Excerpts of my last interview with Chico Ejiro before His Death: How He Met His Wife, Became a Movie Director
Popular Nigerian filmmaker, Chico Ejiro’s death sent shock ripples all over Nigeria on Christmas day. It was gathered that he died on Friday – Christmas Day – about 2am from a seizure. He had just concluded directing his new movie on Christmas Eve.
Ejiro was popular for his blockbuster movies in the 90s. He produced movies like Silent Night, Blood Money, Deadly Affair, among several other notable movies. He directed over a 100 movies before his demise.
His death brought back so many memories especially with the last interview I had with him; he was hale and hearty and was in the middle of preparing for a movie he was directing. He was so jovial and shared with me so many funny stories about how Nollywood started in Nigeria.
In that interview, he touched on so many revealing topics about himself, how he started as a movie director and about his family.
In loving memory of this prolific director, I’ll like to share excerpts of that interview with him here with my readers.
May God comfort the family he left behind and may his soul rest in peace.
Below are the interview excerpts:
I’m from Isoko in Delta State; I’m married to Joy Chico Ejiro. I have four kids, a girl and three boys. I read agriculture in school but today I’m a movie maker, producer and entertainer.
How did you start off in the movie industry?
I started way back when my mother used to take us to go and watch movies. In 1985-86, I started working with my elder brother, Zeb in NTA productions like ‘Ripples’ and from there, I started off on my own.
Why did you venture into directing?
Well, I’m not a good actor, but I love artistic stuff. In my early days in the industry, I came in as a camera man. From there, I developed to become an editor and from there to a director. So I rose through the ranks and learnt lots of things too.
Your name precedes your movies; what earned you the name, Mr. Prolific?
It was one of my good friends, Azu Arinze, who gave me that name. In those days I use to work a lot. In one day, I will be in Lagos working and the next day I’m off to Asaba, then to Enugu. Yet those movies will come out with good quality. So Azu wrote a wonderful write up about me asking people to call me Mr. Prolific.
What was your growing up like?
I had a fantastic childhood. It’s a family of three boys-Zeb, me and my younger brother, Peter. We had no sister.
Funny enough three of you are in the movie industry. What could have made that possible?
I believe it’s passion for the movies in us. We have passion for movies and we enjoy it. See, when you have passion for what you do and you enjoy it, it makes life easier for you.
Being part of Nollywood all these years and seeing the growth process, in your opinion, has Nollywood grown?
There are different schools of thoughts in answering this question. There is the school of thought who believes that early days movies are better. They are the type of movies that made Nollywood.
While some people believe that the recent movies are better. My own take is that I still believe the early day’s movies were better. This is because it was borne more out of passion and love. Now we make movies commercially for money than anything else. It’s like the music too. In the days of Sunny Ade, there are songs you listen to and it has great meaning. Nowadays, songs don’t have meaning anymore. But in terms of technicalities, its better off now in terms of the type of camera used, stunts and location. I will just say we are not there yet but very soon we will compete with the outside world. A lot of people are making some great movies though; people like Mo Abudu, AY and Emem Isong.
A lot of people say they miss your action movies, are we going to see one produced soon?
Yes you will see some action stuff coming up from me but not now; maybe early part of next year. It takes a lot to do action movie. Now I have to do it well. There were some mistakes then, but people still enjoyed it, but now, with all the good movies like, ‘Black Panther ‘out there, we just have to do it very well.
Can you remember how many movies you’ve directed so far?
I can’t remember. Some say it’s over 100 movies,.
How where you able to churn out many movies that fast?
In those days I was so busy! I churn out four to five movies in a week! One of the advantages I have is that I’m also a cameraman; so I know what to shoot. I’m also a film editor, so I know what to edit. It helps me to do so many movies at the same time.
How did you meet your wife?
I was working with my friend, Opa Williams on a ‘Night of a Thousand Laughs’. I went to University of Lagos and she was a student there in 1994. We dated for four years before we got married in 1998. She is a movie producer and fashion designer. She’s one of the most sought after costumier in Nollywood.
How has married life been like?
Whoever says marriage is easy is lying to you. You must map out your own theory to make it work. I’ve friends who don’t enter kitchen in their life. Their wife must cook or they go and eat outside. But I love cooking. My wife knows it and allows me to go to the kitchen to make my own food; even calling me ‘Mr. Cook’. So this works for us while it won’t work for others. I also love going to the market to buy foodstuffs. For me it’s fun and exciting to haggle with the market women. So you must understand yourself and not let a third party to come in. If you have problem with your spouse, sit down together and to the man, don’t think there is any angel or beauty queen outside. Your wife is your beauty queen. For the men, when you are angry, don’t hit your wife rather go and watch TV or leave the house, go and watch football with your friends. You must learn to tolerate one another. There is no perfect man or woman. Communication is key, learn how to talk. So marriage is a big school. I’ve been in it for over 20 years now.
Three years into the marriage, there was this quarrel and two of us walked to the magistrate court. We met the same man that got us married. He asked us why we came and we told him we were tired of the marriage and want to end it. He now said, ‘before I count to ten, both of you should disappear from this court room! How can I marry you and under three years you want to separate. Leave this court room now or else I will shoot both of you. We both started laughing at his outburst and that’s how the quarrel ended till today.
What’s the unique thing about your wife you love so much?
She doesn’t know how to tell lies. She is frank and bold.
What does fatherhood mean to you?
It means everything to me. It’s a thing of joy and a feeling of responsibility. The way you live your life becomes different because your children will be watching you. So you need to leave good examples for them.
Describe your fashion style?
I like it simple. I’m a quiet person. I don’t like to do anything elaborate or draw attention to myself.
What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are watching movies and football. I’m a diehard Arsenal supporter.
Describe yourself in three words?
Humble, God fearing and simple.