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Patience Ozokwor is a Nigerian musician, fashion designer, gospel singer and actress. Winner of the Best Supporting Actress 2012 & 2013 award at the 10th Africa Movie Academy Awards speaks with Isaac Oladipupo in this interview. Enjoy!
Patience Uzokwor is widely known as a popular actress and some also refer to you as old Mama Youngi. Could you tell me about growing up as a child?
Growing up was good. It is very good when you are guided by good parents. I was lucky to have good parents. My mother was a trader but all the same, we were thought the importance of respect, cleanliness and all that. And then we went to good schools where we were taught how to behave in public. Unlike now that children aren’t taught in school, their parents doesn’t have time to teach them at home because they are too busy. Teachers in the schools are also too busy looking for what to do to earn more, because they aren’t sure of their salary at the end of the month, you understand. That’s why I don’t blame children when they behave abnormally because, most times, it isn’t their fault. In our own days, we were taught how to respect elders whether they are our parents or not.
Having being brought up from such background, what is the fondest memory you still have about your childhood?
Actually I wasn’t brought up by my parents, my uncle took me with him to Lagos when I was six years old. I lived with him until he got married and had his children. However, my most cherished childhood memory is about how we used to earnestly wait for my father when it was almost time for him to get back from work. So we always run to meet him as soon as he gets back with his bicycle, reporting the events of the day to him. And he always gave us a part of his meat when he starts eating. It was really memorable and I never get to forget that.
Could you briefly let me into your educational background?
I don’t have much to talk about academically, but I have my fundamentals. Just before I got to Primary one, I left for Lagos with my Uncle. I went to Primary School at Abimbola Memorial School, Yaba, Lagos. And I came back to the East for my Secondary education after which I went for my Teachers Training; TCII. I also went to the Institute of Management and Technology where I obtained an OND in Graphic Art. I then went back to ESUT to study Mass Communication. I think that’s the little I did.
I know you were once into broadcasting, could you tell me about how you got into broadcasting?
I was actually a teacher when they (Radio Nigeria) came to my school for a particular debate. Then, the producer who happened to be my cousin asked me to do some things for them. I helped them moderate the programme and that was how she picked me from there. And then she started asking me to moderate TV programmes for her on Radio Nigeria. that was how I eventually became a staff of Radio Nigeria, as I was properly employed as an announcer in Radio Nigeria, Enugu. I was also taking part in other programmes. So they pay me as an announcer and also for other jobs I did for other departments. I was there from 1982 till 1984 when we were retrenched, I then went properly into business.
At what point did you realize your potentials for acting, and when exactly did you get into the industry?
I never knew I was going to do well in acting, as a career. But because of my childhood experience, I did a lot of drama all through my school days. I professionally came into the movie industry in 1998.
How many children do you have?
I have four biological children and four adopted children, making eight.
I learnt one of them is an international footballer, tell me more about them?
Well, the one that plays football is my last son. He’s played for Nigeria, he’s played with Indians, and he just moved to Turkey now for trials. His name is Nduka Morrison Uzokwor, he is about 20 years old. My first son is a businessman here in Nigeria. My second son is in London and my only daughter is in London too.
Could you please tell me about the reason for your husband’s absence, were you separated by divorce or by death?
We were never separated, let alone divorced. We were together until he died on the 21st of January, 2002.
That’s so touching. How easy has it been having to raise eight children alone with a demanding career?
It wasn’t really difficult because I was lucky I started having my children since the age of 20. By the time my husband died, they were already big boys and girls, so I didn’t really encounter much problems. As for the little children I’m adopting, I have nannies and cooks taking care of them whenever I’m not around. I also have a doctor that treats them whenever they fall ill, and God’s been faithful.
Adopting four children along with your four biological children shows you have a really large and caring heart. So why do you always act the contrary “she devil” roles in movies?
The roles we play in movies are different from who we are in real life. If I have to say the story of my life, someone else has to act it. And when producers identify you with what you do best, they always want to put you there. Your life is quite different from what you act.
So how do people relate with you on the street?
Well, people are enlightened now. Gone are the days when they throw pure water and stones at people because of the roles they play in movies. People are more exposed now, they know it’s only a story you’re telling and not your real life. So I find favour with people, they show me lots of love and appreciate my roles.
It appears that you feature in almost every movie nowadays, is this move deliberate and what’s the reason?
I don’t appear in all. I know I appear in a lot of movies but not in all. And it depends on the story, when I’m needed for my role I just have to be there.
Why did you have to do so much work whilst training your children. Was it to fend for your children?
Not really. To be frank, I never went into acting for the purpose of money. Acting is basically a strong passion that burns inside of me. But regarding other businesses I ventured into, I could say they were towards having enough to raise my children and pay for our bills. But acting, for me, is a passion that is still burning.
As a mother who is standing out despite all odds, what does it take to be a true, and virtuous mother, like a hen to its chick?
A mother who teaches her children the fundamentals of life. There are things that a child must know, no matter how tight your schedule is. I’m always traveling also, but I always ensure to take off time to examine and train my children. Take out time to study them, go to their schools, understand then, look into their affairs and be there for them regardless of how tight your schedule is. I know some busy pastors who have made it a must not to go out on some peculiar days in other to stay with their children. My children know what I want and don’t, because if you neglect certain things a lot of things would go beyond repair. Catch your children young, else the society will do that for you! The Bible said train up a child the way he should go and when he is old he wouldn’t depart from it. Also, no matter your situation, try to ensure your children are educated.
Individually, there are some peculiar principles we do hold dear. So, personally, what is that thing you know for sure?
I know one thing, that God is the ultimate and I try to instill that in my children. We pray together as much as possible because, a family that prays together, stays together. I hold my faith in Christ as number one and I transfer it to my children, that’s why you don’t hear any evil about them. Teach them about who your God is and how to pray to Him.
Adoption isn’t a popular practice here because of the divers challenges that comes with it, what’s been responsible for your triumph?
Well, I had problems initially but people are now getting to understand it better. I pray before adopting a child and also continue to pray about any inadequacies I notice in them. I had my children young and didn’t even have much then, I brought them up through thick and thin. And now that I’m a bit comfortable, I can say that there’s no more problem paying bills by God’s grace. And I also try to give to humanity.
You’ve come a long way as a frontline Nollywood actor. Aside acting, what other thing are you most passionate about?
I’ve always loved cooking, so I have a fast food now in Enugu with two outlets. We are also trying to open another branch in Asaba very soon. The name of the eatery is Wendy’s café.
You’ve been into teaching, broadcasting, trading, acting and God knows the rest. Why your recent advent into music again?
Music is part of entertainment. I started from the church and I think the best way is to express it. That my first song was actually the sound track of one of the movies I did, and it’s doing well in the market. It was released last year February and we are actually planning to repackage it.
Lastly, As an industrious woman, how do you think other women can take up the challenge of becoming financially independent today?
You know some religion forbid women from working, and when such women lose their husband, they don’t know their right from left anymore. However, we still have so many businesses you can do at home to provide money for your family; the Bible says that a virtuous woman provides for her family, not only the man. I put it forward as a challenge to women to go out and look for what to do. Before now, when I was teaching, I used to wake up as early as 3am to make meat-pie and snacks for sale, and I’ll still have to go to work. You don’t need a shop to start your business, all you need is customers. Gone are the days when women fold their hand and do nothing. I’d have gone begging when my husband got ill and couldn’t provide for us, but I took up the challenge. You can do the same.
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