Multiple award winning actress Halima Abubakar, who has been well noted for her Foundation for the Poor, is presently in Lagos for a charity tour, which is planned for the month of March.
“I have been able to tour seven states and haven’t done that in Lagos. I have been working since December without a break. The last Christmas was all work for me. I have a new movie coming up, ‘’Hard way to Freedom,’’ a story on rape. In this interview with Paul Ukpabio, Halima confesses to a lifestyle of deprivation which eventually spurred her into Nollywood and her battle to suppress the anger she had to grow up with.
Though young, you have been noted for humanitarian deeds, what drives this passion in you?
Yes, that is the area that appeals to me and that is the area I want to be known for. I just found myself doing it. It came naturally to me to do because I had begged for food and clothes in the past; so I know what it feels like to be deprived in those areas. So giving comes natural to me. We actually need to share so that God will be happy with us.
I grew up in the north. You know in the north, while I was growing up, you just bring out a large plate of food and people sit around it, eat and share from it. People put their hands and eat. That was how I grew up, and it was okay. Lagos is different though. So I have learnt to give. If I do not have this to give, then I have that to give. If I do not have money to give, I have clothes to give and if I do not have clothes to give, then I have food to give. The important thing is that you have shared something with someone in need. You need to share whatever you have except sharing your body (laughs).
You seem to be giving us a different picture about your background here. At least some people had the impression that you come from a privileged background.
Yes, it’s true; I had a privileged background until Savannah bank where my father worked for 26 years was closed down. His money, everything was taken away; without a conscience, they took away our food. Well I thank the bank because they made me a star today!
How did that happen?
I had to find my way into Nollywood and then came down to Lagos to look for job and help my family out of poverty. But if Savannah bank ever comes back, they should be ready to pay back my daddy’s money. He was a manager in the bank for all of 26 years in Kaduna, Katsina, we were going all over the place as he was moved from place to place for his work. Suddenly, Savannah bank was locked up. I was much younger then. I was still in school. I had to leave Katsina with my family. My dad worked at other places after then, but it was in Savannah bank that he had his locked up investment. Now I do not advise people to save money in the bank where they work because anything can happen. Better to spread your money in other banks apart from where you work so that people do not suddenly make your family’s life miserable.
But if your dad was a bank manager for that long, he was really comfortable and would have had some properties…
You mean the house and all such? We had to sell those off to get money. Thank God that we didn’t have to go into prostitution. Again, we were even too young then to know what prostitution was. This kind of thing is what makes good people turn wicked. That’s because we were really affected and I have pains to show for it.
But did your dad ever recover?
Well, he eventually did. And I had to help out too. Now he has a beautiful farm in Lokoja, where he is doing well. That has always been his dream. And my mom is retired. Mom left Kano when my dad left. You know wherever the man goes, his woman has to follow. Right now they are in Lokoja where we have our family home.
You have indeed moved around the north, but where are you from?
I am from Kogi state. And Lokoja is close to our village. I spent the first twenty years of my life in the far north before coming to Lagos.
Tell us about life in the north and in southern part of Nigeria.
The truth is that Kano was where I lived for most of our childhood. My elder sister and her family lives there now. Somehow I will always be connected to Kano. Lagos is where I work, it is where I also have some form of investment and my little ones live here. We do not stay together anymore because I know that at some point, I will have to start my own family. So I am proud to say that I have invested in my family, instead of gallivanting around the whole world, cruising in yachts, and jets and taking fake pictures up and down. I’m actually proud of myself now.
So how do you describe yourself?
I am a producer and a writer; I am a farmer, which is a huge investment. My dad is the one handling that aspect because he knows about it, but I am the chief executive officer there. We have restaurants and bakery, these are all a big blessing. And I have urged my younger sister to go into the make-up profession so that I can invest in that too. I am actually proud of the beauty industry and I will like to invest in it, another way of supporting the family.
What does beauty mean to you?
It means being you, it also means being mature.
Was it easy for you to come all the way from the north of the country to Lagos to break into Nollywood?
Never! It was not easy to do. It took me almost 10 years of my life. I have been acting for probably 15 years now. I was a child, I was very young, I was in JSS 3. For the first three years of life in Nollywood, I shot only two movies and there was no line. That is what is called ‘waka pass’. That is the testimony that I have. So when people keep talking trash about me, I just say they do not know what they are talking about. Most often they don’t know me; they are talking based on gossip on social media, or what they are reading online. But that is not me. People should just live their lives and stop being a fake. Must I paint my face, pose and take pictures and paste on social media? Before the arrival of social media, weren’t we living? The funny part is that men don’t even care if you have a particular brand of lipstick on.
We keep spending N6,000 on a particular brand of lipstick, yet men don’t even notice it. But your fellow woman will sit down somewhere and start saying, ‘Oh my God, is that this or that?’ I keep saying that some women dress for their fellow women not for men. That’s because men just look at probably your shoes, wrist watch or your handbag or hair style. Though every man has what he looks at, but most often it is the way you talk, your intelligence. Most often, not even your shoes, unless he owns a boutique and he is thinking of selling his shoes or your hair, if he sells weave-on. That’s because men just look probably at your shoes.
What is the thing that you consider a drawback for Nollywood?
In Nollywood, piracy is the main thing that you have to fight all your life. Any other thing can be worked on. I believe that one day, someday, the government will decide to fight it. Apart from that, I am not scared of anything in Nollywood.
How about rejection in Nollywood?
No, I am not scared of rejection at all; I have been rejected a lot of times. That was a step for me to work very hard and make sure that I am successful. Rejection makes me work very hard.
How about make-up, what does it mean to you?
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I don’t care about make-up, I’m sorry to say, I actually call it painting of face (laughs). If i am not really doing something special, I do not bother about make-up. I don’t think men are really interested in knowing who made your shoes. A man that asks me the name of my shoes, is not likely to get my attention. But if a man buys shoes and gives me, I will take it.
So indirectly are saying you that you are not a vain person?
Oh no, I am not materialistic. I am just a local Igbirra girl who works very hard to polish and establish herself, a part northerner who has been able to catch the attention of not just Africa but the attention of people outside Africa too through Nollywood. When I travel abroad, a lot of people recognise me. Not in Hollywood because I am not a Hollywood actress, but recognised abroad by those who watch African movies. I have been in America and the United Kingdom to receive awards so without hard work, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve all that. So I am just myself, I am natural; I do not try to please anybody.
Which of the awards you received touched you most?
Oh, that will be the Goodwill Ambassadorial Award which was held recently in Abuja, that was a huge one for me. Of all the awards I have received for my charitable work, that has indeed touched me and made me to know that yes, I have done well. I have received the UN Peace Ambassadorial Award, which is a great one too. Then also, the professional ones I have received in Nollywood, they are all special in their own way. I am grateful
What appeals to you most?
Being natural, real and being truthful.
Do you cook?
Of course I do. I used to pound yam until my muscles started developing and I started reducing in height because I had pounded too much yam (laughs). So, I stopped pounding yam. My best soup used to be beans soup but these days, I do more of vegetable soup. I only cook on special occasions these days.
Would you say you are rich?
Not at all, there are some other people who are more comfortable. Sometimes I do get broke, and I ask people for money and u know how we Nigerians are, they reply you ‘Oh I don’t have money for now’. So to avoid that, I try to safe for such rainy days.
What does success mean to you?
It means helping others; it means advancement in one’s career, being there for others. Even when they were not there for you when you needed them, maybe because they didn’t have to give, or maybe they were just being stingy, that should not stop you from helping people in life (laughs). The important thing is that you touch lives. You are not successful alone; you are successful when you are carrying other people along.
If you were not an actor, what else would you have loved to be?
I would have loved to be a lawyer or work in an embassy so I can make visa available to a lot of people who want to go and party, since they love partying and love seeing places so much. So when they have seen enough, they will come back. I would have loved to be an interpreter of languages. Also I would have loved to be a mediator among countries working with the UN.
What about education?
I have a degree in Sociology from Ado Bayero University, and then also I have a Diploma I was in Federal College of Education, Kano. I have post graduate in management and computer science. I also make sure that I educate myself on things going on around me.
Don’t you feel that you may be intimidating to a man?
Well, that will be the man’s business because I didn’t tell such a man not to go to school, or have a library; I cannot afford not to be myself because of a man who feels intimidated by me. A man should even be happy to encourage me. Any man that is intimidated by a lady is not a man. I have, however, learnt to be tolerant of people. I have learnt to ignore a lot of side talks; I have learnt to be patient with a lot of people, because I have a temper which I have learnt to control. I am working on myself. Also because of the way that I have been treated in the past by people, I really do not value friendship. I am trying hard to know people and that’s where patience comes in. I am still trying to open up; I hope I will be able to do that with a man that I hope to spend the rest of my life with. I do not want a man that I will spend just one year with and he’s gone. I don’t want a man that will make me pop out babies, then he will go clubbing. I will drag his hair to the house! I’ve had anger in the past, so it’s easy to piss me off and it’s easy for me to forgive. I don’t react; at the same time I’m not a robot, so I am bound to react once in a while.
I find time to rest, sometimes I do not sleep for two days when I’m shooting a movie. I’m busy when I’m not I watching movies and rest. I write scripts, I do a lot of things with my head. I have not travelle in a year but will travel soon.
People say you are well endowed, so which part of your body do you value most?
I will say that will be my brain, that is because I really do not see what they see, when they keep saying that I am endowed and I am endowed. People keep saying that I am well endowed, good, but there are other people who are better endowed than me. I am, however, humbled and grateful when I hear such remarks.
How about marriage?
Marriage will come when it will come. You don’t rush it. It is one of the few things that one does not need to rush. Marriage is not a movie that one has to rush. You do not marry because the public wants you to get married. You do not marry because you are getting old, you do not marry because you are too young. You get married when it’s the right time. You get married when you meet the right man, when you know that it is okay and the man too is okay. And you are sure that you are going to have a fine, peaceful marriage.
But there are guys in the movie industry, haven’t they been approaching you with subtle marital proposals?
Well, you do not get married because you are in Nollywood or because people there are proposing. Moreover I do not encourage people to date where they work.
Does that also mean that you are not likely to marry an actor?
I will definitely not marry an actor.
What does fashion mean to you?
I wear anything that appeals to me at that particular time. I do not have specifics. If it looks good on me, then I can wear it (laughs).
What about your style?
I wear what is comfortable. I do not really wear things because every other person is wearing them. If anyone waits to see me become a fashionista, that person is likely to wait for ever. That’s because I wear what looks good on me and is comfortable.
That is because that is not my aim, I do not want people to like me because I love fashion. I want people to love me because of my person, that is they love me because of me. They should not love me because of the clothes I wear. I want people to like me for other stuff apart from fashion.
Normally when you are a fashionista, when you are doing other good things, people do not even notice. All they are looking for when they see you is ‘oh, this lady can dress and look good.’ All they see is the good clothes you are always wearing. That is not my aim in life. I want to do good things in life, touch people and get awards and praise for that. I don’t what to be seen and praised for the clothes I wear.
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