You may not agree with all parts of her many controversies but there is no denying the fact that Tonto Dikeh has achieved so much for herself and for humanity especially with her many humanitarian and philanthropic projects that have combined to make her a respectable ambassador of the poor and the oppressed, in particular, women and children.
Born Tonto Wigo Charity Dikeh-Churchill, the delectable and obviously beautiful woman now known as ‘King’ Tonto Dikeh is a household name in Nigeria and across many parts of the world because of her exploits in the movie industry especially Nigeria’s brand, Nollywood.
Many who know her from a distance are convinced she is your typical ‘bad gal’ mainly for the stubborn roles she had to interpret in most of her appearances in hits like Dirty Secrets, a movie that helped her with an up-shove though laced with out-of-the- world public discourse at a time it was a taboo for a Nigerian, indeed African, to feature in adult scenes.
In this exclusive interview with The Daily Times in Abuja, Tonto Dikeh, a graduate of Petrochemical Engineering from Rivers State University of Science and Technology, said her greatest achievement in life is motherhood which she said helped to bring her back to reality and knowledge of the eternal love of God which necessitated her decision to henceforth devote a greater part of her talent, time and resources to uplifting the less privileged and women in distress. She spoke to BONAVENTURE MELAH and ADEBISI OYINDAMOLA.
King Tonto, why the appellation, ‘King’?
(Laughs)….. Well we all know what king is. It means leadership, it means royalty, it means kingship. That’s just te way I see myself. And I am one person whose name works for.
My name has worked for me, is working for me. My name is Charity, Love. I am Charity and I am loved, Tonto means strong. It’s inspiring. So king is just me seeing myself in kingship and naturally I am a king.
A lot of people are protesting this title. Does it have anything to do with women’s rights, equality?
No, it has nothing to do with women’s rights or equality. The term king has nothing to do with wanting to be like a man or equal to a man.
Even if tomorrow I say I want to be a feminist, I think I know what being a feminist means, it doesn’t mean I want to drag positions with men. It’s just a right and the man has his own rights.
Queen also means success, why not Queen Tonto?
Oh yes, I mean I appreciate all queens but I am a king. Laughs…..
Suddenly, we began to hear Tonto Dikeh talk of God, spirituality and born again. What happened?
I have been with God even before I became an entertainer but I did not know how to manage it. Coming from the university young and naive, I didn’t know how to handle it.
With a lot of uncertainties, I didn’t know my fate, I back-slided. I am just rededicating my life to God because when I was pregnant, I felt God, I heard Him.
Just for me to have a child grow in my stomach from day one, the growth and successful delivery just made me realise that God is the ultimate and you can never do anything without him. So my son actually gave birth to my reconciliation with God.
Are you now out of Nollywood completely?
No, I am not out of Nollywood completely. If Nollywood shows me a good script I will do it. But right now they have been giving me all the regulars that I am not down with.
Looking back, what are the things you would have done differently?
Looking back, the only thing I would have done better is how I love myself, because of all the mistakes I made was because I never loved myself enough.
After everything, what I might go home and regret about is that I didn’t love me enough to stop myself from tolerating pain, insults, disgrace and reproach.
Single motherhood is widely seen as a deviation in our part of the world. In your opinion, what do you think can be done for single mothers to be accepted?
Why do you need to be accepted by another human being? Who are they? As a matter of fact, we are all equal. So why do I need approval from another person? I don’t need the society to approve me.
As a single mother, I am doing better than most married couples. My son is going to a good school, he feeds well. He wears good clothes as you can see him.
No woman puts herself in a single motherhood position, it just happens. Fate throws things at you and when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade of it.
I am proud of being a single mother. But is this what I wanted for life? No. I am a strong believer in fixing things. But here I am, divorced. Not everybody can handle it, and it has taught me that being strong ‘no be for mouth.’
It goes beyond typing on instagram that I am strong. Right now, I think I want to be seen as a role model to single mothers and assure them they are strong and beautiful and the society cannot bring them down.
Now that we are talking about motherhood and all that, when are we expecting another baby from you?
Laughs… I saw a picture of this pretty black girl on instagram and my womb started to talk to me. I don’t talk about that. Definitely I am not one to get a child outside marriage.
I have always been against that, and I don’t discriminate people who do. I mean people have their different reasons. It’s a choice, just like I always say that I don’t believe in divorce. But I am here today a divorcée.
Some women will not like this. They will think you are discriminating
No I am not discriminating. It’s a choice thing. I don’t believe in divorce. I believe in working things out, but here I am today and of course I am going to get married again. So I am a divorcee and I am not discriminating.
If you are against getting baby outside marriage and now you say you will have another baby, does it mean you will marry again?
Of course I am going to get married again.
How soon are we expecting that?
I don’t know how soon but I will definitely get married again.
As a divorcée, how do you cope with sex life because adults do need or want sex, don’t they?
It depends. We all have our sexual thresholds. Some people can go months without sex, sometimes in marriages sex is a pity, I pity my husband, you know?
I mean women want sex sometime, it’s like an assignment, so it depends on where the person is coming from. I am celibate right now, I have been out of my home for a year now and I have been celibate. What is sex really? It’s a minds thing.
It’s a two minutes, some people don’t even last for up to 2 minutes, some 40 seconds. Is that what I want to base my life on? I have better things to do.
In your opinion, what can young people do to contribute in making Nigeria a better place?
Young people have fresh ideas- innovative ideas and initiatives that if given the right positions, they would excel and contribute positively to societal development.
But it is not just about being a youth. Do you have what it takes to contribute and to lead? Because I am a youth doesn’t mean I will support just any youth that comes for position.
I do believe there are miscreants coming out as youths and they will destroy us faster than the old ones have done. Everybody should be the change that we want to see, and I believe a young person can be that change.
I would love to see more women in politics. I want to get into politics because I am passionate about my country, and I encourage myself too, because everything I do is pushing me towards that angle.
Women in politics. Are you interested?
Of course, I would love to see more women in politics. I want to get into politics because I am passionate about my country and I encourage myself too, because everything I do is pushing me towards that angle.
Speaking with you closely like this one would say this is a different person from the “stubborn” Tonto we see on screen, who is the real Tonto?
I am one celebrity that when people see me they are extremely happy because I don’t go out often. So nobody really knows me, you just characterize me with the roles I play on television and say oh she is stubborn.
But when you see me, you have a change of opinion. When I am in the movies, I am paid to be who I am, when I am out, it’s different.
The media always exaggerate your life, make you who you are not. I am not giving the blame to the media with all the misconstrued conception.
And when they said I was bad, I didn’t want the public to see me in that light, I don’t engage in instragram fights for instance.
I never gave people the chance to love me, being closer to me, but I think I am now giving people chance into my life, to get to know me.
On Father’s Day, you were at your son’s school playing football with other fathers to commemorate the day. Tell us about that.
That was just me, being a father and a mother to my son, just because one parent isn’t there, my son will not be left out.
Tell is about your charity works
I have the Tonto Dikeh Initiative and we send 3,500 children back to school every year. This year we had 200 more added to the number making it 3,700 and we pay their school fees.
We have Widows Support Programmes and an initiative on Agriculture through which we encourage people to go back to the farm. There is also our Youths Start- up Initiatives, Skills Acquisitions as well as a programme that takes care of the motherless and orphans.
As part of our contributions to the development of the Federal Capital Territory, we constructed the Karmajiji District road to alleviate the transportation needs of the people there because our interaction with the communities help to know what their immediate needs are.
What do you consider your highest achievements so far?
That’s my son. If you mean vain things like properties, my bank Account gosh! But my son remains my greatest achievement
How much are you worth?
I am worth the world in Christ. Look, I don’t have money in my bank account. (Laughs).