria, especially a commodity trading business. You need money to operate these kinds of enterprises, since they are very capital intensive. In reality, funding an organisation is the most important part of doing business. You can’t run a business without money. Factors to consider include manufacturing machines, diesel engines, duty trucks, salaries for workers, truck drivers, land owners and warehouses. The financial institution will always say there are loans for small and medium-sized businesses but banks make it almost impossible to access them. They feel more comfortable granting the loans based on personal recognition to multimillionaire customers plus the imposition of almost unreasonable terms and conditions also makes it difficult for smaller business owners to grow. There are also infrastructural issues, such as inadequate power supply, bad roads and high tax/produce payment for duty trucks.
It is a bad time for business owners everywhere
Even big corporations are looking for bailouts. The closing of the border exacerbated by the pandemic greatly affected a lot. It has been difficult to supply raw materials to my clients whose factories are located in other states. There is also the issue of delayed payment from customers. The pandemic affected the film industry really hard as well. The Nollywood industry is known worldwide as a tool for creating entertainment and some level of happiness among families. And now it is impossible to go to the locations because of the pandemic. Every sector has been badly affected as no one had anticipated this terrible situation. Everyone has been paying attention to the authorities, ensuring we respect social distancing and taking strict precautionary steps to prevent the spread of the virus.
I worked with INEC for five years as an activist and youth ambassador
I’m always invited to observe interactive sessions; to promote a nonviolent election in Nigeria during any election preparation conducted by the commission. The goal is to sensitise and connect with every single youth in the country, preaching good will messages, engage them through social media platforms, and most importantly, educate them on the importance of their votes, and a nonviolent election.
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the world
It’s changed the way we live, the way we work and our everyday lives. As we continue to pray for the pandemic to go away, and the reopening of the financial system, we need to start taking proactive action to ensure our safety during business and other operations.