Nkem Owoh (pictured right), best known to millions of fans as "Osuofia", represents a remarkable figure in the Nigerian film industry. A native of Udi in Enugu State in Eastern Nigeria, Owoh has had a highly regarded broadcasting and acting career dating back to the early 1970s, first, with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and later the Anambra Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), before moving into Nollywood. The accomplished actor and film-maker, perhaps better known for his hilarious comedy movie Osuofia in London, was actually in London in late May, touring with other Nollywood stars to promote their industry in the UK. Mercy Eze interviewed him. Below are excerpts.
* You are a hot item in Nigeria and even beyond, commanding a huge following over a long career in acting. Are you a millionaire or billionaire?
In which currency?
* Okay, in Nigerian currency.
You see, it depends on the currency. If you are talking about physical cash, can only say I am a comfortable man--have always seen myself thus. However, think what counts most in every career is "job satisfaction" and the people out there appreciating what you are doing. That is the essence of accomplishment!
In terms of financial riches, you may count yourself as a millionaire or even a billionaire in Nigeria, but by the time you finish solving your personal problems, and those of your relatives and other people around you, you begin to ask yourself whether you are actually a millionaire or not.
* You were abducted by kidnappers last year, what actually happened?
[Long pause] First of all, I thank God that I survived the whole scenario. It was a week-long ordeal, but it appeared like seven years to me, given all that I passed through. I also thank God for giving me the talents that helped secure my freedom--talents that even my abductors could appreciate.
But this is one experience that I don't wish even on my enemy! People, especially those in power, should not treat the kidnapping issue in isolation. Let's all collectively sit down and think, by asking ourselves: Who are these kidnappers? Who gave them the weapons? Who are the custodians of the arms recovered from these gangs?
I feel sad each time I think of the overall situation and the way people and the Nigerian authorities think that confrontation is the only automatic or magic wand, in terms of finding a lasting solution to the kidnapping problem in the country.
*As was the case with another great actor, Pete Edochie, the kidnappers were said to have demanded several million naira for your freedom. How much was actually paid at the end?
Please, I am not here to rehearse all that happened, especially to disclose how much was put down to secure my freedom. On principle, I think it is necessary to avoid saying things that will jeopardise the freedom of potential victims or those already-held in captivity.
But, I still throw the whole thing back to the people in government. The rising unemployment rate in the country has created the environment for some people to resort to indecent and bloody activities in order to survive, including kidnapping.
I don't know any kidnap victim who has been through such an experience as mine, who was lucky to be freed and escorted by his or her captors in their own car out of the jungle: that is the kind of gesture they extended to me; and they even gave me some buns to eat on my way home and N5,000 for my car fuel. Well, I thank them for their generosity!