Contrary to popular opinion that actors and actresses are sexually harassed in Nigeria’s film industry, celebrated Nollywood actress, Sonia Ogiri born on 1st October in this interview on her birthday with SOLOMON NDA-ISAIAH debunks such as half-truth saying that those who say they are harassed should actually tell their real story.
How did you venture into acting?
Acting for me has been something I wanted to do for a very long time but something came up that drove my attention out of it but what you desire and that is like part of you may delay but would finally come to pass. It is a thing I really want to do and I said to myself that I can’t be a politician and wouldn’t be quiet in my own country. I need to give out my voice and to be heard and I need to be known. I love the profession and I don’t see myself doing something else outside movie-making and probably going into fashion. For me, why I started acting first of all has to do with the like for it. I’m in love with it and I really want to contribute my quota to my community and country as a whole.
How have you contributed to your community and country?
You can’t please everyone but so far, the level l have gone and the stage which I am right now, I’ve done to some extent, the people which I come across, I have been able to touch lives both financially and otherwise. And a lot of people tell me that I’m their role model. A girl sent me a message on my Instagram page and I called her on phone. She was so happy that I could call, that a lot of people would ignore her phone number but that I called her. She said that I made her day, that I’m such an inspiration to her and that she was done for some days but that this call just brought her back to life and still has hope. She said when she hears my story- my story in life and what I have been through like the accident and the process of this whole thing- I have been touch a lot of lives. It is like telling that anything you want to do, you can do them. I’ve been able to touch some young girl lives and to tell them that there is hope out there and that you can earn a living not necessary by standing on the streets, staying idle and hoping on somebody to pay your bills. I try to set example by teaching them that I’m making my cash and my name and I’m respected in my own way. You can do better than me and you do better than every other role model that you have out there. Financially, I go to motherless babies’ home and I get the finance from my job. It is what I earn and I try to share it out. I mustn’t have a million before I touch lives. In advice, I touch their lives, in the less privileged, yes I touch their lives. That is the little that I’ve done so far and I hope to do more and bigger. I hope to open an orphanage; I hope to touch lives that feel that there is no more hope for them in the nearest future.
Today (last Thursday) is your birthday on Nigeria’s Independence day. What are your plans after now?
This is my 30th birthday and I’m proud of it. I thank God that he has been part of my life from day one till today. My plans, personally there are things that I did years ago that I wouldn’t want to do now. I see my birthday as a new dawn for me. I see it as the day my mum gave birth to me, a new birth. I want everything fresh- my character, my interaction with people, the way I see life, my spiritual life- I want them to really have a new turn. I hope to be more serious and to do bigger hits; bigger movies and I hope to be closer to my God. I hope to change the wrong and not to repeat the wrongs of the years past and to touch more lives. I just want to be good, live good and live right.
Nollywood is about 22 years now; do you see any improvement in the industry?
Yes, there has been exceedingly well and good improvement. The years past when I was watching Nollywood movies, it wasn’t like this. It has really improved. Like on Sunday, I went somewhere to do something and some said the he doesn’t watch Nollywood movies because you would see someone carrying a hair and they will say months later, the same person is still carrying the same hair and all that. He was complaining seriously, and when he was saying all that, it threw me off everything. I was a kind of irritated because when people castigate or talk down on what you do, it is a natural thing to feel and ask why these people are not seeing our contributions. And then, before I could say a word, someone else asked him when last he watched Nigerian films because these things you are saying are far things. I was just excited and I asked him when last he watched home movies. He said that the year has been long and I encouraged him to watch the current movies. Watch the now Nollywood, they have improved very well. Nollywood movies are been recognised all over the country. In fact, I will tell you for sure that I think I’m more popular abroad then in Nigeria because before a movie comes out here, it has been shown abroad and the way people appreciate you up there, your own country people do not appreciate you like that. They see these things and know that we are improving day by day and they love it. But our own people, the little mistake, you watch the whole ZeeWorld, the Bollywood and the rest of them, they can make mistakes and go away with it. But if you here, they will tell you that they can predict this, they can do this and that. But these things are stories of the past because they have really improved on all these and they are on top of their game. All hands are on the deck to bring out very good movies. Nollywood from now has tried and I just see them going farther and I see them taking over the first in the list of countries that produce good movies. I see it and that is what I wish my industry because I don’t want it to collapse. I want to it to grow bigger and bigger. And so Nollywood is going places and doing more than people’s expectations and more than how they talk down the industry.
Have you been sexually harassed before in the industry?
I would not call it sexual harassment because no one is a child. For you to go into Nollywood, organisation or firm, you should be of age. In the banking industry and every organisation, they have them. In my industry, if a director, marketer or whatever asks you out and you said no, they take a walk. For me that is not harassment. They are making their intentions known to you and it is left to you if you are sensible enough, if you like or if you want to live such a life to say yes and play along with them. Nobody in Nollywood is going to hold a gun to your head, no one is going to tell you that if you don’t sleep with them or have a relationship with them, they will kill you or you will no longer be part of Nigeria. If one doesn’t give you a job as an actress or actor, another person will give you. It is a collection of personalities and not just one person.
If A is saying no to you for not sleeping with him, B and C might not say that. For me it is not harassment because I’m big and mature enough that if someone walks up to me and say he likes me, if I don’t like him I would say no, outside and inside the industry. I go with people that I like, not because you asked me out or harassed me or you want to hold me at ransom, no. Those people that say they are harassed sexually, they should actually tell you the real story.