Actor, Williams Uchemba, speaks to MOBOLA SADIQ about his career, philanthropic acts and other issues
A lot of people think that your fame is as a result of you being a child actor. What’s your response to that?
I wouldn’t say that I became known because I was a child actor. Many people don’t even know I was a child actor. There was a transitioning and a rebranding for me. I came back as a social media comedian and that has led to the humanitarian aspect of what I do now. Between the time of being a child actor and now, I was in school and getting trained. I spent five years at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and I did a one-year course in Global Analytics in London before moving to the United States after my short stay in Abuja.
Has acting always been your chosen profession?
I’ve being acting since I was eight years old. At that time, I don’t think I was in a place to decide what I wanted for my life. However, the acting opportunity came; I was put in front of a camera and people were impressed with me. I did more than 70 movies as a child actor which affected my education. Acting always clashed with my classes. That was why I dedicated my adulthood to my higher education and focused on it squarely.
If you were not acting, what would you be doing?
If I was not an actor, I would be a pastor. I have a passion for leadership and justice, and I like things done properly. However, one must not be a pastor to lead people in the right direction. One can be a pastor in the entertainment industry by using one’s platform to reach out to people and pass positive information to society, which sometimes can be bigger than some pastoral platforms.
Some people have said that their parents got prophecies that they would be successful. Was that the case with you?
I come from a family of seven and when I started acting, my parents had been separated, so my mother had to cater for us. There was no time to look out for a particular child but because I started making money at eight, there was a blink of hope for me. My first salary was N3, 000 which was very big at that time. My mum had a lot of issues and attacks when she had me and usually, that is how to know that one has a treasure.
What are your thoughts on sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse is disgusting and whoever is engaging in any type of sexual abuse needs three types of help― mental, judicial (they need to go to jail for like least 10 years) and spiritual (because such a person is possessed). You have to be out of your mind to do those things. Anybody engaging in any form of sexual abuse is not even fit to live among normal people.
You’ve become quite known for your benevolence. What motivates you?
In 2017, I came back from the United States and on my way home, I saw an elderly man probably in his sixties selling ice-cream in traffic. Sadly, while he was trying to sell to a particular car, he missed a step and fell down, and an oncoming truck hit and killed him instantly. That was someone that wasn’t caught doing anything illegal. He was only trying to feed his family. I couldn’t sleep that day and since then, I have used my platform to encourage people. However, this has come with a lot of backlash. People have asked why I show what I’m doing on social media. But the idea is to reach more people through my platform. Since then, the passion to help has been growing in me and now, my foundation is bigger than me.
How do you fund the foundation with what you earn as an actor?
It is clear that Nollywood has not grown to a level where actors are paid very well. One needs at least seven streams of income to survive in Africa. So, asides fromacting, I have endorsements from several companies. I also do commercial skits and I’m into real estate as well. That is in addition to other projects outside the entertainment industry. Recently, I realised the importance of getting people involved with my foundation, so the public sometimes make donations to help finance some of our projects. When I started the Williams Uchemba Foundation, I didn’t plan to make it a non-governmental organisation but when it started growing, I saw the need to make things legal and register properly.
Some people assume that successful actors dabble in fraud and other unwholesome acts secretly. Why do you think that is?
The truth is that people will always have their opinions, and if one wants to go with public opinion, one would get lost. Most times, people have different perceptions about celebrities because they have an idea of what actors are being paid and these actors don’t show other businesses they are doing that is fetching them money. These questions are inevitable, especially when one is in the public eye. Even if one is doing legitimate things, there would still be people that would find something to question you about. It is something that one signed up for as a public figure.
How do you react when people link you to fraudulent activities?
People would always talk but one should ensure that one’s hands are clean. I believe that crime is never an option because one would eventually be caught. There are both physical and spiritual consequences to such acts. I tell people in the public eye to mind what they put outside because of young people. You can’t be singing that you have N50bn in your account because the young person does not understand that it’s just a song, they think you have that money. It’s this kind of mindset that makes some people go into fraudulent activities. People in the public space have a responsibility to guide the younger generations so that they are not under pressure to do what they are not supposed to do.
Should celebrities endorse anyone with questionable characters?
I can only speak for myself. Also, I believe a person is innocent until proven guilty. I have been in a situation where I was called names for something I had no business with but the truth eventually came out. I can’t tell my colleagues not to associate with particular people because of what the public might have tagged them as. Celebrities are entitled to their lives and whoever they want to associate with.
You’re one of the eligible bachelors in the movie industry. Why are you still unmarried?
I take that as a compliment but being in the public space does not mean that everything one does should be public. I don’t have kids anywhere and I am not secretly married. When I decide to settle down, everybody would know.
What are the qualities you desire in a woman?
I want a God-fearing woman that is not vain. She should understand her roles and know that we’re supposed to support each other.
What’s the greatest advantage you’ve enjoyed as an actor?
Being an actor has a lot of advantages as well as disadvantages. One of the advantages is that one’s face gives one favour in most places and one gets preferential treatment. But the disadvantages include not having a private life anymore and one can’t be seen in some places.
How have you managed to remain consistent?
I can’t attribute my success to my strength. I can’t also say that all I have achieved in the entertainment industry is due to hard work or connections. It’s just because I enjoy the grace of God. He is the one that wrote my destiny and one of the best things that I did with my life was knowing Him early and that has helped me make the right decisions. I owe everything to God who has always ordered my steps. He also gave me the grace to enjoy all that He has given me.
Have you ever been broke as a result of your giveaways?
I believe that when God gives one a vision, He gives one the provision to execute it. I have never got to a point where I didn’t have the financial capacity to help people because it has been sponsored by God. I‘ve also been consistent because of the passion I have for giving. During the lockdown declared to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people did their bit but I’m still reaching out because giving is a lifetime thing for me. It’s something I’ll do till I take my last breath on earth. I consider it my service to humanity.
Being broke is a relative term but I have never looked for what to eat or went hungry because I didn’t have money to eat. As a child we (my family) struggled but since I’ve being on my own as an adult, I have not lacked the essentials to survive.
Do beneficiaries of the giveaways remember your good deeds?
We try to inculcate sustainability in whatever we do and that’s why we empower them with things to sustain the new lives they have been given. For our last project, we gave a man N1m and he bought a bus, which he is now using for his business.
What’s the most embarrassing thing a fan has done to you?
Some fans can’t differentiate between movies and reality. A woman saw me in public and stated beating/attacking me because I was mean to my sister in a movie she watched. She started asking why I was so mean in the movie. It was quite embarrassing but people got to understand her.
It can be tough at times when people can’t differentiate the characters that one has played.
What is your favourite food?
I like rice; whether fried, jollof or plain. I can prepare noodles well but I really don’t know how to cook.
What is your favourite vacation destination?
It depends on how I’m feeling at any particular time. I could feel like travelling to Israel or London. I regularly visit Israel without getting tired of going there.
Who’s your favourite person?
It’s the Holy Spirit. I love my mum but the Holy Spirit is my favourite person.
Source: Sunday PUNCH