41-year-old Nigerian comic actor Osita Iheme, best known as Pawpaw, whose acting career began two decades ago, has never been vocal about his political views. But the actor, widely regarded as Nigeria’s king of memes in this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, shared his thoughts on Nigeria’s political landscape.
With a focus on quality over quantity, Pawpaw also discusses the changing dynamics of the film industry and his dreams of playing a presidential role in conveying essential messages.
PT: Only when Aki and Pawpaw, the remake, was released in 2022 did you grace our screens. You seem to have taken a break from acting; what have you been up to?
Pawpaw: Well, I am still acting, but not how it used to be; it is now quality and not quantity. I also have other engagements, and the acting fee then is not the same thing as the acting fee now, so you don’t expect to be doing quantity jobs because of the fee involved, so I act when the script is vetted and okay, and the pay is also acceptable and excellent. So, we should be looking out for quality and not quantity, but soon, you will be seeing some movies coming out.
Osita Iheme (Pawpaw) and Chinedu Ikedieze (Aki)
PT: Have you considered directing a movie or producing a film?
Pawpaw: I am currently producing a movie, but I have yet to consider directing.
PT: Growing up, did you ever think you would be an actor?
Pawpaw: growing up, I was doing minor acting in church, all those church dramas; I am a Catholic. Although, initially, I wanted to become a lawyer, I also had this thought that I was going to be on TV. I didn’t know how it would happen, but by the grace of God, it happened.
But then, I wouldn’t say I was going to be an actor, and I just knew that there was something in me that I needed to unleash. And then it started with acting, and the rest, they say, is history.
PT: How did you get your first acting gig?
Pawpaw: A friend introduced me to an audition, so I went there, and the director picked me. And that was how I landed my first role.
PT: How did you meet your acting twin, Chinedu Ikedieze aka Aki?
Pawpaw: We met at a movie location. I came to shoot a movie, and he was there already; it was a divine connection. We had never met each other before, but then we shared this on-screen chemistry and brotherhood; that was when the producer of Aki N Ukwa saw us, and he was like, wow, this unique person, I think I would make something out of their talent, that was how the idea of ‘Aki Na Ukwa’ came about.
PT: What role do you anticipate to play in a movie?
Pawpaw: I want to play the role of a president so I can pass some important messages and show our politicians how best it is to govern a state like Nigeria.
PT: Speaking about governance, with the Supreme Court judgement upholding the victory of President Bola Tinubu, what are your thoughts on this new administration?
Pawpaw: For now, Bola Tinubu is still new in office; it is too early to speak about the administration because it is just starting, and there have been several court processes since he was inaugurated into the office of the president, and it goes to tell how badly our electoral system has deteriorated, Nigerians should give Mr President a little time, he is still new, and he is trying to settle into the office.
By the time this administration settles, they will bring ideas and policies that would better the lives of Nigerians.
PT: Regarding the electoral process, what is your take on the elections held earlier this year?
Pawpaw: The election was witnessed by a lot of violence, malpractices, and manipulations, but that is not how it should be; sadly, it is now the Nigerian election culture because it’s been the norm for years. But it is time the electoral system changes for the better. It does not make sense that the electoral body, INEC, would finish the election, and people would rely on judges for the actual outcome of the elections because it seems now the court and judges decide election results and not the electorate.
And it is so bad that some electorate feel that their vote doesn’t count any more; this would further escalate into voter apathy. So we need to make INEC independent indeed, and they (INEC) must be committed to ensuring that elections are worthy of what they should be; that way, the electorate can restore trust in them. We should not depend on court cases to ascertain the outcome of Nigerian elections.
PT: We have seen many actors dabble in politics. Do you have any plans to join politics?
Pawpaw: Going into politics is not something I would just announce like that; if there is any plan, you would see it as time goes on.
PT: Some say Nollywood actresses are more affluent than their male counterparts. Is that true?
Pawpaw: Where do people get the notion that Nollywood actresses are more prosperous than their male colleagues? That’s not true; the fact is that most actress flaunt their wealth on social media. Women want to show off, men have a lot of responsibilities, and women want to show they have. A man has a lot of commitments, investments and businesses; there are wealthy Nollywood actors as much as there are rich Nollywood actresses.
PT: What has changed in the industry when you started your career and now?
Pawpaw: When I started my career, Nollywood was still significant, and the difference now is that we are improving, technically, and one of the essential things we lacked many years ago, like cinemas, a distribution network, we are having now. We have surplus distribution networks now, and we have the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Showmax and many more.
There is a lot of development in the creative storyline, and they are bringing in a lot of money to invest in Nollywood, unlike before. Also, our technology has improved, which you get to see in our cinematographs.
PT: What do people often misunderstand about you when they meet you?
Pawpaw: I am very reserved; I like my space, and when people meet me, they want me to be the pawpaw they see on screen, but they forget that whatever they see on television is just a character; it is not the real me. But many people expect me to be the character I portray on television, but that’s not who I am.
PT: Most people use your old content to create memes on social media.
Pawpaw: Yes, I do see them, and it makes me feel delighted that the works I did many years ago, people are still using to express themselves and that the jobs I have done in the past are relevant even now. It shows that I did it by the grace of God, and aside from me if you can pick an actor’s work from 20 years ago and still use it in these ever-changing times, it shows that the actor and the entire production team did well. That is why I encourage every young actor, whatever they are planning to do, to do their best so that the work they are doing now will outlive them and stand the test of time.
PT: What is your advice for the Nigerian government and citizenry?
Pawpaw: In our country, Nigeria, things seem pretty tricky, especially at this time. I am calling on the government to provide a way to better the lives of Nigerians. And Nigerians should also look for patterns and initiatives that would cope with the crises in the country.
Times are complex, the crime here and there; you may be tempted to blame the government, but we, too, as a citizenry, have our role to play. I would advise the youth to learn skills and harness their talent rather than wait for the government to provide them with a white-collar job.…..CONTINUE.FULL.READING>>>