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Charity Tonto Dikeh: The sultry actress gets her ‘groove’ back

By Shaibu Husseini
01 July 2017   |   3:44 am
Just this week and the Ikwerre, Rivers State-born Tonto was back in the news again. This time, it is the story that her parents had decided to refund the bride price paid on her, thus signaling the dissolution of the marriage, albeit traditionally.

Tonto Charity Dikeh

Notable Nollywood actress, Tonto Charity Dikeh, is a newsmaker. Hardly would a season pass and she would not be in the news, for either positive or negative reasons. If the gist about her were not that she was ‘beefing’ a colleague or has dumped a job she was duly contracted to do, the reoccurring gist would be that she is ether dating a fellow actor or a popular singer, who is also a label owner.

But this was before she took the decision a few years ago to be married to the businessman and philanthropist, Olakunle Churchill. As soon as they were engaged traditionally, the gossip press had no more gist to share about the actress, whose career ambition was and still is to excel and to become a nationally and internationally acclaimed actress. They took the back seat and allowed her to settle properly into marriage.

But after about a year and a few months, Tonto was back in the news; her marriage to Churchill had packed up, something for the gossip press to feast on, and they did, as nearly all the entertainment and social blogs, websites and soft-sell magazines reported the sudden break up of a marriage that Tonto once described as ‘made in heaven.’

She reportedly revealed that she decided to quit the marriage because of irreconcilable differences, but an insider disclosed that the marriage broke down amidst allegation of domestic violence and drug abuse by the couple.

Just this week and the Ikwerre, Rivers State-born Tonto was back in the news again. This time, it is the story that her parents had decided to refund the bride price paid on her, thus signaling the dissolution of the marriage, albeit traditionally.

In a brief ceremony in Port Harcourt last week, Tonto’s father, Mr. Sunny Dikeh, handed Olakunle’s uncle, Bishop Dare, an undisclosed amount, an action Pa Dikeh confirmed has officially annulled the marriage between the two former love-birds.

Although he acknowledged that Olakunle carried out all that was required to wed Tonto, it was customary and a required formality to return the bride price, since the couple have both agreed to dissolve the union.

The video of the bride price refund ceremony went viral as soon as it was released. A few of her fans expressed displeasure about the turn of event, with majority commending the Dikehs bold decision to dissolve the marriage.

Even Tonto agreed that it was the right thing to do. “For formality and respect, a token had to be returned to them, no matter what,” she wrote, adding: “The truth may be silent for a while, but it sure can’t hide for long.

“You need not address this issue. I asked for a divorce, I was denied for months, but God worked it out and I got it.”

With this development, Tonto would be admitted into the unofficial club of screen celebrities whose relationships seem to have packed up, with the likes of Doris Simeon, Fathia Balogun and Eucharia Anunobi.

An actress with her eyes on the summit, the reality television show, tagged, The Next Movie Star, was the platform she thought she would use to launch out. This was in 2005.

Though the delectable and always gorgeously dressed actress, who is simply known as Tonto, eventually lost The Next Movie Star crest to an equally strong contender, Kingsley Ogboso, emerging runner up at the end, it was on the back of that show that she rode to emerge a recognizable face in the Nigerian movie renaissance, dubbed Nollywood.

Indeed, today, the star of Plain Truth and other highly rated flicks is well on song in the Nollywood industry. Born on June 9 into a family of seven, Tonto’s professional career started with her emerging runner up in that reality show.

She disclosed that she opted for the reality show because she wanted a more formal platform that would launch her into the industry. Although she didn’t get to win, it was indeed after the reality show that she found fame and fortune, as scripts started pouring, fans started routing for her and just every producer wanted the new kid on the block in their movies.

A Petro-Chemical Engineering graduate of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Port Harcourt, Tonto, who lost her mother when she was three, described growing up as interesting and memorable, as her parents never deprived her of anything.

She was raised in Port Harcourt and was sent to the best primary and secondary school there. Her first day on a movie location would count as one of her memorable moments as an actress. It was on the set of Holy Cross, starring Pete Edochie and Nonso Diobi.

Like most first timers, she was scared and shy and almost couldn’t carry on. But she was able to pull through with the support of the cast and crew. Although all her works have come with their own challenges, Tonto still feels an over-pouring nostalgia for Holy Cross, her very first movie, but which ranks as her second movie because of the period of release.

She said: “I don’t think I have one that challenged me more than the other. All of them have come with their challenges, but if you are talking about memorable, then again I would say my first movie, but it was released months after.

“It took my performance there for producers to start sending scripts to me. So, it sort of shot me to limelight.”

Star of such hit flicks as Final Hour, Fatal Mistake, Family Disgrace and Miss Maradona, stated that she belongs to the category of celebrities who love to express themselves unreservedly by dressing just the way they choose.

“I dress as the occasion demands. I dress the way I love to dress. I observe codes and rules where and when necessary, but I just love to look good,” she stressed.

Reputed to be unpretentiously jovial, disarmingly humble and friendly, but yet very blunt, serious-minded and down to earth, Tonto named Al Pacino and Julia Roberts among the international stars that have inspired her.

Her list of her all-time acting heroes back home include the acting diva, Joke Silva Jacobs, and the screen diva, Rita Dominic. But Rita ranks top among those who had a great influence on Tonto.

The ambition of the star of Missing Rib, Last Mission and Plain Truth is to play a long game in the movie, improve with each new game and combine acting in Nollywood with acting in established movie cultures, such as Hollywood.

“I want to get better and better on the job and I want my work to speak for me. Of course, my other ambition is to get into Hollywood. Every actor would want to, given an opportunity.

“I know it is possible and I am really looking forward to the day it will come to pass. And I don’t think it will be too far from now. Now that I have my groove back, I will give it my time and see how it goes,” she surmised with a profound honest smile.