Movie icon, Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD) is one of the pioneers of the movie industry in Nigeria spending over 3 decades in the industry featuring in blockbuster movies back to back. He took a break from the industry to serve his people in Delta State as Commissioner for 8 years but still returned back to his first love acting.
In this exclusive interview with veteran actress, Ameze, he talked about why many concluded he was dying few years ago, the three iconic movies he has featured in, while his role as Segun Kadiri in Checkmate is very dear to him, his marriage why he will be concentrating on documentaries and his take on rape issues.
Do you think you are a sex symbol?
It’s all just God’s grace, I grew up in this business and I often get to hear oh you are good looking, you are a sexy, I feel it is something that is attached to your person and you deal and you try to live beyond and above expectations for your fans, I am very dedicated to my audience, I strongly believe whatever I am today is as a result of the audience I have and if they like to see me in a particular like and it works with my morality I make sure I don’t disappoint. I have grown up to know I feel physically and make sure I live well.
You are one superstar that is very real and grounded?
Yes, I think when it comes to that, it has to do with how my mother brought me up. I grew up from a very large family with elder sisters and cousins, we give respect to elders and growing up that way has helped me remain grounded and if my life is built on trying to be Christ-like then humility is definetely will be like that.
How do you feel being referred to as a living legend?
I am indeed grateful, it is more than what I have ever bargained for, if somebody had told that at 59 years, I will be called a living legend, that to me would have an impossible dream. So, it is something I take seriously and I am very grateful for it.
What is your take about rape, as a father?
It’s zero telerance for me, I am a strong advocate against rape and can’t wait for it to be eradicated from our society, I have spoken against it, I have spoken to victims of rape and I am totally against it, as a father if any of my father if any of my girls go through it, I don’t want to imagine what my reaction would be like knowing how much it has destroyed the society and how many people are dealing with it it’s something that gives me lots of concern and I don’t think it can ever get enough talking about. During the pandemic, one of the things on the increase was rape increase and gender base violence, which I am an advocate for, I speak against not just women but anybody going through it, I have a charity doing things though I have not been able to come to terms coming to say I do this and that, instead it is the people and organisations, I work with that often do the talking, I put that burden on them to do that, and say oh RMD did this and that, I don’t run campaign on social media to say things, I have worked with the EU, NGOs contributing times and materials towards it, the issue of social media has brought up cases more to the general public more compared to before. Each time I hear about rape, it really saddens me I grew up in Warri and looking back now, our laws were being faulty, rape was not seen at the point of the man as something wrong but that every woman who is decently deserving, a woman who didn’t stay at home and found herself at a party deserve a woman who didn’t listen to her parents and party with friends deserves so you take a case like that to a Police Station and the first thing you hear is what were you doing there? Why did you go to a party, so looking back now there are women who helped men to shame women. When I look back now I thank God for the land of woman that raised me who took her rapper and cover girls that were ganged raped and even shamed by other women, I will definitely write about my experience with rape issue when I was younger.
Take us through your journey into
I was in the movie “Sparks” the first special detective action series in Nigeria with Danladi Bako as the director, before that there was legacy, then before I did “Ripples” and “Checkmate” was like my crowing glory in my early days of my television life, playing Segun Kadiri in Checkmate was my blow out character God bless the late Amaka Igwe.
Since you have been there from old Nollywood, what is your take on the new Nollywood?
For me, we are constantly evolving, before we depended on friends to make a living and they depended on our life saving to make films and using the kind of technology available back then, so the play field is lot more better compared to what it is used to be, the people who drive it are far more compared to the people who drove it when we just started, for me it is the gradual evolution, we found our own niche and we took digital video and went crazy with it, like someone said we started doing surgeries with fook and knifes, when we started people said what we were doing was not films but we stood our ground, today we are the 3rd in the world and to be in the film community with nations like America, Indian is a great deal and some of us are global icons we might not have the renumerations our colleagues in the western world have but we are doing stuffs with the technology in place now, we can do films like others, fine there are much more to be done, doing more than just finding our films on Neflix but doing films that talks more about who we really are not a nation of fraudstars and corrupts politicians.
Technology is making things easy, take for example we are all home due to the pandemic but can still attend services online, we can order for all our things online through personal shoppers and deliver everything to your doorsteps, so there are new young people that will change everything in Nollywood through technology and it will be a thing of natural pride in another few years to come.
Though, there is still room for improvement in the industry compared to what other countries are doing.
Did you go into politics?
No, I went into government.
So, what is the difference?
Going into politics as a career run for an elective office but I only had an opportunity to go and serve my people for 8 years, for me it was like an assignment I went in there, the first term, I went as an Advicer on Culture and Talent Development then I became Commissioner for Culture and Tourism for 7 years, so for me it was assignment worths every minutes of my time, it gave me a chance to see how government function and the things we need to speak about and see how to make things better. It was an experience for me, sad about things I couldn’t do because our political system is so centralised in one figure, the bulk stops at the table of executive, you can’t take decisions that is purely on your own, you can contribute to the executive decisions but there are decisions I would have just love to take, so that the bulk stops on my table, it is so designed that if you make mistakes you can shift it to the governor because it falls on his table, that is one thing I would have loved to change, a situation where Local Government Chairmans, Commissioners can make decision and take full responsibilities of anything that happens but the system doesn’t allow all that.
Do you think you will go back to the government?
They have taught me to say never say never, my initial answers use to be no I have had my time and I am done. It is seen as a call to go and represent your people, which at times is not exactly how people see it. A call to serve should be more global than ethnic stuff.
What really happened that many concluded you were suffering from an ailment few years ago?
Like I said earlier, I had left to go and serve and it doesn’t require stress as such I woke up one morning and I was told to go for medicals and I realised I was over weight 120kg and I went for medicals and this young lady doing my ECG, I was made to run on threadmill and when she was like I was just looking round and I realised it is you RMD, what happened, you have gone fat, that hit me hard and on my drive back to Asaba, I was very quiet even my driver was like oga hope all is well I said yes, it is just that I heard something that didn’t go down well with me, I told myself I need to lose weight, prior to that I have met a lady that talked about changing lifestyle, changing diet and they have been encouraging me to join the group which I kept running from, I called her up immediately and told her I want to start today and immediately I started I realised how non-challant I have been with my health, eating habit, I got into this healthy routine that I love so much and I started losing weight and I started feeling better and good with myself, but because a lot of people outside Asaba didn’t see me go through that process, I was doing 10,000 steps everyday but because people didn’t see me going through all that, they concluded I was suffering from one terminal disease, some said I had AIDs and I was dying, some said Liver disease and then I was not strong on social media, even when I granted interview that I am happy and stronger many still didn’t believe, the good thing that happened that time was that people could not say I am suffering but I ignored everything concentrated on my programme I dropped from 120kg to 95kg, which was my ideal weight, politics got finished I went abroad to spend time with my kids then I increased to 100kg again, then I resummed my social media stuffs, I left the agbada and started wearing the regular clothes, suddenly the same people started saying oh he is looking good, he is aging backwards, people will constantly talk. Shortly before the lockdown, I was 115kg again so I said you are going back to where you were again, so I told myself during the lockdown I would work on my weight again and when lockdown is over I will be half my size and that was exactly what I did, I went into lockdown with 115kg, as God will have it, I met with a filmmaker that told me he wanted me to lose 15 kilos to feature in a movie and as I am talking with you now I am weighing 103kg, I have lost 12.kg although the lockdown, it is just that this time, it was not as drastic as it was the last time, so during my 59th birthday I was already in the process.
So, right now I am maintaining a lifestyle that will take me into my 60 and in my 60’s I will look better than when I was in my 40’s. I will be 60 next year.
I was really scared when I heard oh he is dying?
Even my mother-in-law at a point got so worried and was like Eyimofe please stop I know you are okay but they keep disturbing, she said a problem shared is a problem half solved, one of my former classmate even said, please there is nothing to be ashamed off, there are native medicine you can take, I heard you have diabetics. I told him I am okay, I am just trying to live a healthy life style. It is only when you are fat people conclude you are rich and living large. To me, the man in the mirror is important for me, once you are okay with what you see, then you are okay then I block the rest of the world and do what I want. Suddenly, all that chorus turned to “you know dey old” when are you going to live all this for younger poeple, same people that concluded I was dying, they say oh please stop giving our wives problems, they keep making you a reference point to us. It is indeed a good thing that we can laugh about it now, it was funny back then because some of those things were said to my family inspite of what they knew, some of them started doubting me, about being okay.
The late MKO Abiola once told me that when people talk about me, I should always give them more things to talk about and that statement has stayed with me like forver like what Tiwa Savage posted sometimes ago “your enemies are always on your page, so always give them things to talk about” she is one Nigerian youth I admire a lot.
You are very active on social media with unique style of posting things, how did you come about all that?
Everything about my social media, the entire credit goes to a few people, first my team, immediately I left politics, the first thing I did was to assemble of a group of young people, the eldest was 30 years and because they wanted me to be on social media and I was not really keen on it the first person that really encourage me to be on social media is a young lady called Morin, She encouraged me and when I started I could hardly post a picture, someone like Van Vicker taught me how to post pictures on social media, I remember I was in America, we were shooting a movie, I didn’t know what to do I told Van Vicker to help me.
My stylist Nina told me Papa you need to dress like this, write this and with time it started working with my person. I still can not post a picture on Instagram especially using IgTV, so I still call upon my team to help me out, it’s been fun doing it, over and over what I have found about my social media is that it helps with the course I believe in, like talking about rape, telling people to get close to God and preaching the gospel, using it as business, I have gotten some endorsement that had to ride on my social media presence, when you want to travel out, they consider your social media presence especially as a creative person in the entertainment industry though it is time consuming but it is worth it.
Mention 3 iconic roles for you in your career?
I will always mention Segun Kadiri in Checkmate, that is like a break out role for me, it is very iconic. There is this character I played in the movie Oloibiri, where I played a Militant. It worked out for me, that was when I lost the weight, I played a very educated Militant who was figthing for his people though it is been changed to “Oil and Blood” from the producer of Hush. I also loved violated, it is so iconic, it is the first romantic movie that set the tone for others to follow.