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Searching for Nollywood stars of yesteryears

By Samson Ezea and Shaibu Husseini
12 May 2018   |   4:30 am
Some movie stars of yesteryears reached stardom like a bolt from the blues. Fans celebrated and held them in high esteem because of their acting prowess. They had a field day in Nigeria’s movie industry, popularly called Nollywood.

Liz Benson

Some movie stars of yesteryears reached stardom like a bolt from the blues. Fans celebrated and held them in high esteem because of their acting prowess. They had a field day in Nigeria’s movie industry, popularly called Nollywood.

They became household names in Nigeria and beyond. They became rich in every sense of the word. Some of them managed their fame and wealth well, while others were caught in a web of scandals that nearly ruined their career.

Today, however, not many of them are seen or heard in the Nollywood industry that brought them to limelight. Some of them are now film producers and directors, while others have exited the industry completely and are now engaged in other pastimes.

They have somewhat taken the back seat and there is growing concern about their whereabouts. We went in search of these screen stars…

Alex Lopez
Nothing has been heard of long-standing and delectable actress Alexandra Lopez a.k.a. Alex Lopez for a while now. She has been off the screen for nearly a decade and fans are curious and want to know the whereabouts of the actress who was once reputed as one of the ‘hottest’ actresses in Nollywood.

A single mother, who talks fondly about her son, Joshua, Alex was born Alexandra Lopez to Mr. and Mrs. Ronnie Lopez. The actress who shot into limelight with her no-hold bare interpretation of a lesbian’s role in the movie sequel to the commercially successful flick ‘Domitila’ had her early education at Zazunguru Primary School, Bauchi and Girls Secondary School, Obosi, Anambra State.

She had a stint as a model and was encouraged early in her career to try her hands on beauty pageant. She did and emerged second runner-up in the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant organised by the Silverbird Group. This was in 1993. But prior to the pageant, Alex, whose screen credits include a role in Scavengers, which was actually her debut, Karishika, Echoes, Picaddily, Domitila Part 2, Scouts, Moving Train, Sisters On The Run, Jungle Justice, Never Ever, Supreme Ladies, The Good, the Bad and the Terrible, Full Moon 2, Haunted and Adure, had taken a shot in the movie but it was shortly after the pageant that she gave the movie her soul as it were.

She reigned uproariously as soon as she got in and was the face on every movie poster for as long as she was available to take up a role. Fans of the once busy actress want her back on screen and can’t wait to see her chew roles as she always does.

Benita Nzeribe
Sultry actress, Benita Nzeribe is missing in action. The actress of many credits, who use to be a top player in Nollywood, has curiously taken a back seat in the scheme of things. There was a time when she grabbed lead roles easily and was the face on nearly eight out of 10 posters released in Nollywood.

Although observers said she staged a come back a few years back when she played lead role in a movie on child trafficking titled: St. Mary, and when she secured an endorsement deal with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Benita couldn’t assure her fans with those stints that she was staging a come back.

‘She fizzled out so soon,’ observed a film journalist. Born to Chief and Mrs. H. C. Nzeribe, Benita whose favourite colours are brown and blue, is the third child of a family of four. Acting for the Ihiala, Anambra State born actress, who was generally regarded as one the hottest talent working on the movie circuit, came naturally to her.

Indeed, it was for her, a child’s dream fulfilled. But Benita never took acting that has made her so popular at home and abroad seriously until she left the convent school about 16 years ago. She had visited a film location with a friend to watch other actors at work. It was just that encounter that ignited her passion for the make believe world.

It was with that passion and zeal, which germinated after her early school days that drove her into the A-list of the industry’s unofficial top 10 actresses. Indeed, since then, Benita, who has so far shot three international movies, two in France and the other in Abidjan apart from her many home movie credits has not looked back. She has risen to become one of the popular faces in the Nigerian home movie turf.

Clem Ohameze
At a time, Clem Ohameze was one of the most sought after actors in Nollywood. A restless spirit who is always a lead actor in movies, it used to be a common saying among most movie marketers that a movie is a best seller once Clem Ohameze features in it.

A gifted performer, who described his entry into the turf as divine, Ohameze, star of Escape, Divine Punishment, Stubborn Grasshopper and many other titles, studied Mass Communication at diploma level and later, Sociology at the University of Port Harcourt. He had barely spent some years as a graduate and had only started life as a businessman and contractor when he developed an unquenchable passion for acting. Although, he said he knew he could act, Ohameze admitted that he never had the chance to engage the acting run way until he met Madu Chikwendu, his schoolmate at the University of Port Harcourt and former President of the Association of Movie Producers.

Arguably, no one has much to do with Ohameze’s emergence as an actor than Chikwendu. ‘It was he (Chikwendu) who facilitated his participation in the movie by Hints Magazine titled: Millionaires Are Saints. Since then, Ohameze’s story changed. The decision to join Chikwendu on the set of Millionaires Are Saints marked the beginning of the road to stardom for Ohameze, who is near six feet tall. He walked from the set of that movie to grab other stage credits. In each, Ohameze proved that he was a strong character to tell a story with some touch of verisimilitude.

Today, the sociologist, turned actor, although missing in action, is still regarded as one of the most successful actors in Nollywood. Before now, Clem enjoys mass appeal within and outside Nigeria. He was also a darling of the Nigerian movie producers and marketers. Or how else could they explain why there will be a Clem in about eight out of 10 movies that would be released in Nollywood back then. Clem needs a few call-ups and he will retain his position as one of the best, brightest and busiest actors in Nollywood.

Jennifer Eliogu
Delectable and smooth talking actress, Jennifer Eliogu is missing in action because she has found a new passion -singing. Jennifer runs a band where she features as the lead singer. So, she hardly has time to be on location as she is always on tour performing with the band. But the actress and singer who was born to a civil servant whom the Eliogu’s nicknamed ‘Ghadaffi’ for his strictness, declared recently that she was still available for roles as an actress even though she agreed that ‘music and singing’ has taken a better part of her career. Amiable and unpretentiously friendly, Jenny’s decision to explore her innate acting talent has accounted for her emergence as a fixture in the home movie scene.

Her debut as a screen actress was on the set of House on Fire starring Gloria Norbert-Young, nee Anozie and Charles Okafor. It took the release of the two part didactic movie House on Fire for Jenny to cut a swath among Nollywood’s big time producers and to belch out wide for recognition. Ardent followers of the movie thought that a watchable actress had joined the turf.

A critic had named her the movie industry’s ‘new kid on the bloc.’ For him and a few others like that, there was a star in the making in the old pupil of Umbrella Nursery and Primary School, Apapa, Lagos. Indeed, there was something disarming and affable about her act that made quite a lot of people develop an admiration for her.

Just that appearance and two others after it and Jenny was already the newest hit. Since the urbane and uncommonly charming actress of numerous credits took the decision to engage the acting run way, Jennifer has steered herself almost effortlessly up to the top rung.

Many still hold the view that outside her seductive looks and her good diction, Jennifer added a bit to the beaten track and ingeniously embellished her act and that has undoubtedly earned her a top rating among the industry’s screen sirens. Her fans want her back soon to light up the screens once again.

Lari Williams
Even though the veteran actor, Babalari Williams is still very much around, the fact remains that the London trained journalist, poet and actor has been missing in action for some time now and fans still want to experience his depth of character interpretation. The last time the actor was believed to have done any serious work in the movie is about eight years ago. But he is still very much around. Sources said he shifted base to Calabar, Cross River State at a time when he was engaged to teach at the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Calabar. Earlier, Uncle Lari, as he is fondly called, had served as a visiting lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU).

Larry Koldsweath
It is amazing how the veteran actor and musician, Larry Koldsweath took the back seat in movies. Here is one actor that was the producer’s favourite in the nineties and even up to the early 2000s. He is the one who is always good enough to play the uncle, the daddy, the devious character or the village chief. But that was back then, as Larry has not done any substantial work in recent times. Those who have been following his career say he may have decided to devote more time to his new calling as an evangelist.

They say Uncle Larry, as he is called by younger actors, ministers more at Church events and now has little or no time at all for acting. But, they add that it is not to say that he has quit acting entirely.

Maureen Solomon
She is one actress who dominated the scene for some time. She was doing well, gracing six out of every 10 pictures but took the back seat when it was rumoured that she has found the love of her life. Her last major effort was in the three-part movie Snake Girl featuring Emeka Ike and Ladi Joy Tortey.

She was rumoured to be heavily pregnant at the time of shooting. She was reportedly delivered of her baby after shooting and since then she has been missing in action. A source say she is planning a big come back soon and she is likely to upstage quite a lot of actors when she stages the planned come back.

Kenneth Okonkwo
The Enugu born actor is a graduate of Business Management from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). He was among the early actors that made waves in the movie industry with Living in Bondage, where he played a major role as Andy.

After some years in the industry, Okonkwo, in a desire to improve his education went to University of Lagos to study law. After his call to bar, he joined politics as a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is being rumoured that he is warming up to contest the governorship of Enugu State on the APC platform next year.

Barbara Soky

She was among the early divas of Nollywood alongside Omotola Jalade and Genevieve Nnaji. She was very young, hot, savvy and had an aura, which made her the toast of viewers. She hanged around a lot with the rich and famous and was always in the news.

She started acting in the 1980s after getting a role in Inside Out and went on to team up with Lola Fani-Kayode in Mirror in the Sun and then much later, Zeb Ejiro’s Ripples.

Her acting was not the only thing that made headlines, her relationship with Danladi Bako, her daughter, Maxine were also subject of discussions. She took a break when fame became a burden for several years and sought the limelight again in early 2000 with Amaka Igwe’s Solitaire but by then her fame had dwindled and the new generation actors have taken the centre stage.

Liz Benson

She could best be described queen of the Nollywood along with Regina Askia. Both were rivals until they bowed out of the industry. Benson made people look forward to movies and her face sold millions of movies. She started acting in 1993 featuring in Fortunes and remained the postal girl for many years before stepping aside to answer God’s calling into the vineyard.

She is now a pastor based in Port Harcourt. She remarried along the line after being a widow for several years.

Regina Askia

Regina had many things working for her and the world was practically at her feet. She was beautiful, suave and brainy. With a degree from University of Lagos (UNILAG) and her crown as Miss UNILAG, Askia had her path charted for her even before graduation. She was meant for the showbiz world and that was where she headed.

After emerging Miss Nigeria in 1989 (following the resignation of Bianca Onoh, the then queen) Askia followed up with a role in Mega Fortunes and was the lead actress in several movies. She left the showbiz world and went to America in the early 2000s and settled with her husband, Radolph Rudy Williams and had since given birth to two children. She is
currently a nurse in America.

Sandra Achums
Call her the movie bad girl and you won’t be wrong. Sandra had her cup of fun filled to the brim and never gave a hoot about what you thought. She was the leader of Team B after the likes of Liz Benson and Regina Askia. Once married, Sandra made the soft sell thrive in her days, because many wanted to know what was happening in the life of their star, who was set to take over from Liz and Regina. It never happened because Sandra relocated to Germany, where she now resides and is raising a family with her husband.

Victoria Inyama

Not particularly the best when it comes to acting, Victoria Inyama made up for it with hard work and off the stage gossips for celebrity writers. She was the alternative for Sandra Achums and sometimes held her own like in Rejected Son. She never made the A-list but she made a lasting impression. She left Nigeria in early 2000 for the United Kingdom (U.K.) where she now resides with her husband.

Hilda Dokubo

Hilda Dokubo:

Hilda did not travel out and she is not ill, but she just seems tired of Nollywood. She was one of the frontrunners in the early days of Nollywood, with stellar performance in Evil Passion, Total Desire, and Goodbye Tomorrow, among others. Hilda warmed her way into the hearts of many and she has made an enduring impression. She left the scene to take up activism and an unspecified contract job with the Rivers State government. Hilda was one of those that made the industry thick, but she now prefers life outside the limelight, where there is more peace and perhaps more money.

Ameze Imariagbe

Many still believe that Ameze should not have left the scene when she did because that was when her star was just blossoming. She left in the ‘90s when her career was just taking off. She later granted an interview saying she had other priorities in her life. Now residing in Europe, pretty Ameze was known then as the teary Ameze because she cried so easily in movies.

Ego Boyo
From Checkmate, Violated to Keeping Fate, Ego Boyo rocked the movie industry. She was the fine girl with sexy eyes that made most husbands receive knocks from their wives whenever she is on TV. Her performance was so timeless that we thought she would be on forever but Ego had other thoughts. She wanted a world where she would be the one to call the shots. She is doing that right now with Temple Production, the production company that has been doing great producing movies, documentaries and commercials for corporate bodies.

Others who are missing in action: Ayo Adesanya, Franca Aernam, Nkiru Sylvanus, Saint Obi, Sunny Mc Don W, Rita Nzelu, Gloria Iyanma, Emeka Ike, Akume Akume, Tony Umez, Pat Attah, Georgina Igwebe, Chiege Alisigwe, among many others.