I don’t woo women, they chase me – Mr. Ibu

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Chux Ohai

Most Nigerians who have seen popular comic
actor,
John Okafor, aka Mr. Ibu, in action will agree
that he is a talented comedian and one of a few
Nollywood practitioners that are naturally cut out
for the roles that they play in the movies.
Okafor has, so far, been able to prove to his fans
that he does not only live by making other people
to laugh away their sorrows; he is also humour
personified.
But the actor, in an interview with our
correspondent, also reveals that despite his
commitment to making people to laugh, he has
had cause to be unhappy, even bitter, on some
occasions.

On one of such, Okafor had an axe to grind with
the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba.
He was so bitter that he almost instituted a court
action against the management of the hospital.
Recounting what happened, he says, “The matter
was actually between the Paediatric Department of
the hospital and me. It was in 2011. My wife and
our two-year-old son had been kidnapped. After I
paid the ransom demanded and they were released
by the kidnappers, I returned to Lagos from Enugu.
“Then on January 18, 2011, my son fell ill. He was
diagnosed with inflammation of the liver. The
hospital suggested that he should be scanned. At
the same time, I was informed that I could take my
son out of the hospital to get the scan done
elsewhere. But the same people later declined,
saying that everything had to be done in the
hospital because he was too weak to be taken
outside.
“After a while, I was told that there was no
electricity in the hospital. When I asked if there
was no standby generator, they said there was no
fuel in it. I offered to pay for fuel only to be told
that the man that operated the generator was not
around. When I left the place and got back later,
the man still had not returned. Then I was advised
to write an application and to submit to the admin
department.”
After writing the application, Okafor found that there
was nobody to receive and treat it. While he was
waiting, he was told that his son’s condition
required blood transfusion. The actor did
everything possible to ensure that the ailing boy
was given treatment at the hospital, but his efforts
were in vain. Finally, the little boy gave up the
ghost.
“That was how my son died. Later, one of the
doctors came to me and, without even
sympathising with me, asked if I could release my
boy’s corpse to him so that they could cut it open
and use it to teach other medical students. In that
moment, I felt like committing murder for the first
time in my life.
“When I told my lawyer what happened at the
hospital, he was shocked. He said it was
actionable. I told him that I was ready to take the
hospital management to court and sue it for $100
million in damages because my son’s death was
caused by the carelessness of the professionals
whose duty was to save his life. But my lawyer
advised me to let go”.
Reflecting on his career, Okafor says he has been
publicly embarrassed by fans at different times and
in several places. “I quickly forgive them because I
was the one that looked for trouble in the first
place. On one occasion, somebody came to me
and said, ‘Ibu, because of what your jokes have
done to me and my family, I promised God that
anywhere I meet you, I would slap your face.’ I
told him them to go ahead. Then he slapped me
so hard that I couldn’t see clearly for two hours,”
he says.
Mr. Ibu obviously relishes his status as a popular
and relatively comfortable Nollywood actor. It is
doubtful that, given a choice, he would have given
up acting for any other career. Going down
memory lane, the actor reveals that he used to be
a boxer and a Karate practitioner. Admitting that
only a few people are aware of this aspect of his
personal history, he says, “I practised Shotokan
Karate for 16 years and I was a member of the
Karate Federation of Nigeria. I happen to be the
first instructor that was teaching Karate in federal
government colleges in Nigeria.”
The actor, no doubt, cuts the picture of a man
enjoying a blissful marriage. But, asked if he ever
had a girlfriend before he got married, he replied,
“I had problems with my relationships with
women. Each time I had a new girlfriend, other
men would always take her from me. Whenever I
fell in love with a girl, somebody would snatch her
from me. But I don’t fear any sense of loss
because I married the best woman on earth. My
wife is a former beauty queen. She was the winner
of the 2004 Face of Imo beauty pageant.”
But Okafor says that even now that he is happily
married, women have not stopped coming to him
for a date. “I don’t woo them, though. They are
the ones chasing me. That is part of the price I
have to pay for being popular.”

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