In this fascinating and thrilling interview with AZUH AMATUS, handsome actor cum model, Chidi Mokeme, famously and fondly called GQ by friends and admirers led us into his private and public lives without inhibitions.
The presenter of wave-making Gulder Ultimate Search on TV, also shared his experience with us on the set of the wave-making reality show currently serenading Nigerians.
Surprisingly, the talented and amiable, Oba, Anambra State-born leading entertainer, who is still single and not searching, publicly admitted being a playboy.
He graciousy opened up on hitherto hidden things about his person in this explosive encounter that held amid banters at his palatial VGC, Lekki, Lagos home.
Enjoy the interaction!
Currently, what have you been doing?
I just returned from a movie set in Abuja with Andy Best Production, the title was Pretty Angels. I was the lead character. I just came out of another set here in Lagos with Lion-Base Production. The movie was titled Blood Of An Armed Robber. And I will be hitting set soon for other jobs. In fact, I’m basically back to what I know how to do best.
Do you subscribe to the fact that presenting GUS since inception has actually boosted your personality in Nollywood?
I think GUS 1 and 2, has basically helped in widening the scope of my fan base tremendously. But I’m still who I am in Nollywood. GUS can only bring positive changes.
Which was your first movie in Nollywood and when did you breeze in?
Nollywood? Commercially, I came in 1995. I had a shuttle between Zeb Ejiro’s Goodbye Tomorrow and Ralph Nwadike’s Body of Vengeance. They were my first two movies in Nollywood. But I have been a model for long before Nollywood beckoned. But right now, I think I do more of endorsements. I had a relationship with the cameras long before Nollywood, especially with people who were into TV. At one point, I was under the stable of Alex Usifo, he had an agency then called Silver Models. I was one of his models then. I was into all this, until Nollywood came, so I guess the transition was more like natural.
To whom do you owe your huge success in Nollywood?
To whom do I owe my success? The journey so far more like… I think to everybody who has given me the opportunity to work with him or her, all contributed to who I am today. I’ve actually worked my way to the top. Ten years is a long time. It is not a flash in the pan. It’s been long years of dedication, hard work and commitment. Also of excellence and professionalism.
Ten years ago, did you ever think of getting to where you are today?
Let me say with all sense of humility that I actually expected I would be way above where I am today. I took a lot of risk to be in this industry. It was not something that my parents readily agreed to. They actually had lots of problems with me modeling then. But somehow, I was strong headed and felt this is what I wanted to do. I always had problems with them whenever I go for a shoot and come back very late. They never could understand what kind of jobs I was into as a teenager then. We had lots of friction then and I was a science student. My transition into movies now made it worse for my parents and me. Now I was no longer coming back late, but also staying one week or more than outside on locations. It was not easy. And the determination in me for them to let me be was just to make a success out of this career. But I refused to quit. I always say to myself that the challenges as far as movies are concerned have not come yet. I still believe that there is so much more that I’m willing to unleash, but just waiting for the right kind of setting. Right scripts, funds and producers. Then you will see that there is so much more that we can do.
With your ten years experience, what would you say is the biggest problem facing Nollywood today?
Nollywood has legion of problems. At the core of it will be mediocrity. It is a multi-tentacles virus that comes in all forms. But if you dig deep, you will find out that the bottom line is still mediocrity. People, who do not appreciate the craft of arts, should not be involved. If you have people who are coming in because of the millions they are making, then you will have so many substandard products.
What is happening to your well-publicized clothing line?
The dream is still on and it’s called GQ. It is a bye product of what I do. It’s just a way of expressing myself in my spare time. For now, it is not mass-produced. We have the intentions of doing that later. It is not an outfit that might appeal to every Tom, Dick and Harry. You have to have some radical thinking in you to adorn my designs. They are abnormal designs that are out to make statements. It is a design for those who believe in the cause for a change. Change for a better society, better government and so on… It is my own fight against corruption. You can’t see them in shops or boutiques, because we still have financial constraints. We want to open a deserving show room. We are not coming out in a hurry. I have very respectable clients who wear my lines. They are exclusive designs.
Chidi Mokeme cuts the image of a playboy. Is he one?
Well, if I cut that image in my movies that is cool. But in real life, I’m a positive kind of playboy. My idea of what people call a playboy, is some guy who is sleek, good looking and got everything going for him with nice cars and good house. Wears the right clothes, says the right things with a very pure intent in his heart. I want to look good, drive the kind of car that makes me happy. And also make those around me happy.
How do you cope with your female fans and admirers?
One of the hardest things to find in Nigeria is gratitude for what you do. It is a difficult society. The truth is that some want to go beyond appreciating my work. I try to find ways of not hurting them whenever they come my way. I know where exactly to cut the line. I deal with it as it comes.
How old is Chidi Mokeme?
I was 33 on March 17, 2005. So, I’m heading to 34.
Why are you still single?
I’m working towards that. I have a serious relationship. You will know more about her when the time comes. We will tie the knot, as soon as God says move.
Tell us more about yourself and family?
I’m Chidiebere Geoffrey Azubuike Mokeme The GQ actually comes from the G in my English name. And the Q, stands for Quo. I got it from status quo. I’m the first in a family of two boys and three girls. I was born in Ogidi, Anambra State but grew up here in Lagos. I’m also from Oba in the same State. I was some months old when I came to Lagos. But my secondary education was in Minna, Niger State. I later went to Enugu for my higher education.
What are your future goals?
My goals and aspirations? To be the best in whatever it is that I lay my hands on. I have lots of plans that I’m working on they are still under wraps. I will unleash them at the appropriate time. I will also go into movie making at the appropriate time.
A lot of people see you as a multi-millionaire. How rich are you?
The truth is that I have a lot of good will going for me. I’m very comfortable…
Talking about GUS, how was the experience on the set of Gulder Ultimate Search 2 on the hills of Obudu Ranch like, how did it go?
The experience on the set of GUS 2 was wonderful. You need to go and experience it yourself. Obudu is a masterpiece of nature. There are really no words you can use to quantify how you feel climbing a top the hills of Obudu. It was fun and wild experience.
For two consecutive years you have been the anchorman of GUS. What is the secret and how are you doing it?
Well, I guess it is basically for continuity purposes. My personal opinion to them is that it is good to have a steady anchorperson that has also followed the show from inception and at every point in time have available history to rely on. There was also series of screen test again for the second time. And at the end of the day, they said to me, you got to keep the job. And I said okay, I’m ready to work.
Were you part of those that created the concept of GUS 2, especially your own style of presenting?
Well, GUS 2 is a big show; in fact, it is the biggest show in Africa right now. A project that gulps between N300 to N500 million cannot have one man calling the shots. It was a fieldwork and kudos should be given to those who started the original idea- Insight Communications and NB Plc. We actually do work as a family whenever we are on set.
For twenty-one days you were away from home, family, colleagues and pals. What and what did you miss?
Well, let me say that by now I’m very used to being away from home. Over the years, my job as an actor, has been taking me away from home. I’ve actually stayed for more than twenty-one days on some movies sets. But then, the experience on GUS was quite different from movie locations. There is so much excitement, adrenalin is pumping and you are expected to do things at the spur of the moment. There is really no time for “take two”. I was actually out for more- than twenty-one days. I missed my dogs. As a matter of fact, one of my dogs had a set of eight puppies while I was away. And all of these puppies died. I attributed the lost to my absence. I miss all the regular things. I miss my car, because I relax in it. Not being able to go somewhere and hear some loud music. But then, I have to work to fund all these luxuries.
Were you at any point in time jittery while presenting GUS 2?
I think the jitters came with GUS I. Being the very first edition and also the first time for me on TV. First time to do a live TV show. It was the first time to present a reality show. There were a whole lot of pressures and responsibilities on me. That brought about the jitters. But for the GUS 2, there was nothing like that.
What would you say are the fond memories you came back with from GUS 2 set in Obudu?
Every day was a memorable one for me while recording in Obudu. The whole package makes the experience and brings out the fond memories. I see the whole memories as one big package.
How would you rate the contestants of GUS 2 and that of GUS I. Who did you flow very well with in terms of presenting?
Let us not forget that we were dealing with a wide variety of individuals from different backgrounds. We can’t always expect same behavioural pattern from them. They came with their own set of challenges. Though, the excitement for GUS 2 might have started a little bit dull, but picked up very well. The contestants had an early bonding and quickly adapted among themselves. The first few episodes of the show, I was a little harsh, just to remind them that they were there for a purpose and millions of people are watching them. And mind you, there were no laid scripts for them to follow. My being harsh came with the show. People misconstrued GUS 2 to look like Big brother Africa. It is not it they are both different. GUS 2 was all about live in the jungle and as a matter of fact, we go out of our way to put the contestants in some form of discomfort. My job was basically to guide the pack of ten, mould them until one comes out as the ultimate man. No emotions during the eviction moments. Because I’m actually eager to get rid of you for not keeping up to the challenges and not having what it takes to be the ultimate man.
For the 21 days that you people were in the jungle, we did not hear of any wild animals attack or incident of snakes bites. Did they screen and fumigate the jungle before allowing you people in?
Well, the place wasn’t screened or fumigated. There was no snakes bites or wild animals attacks. But they were reported cases of snakes’ sightings especially around Fort Max on one or two occasions. But every security and medical facilities were on ground at the Obudu hills in case of emergencies. Aside that, the hills of Obudu were not hostile as regards animals’ inhabitants.
In all ramifications, last year’s show and the one for this year, which is better from your own point of view?
In comparison, I think in everything in life you will always expect the next to be better than the first one. If I look at it from that backdrop, I will say that GUS 2 was better than GUS I. But then, they both came with their peculiar kind of challenges. We usually learn from the mistakes of the past and always try to improve upon them in future editions. In the third edition, there will also be lots of improvements.
What areas would you love to improve upon in the third edition?
Most of the problems that we encountered were actually logistics. It takes a lot to keep a show of that magnitude running, especially power, for 24 hours. I’m looking forward to a situation where power will be available all through the show without us managing it. Next year, I also want to see more inputs and partnership coming from more corporate organizations and even State governments. Cross Rivers State government was most supportive. We want more state governments to invite us in our future editions to help them show case what they have by giving us the enabling environment to do that. It is not just entertainment but part of the corporate social responsibility of NB Plc to the society in helping to mould the youths. GUS helps in showcasing positive values.
They said you were paid N1.2 million to anchor GUS 2?
I was actually paid lot more than that. But the exact amount I can’t disclose publicly. Even last year, I got a bonus prize from the chairman of NB Plc., to the tune of one million. In terms of money paid, I’m as ultimate as the ultimate man.
First published, July 2005