By TOSIN AJIRIRE
HER middle name seems to be ‘controversy’. Meeting her for the first time, you’ll argue she is not a Nigerian. In fact, she is of a mixed race. Her father is Okrika while her mother is Irish.
Pretty, charming and glamorous, former beauty queen and now actress, Ibinabo Fiberesima, seems to relish controversy. A few years ago, she wagged not a few tongues when she emerged as the first Nigerian actress to put on a bikini in a movie. Despite the dust raised by her action, to her, featuring in camouflage clad only in bikini was fun.
After graduating from the University of Ibadan in 1994, Ibinabo, second child in a family of six, never in a day worked with her degree. She went straight into show business, opening and operating ‘The Pyramid Nightclub’ in Lagos. The nightclub was a parting gift from her lover of six years.
“I got the night club the month I came out of school, so I just started doing business. I preferred a nightclub because I am a karaoke freak, I love karaoke; I love to sing,” she said.
Having tasted the world of showbiz, there was no going back for Ibinabo. In 1997, she launched into entertainment by contesting and emerged as winner of the Miss Wonderland beauty pageant. The same year, she also contested and became the first runner-up in Miss Nigeria, and in 1998, second runner-up in Most Beautiful Girl In Nigeria (MBGN).
A few years later, Ibinabo stumbled into acting, starring in a blockbuster movie, Most Wanted, alongside experienced actresses like Regina Askia Williams and Ayo Adesanya. But, after a couple of roles, she disappeared from the scene – to marry and have children.
Besides being an actor, Ibinabo is also a film producer (A Night In The Philippines) and organiser of Miss Earth, Miss International and Miss Intercontinental beauty pageants.
“I organise beauty pageants. I took Miss Nigeria to Japan for the Miss International and to Manila for Miss Earth and also to China for the Miss Intercontinental beauty pageant. My company holds all three licenses for Nigeria. In fact, I am the National Director for these pageants in Nigeria,” she said in an interview.
Ibinabo has been in and out of marriage. Indeed, she seem unlucky with men. Her affair with ace photographer, Philip Trimnel collapsed, leaving her lonely and heartbroken with a child. She was also involved with reggae star cum businessman, Daniel Wilson in whose car she had an accident that claimed the life of Dr. Suraj Giwa. But then, the most controversial of her affairs was with popular film producer, Fred Amata with whom she had a daughter.
For about a decade, Amata was married to popular TV presenter, Agatha and both had two children together before their marriage collapsed. Although Ibinabo claimed her relationship with Amata started after he separated from his wife, the finger was still pointed at her for the crash of the marriage.
However, with her final decision to settle down, Ibinabo on December 18, 2014 married her university sweetheart, US-based Uche Benjamin Ugbuka, at a traditional wedding ceremony held in Okrika, Rivers State. The glamorous white wedding took place two days after.
Actors Guild of Nigeria
In November 2012, Ibinabo emerged as the president of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) after a controversial election that pitched her against ace actor, Emeka Ike. Till today, both actors are engaged in a bitter court battle to validate their different factions of the guild.
While giving her stewardship more than a year of presiding over a rancorous and divided AGN, Ibinabo admitted that she took over the leadership of the guild with enormous challenges and controversies but had been able to revamp it. “As much as we were faced with great challenges, I have never been deterred from moving the guild forward within the period in office,” she stressed. However, many would not forgive the actress for dragging the AGN into partisan politics and using its platform to campaign for the re-election of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
In 2005, Ibinabo was involved in a car crash that claimed the life of Dr. Suraj Giwa, a medical staffer of Lagos General Hospital. It was an accident too many. This singular accident is now threatening to change the course of her life permanently.
Following the accident, Ibinabo has been to court many times and has been handed a jail sentence. Justice Deborah Oluwayemi of a Lagos High Court sentenced the embattled actress to five years imprisonment for dangerous and reckless driving on the Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos, which resulted in the death of Giwa. On February 11, the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, dismissed an appeal she filed challenging the judgement of the lower court. Throughout the court proceeding, Ibinabo was visibly apprehensive and burst into tears immediately the judgment was delivered.
However, fighting the battle of her life, the actress has asked the court to grant her bail pending her appeal at the Supreme Court. But the court turned down her application for bail last Thursday.
Meanwhile, Ibinabo’s first son, Sean Coughlan, has appealed to Nigerians to support and pray for his mother “in this trying time.”
In an open letter dated Saturday March 12, 2016, Coughlan pleads: “I write to plead with all Nigerians to pray for my mother. She is going through the tough time right now, and so are we, her family. I was not aware she was a celebrity until I was about 14 and that’s only because my uncle told me, she does not see herself or act as if she is above any other person. She is a proud Nigerian who loves her country and its people.
“Right now, my mother is broken, and needs the prayer and support of all Nigerians, so… join us, myself, Craig, her son who is 14, Malcolm and Brian her other sons and her beautiful daughter, Zino, who is just 8, and the rest of her family, to pray for my mother. Whatever your religion, join us and pray for my mother as well as the family of the deceased. We can all get through this but not without God.”