Monday, October 31, 2011

I was born normal but then stopped growing - Paw Paw

Diminutive Nollywood star, Osita Iheme famously known as Pawpaw recently opened up about a deep pain in his heart, which has continued to stick out like a sore thumb.  The quiet and unassuming thespian in an exclusive chat during a courtesy visit to the Isolo corporate head office of Entertainment Express sensationally revealed that an unresolved mystery still surrounds the death of his dear father, two decades after the sad event occurred.

“With him, I know my academic ambitions would have been realised up to PhD level and so many other things I wanted to do if he were alive today”, he laments.
Recalling the sad event leading to the untimely death of his dear father, the famous entertainer revealed.
“I was very young then. I can’t really say much about him because I was still a baby when he passed on. From what I learnt, he was a trader who travels a lot and was into merchandising. He made sure that his children were well brought up. He raised us with a good moral upbringing and the fear of God. He was that kind of father. He was a tall man. I can’t say this was what killed him. He just went home and we were told that he was dead, meaning he was killed.”

 Read below for more on the rags to riches story of the actor who shot into limelight with the role of Pawpaw in the 2002 blockbuster movie Aki Na Ukwa as he tells a team of EE editors his inspiring sojourn to the top of his career.

I was a normal child while growing up

I am an adult, I am not a child. At anytime, I don’t feel like a child. I was born in the early 80s. I mark my birth every 20th of February. I was a normal baby when I was born. I can’t say that this was when I stopped growing but I just grew up to find myself like this. I just found myself like this and I can’t question God but I keep working hard to become somebody in life. Definitely my mother must have been worried about my growth but what can she do? It has happened and she had to accept the situation the way it was. We are five children in the family including a girl and four boys. I am the last born. Two of my siblings are based in Europe, while the other two are importers. The only lady is working with an oil company.

Raised in Aba

My mother was very hardworking and determined. When I lost my father, she raised us alone. She single-handedly took care of everybody like a man would. She did everything to make sure that I become something in life and I thank God today that she is not disappointed. She is dedicated and hardworking. We were young when our father left us but she ensured that we didn’t feel his absence so much. She was just a trader.
My childhood was rough. Like I said earlier, I lost my dad at a young age. The kind of environment where I grew up, kids were expected to be up and doing and become survivors.  Being streetwise in Aba prepared me for a great life ahead. The kind of orientation I got from that phase of my life taught me that even when there is no job employment, there are a lot of things one can lay one’s hand on and touch good money at the end of the day. If I can survive in Aba, then I can survive anywhere else.

I schooled in Aba at College Primary School and National High School. I am currently in year one studying Computer Science at the University of Lagos (UNILAG). I am in school now because if I had gotten the backing I wanted as a kid, I would have pursued my education up to the level of Ph.D. I was supposed to study Law; it is one course of study I love so much. Of course, I have played the role of a Lawyer in Criminal Law.
My father was killed mysteriously

I lost my father in 1990 under a mysterious circumstance. I was very young then. I can’t really say much about him because I was still a baby when he passed on. From what I learnt, he was a trader who travels a lot and was into merchandising. He made sure that his children were well brought up. He raised us with a good moral upbringing and the fear of God. He was that kind of father. He was a tall man. I can’t say this was what killed him. He just went home and we were told that he was dead. Let me add that he was a chief in his community.

I took after him his composure and confidence. He has a mind of his own and he would tell anyone what is wrong to their face. I also took the ability to be independent and fend for myself from him.
There was no father-figure except my mother. Everything that shaped my personality, I got from my mother. She was also busy playing different roles in our lives at the same time; providing our daily bread and all that. I miss the man because I remember stories my elder ones told me about how he would discipline them. On her part my mother was not an iron lady.

I can’t recall much on how he died, but I asked them what was wrong. I just remember my mother wailing on that particular morning calling my father, Lawyer Ndigbo, a name my late father earned for being a mediator in the community. Interestingly, I had a foreboding of my father’s death in a dream. In my dream, I saw that I lost my dad. When I woke up I shared my dream with them not knowing that it had already happened the previous night. We were living in Aba but my father died in our village. I can’t say that I am a spiritualist but God has a way of communicating with me through dreams. In several other instances in my life, I had received instructions from God through dreams. I am a Catholic and I attend church regularly. I so much believe in God. I don’t mind the attention I get from fans when I attend church. I rarely go to places where my security won’t be guaranteed.

Downside of the celebrity life

Well the price one has to pay as a celebrity is that there is no more privacy for one any longer. I now live constantly in full public glare. Every time one comes out in the public, one has to always look happy even when all is not well because that is when fans would want to take pictures with one. There is a huge demand on the celebrity to be always accommodating to fans at all times. I can no longer enter Okada.
Before I became a celebrity, boarding a motor circle (Okada) was not a big deal.

Managing my size

As for facing discrimination on account of my size, I have never allowed that to happen. I don’t allow what people say to dictate how I see myself. Like I said earlier, I am a strong-minded person and I don’t allow certain things to bug me or weigh me down. I also try to surround myself with positive people. I wouldn’t even give anybody the chance to kill my spirit anyway.

Close shave with death

I can’t recall exactly how it happened but there was an incident when we travelled from Aba to Enugu. I sat in front with the driver. I don’t know what happened to the driver but the next thing I realised was that I had an impact with the dash board. I didn’t make use of a seat belt but the lesson I learnt from that encounter was clear; to always use my seat belt especially when I am on the highway.

Another close shave was when the late Jaiye Aboderin passed on and Aki, Lancelot and I were driving to their home to condole with the bereaved wife and colleague of ours, Stella Damasus. Unfortunately, we ran into a check point manned by armed robbers posing as fake policemen. Sensing what was to befall us, I told Lancelot to zoom past them. But we were unlucky as they flagged us down. Aki who sat at the front was mistaken for a small girl because his hair was in braids at that time. So they assumed he was Lancelot’s daughter. I crawled in between the back seats and was lucky they didn’t discover me.

What I do with my money

I see myself as a leader especially by being able to live up to my responsibilities and delegate duties to others. With the position I have found myself today, I can say that I am a leader. I have varying business interests. There is the Osita Iheme World and Talent Multilinks, which I run with my family. We are into importation and transportation. I am also into micro credit schemes where I assist young people with funds to operate businesses like tricycle business among other things.

Aki and I not fighting

Nothing happened between Aki and I contrary to what is constantly being reported by a section of the media. It’s just that we are no longer living together. We lived together in a flat in Lagos for a long while but at a point the apartment could no longer contain us because each of us had family and friends with us. We tried to search for a Duplex but couldn’t find and opted for separate apartments. People have also said we separated on account of him getting the national honour of MFR, which I did not get. But such people don’t even know that I accompanied him to Abuja to receive the award.

We became friends on the set of Aki Na Ukwa. We met for the first time on that set and they kept us in the same room. After the success of that movie, we further made joint appearances in several other movies and got closer to each other. We got to understand each other more and shared a mutual respect for each other too. I see Aki as my brother. We can have arguments over business or any other thing but we don’t quarrel. People expected us to quarrel but we don’t. I can say it is a divine connection because we never knew each other from Adam yet many people can’t tell if we are blood brothers or just friends. What I like about Aki is that he understands me very well and knows when I am happy and when I am not.
I can be unhappy when I am not getting what I want. For instance, I am somebody who likes to take care of people and when I don’t have the means to do so, it makes me sad. I derive joy from helping people and making people happy. It gives me pleasure when people get something from me.

Shopping for my clothes size

I buy my jeans and other attires the same place as every adult like me. I simply look for a section where I can find my size and shop. I only get custom made clothes when I am providing the fabric material. When I shop for clothes in London, I don’t have to do so in a child-wear boutique, I simply go to a general store and pick my size. When I walk on the streets of London, the reaction I get is the same. A lot of my fans mob me and request for pictures. The only people that can be rude to me on account of my size are fans who get carried away by excitement. I try as much as possible to take pictures with fans and respond to as many as I can.

Face-to-face with crocodile

My latest movie is Mirror Boy which was shot in The Gambia. It was one of my most challenging movies ever. I was made to touch a live crocodile in the movie. Over there, it was not a strange thing because they have a crocodile pool. Initially, I declined to play that part because I was scared for my dear life. But the director and the crew persuaded me and I was face-to-face with the reptile; even went as far as touching the deadly animal. Notwithstanding, that was not the only challenging role I have played in a movie; Criminal Law was another of my very challenging movies. What makes it challenging was the robust dialogue which runs into several pages as well as the interpretation of the characters. I prepare for a role by praying to God for guidance after reading the scripts and accepting to be a part of the movie. This is because I know that once I get into the character, it is another personality entirely and not me. Then I try to familiarize with the other actors playing alongside with me so that we can flow. I am a professional actor, I don’t think that there is any role that I would not like to play.

I’m I a good actor?

What makes a good actor is the ability to play a role convincingly. For me, I didn’t learn acting; it’s just a gift from God. I got a little training from the New York film Academy, aside that everything else I know about acting is just a gift from God. My first movie is entitled Cold Blood, it was released over a decade ago. It was a story about a boy whose father was killed during an armed robbery attack. As an actor I am expected to be versatile, so the ability to play different roles is not a big deal. However, I must confess that playing the role of a kid is challenging no doubt about it, because as an adult, I have to adapt to the mannerisms of a child. I love children so I observe them to be able to play the role of a child very well. Children are very innocent.
The name Pawpaw originated in 2002 after I played a role in the movie Aki na Ukwa. In the movie, Chinedu Ikedieze and I played the roles of Aki and Pawpaw. Since then, the name got stuck. I thank God that the name has helped me a lot and it has opened a lot of doors for me. In fact, it has taken over my real name.

Sam Loco’s death

Sam Loco was a dad. He was someone who comes down to one’s level to make you feel at ease. In spite of his age, he was very down to earth and humble. He has made good money and great name for himself, yet he has no problem relating with anybody. The news of his death came like a rude shock to me. I got the news via Blackberry. Even if one is on stage with him and one forgets ones lines, he will gladly remind one. He was not like the other actors who will just stop and leave you alone to disgrace yourself, he likes to encourage young actors. I acted my first movie, Cold Blood with him.

Me, Marry an actress?

Of course, I can marry an actress. I am already thinking of marriage and it will happen very soon. I don’t know the person yet. I can only say that there a couple of them in the picture who I am considering. But as a young man, I have somebody whom I confide in. It is not about the size or shape but I believe that when I find that person I will know her. Yes, I am still searching. In fact, I am 100 percent still searching. The gist that somebody broke my heart sometime ago is untrue. Love has been kind to me.

Role models

I have role models for different aspects of my life. As an actor, RMD is my role model. I like the way he acts and carries himself although, I have not acted alongside with him before.

Osita Iheme in a nutshell

Osita is not as mischievous as PawPaw in real life. I am a humble guy, dedicated, easy going and God-fearing. I love vegetable soup with pounded yam. I love meat a lot and my preference is liver.

Regret about my size

As to what I would do if I am given a medicine that will make me grow taller, I would check that very well before I decide on what to do. I pray to my God to lead and guide me always. I don’t allow my condition to weigh me down. It has never happened. I have never questioned God at any point in my life before. I can’t say this is the age I stopped growing, it’s something that just happened like that. But I won’t say I stopped growing. I only stopped growing in terms of my height. I know that my condition is similar to that of the late American actor, Gary Coleman. I don’t like talking about death and I don’t believe that I can die young.
I can’t say I have regret really because I know the dream I had for myself. I thank God for where I am today but there are some certain things which I wanted for myself which I have not yet achieved. My father is not alive today to see me become who I am and provide that fatherly guidance. With him, I know my academic ambitions would have been realised up to PhD level and so many other things I want to do. By now, I should be in a better position to take care of more people than I am doing now.

Me and pre-marital sex

I see pre- marital sex as a sin. Of course, we sin sometimes and ask God for forgiveness. Some of us who are now born-again have abandoned some of those life styles. Don’t get me wrong I am not perfect o!



  1. i like ur words, its shows u r a honesty guy

  2. God dey my brother, you are even better than many tall guys!