Uchendu is one of the children of popular Nollywood actress, Patience Ozokwo. He talks about his mother’s career and life .... read interview below;
Tell us about yourself.
I am Uchendu. I am one of the children of veteran Nollywood actress, Patience Ozokwo. After completing a degree in Nigeria, I moved to the United Kingdom for further studies. I am based in the UK and married there. I am a trained engineer. I am also into entertainment. I am the Chief Executive Officer of Swift Records Entertainment.
What were the fond memories you had with your mother while growing up?
There is no dull moment with my mother. We had fun with her because we are very close to her. There were many fond memories with my mother when we were growing up. They were so many that I could not start talking about them.
Where were the places she took her family to for relaxation?
She is a very religious woman. Hence, she took us to bible seminars where we listened to the teachings and the word of God.
What career path did she encourage her children to take?
What I can readily remember is that she encouraged us to go to school. She ensured that we got the best of education by going the extra mile to support us. She did not particularly tell us the courses to study but supported the choices we made.
Did she create time for her family despite her busy schedule as an actress?
I have always known my mother to be a very busy woman. She is not the type that stays at home because she is always busy doing one thing or the other. But despite her busy nature, she created time for us. We were all grown up at the time she started acting. Anytime I am in Nigeria, I always wonder how she has the time to visit us abroad. But she makes time for us. She always finds time for us to be together anytime I am in Nigeria.
She was once a radio announcer and later dabbled into fashion designing. Did she tell you why she eventually decided to join the movie industry?
My mother’s foray into the movie industry was not a surprise. There was a word in the church that she would go into the movie industry and become popular. I had wondered how that would be at the time. I asked her how she would have the time to do all of that considering her age. When she got the break in the industry, she told me never to doubt what God can do.
How does she like to relax?
My mother works so hard even at her age. But whenever she stays off work, she likes to spend time with her family. She can also travel to the UK, US or any part of Africa to relax.
Your mother married very early. Did she tell you how it happened?
I think she got married around age 18, 19 or thereabout. I am not too sure. I really did not know how it happened.
Did she ever visit you in school?
When I was in the secondary school, my mother was still busy with her fashion designing. She was not that popular in the movie business when I was in secondary school.
Does your mother’s name open doors for you?
Yes, it does. Her name opens doors for me even in the UK. Whenever I am in Nigeria for one or two business deals, her name helps a lot. I have a record company in Nigeria and some people in high places call me for business because of her. I recall when I felt I had done my bit in the UK and wanted to return to Nigeria to face my record business, I left my workers in the UK. Many people reached out to me on her account. They trusted and still trust me because of her.
How do people relate with you upon knowing who your mother is?
I do not always reveal to people that she is my mother. But people always express surprise when they know. They ask me ‘Are you sure?’ or say, ‘We want to meet her.’ They always want to meet her.
What is her idea of punishing any child who misbehaves?
My mother is a disciplinarian. I cannot readily recall anytime she beat me for doing anything wrong but she ensured we were well-behaved. We always tried not to offend her though. She does not use the cane.
Did she counsel her children on the kind of person to marry?
There was no time my mother called us and counselled us on who to marry. But she expects us to choose a partner of high standard. It is not high standard in terms of the family the person must be from. Even though she does not tell us, we know that there is a red line that we must not cross. We cannot marry non-Christians, gays or lesbians.
What kind of music does she like to listen to?
My mother likes listening to gospel songs. I have never known her listen to any other type of songs. She listens more to foreign praise and worship songs.
What is her work schedule like?
She travels a lot. My mother can be in the US, UK and other places at anytime. She can travel to Kano, Enugu and Abuja in a day. The plane crashes in the aviation space in Nigeria made us fear for her life at a time because she travels a lot. We always get scared anytime we hear of plane crash in Nigeria because we know that our mother would be on a plane travelling to Africa, Europe or America.
How do you feel being her son?
I feel blessed anyway because she is a lovely woman.
Who were the regular faces in your house while you were growing up?
My mother likes accommodating people in her houses in Enugu, Lagos and so on. She is that kind of person. Growing up, I saw a lot of faces in our house because she enjoys taking care of people.
What are the ideals you have learnt from her?
I have imbibed many values from her. One of them is hard work. My mother is very hard working. She can create something nice from nothing. I am a very domesticated person even though I live in the UK. I still cook even though I am married. I learnt this from my mother. When I was searching for a wife, I was not searching for a woman that can cook. I was searching for a good woman like my mother. My mother can sew a nice design from any clothing material. She is very creative.
How close are you to your mother?
We are very close. We have our differences no doubt but we are close. We went through a lot together when my father took ill. People do not even know that she is my mother because we are close. They think we are brother and sister. Sometimes, we do not talk on the telephone for days because she can be busy with her work, travelling or carrying out some projects. But whenever I can call her, I do and we talk about many things.
What is her favourite drink?
My mother loves Coke.
What is her favourite food?
It used to be egusi soup but I do not know about now. It could have changed over the years.
How sociable is she?
My mother is very sociable. She has an amiable, arms-open and welcoming spirit. She relates well with people and she’s always ready to support them. She enjoys assisting others in solving their problems. My mother has many friends.
What kind of mother is she?
This is a very tricky question. All I can say is that she is a very lovely woman. My mother adopted many children who live with her. She caters for their education and other things.
What was the feeling like when your mother came to the UK to attend your wedding?
It was a great moment. My mother attended my wedding with many bags. When she got to the airport, she was asked if she wanted to sell them. She replied that they were meant for her son’s wedding. The bags contained many ingredients and local delicacies which she wanted to prepare to make the wedding a huge success. My wife and I wanted a private wedding. But I told her that with my mother present at the event, many people would attend because of her fan base and amiable nature. My mother’s presence made the wedding glamorous and big. We had also prepared for the guests.
How has she been able to cope without her husband?
It is not easy but she is coping well. God has been helping her to move on. There is no day that I also do not remember my wonderful father. I feel him every day. I miss him a lot.
Your mother is popular for playing the role of a bad woman in movies. Did she tell you why she likes such roles and what people think about it?
Playing the role of a bad woman was the first role she got when she started acting. After she performed the role, it became a boom in the industry. People ask me if she is also as wicked as she is in movies. At the time the photographs of our wedding went viral online; I read some comments that my mother would maltreat my wife. Apparently, they were referring to the roles of a bad woman she plays in movies. I laughed because I know that such is the opposite of my mother in real life. My mother has never been involved in the affairs of my family. She gives me a free hand. My wife has never suffered any form of wicked act from my mother. I think I should educate people and tell them that my mother is actually passing some messages across with the roles. She is saying it is improper to treat people wrongly be they family members, son-in-law or mother-in-law. She preaches through the roles that whoever does good should expect a reward likewise someone who does bad.
How do people especially her fans react when they see her?
It is usually interesting especially when I go to the airport to pick her whenever she is in the UK. People often mill around to see her. She came to the UK for the premiere of a movie, ‘Onochie’ by the Aneke twin sisters (Chidinma and Chidiebere). The premiere sold out because she was around. A white man, who was a guard at the venue of the event, told me that he had witnessed many top international stars come to the place, but that he had never witnessed the crowd he saw that day. He said it was hard for him to also control the crowd despite the fact that he had been controlling crowds as part of his job for years. He told me that whoever my mother was, he needed nobody to tell him that she must be a big star.
How did you feel when your mother was honoured among some distinguished Nigerians during the centennial celebration?
That was one of the biggest honours bestowed on her by the Federal Government. She was honoured with the Member of the Federal Republic and the centennial honour was also great. We felt blessed having her as a mother. Also, I am sure that my father would be happy that he married her because she has never in anyway tarnished the image of the family. All we have been hearing about her has been positive stories. She is a blessing to us, the country and the society.
Have you ever encouraged her to remarry?
This is another tricky question. There was a time I was in Nigeria and I tried broaching the topic. But she ruled it out describing us as the husbands she now have. I think it is a sacrifice she has to make for us. She wants the family to be the way our father left it by not remarrying to pursue personal interests. That, again, says more about her kind of person. Really, I do not have any problem if she decides to remarry. But my mother seems not bothered about remarrying.
How does she cope with male admirers?
My mother is too involved in church activities to be bothered about that. You need to know her religious level to understand her better. I know that she does not have time for that.
Did she tell you how she got the nickname ‘Mama G?’
The nickname came from a movie she acted in. In the movie, she was referred to as the ‘Mother General.’
What can you say are the contributions of your mother to Nollywood?
My mother has been able to call attention to Nollywood. She also encourages other people through her hard work even as she has greatly contributed to the industry.