If not for mum I’d have been in prison – IK Ogbonna, actor
For model turned-actor, Ikechukwu Ogbonna, the journey to stardom has been full of thorns and thistles. When the going was tough, he fell into temptations but rose above them to become what he is today. However, he owes his mother lots of gratitude. If not for her, his story would have been different.
In this interview, the thespian, popularly known as IK talks about his long but arduous journey to fame and fortune. Enjoy it.
How has the journey to stardom been, has it been rosy or hard?
My Nollywood journey started from Amstel Malta Box Office reality TV show, but after that show I didn’t get roles. Since I am not the begging type, because I believed that as a son of God who is the owner of the world, I am entitled to everything in the world. So, I shouldn’t beg for things but I should always thank him for the things he has given me and the things he would give me. Therefore, I just focused on modeling. That time my modeling career was blossoming and I worked with almost all the brands. I did everything as a model both internationally and locally. 2012 was when the breakthrough came. Actually, I had always had someone in the industry, Elvis Chuks. He had always believed in me and pushed me on as an actor, he would always say ‘IK, I see something in you and I feel you should work on it’.
In 2012, Rukky Sanders called me to do something for her and when I got on set, I developed cold feet. I gave her an excuse that I was doing something and then I left the production. But she called me again, that she was producing another movie and that she wrote the script with me on her mind and that I must do the movie. This time she didn’t want to entertain any excuse. I think God used her to feature me in that movie, because after that, I started getting calls for one script or the other. Elvis Chuks was finally happy about this and then he put me in some of his movies too.
That time some many people felt I was a bad actor, and since I am a great critic of my works, I go back and look at the things they say because there is no smoke without fire. When people say something, it means you are giving them a reason to say that thing either by your action or by the way you conduct yourself. So, when people criticise me, I look out for the constructive ones and work on it. You know some people said, I was doing too much of fine boy, that I wasn’t digesting my character very well. So, I went on YouTube to do some research and took over a hundred classes on YouTube, and people started saying my acting was getting better. It paid off on the long run, because after then, I picked up my first AMVCA nomination. The following year another nomination came, thereafter I won other few awards. It’s been God’s grace all the way.
You had a tough time when you first came to Lagos; can you share the experience with us?
When I first came to Lagos, I was staying with a family member. You know, when your holiday has changed from one week to two weeks, and then from two weeks to one month people in the house will start changing attitude to you and I am not someone that will ever want to act like a pest on someone or in a way affecting your space. So, I moved out from the house, I wasn’t evicted I moved out on my own and I didn’t even know where I was going. But an inner voice kept telling me go back to Jos, that at least my father has a house I could live in. But I said to myself that I would stay here in Lagos and make it. That was the beginning of my success story. At that time I will go to a club to pass time in the night and in the morning I will go to a friend’s house and will be gisting with him. After a while I will ask him to allow me use the bathroom. Whenever I made money from a modeling job I will stay in a hotel. But it was really expensive staying in a hotel and at a point all the money I was making was going into hotel bills. Later, I had a friend who was living with his parents and siblings in a room apartment. This guy had a car, so in order not to inconvenient them; I lived in his car and then turned the car booth into my wardrobe. During the day, I would go hustle for auditions, and when I succeed and get a job, there might be problem of payments. Sometimes they won’t even pay you for six or seven months. But I thank God for that experience. There were times I would fight with my friend and I won’t have a place to stay (laughs). I would go to this park at Shonibare where people jog every morning and sleep there. Sometimes, I would need money to go for an audition and there won’t be money. Sometimes I would call some people to send me recharge card and then sell it to people that sell recharge cards to get money. You see, the hustle was real, I would tell my story soon through a movie. You know, there were times I had to go for auditions and I would probably get to a junction take a bike and then collect money from the okada man to pay the bus. When I get to the venue of the audition, I will then meet one of my friends, I won’t even do as if I am begging and then tell him to give me money; and then I would go and pay the okada man. It’s in my nature; I am a goal getter. When I am set to get things done, I get it done.
Although, I was tempted to do a lot of things, there were times people came to me for drug deals, and there were times when people came to me for money laundering business, and there were times when people came to me to do gigolo work. I had all kinds of offers here in Lagos, but every time I looked in the mirror, I always saw a man that’s destined to be successful. My joy today is that I didn’t involve myself in any of those bad things.
There were rumors that you’re a gigolo. Are you a gigolo?
Yes, every fine boy in Lagos is a gigolo (Laughs). But they are very untrue and I can beat my chest to say that I have never been involved in any illegal thing or any immoral thing. I also thank God for my parents, if not for their guidance, I won’t be here. You know, there are times in life when you want to do some things and your foundation won’t let you give in. There was a time I was considering going into drugs when life was so hard. I said to myself ‘I can go and do this one and by the time I do two or three trips and get money, I can go and set up a business’. There was a time I was considering doing it, then the next morning, my mother called me to say that she had a dream that I was in prison. You know, I was taken aback, and you know my mum is very spiritual and I owe my life to her.
How did you feel the first time you held your son?
There are some feelings that you cannot explain. There are certain times you really feel love, and one of those times is when you hold your son. When you hold that innocent being in your hand, you want to protect that child with all that is within you. You see yourself in this person and you know that this person was created out of your seed. It’s an awesome feeling, really.