27 April 2014

Nigeria: Acting - Professionalism or Simply Raw Talent?

The Nigerian movie industry is blessed with talented people. Irrespective of their academic backgrounds, these stars have all made a mark in the industry. In this piece, PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA analyses the effect of their academic backgrounds on their careers

In most professions, the professionals usually perform better but in acting, the case doesn't seem to be the same and it has left many especially Nollywood fans with the thought of whether those who studied theatre art perform better in the movie industry.

In the same manner, observers have argued that professionalism does not really have a place in acting.

To them, acting is merely a display of talent which of course comes naturally, saying most people are born with talents and they perform perfectly well irrespective of their academic background.

One of them, a video club operator in Nyanya, Vincent Ubakwu, argued that in reality, most of the non-professionals are among the veterans and they are more celebrated and successful, giving example with people like Pete Edochie, Alex Usifo, Nkem Owoh, Patience Ozokwor, Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade Ekehinde among others.

According to him, at a time, these non-professionals were actually those who made up the list of highest paid actors and actresses who were suspended under the leadership of Mike Asiegwu as the chairman, actors Guild of Nigeria.

In his opinion, Jimmy Johnson (Okoro) of Village Headmaster, said in acting, one has to first have the talent. In that case, God comes first because he is the giver of talent and anybody who has talent performs better, adding that studying Theatre Art is secondary.

"Most of those who acted in the 60s when I was growing up didn't go to any university like Baba Sala. We can't compare what God has given with what one has learnt. Besides, some people go into theatre art because they couldn't gain admission into other faculties. Even at that, they cannot perform if they don't have the God given talent. Most of them will end up going into teaching and others," he said.

Theatre Art Graduates

Olu Jacobs

Olu Jacobs was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England. He then starred in various British television shows and series in the 1970s like The Goodies, Till Death Us Do Part, Barlow at Large, The Venturers, Angels. In the 1980s Jacobs starred in several international films some of which include John Irvin's war film The Dogs of War, Roman Polanski's adventure-comedy Pirates and the family-adventure film Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend. In 1990, he starred in The Tomorrow People, The Professionals. So far, he has starred in over 120 Nollywood movies and has always brought his professionalism and maturity to play in all his works. He is one of the few actors whose acting skills have caught the minds of so many movie lovers both old and young. In 2007 Jacobs won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Sam Dede

Sam Dede is a personality to be reckoned with in the Nigerian Movie Industry. He does not only act but also directs and teaches the art of acting in the University of Port Harcourt.

He has over 30 movies to his credit and has directed over 10 movies. Whenever he appears in a movie, one doesn't need to be told that Dede is a master in the field. Especially in films like Blood Money in 1996 and Issakabba. He trained the likes of Charles Okafor, Hilda Dokubo, Rita Dominic,Ejike Asiegbu and others at the University of Port Harcourt.

Yul Edochie

The charming son of veteran actor Pete Edochie, has emerged as one of the most sought after actors in recent times. The Theatre Arts graduate of the University of Port Harcourt once said in an interview in one of the daily that then, his father wanted him to join the industry and start doing little roles at a very early stage. But he insisted on going to the university to sharpen his skill. "It was my belief that if I go to the university to study the course, I will be more professional in what I do. That's why I went to the University of Port-Hacourt to study Theater Arts."

Joke Silver

Joke Silva is an actress and director who after studying English at the University of Lagos proceeded to England where she studied drama at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

She has starred in several films and television series, including Secret Laughter of Women, 30 Days, and Letters to a Stranger, Widow's Cot, White Waters and The Amazing Grace.

Silver has received several awards and nominations for her work as an actress including the awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 2nd Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2006, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 4th Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2008


Richard Mofe Damijo popularly known as RMD is an actor and politician. After studying Theatre Arts in the University of Benin in 1997, RMD returned to school to study law at the University of Lagos and graduated in 2004.

In 2005, he won the African Movie Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In January 2009 he was appointed Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta State, Nigeria.

Oge Okoye

Born in London and a graduate of Theatre Art from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University. She has featured in over 60 movies since she launched her career in 2001. She has featured in several movies including the Blackberry Babes.

Ini Edo

A native of Calabar, the Theatre Art graduate of the University of Calabar has starred in over 50 movies since she launched a career in acting in 2000. She has featured in several movies including the royal gift, blind kingdom, native son, reloaded, sleek ladies, ghetto queen, power of beauty, political control, ass on fire, breath again, fatal seduction, anointed queen and world apart among others.

Ejike Asiegbu

Veteran actor and former National President of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Ejike Asiegbu has paid his dues in the industry. The University of Port-Harcourt graduate has many Nollywood movies to his credit.

Non-Theatre Art Graduates

Pete Edochie

Pete Edochie is an actor who is considered one of Africa's most talented and famous actors. He studied Journalism and Television in School of Journalism and Television in England in the mid-1960s.

Although a seasoned administrator and broadcaster, Edochie came into prominence in the 1980s when he played the lead role of Okonkwo in an NTA adaptation of Chinua Achebe's all-time best-selling novel, Things Fall Apart.

He joined the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation 1967, and in 1980 trained formally in the BBC as a broadcaster.

In 1987 he was appointed a director in Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation. He retired as a broadcaster in 1988 before moving into the movie industry. Ever since, and has featured and starred in over 200 movies. His accomplishments have attracted numerous awards and national honours

There are several others like Genevieve Nnaji, Alex Osifo, Ramsey Nouah, Nkem Owoh, Funke Akindele, Patience Ozokwor, Tonto Dike, Mercy Johnson, Omotola Jalade Ekehinde, Emeka Ike, Zack Orji, and Kenneth Okonkwo.


Genevieve Nnaji is an actress and singer. Considered as one of the best paid actresses in Nollywood. Nnaji started her acting career as a child actress in the then popular television soap opera Ripples at the age of eight. In 1998 at the age of 19, she was introduced into Nollywood with the movie Most Wanted. In 2010, she starred in the award winning film Ijé: The Journey So far, she has starred in over 80 movies.

In 2005 she won the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Alex Usifo

The Edo State-born veteran actor is a graduate of Mass Communications and Philosophy from the University of Lagos.

He made his first appearance on TV in The Return of the Natives as Mr. Davis. He featured in Awero as Pa Jimoh. His first movie was Mission to serve where he played the role of Mr. President. His major breakthrough was in the soap opera, Ripples, where he played Talab Abass. He has starred in over 30 movies.

Ramsey Nouah

Ramsey Nouah is one of the most talented Nollywood actors and he is considered to be one of the most sought-after actors in Nigeria.

A graduate from the University of Lagos with a degree in mass communication, his acting career started when he starred in the Nigerian TV soap opera "Fortunes". Nouah has since then appeared in several movies starring as the lead role. He has received several awards including Best Actor in a Leading Role (AMAA) for his performance in the Best Picture award winning film The Figurine in 2010.

Nkem Owoh

Nkem Owoh popularly known as Osofia studied Engineering at the University of Ilorin. Already during his university studies, he began acting in various television and film productions. He has featured in several movies including Osuofia in London in 2003.

Funke Akindele

Funke Akindele, a very unique and popular actress whose foray into Movies started at an early age had Diploma in Mass Communication from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic and a Degree in Law from the University of Lagos. She has featured in several movies both English and Yoruba.

There are several others like Patience Ozokwor, Tonto Dike, Mercy Johnson, Omotola Jalade Ekehinde, Emeka ike, Zack Orji, Kenneth Okonkwo, and a host of others.

According to him, some actors and actresses cannot play various roles; they play only one role, such people are not talented. But there are some very flexible actors who can act anything. Also, some people are going into acting because they want fame.

He maintained that an actor must have the talent. "Learning it in the university is just a formality. He whom God has given the talent is different from others," Johnson explained.

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