Kingsley Orji is a Nollywood veteran who’s been in the entertainment industry for more than 25 years. In 2019, the actor, director and singer popularly known as Egbe Igwe – a name he inherited from the hit movie ‘Akidi’ – was involved in a road accident that led to the demise of his friend he was riding with. Even though Kingsley survived, it’s been a case of suffering and pains. In this interview, the Imo State born multi-talent talks about what really transpired, what he’s been through, the pains, the agony of being stuck in one room for one year, his hope for a surgery in India, his plea for help from Nigerians.
Let’s meet you.
I’m Mr. Kingsley Orji. In Nollywood, I’m popularly known as Egbe Igwe, Nwa onye olu. I have done couple of works that really announced my name. I am from Imo State but I am residing in Onitsha.
Are you married?
Yes, I am married with four kids.
About the accident, what really happened?
It was unfortunate. Last year, I had a fatal…a terrible motor accident that took the life of my friend that I was seated with. And we were so unconscious that we couldn’t get ourselves. When people gathered and found out that I was the one involved in the accident, they quickly put hands together to rescue us. But in my own case, I was affected badly in my hip, my left leg, the ball, the socket joint that connects it with my hip was broken entirely and now requires hip replacement. We have tried trado and all manner of treatments to no avail. So, now I’m crying out to the people to help me as I need surgery. To do the surgery here in Nigeria is without guarantee, but in India, they said it is 99 percent guaranteed. The 99 percent guarantee means that when it is done, people will not even find out that something happened to me when I’m walking. But right this moment, I can’t move, I can’t stand. I am only helping myself or someone will help me to stand with crutches and all that. But they said if I continue to use crutches, it will cause more harm than good to the hip and the leg.
When did the accident happen and what have you done so far?
It happened on the 19th of June 2019. We were taken to a nearby hospital in Awada, Onitsha. There, we received the first treatment for two months. Then I left there because it was not working well, I don’t want to mention the hospital. From there, I went to herbal person who treated me for up to four months, no way. As time went on, I went to Aba, the woman there tried her possible best. We were there when the covid-19 crises started. I spent the whole period of lockdown there. Then after the pandemic, I left for Lagos where I tried some treatments to no avail. From Lagos, I came back to the East where I am now. We have been trying, we have been spending money, but to no avail. The thing is giving me a lot of sleepless nights. I can’t sleep very well because of pains, lots of pains. I don’t know, I don’t know. That is how I’m seeing it my brother.
Tell us about this Indian connection.
There was one lady who put about my accident on the net, so one of our brothers who is a doctor in a hospital in India, one JP hospital, called and told me the things I’m supposed to do and told me to send him my x-ray. I sent him, he looked at it and said that I need complete hip replacement. That was what the doctor here said too. I then began to receive some treatment plans, advice, from them, how it will be, how it is going to be. They said that it will cost me $5,000 to undergo the operation, that I should raise that amount in addition to cost of flight to and from and lodging. Because after three or four days in the hospital, I will stay out of the hospital in a place where the doctors could be coming to see how the treatment is going, and from there, I will be going for check-ups for up to one month to six weeks. That it’s after then that I will now leave the country if I want.
In what ways would you want Nigerians to assist you?
I know Nigerians will help, most especially Igbo people, most of the people who love what I do, they have been helping me. People who have seen me on Facebook…there was a time I put it on Facebook and some other person did her own, one lady called Ogechi, she was the person who raised the money I spent going about and seeking for treatment. Many people have been helping. Ifeanyi Nwosu have been helping too. The person who made people to know that I am still in this predicament was Yule Edochie. Yule Edochie came to where I am and said, Ah! No, no, no! He has to do his possible best. He was the one who posted it on his own wall on Instagram and made people begin to respond to me, giving me one-one thousand, two-two thousand, some even five thousand. All this while, they have been dropping it small, small, and I am grateful.
Are you a member of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN)?
Are they aware of your present situation?
You can’t be forcing people to do things. You can’t be forcing people. That is why I have left them and turned to individuals for help. Because when you ask them, they will say, enhm, we have to take this one to national and take that one to state and all such things. They are aware of my plight, so I wouldn’t want to blame it on anybody, I don’t want to blame it on anybody. All I know is that God who knows that I am here will still lift me up. God will still bring me out of this condition. I have stayed in one place, imagine! Staying in a room, every day! Every day! There you will defecate, there you will urinate, there you will do everything. I have suffered a lot! So, I really want Nigerians to help me in any way they can.
Have you formerly approached (AGN) for assistance?
See enh, they are all aware of my predicament. In fact, we have different extensions in Nollywood. We have different guilds, such as Directors Guild, TBGN, we have DOP, and so on, they are all aware of my situation. Even some of the celebrities I work with are all aware of it. So, you can’t be forcing someone to help you. After all, everyone has his own personal problems. I’m kind of person who do things in a special way. I don’t like disturbing people with my problems. But I believe that if I speak up to the entire world, there are people who are inspired by my works that can help me. There was a man who called me and said, when we were small, we used to watch your films. You made our days very, very awesome. For that, I am going to give you the sum of twenty thousand naira. You see, so I took my case to the media so that people can see me and whoever wants to help will help. I’m not talking about AGN.
What lesson have you learnt from your present situation?
Humility. Humility in the sense that this condition really humbled me. Because I did not believe that this world can turn me into this now, that I will be in one place begging people or even answering calls courteously. Before, whenever I am at work and people call me, I spoke to them anyhow…arrogantly. Maybe because I felt I was contented or because I felt I am a celebrity. Or sometimes, people will call on the phone, instead of taking it easy or hearing the person out, I would arrogantly start asking them, ehenh? What can I do for you? I would not even let them finish speaking and I would hang up on them. I hope you understand what I am talking about now. This thing has really brought me down so that I answer everybody’s calls. I now humble myself to listen to anybody’s complain, and give my own advice or something like that. Before now, when you call me on the phone, maybe you are an upcoming artist and you tell me, I’m an upcoming artist, please help me to do this or that, I would hang up because I am angry at such, because I feel you are disturbing me. But now, I really listen to people, I calm down, hear your complain, proffer solution if I have.
For those who may not know much about your career, let’s touch on it a little. How long have you been acting?
It’s been long. It’s been a very long time, right from 1993.
Can you recall how many movies you have featured in?
(Laughs) I can’t recall. But it is around 25 to 30 movies. And I have directed musical videos of renowned music artistes like Prince Gozie Okeke, Akanchawa, Princess Njideka Okeke. I did Gilbert Okeke’s Tiwara m Uzo Sir’ike, John Ngana, Prince Matthew Phillips, a whole lot of them, both the Joy, Joy, Joy by Destiny Kids, and that was the one that announced me the most. I hit stardom in 2000/2001 when I released a song. In short, I am an all-round entertainer.
How did your journey into entertainment start?
The whole thing began when I started doing little, little drama with the late Solomon Eze of Mike Orihedinma, after which I entered into music. The music was what brought me into the limelight in 2000. Before then, I was working with three guys and we released a song in 1995, it sold too, but due to age and poor management, we couldn’t achieve much. In 1998, we released another one which Obijez marketed. It was titled “OBT Wayo” (obtaining by tricks). As time went on, I released my own personal music in 2000, a gospel fusion with Makkossa sound and all that. Then in 2001/2002, I did this movie titled ‘Akidi’ with the likes of Nkem Owoh (Osuofia), Patience Ozokwo (Mama G), John Okafor (Mr. Ibu), Victor Osuagwu, Emeka Enyiocha… a lot of them that we did the movie with. The movie came and blew. From that time up till this moment, I’ve been doing movies.
Who do you think you owe gratitude for your success in the industry?
Ehm! First and foremost, we thank God for everything. God is the first entity we are going to ascribe all honour and adoration to. The person who taught me, who believes I can do directing is called Mr. Ifeanyi Azodo. He is a renowned Nollywood director. In a film I did, that movie that brought me into limelight called “Akidi”, he was the one that directed it. And he was the one who gave me that name “Egbe Igwe” in that movie. Up to this moment, I have been seeking a lot of professional advice from him and he has been giving to me without asking me for anything. He has been awesome, he has been good to me, that is another person I will, at least, appreciate.
I was about asking you how you came about the name Egbeigwe…
Yes, he was the one. He gave me that name because he had a friend in Onitsha, the Onitsha North Local Government Chairman then called Egbe Igwe. He said that what I was doing in that movie was what Egbe Igwe can do (laughs), you know.
As a veteran, how would rate Nollywood?
We are growing, we are growing fast. You know why? Most of the things, the outdated equipment we were using, we don’t use them anymore. We now use equipment that are trending, we use a lot of good cameras here, unlike before when we had a lot of good cameras that producers would not go and hire, because they did not want to spend money, but now, they spend money on cameras. So, anyone who has the financial strength would invest his money. So, Nigerian movies are improving by the day but we need to adjust certain things in the industry, like the repetition of stories. Every day, they are talking about palace, palace, palace, always talking about a maiden impregnated by the prince, everyday! We are good in what we are doing, but we need to change the face of storytelling. Apart from that, I can rate us high. We are trying.
What are the challenges facing Nollywood?
The main challenge is that people are no longer buying movies in the market, that is why we have fewer producers now. They are not many anymore, unlike before, when you do a movie, Nigerians will be waiting for it to come out, and everybody will just buy it. But now, it is not like that. That is why you see that people don’t venture into the business anymore. Because anyone who invests in a business will like to have returns, good returns.
What do you think should be done?
In comparison to Hollywood, Hollywood spends a lot of money because they know what they want. They believe that once they achieve what they want, it will go far and they will make money. So, we need to involve government in this thing, people who can give us funds when we want to do a movie, and we need to present a budget too. Grants are being given to agricultural people, people who produce this and that. They should give us our own grants. We want grants so that people can produce good movies that can stand the test of time. Government should get themselves involved. They should give us grants so that our moviemaking here will be better. Individuals may not be able to finance certain projects. If I have a project of N10million now, it will be very hard to see an individual who will cough out that money. But we can write a grant application to government and they give us that money. We will go ahead and produce good movies that will last as long as they stay.
What advice do you have for your fellow entertainers?
The advice I have for them is that everyone should be humble. We are all the same, even in the sight of God, despite your position in the society, I’m talking generally now, bring yourself down. Don’t just overlook anybody, even if the person is not making any sense. And hustle to establish yourself. Somebody in my condition who has stayed up to one year and six months, even if I am Dangote, the money must have gone down. By that time, one is reigning and getting money, one has to invest in something that will be yielding money. So that if something like this comes up, you will not need to start begging money.
Thanks for speaking to ONITSHA GRA
Thanks so much for reaching out to me.