Hilda Dokubo: Return of the evergreen actress
She may not be that face on every poster or cover jacket, but notable actress, producer, activist and philanthropist, Hilda Dokubo, is still as relevant in Nollywood and the entertainment industry as butter is to bread.
Although now very engaged in human capital development, the veteran stage and screen Rivers State-born actress, who recently had what was roundly described as a ‘loaded comeback’ in Kunle Afolayan’s wave-making thriller, The CEO, revealed in this interview that she is back and ready to play a long game in moviedom.
Some of your fans complain that you have been missing in action, where have you been?
I have been busy a whole lot. I have set up a training centre for young aspiring creative artistes who want to do better than just claim they are talented, forgetting that talent is nothing until it is nurtured into skill and backed by discipline and the right attitude.
Talent can get you started, but you need more than that to sustain you in the arts.
I have also shot a few great movies, such as Stigma, which also won me five awards, including the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) last year.
So, I have been active. We even started castingcallafrica.com, a data bank for the industry and a one-stop meet all, hire all and inform all platform, with training, legal and management service. We are doing great.
And you returned in The CEO?
I never compete against myself. I learnt early in my career “that you are as good as your last job.” Therefore, after every great job, I take a short break to rest and retrain before taking on another job.
CEO is one of those great jobs, so after working with Kunle Afolayan on that set and putting in the amount of work that we all had to put in to do it, and I dare say that is a great job, it is only proper that I debrief myself. Plus how do I give my fans the opportunity to enjoy this grand entry?
Now, CEO is out and I am working on another fantastic script, Asawana. But I consider CEO a comeback and a good one too.
Kunle is just my kind of person – simple, daring, creative, fun, firm and a great team leader. He shares his concept and goal per scene with his team, so it becomes easy for each person to interpret each line, each scene and to work with others. And the feedback from the movie theatres has been overwhelming.
Most people that have called me end their calls with ‘thank God you are back, we missed you.’ Those words make me feel really good and, therefore, have the need to keep these people happy.
It is a new responsibility and I must live up to it.
You also had a stint as a politician?
I truly did not set out wanting to go into politics; I got into it by happenstance.
At a point, I wanted to give back to the society that had supported and sustained me. I started working with young people, a kind of after-school support programme.
I did this for nearly two years and at the same time, so much was going crazy with the industry too. I would spend hours in the day studying other industries, so that we can set up a structure, a standard operation procedure that we could keep reviewing as we grow.
We would argue for hours, yet achieve very little. We started off screening and registering members of Actors Guild members, but we couldn’t make any headway because there were too many external interests that were fighting against these structures.
The activist in me could not stay quiet. That was when my husband advised that I take this energy to my home state and do the same thing I have been doing with the after-school support programme.
So, I started first by visiting periodically. On each visit, I would go to a public school and ask them to give me all the kids who hated classrooms, because I wanted to cut short the supply for crime. I would work with these kids and they will return to class and beat their classmates.
Soon, I started working with those who had completely dropped out of school. Then, I got a bigger space and all the kids from the different schools will gather there after school and we will spend two quality hours with them.
On one of those trainings, I met with Justice Mary Odili, wife of the then governor of Rivers State, who is an amazing woman and supportive mother. She was so appreciative of what I was doing and did not hide her support.
I basically just wanted to give back and that was what led me to politics and activism, got me appointed as Special Adviser to the Governor and it led me to human capital development and activism.
Activism is like acting for me; it is my life. I can’t stop myself from fighting any kind of injustice and oppression. So, whenever I am off your radar and it looks like I am slowing down, know that I am designing or researching on something.
Which of the productions you have made would you consider memorable?
So many of them, but there are indeed some that I can’t get off my memory bank, like Forever, Goodbye Tomorrow, Hilda Dokubo’s Unchained and Another Campus Tale and most recently, Stigma and CEO.
There are still a few more, but let us stick to these ones for now, because they came with their individual and team challenges, from language to characterisation.
Was there anytime you wanted to call it quit as an entertainer?
Many times, I wanted to quit, for both professional and personal reasons.
Professionally, at some point the roles were no longer challenging and the scripts looked very much the same. I wanted to quit for something more interesting and challenging.
But I did not and I am glad I created my own inner energy and drew strength from it.
Then, there is the men’s world push that I find very annoying and stupid. Every woman’s success must be linked to a man, almost never to her ability or expertise.
As a growing girl, I topped boys in my class and no one said it was wrong then. Why is it wrong now to achieve success on my own? As soon as you begin to succeed, everyone makes you his or her business. They would not stop talking and allocating men and activities to you.
The media, especially soft sells, whose business is hinged on sensational news, would tell half-truths or complete lies about you. These things place pressure on you and your family. They make it look like celebrities cannot keep anything.
However, I did not quit then and I won’t quit now. I have become a tough cookie.
What are your likes and dislikes?
I just cannot stand disrespect of any kind. Ungrateful acts drive me insane. Anyone who is hateful and spiteful cannot survive a second around me.
But I love sincere people that are true to themselves and others. I just love to be happy. I like to laugh. I travel a lot, but when I am not at work, I am a 100 per cent a mum. My family is all I have.
Compulsorily, I make out time and we spend quality time together. I read a lot, watch movies, write stories and spend time with my family. I make a living talking and I have fun talking.
In short, my work is my play, but I don’t play with my work. I just have fun doing both.
Are the kids taking after mum and dad?
All my kids have taken after me and I am proud of that. The first was one of the first sets of kid actors we had in the industry then. He starred in Without Love by Opa Williams and several other works before he left for school. He is back now and he just made his first movie AA+. He writes superbly.
The second is just warming up for university. Before he left for school, he designed and presented a radio programme, Teentalk With Tuvy, on Cool FM for two years.
The youngest? She is a complete drama queen.
As for young people interested in acting, I have only one manual for most of all I do and I will quote from it. My Bible clearly states that “seeth a man diligent in his dealings, he shall sit among kings and not mean men.”
If you deal seriously with your business, nothing can stop your growth.
What is in your career plate and do you have any regret being an entertainer?
Well, it is Asawana. We just completed shoot and we are editing. I am giving my time now to my career as a filmmaker and public speaker.
My other businesses can run on their own with very little supervision, so I will boldly say that I am back.