Charles Inojie: The artiste as philanthropist
It has always been his desire to reach out to his people and by extension, the people of Edo State and Nigeria as a whole. Charles Inojie has always maintained that their roles as artists should go beyond entertaining the audience. The actor, director, writer, show host, and producer believes that he has a responsibility as an artist to contribute his quota to the development of his community, state, and of course Nigeria through the provision of infrastructure.
The Eguare-Ohordua Edo State-born actor recently walked the talk when he hosted the commissioning ceremony of the Eguare- Ohordua Borehole Water project built by his Charles Inojie Foundation, a platform he set up a few years ago to contribute meaningfully to the development of society.
The commissioning ceremony, held in Ohordua on Easter Saturday, was attended by quality guests and led by the Onojie of Ohordua kingdom His Royal Highness Zaki S. E Ailuojierior.
“It has been my dream to provide water to my people of Ohordua considering the challenge access to portable water posed to the community since from my childhood days,’’ Inojie said shortly after the commissioning ceremony of the Borehole project, which he said was made possible with the partnership of the Latter Saint Charities.
But why a borehole project when he could have taken to his social media platforms to dole out monies to his fans as some of his colleagues usually do?
“My brother,’’ he snapped, “there is no better give-away than doing what will benefit people for life. I am in all of this because as a little boy growing up in Ohordua was tough. Getting just about anything at all from education, farm produces to water for bathing and cooking and drinking required travelling a couple of kilometers. I recall how my grandmother would wake me up by 4 am so I could join my mates to fetch water from Utor River in the boundary between Uwokhuen and Emu. Sometimes, we would do two rounds before getting to school and we must not be late for assembly. So, over the years, it has been my secret prayers for God to help me change the narrative for today’s children growing up in the community who still have to go through the same stress as my generation did several years ago to get water home to their parents for domestic use. It was that prayer that gave birth to the Charles Inojie Foundation (CIF) and I am indeed grateful to God for answering that prayer through the benevolence of the latter Saints Charities with whom we partnered to wrought this feat,’’ he explained.
An old boy of Eguari Primary school and Uhoada Mixed Secondary School, both in his native town Uhordua, Inojie a, graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Port Harcourt, grew up in Uhoardua under the care of his grandmother whom he described as a ‘disciplinarian’ to the core and he credits her always for the ‘good upbringing’ he had.
But it was an encounter with the late poet, author, social commentator, and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa that inspired Inojie’s incursion into the world of the theatre. While waiting for the result of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams that he wrote, Inojie became a regular feature at the Writers Resort at Ijoko-Otta in the outskirt of Lagos, run until a few years back by the late Professor Bode Osanyin.
The Writers Resort normally plays host to an accomplished playwright—every last Sunday of the month and Inojie through that platform met ‘face to face’ with some notable authors, one of them Ken Saro Wiwa. Impressed by Inojie performance in a short sketch presented to ‘welcome’ him to the resort, Saro Wiwa advised Inojie to go and study drama at the University of Port Harcourt, while waiting for his JAMB result as the department has just commenced a certificate programme. Inojie heeded the wise counsel and it was from there that his admiration for the profession heightened.
Hailed for his ability to function well in different aspect of the theatre, a reason some of his admirers describe him as a ‘jack of all trade and master of the theatre’, Inojie left Port Harcourt to Benin and later to Lagos not sure how he was going to get into the then-burgeoning Nigerian movie industry. The devote Chelsea fan had heard people complain about the difficulty in venturing into Nollywood.
Providence, however, twinned him with notable movie director Lancelot Oduwa Imaseun, an old schoolmate who was already a force to be reckoned with in the industry. Inojie revealed that he had it all the way smooth to the top courtesy of Lancelot Imaseun’s open-mindedness and magnanimity.
Described by close friends as hard-working, open-minded, resourceful, friendly, and jovial, Lancelot who is popular as the guvnor, had invited Inojie to join him on location in Enugu, southeast Nigeria as an assistant director with the specific task of rehearsing the talents. They worked on a couple of productions together including Exodus and Last Burial—two epic films, produced by Louis Merchandise and Kasvid Productions respectively. But after Exodus, Inojie’s name as a competent director had spread everywhere.
Today Inojie is not only one of Nollywood’s respected directors, writers, and comic actors but he is also well regarded as one of the few practitioners in the professional class.
A recipient of the 2010 ZAFAA award for Best actor and a couple of other awards, Inojie has at the last count, directed more films than he has acted. But it is as an actor that Inojie has earned fat applauses. Many have still not forgotten his expert portrayal in the groundbreaking comedy film Tortoise starring Okey Bakassi and John Okafor. Caught in the Act, Corporate Maid, and Sound of Love are a few of his most memorable movie appearances yet. He is also a constant visitor in homes now playing ‘Lucky Johnson’ in the popular situation comedy titled The Johnsons.
A fun person to be with and a great lover of the round leather game, Inojie who was allowed the free will to make his career choice, likes intelligent and happy people, and will do anything to avoid dull people. He says: “I don’t like dull people and people who do not know what time it is. Everybody cannot be in this business. If you no fit act, you no fit. Also I don’t like people who run others down.”
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