For Nollywood heartthrob, Tonto Dikeh, it has always been a cult-like followership on the social media. She endeared herself to millions of fans through how she brazenly fared and lived as a single lady and the cosmic transformation that characterised her life after her marriage to Olakunle Churchill. But the marriage that was to bring the best out of a straying sweetheart would later drag her to infamy due to the indiscretion of her husband, she alleged. This and more she shared in this no holds barred interview with AZUKA OGUJIUBA of MediaRoomHub.
How has motherhood been for you and in particular, what was the first feeling when you first held your son?
The feeling was really strange, I would say strange because, I saw my heart on my hands, carrying my son is like carrying my heart. When l felt his heartbeat, I was so happy and overwhelmed and I love it, every minute till date.
When you had your son, did you feel he was going to disturb your career?
Truthfully, I didn't have any other thoughts apart from being a mother, I just dedicated my life, going through my pregnancy, coming to terms with it, and giving birth. I knew that I was not going to go to work because of the love I have for my son. I wasn't going to be able to leave him at home and I always told myself that if I gave birth, I was going to breastfeed my child for a year. So I knew I wasn't going anywhere for a year.
So did you breastfeed him for a year?
Yes I did that for a whole year and a week?
What do you miss most about being single?
Well, you really don't miss anything. Life is in stages. When it is time for you to be single, you will be single. When it is time for you to be married you will be married, and when it is time for you to elevate into another stage of your life, you will do that. So, I will not say I missed anything being single. My single days were my single days. I did what I did in my single days because that was what was expected, but now I don't miss it.
What has been your greatest challenge as a mother?
I have never had any challenge as a mother. I have a competent nanny, who, when I am not there, is able to take care of my child. If I didn't have a nanny, the welfare of my child in my absence would have been one of my greatest worries. But, I work with the best people. Any time I am away, which is hardly ever, I know my son is safe.
What is your charity foundation about?
I didn't just launch my foundation. It is almost ten years old. What you have been seeing is an initiative, that my foundation took upon itself which is the ' Tonto Dike Back to School Project'. Basically, we are sending children back to school, we are focusing on the girl child but that doesn't mean we won't help the boy child too. We are sending as many children as we can back to school. I believe that there is a saying that goes that children are the leaders of tomorrow and I believe in change. If change has to come, we have to start with the younger ones, who are going to be the change we need to see in the future. So, that is how the initiative was brought out. But the Tonto Dike Foundation has been around for ten years.
Why did you single out Baptist Schools?
I didn't pick Baptist schools. I'm going to random schools, schools that need me.
You have not acted in any movie for a very long time. Did marriage or motherhood slow you down or have you decided to stop acting?
Before I had my child, I actually slowed down on my acting career, for personal reasons. I needed to find myself. I needed to know what I wanted. I was blocked, I was blocked emotional and spiritually. I had this veil covering me that I needed to identify with something greater, which was God. So, I left movies to find God and I haven't gone back because I have given birth to my son. But I left movies before I gave birth, but that is not saying that I am off the screen forever.
You are one of the big faces in Nollywood and of course, your fans follow everything you do. Lately, there has been so much noise about your marriage. What do you have to say to it?
I have read the reports too. I have seen them too, and truly they hurt. There is no way I can quantify how I feel about it, and as you said, it is because I am a public figure that everything is out there. In all of it, I am just praying for strength, wisdom and everything that I need to move on and go ahead. It is a bitter experience for me. Being here alone, is not easy, but I am here because I believe I will be helping someone.
Do you have any regrets about your marriage?
The way I live my life, the way I am, I try not to regret anything, and I see every stage that I am in as an elevation. I feel like I will go through that fire and come out stronger than I was before. So no, I don't regret that much.
What has been your most embarassing moment as a celebrity?
There has been a lot. I can't really pinpoint an event or explain, but I know that there has been a lot. Just sitting down and reading something really ill about yourself is even embarrassing.
What story about yourself would you like to delete from the internet if you had your way?
If I had my way, I will like to delete everything, I will like to delete my whole existence because of my child, because I know that the Internet never dies. He is going to grow up and meet these things and that is so hard for me.
Tell us a secret that people don't know about you?
I think that people don't know that I am born again. I have been born again for a long time. I did backslide at some point, but I found my way back to God and it has been amazing and so wonderful.
What church do you attend now?
I attend Mountain of Fire Ministry, and I also have two other pastors from two great churches that pray with me.
Who do you miss most?
It is very hard for me to be away from my son. This is the second time I have been away from him. The first time was when I was in Warri. It is very hard to stay away from him. It is really very hard because he is very clingy and that is why I have this picture of him every where I go (shows the interviewer the picture)
What has been your biggest lesson in life?
My biggest lesson in life has to do with refusing to allow anything bothers me. Going through whatever it is that you are going through and letting it bother you that is my biggest life lesson.
What story about yourself would you like to delete from the internet if you had your way?
If I had my way, I'll like to delete everything, I'll like to delete my whole existence because of my child, because I know that the Internet never dies, He's going to grow up and meet these things and that's so hard.
What's the biggest misconception about you that has brought you close to tears?
I have heard a lot of things people said about me. It is the same thing. It never changes. But something that has really hurt me in recent times is someone coming out to associate me with drugs as a mother. That hurts me so much, that hurts me because nobody sees how good of a mother I am. Nobody knows the sacrifices I have made for my son. I have a file at home, I do a drug test almost every month and I tell him how much he has changed my life, how much I am a better person because he is in my life. I tell him how much I have stopped so many things for him that really destroyed me and broke me into a million pieces. That is the worst thing I have heard.
Recently on your social media handles, you explained to some people that you had to treat a lot of STDs because of your husband, you also said he was beating you and cheating on you, can you shed more light it?
First of all, I will like to say that, this interview is not to discredit my husband, or rather my ex husband. It is not to bring him down, it is not to make people hate him, it is not to throw dirt on him. If there is anything I am doing this for, it is so that he can be a better man and like I said, so that somebody, somewhere, will be able to learn from this, from all I am going through. On that note, there are some things I will not like to discuss. I did put up something about the STD, and I am not taking back my words because it is not a lie, but I will not promote it. I will not embarrass my husband in that way, even if I have, so I will like that to just end. Domestic violence is real. How I live to suffer it and go through it over and over again, I do not understand. A lot of people have blamed me, a lot of people have said a lot of things. I have read a lot of things and I stay back in my marriage not because of my child, because I believe that you cannot be abused or you cannot leave your child in an environment where there is abuse, and claim that you are doing it for your child. I stayed because I was doing it for myself. I stayed because I loved my husband with all of my heart. I stayed because he begged me to stay a couple of times. I stayed because I just didn't want to give up. I didn't want to give up on the marriage just like that. I believe people can change.
Did you seek counselling from your pastor.
Yes, I did. Anytime things like this happen, my husband comes up with a pastor who is always in my house the next day or two days later, begging or doing stuff, but we have never had a proper counselling. Never, because he won't even accept that he is doing it, and that is the worst part of it. He is never going to accept that he is doing it, and I keep asking him, if you are so ashamed of what you do to me, why do you do it?' I have pictures, I have videos, I have everything to prove my domestic violence. I also have pictures in Ghana. The Nigerian Embassy in Ghana has pictures of me. I had to run to them at some point. The reason I can't release those pictures is because I was stark naked in it. They had to video me and took my pictures. My husband had humiliated me so much with this. For anybody to tell me that I am lying against my husband, that even hurts me more.
Were the two of you on holiday in Ghana when this happened?
A: Yes, we were. He stays in Ghana too.