WHEN prolific movie director, Ikechukwu Onyeka, joined Nollywood in 1998, he had little more than a humble ambition to be called a filmmaker. But eight years later, he discovered that he had surpassed the wildest of his dreams. Stoutly, with a well kept grey goatee, Onyeka has become one of Nollywood’s most sought after director.
By 2006, he has produced over 13 titles, acted in more than a dozen films , worked as an Assistant director on a number of films and directed over 70. And he is still counting.
Rated by many as resourceful and reliable, the story of how Onyeka joined Nollywood will make a good short film and he tells the story himself: ‘Actually, my coming into the industry was so funny. I was an okada rider. I also basically wanted to be independent and the only thing I could find was commercial cycling.
On a particular day, another bike hit me from behind and broke the lights and then he was carrying a passenger. While the bike rider was apologizing, the man he was carrying —whom I later discovered was a movie producer, Charles Ugboma, —- was talking to me anyhow. I begged him to spare me.
When everything died down, Charles called me to a corner and asked why I was driving a bike when I spoke very good English. He then introduced himself as a producer and invited me over to his office for a chat. I took it as one of those promises but somehow it kept ringing in my heart. But three weeks later, I went in search of the address he gave me.
This was in 1998. I met him, we spoke for about a minute and then he vanished. But what caught my interest was that while I waited at EKOAS Hotel in Surulere which was the initial meeting point for screen talents, I kept seeing stars like Zack Orji and Eucharia Anunobi .
So that caught my interest. So once in a while from my bike business I would come there and then I picked interest. I started from the scratch-—did some acting, became a props man with Kingsley Okereke and we later formed Divine Touch production which has grown and here I am now.”
Onyeka started out as an actor. But he dumped acting and chose to operate from behind the camera because he never enjoyed the publicity that comes with acting. To get to this point however, Onyeka started from scratch. He worked under and understudied some of Nollywood’s best directors and was at a time one of the most sought after production managers in Nollywood. He moved from being a PM—the short for production manager— to calling the shots as an assistant director and later as director. With time, Onyeka grew to become one of the most sought after directors in Nollywood.
A native of Umuoji town in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra state, Onyeka was born in the east but he was raised in Lagos where he had his primary and secondary education. Onyeka described growing as quite interesting.
“I grew up in Amukoko area of Lagos which is almost like a ghetto area. We were slightly above average family in the ghetto there. We had things that most people in the ghetto there didn’t have. Daddy had a car; we had television and refrigerator in the house. Those were things that were not common there.
So, growing up was quite interesting. I think if you are earmarked for success, there is a way God guides your steps. From where I was raised, I had no reason not to be a weed smoker or an area boy and so on. But somehow, God kept guiding me and I am here today.”
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