One of the most significant phenomena that portrays the rich cultural heritage of the people of Nigeria and indeed Africa in an entertaining style, is Nigeria's movie industry popularly called Nollywood. From humble beginnings, Nigeria's truly home grown and funded film industry is now ranked as the third largest producer of films, behind Hollywood and Bollywood. In just over two decades, Nollywood has grown into a $250million (about N41bn)-a year industry, employing thousands of Nigerians.
Nollywood productions, which also include Kannywood films, are hugely popular all over Africa and sought for in Europe and the USA, with growing impact on the global stage. Nigerian stars are household names across Africa and beyond. LEADERSHIP Friday here takes a brief look at Nollywood's most expensive stars.
Pete Edochie is one of Nigeria's outstanding actors who have worked hard to get Nollywood to its present status. Edochie was born in 1947 in Enugu, in eastern Nigeria. A seasoned administrator and broadcaster, he came into prominence in the 1980s when he played the lead role of Okonkwo in an NTA adaptation of Chinua Achebe's all-time bestselling novel, Things Fall Apart. For close to two decades now Edochie has starred in many home movies. The veteran actor was considered one of Africa's most talented actors by both Movie Awards and Movie Magic's Africa Magic Cable Network.
Edochie got into radio broadcasting in 1967 as a junior programmes assistant and rose through the ranks to the level of a director before his resignation.
Oludotun Baiyewa Jacobs, whom every household in Nigeria knows as Olu Jacobs, is another Nigerian veteran actor, who has starred in over 120 Nollywood films. In 2007, he won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Born in 1947 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Olu Jacobs trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He then featured in various British television shows and series in the 1970s such as The Goodies, Barlow at Large, The Tomorrow People, The Professionals, etc, as well as in several international films like John Irvin's war film, The Dogs of War and others. Jacobs is married to Nollywood actress, Joke Silver.
Nkem Owoh whose popular stage name, Osuofia, has eclipsed his real name, is a foremost Nigerian comedian and actor. In 2008, he won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Owoh's acting career began during his days as a student of engineering at the University of Ilorin, when he featured in various television and film productions.
He became widely known as Osuofia when he starred in a Nollywood movie titled Osuofia in London. The versatile and untiring screen icon is also known for I Go Chop your Dollar, a song about advance fee fraud popularly referred to as "419". The song was used in the film The Master, in which Owoh plays the scammer. But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) later banned the song from further circulation.
Chinedu Ikedieze, popularly known by the nickname "Aki", is a frontline Nollywood film star best known for playing alongside Osita Iheme (popularly known as "Pawpaw") in most movies, after their breakthrough in the movie titled Aki na Ukwa. Chinedu who is of small stature, as is his on-screen twin, Osita, has stood tall in the Nigerian movie industry for close to two decades now. In fact, the duo, through their comic roles in most Nigerian films, has attracted many within and outside the country to Nollywood films, thus proving that they are, though small in physique, giants in their chosen career.
Osita Iheme, widely known as "Pawpaw", the character he played in the film Aki na Ukwa alongside Chinedu Ikedieze, is one of Nigeria's most popular actors. Both he and his stage partner Chinedu received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
Iheme was born in Mbaitoli, Imo State, Nigeria into a family of five children. He studied Mass Communication at the Enugu State University. With his unique comic style, Osita has featured in many Nigerian home videos, thrilling his teeming fans in Nigeria and beyond.
Mercy Johnson Okojie
Popular screen goddess Mercy Johnson Okojie, is widely rated as the most expensive actress in Nollywood. This widely admired movie celebrity is noted for her versatility and ability to fit into and execute different roles, ranging from high class, down to a "pure water" seller, as she did in Dumebi, the Dirty Girl, or a village girl who fights at the slightest provocation, as she acted in Royal Fighter.
Mercy charges a whopping N2.1million just to play a role or feature in a movie. Her charges recently rattled the Nollywood Movie Marketers Association and producers to the extent that she was banned for being too expensive in the industry. The ban, which was placed towards the end of last year, was however lifted, making her once more highly sought after.
Genevieve Nnaji has expanded her relevance from acting to also modelling and music. In the Nollywood family, she is one of the highest paid stars. To feature in a movie, the Mbaise, Imo State-born movie star charges N2m. In 2005, she was the winner of the Africa Movie Academy Award for the Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Her early start in acting is certainly paying off well for her. She began acting at the age of eight in a popular television soap opera run then as Ripples. Then at the age of 19, she embraced the Nigerian movie industry with her role in Most Wanted, a movie that stirred the market in 1998.
Genevieve later featured in several other movies. As at today, she has featured in over 80 Nollywood movies. The year 2004 was remarkable in her life. It was when she signed a contract with EKB Records, a label based in Ghana, for her debut album titled One Logologo Line. The album had R&B, Urban Contemporary and Hip-hop twined into a melodious musical mix.
The amiable Iniobong Edo Ekim, better known as Ini Edo, is among the highest paid stars in Nollywood. She got into acting in 2000. She featured in a popular movie titled Thick Madam in 2003, when she started acting fully. The Akwa-Ibom State-born movie star is always a delight to watch on screen. Her talent in acting began to show at a tender age, in church and at school.
To take a role in a movie, Ini collects a charge of N1.8m; in 2007 she featured in up to 30 films! Having starred in over 100 movies, it is not out of place to say that this admirable actress has raked in a good chunk of money through acting.
Madam Patience Ozokwor, popularly known by her fans as Mama G, is always sought after by producers in the movie industry. She has perfected the art of playing the role of a villain, so much so that some people assume that that's how she must be in real life.
For such roles, Patience charges N1.6m or slightly more. This movie star, who is from Enugu State, is also a singer and businesswoman, with investments in landed property. Despite her wealth, she prefers to live in the village, coming to the city when she has a movie production to attend on location.
The charming and graceful Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, popularly known as "Omo Sexy", is at ease with her fortunes as an actress. The Lagos-born star from Ondo State made her debut in Nollywood in 1995. Since then, she has acted in about 300 movies and has endeared herself to producers and marketers.
"Omo sexy", who is also a singer and philanthropist, is a multiple award winner. To pick a role in a movie, Omotola charges N1.5m, but most producers don't mind, considering her quality delivery. She was recently reported to have celebrated her birthday with an elaborate party that gulped N300m. Omotola was honoured in Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, along with the likes of Michelle Obama, Beyonce and Kate Middleton.
The last in a family of five children, Diobu showed early signs of acting at a local church in Anambra State. He became a professional actor in 2001, with his parents blessing, featuring in the movie entitled Borderline, directed by Adim William. The movie didn't gain the actor much popularity. However, he hit it big time in 2008 and 2009 when he received awards for the Best Supporting Actor for the years 2008 and 2009.
On February 12, 2009 he, alongside other Nigerian artistes, signed a two-year Glo Ambassador contract worth N50m. In 2012, he was rumoured to have bought his mum a furnished mansion at Trans-Ekulu, Enugu State. As a businessman, Diobu noted on his Twitter page of September 9, 2012 that his businesses and profession keep him well occupied.
He ranks number 9 among the 10 richest Nollywood actors and is considered one of the sexiest in the industry. He has starred in over seventy movies.
On January 19, 2014, Mike Ezeruonye tweeted, "I'm coming alive with AIRTEL," confirming his status as the new brand ambassador for AIRTEL, just months after his two-year N50m Glo Ambassador contract ended. The AIRTEL contract is worth millions. He had also held a million naira contract as the Face of Amstel Malta for a year, from December 2009.
The fair-skinned Nnamdi Azikiwe University graduate honed his acting skills as a young boy, working behind the camera and writing scripts. He played the arrogant, illiterate but hilarious footballer character "Wonder Boy" in the movie The Celebrity and has featured in over 80 movies.
The movie industry recognised his acting skills when he was nominated for Best Nollywood Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Nollywood Actor in a Leading Role at the African Movie Academy Awards in 2008 and 2009. He won Best Leading Role in a Yoruba Movie in 2013.
John Okafor, popularly known as Mr Ibu, is indeed one of the most admired stars in the industry. He shaved heads and repaired home appliances to earn an OND in Mass Communication at the Institute of Management Science and Technology (IMT) Enugu. It was during his school days that he landed his first acting role as a "wakapass" in the old Bendel State. He later featured in a few TV dramas, before moving to the movie industry. He came into limelight with the movie Agony, in which veteran actor Pete Edochie co-starred in 1997. He played the role of an imbecile. Then, he starred in the famous titular movie Mr Ibu, and the name stuck!
Ali Nuhu is a household name, especially in the northern part of the country. The personable Nuhu made his debut in Kannywood - the Hausa home movie industry and an integral part of Nollywood - in the early 90s. He has diversified into music, movie directing and production. Also, he has enjoyed endorsement patronage for ambassadorial corporate deals with advertisers.
This Gombe State-born movie star has also extended his tentacles to Nollywood, where he now features regularly in movies. He has so far featured in more than 50 movies, cutting across Nollywood and Kannywood. Nuhu was the winner of the MTN Kannywood Best Actor Award in 2013, for his role in Matan Gida, a Kannywood movie. He charges between N.5m and N1m to feature in a Kannywood movie.
Sani Danja, co-owner of the 2effect Empire, is another highly popular actor in Kannywood. He has several awards added to his laurels. Just like Ali Nuhu, Danja has also stepped into Nollywood's corridors, where he is sought after by producers from time to time for certain roles.
Danja is also a musician, having started his musical career at the age of 21 in a five-man local band called "The Young Kiddies". He was the winner of the Best Entertaining Kanywood Actor in the recent MTN Kannywood Awards held in 2013.This movie star receives between N.5m and N1m per role in a movie.
Adam A. Zango
Adam A. Zango is a Kano-born star who draws attention in Kannywood. He also sings and has interests in farming. Zango has featured in about 70 Hausa movies since he joined the industry. He is best known for his role in Dijangala, a film released in 2008.
Zaharadeen Sani is one of the superstars of Kannywood who have successfully expanded the frontiers of the Hausa film industry in Nigeria and can indeed be classified along with the weighty Nigerian actors that are proudly setting global standards in Nollywood. A northerner, the film star has featured in several Hausa films. At the 2013 MTN/BON awards, Zaharadeen won the award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Fulani.