Veteran Nollywood actress, Rachael Oniga who had a failed marriage, has shared an insight into her personal life and career, revealing that she regrets not fighting for her marriage.
Rachael whose Muslim husband married another woman after they had 3 children reveals how she dealt with the heartbreak and why she refused to remarry even after her husband’s death. Read excerpts from her recent with the Punch;
How have you been able to stay relevant for years in the movie industry?
I give God all the glory. It is not by my making, and it is not like I am the best. It is just that God has been merciful to me. In actual fact, a lot of people started before me and after me, and they are nowhere to be found again. But I thank God that I am still relevant and I plan to continue to put in my best.
As a single mother with three children, how did you manage to build your acting career?
My first born, Olamide, was four years old when I left my marriage. I had to put them all in boarding schools. That is one of the most painful things I have had to do. Whenever I talk about this, it always brings me close to tears. My children paid the price for something they knew nothing about. Children don’t beg parents to have them; we ask them to come to the world, so we should be able to take good care of them. It is not all about money, but I had no choice. I had to work; I had to be a mother and a father to them. I had to make sure that they had all they needed to have. While they were in school, they didn’t lack anything. I got them all the things rich children had. I understand all I did was not enough, but I thank God for the children He blessed me with. I think God knew I had nobody but Him. In a way, he saw us through and I thank Him for that.
After your marriage failed, you’ve remained single for more than two decades. Why haven’t you remarried?
The factor (her late husband married another woman) that led to the end of my marriage made me determined to prove to him (ex-husband) that I could stand without any man. I was not ready to give any other man the chance to be a hindrance to my children and me. I also made up my mind that I would dedicate my life totally to my children. I toughened my heart and blocked every opportunity to go into any relationship. I saw myself as equal to any man, regardless of how much money he might have. I give God the glory because I can pay my bills. I dedicated all my life to my job and my children. I became so busy and I was not ready to take any nonsense from men.
Apart from sexual intercourse, don’t you miss the companionship you share with a man?
I understand where you are going, but sometimes when a woman closes her heart, she will not give any relationship a chance. I was always on the defensive. I didn’t want any man to treat my children badly. I was working for my money and I put my kids in good schools. So, what do I need a man for? I felt all men just wanted was to see the beauty of a woman and walk away. With what my ex-husband did to me, you expect me to trust men again? Before we got separated, he was a good and ideal man. But he married another woman and I moved on. I do not regret leaving him because I sacrificed my life for my children, which makes me fulfilled and happy. But I miss the whole union thing, friendship and sharing things together. I have missed it all. My advice to young ladies is to keep and fight for their marriages. Perhaps, I was naïve; I never fought for what was mine, but I still thank God. We are in Africa, you fight for your life and that of your children first. Maybe that is why God has been merciful to me and my children.
Did your late husband make attempts to settle things?
There were many failed attempts. He knew the type of person I am; that when I say no, it is no. I tell people that I am like a coin with two faces. I could be stupid and forgiving. In fact, I don’t think there is anyone who forgives as much as I do; I am yet to meet such person. I could forgive or ignore anything, but once I turn my back, I would not go back there. Before death took him (ex-husband) away, he called many times and he came to the house to see his children. Once he arrived, I would pick up my bag and head to movie sets. I didn’t stop him from seeing his children though.
Why didn’t you fight for your marriage when you had the chance?
It was my mistake. I should have fought for it. Any young lady must try her best and fight for her marriage. My decision at that time might not have been the best, but I still thank God. I have my regrets too as a human being.
After death, did you wish you had taken him back?
When I make up my mind, I don’t regret it. Even if I am meeting a person for the first time, I would be so open. I am very sincere. You may betray my trust many times and I will ignore all. But once my mind is made up about you, there is nothing anyone can do to convince me otherwise.
Did you attend his burial?
I participated in his burial with all I had. I spent my money, energy and I even invited artistes. When he passed on, I was in America for holidays, so, I couldn’t attend the eighth-day prayers (fidau). But the children did and my late elder sister was there too. For the next 40 days, I was supportive. Though he married another wife, his family still sees me as the legal wife. I was still legally married to him as of the time he died. I gave him a befitting burial. I did all that because of my children, especially my son. Later in life, people may ask him how they buried his father. He had to bury his father well and that was exactly what I did for him. I played the part my son would have played if he was an adult. That is my joy. Sometimes, I do things and people wonder what is wrong with me, but I always have my reasons.
Since your late husband was a Muslim and you are from a Christian background, were there no objections to your marriage by your parents?
My parents were not like that. Whatever we wanted to do, they allowed us to do it. They gave us free hands. Yes, the father of my children was a Muslim, but he was never a practising one. The agreement was that I would not leave my religion. We agreed that we could practise our different religions. But we had a mixed wedding because I wanted to receive Holy Communion. He agreed and we went for marriage counselling. Before the church’s blessing too, he had to sign an undertaken that he would not stop the children from following me to church. It was stated that when they clocked 18, they would take decisions on religion for themselves.
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What is the major lesson you’ve learnt in the movie industry?
When you are in this kind of industry, you are in the midst of enemies. It takes the grace of God for you to be somebody in the movie industry. Whether you are good at your job or not, many people would want to bring you down. However, if you have God on your side and you are good at your work, you would always sail through anywhere you are. In every profession, there are issues. Among the white people too, there are always people who are not happy for others. It is left for you to be prayerful and to be closer to your God. You should know what you want from life so that you can stand firm in whatever you do.
Do you have a cordial relationship with your colleagues?
In my own case, I don’t have enemies and I don’t have friends. I also advise younger actors not to have enemies and friends. Once you are called for a job, get it done and go back to your house.
Does any of your children take after you in acting?
No, none of them is into acting. It’s their choice and I don’t force anything on them. If you read my chats with them, you would see that we relate with one another very well. When there are misunderstandings, we settle them and apologise to one another. I have never stopped them from doing whatever they want to do. All I do is to encourage them. When they have problems, no matter how grave it could be, I always tell them to come to their mother and it will be settled. My first child is into information technology, the second is a banker and the little one is into health insurance. I have two grandchildren – a boy and a girl.
How do you relax?
When I am not working, you would find me sleeping. I love music, but I hardly go out. I am very choosy about the events I attend. But anytime I decide to go out, I ensure I enjoy myself. I love comedy shows. I love to laugh, I love life.
Do you do other things apart from acting?
I was once making shoes and sandals, but debts pushed me out of the business. I was not making the shoes myself though, but I contributed to the designs. People were buying them, but it became difficult to get money from them. And because of who I am, I couldn’t chase them about for money. Also, my first daughter has an online store where she sells children’s stuff. I advise her on things she can buy.