29yrs old Dennis Okike is a multi-millionaire today and the proud owner of a brand new SUV, courtesy of his participation in the just concluded Gulder Ultimate Search, 2013 edition. He speaks with Punch on the show, his experiences and how it took him three years to emerge the Ultimate Man. Enjoy...
Why did you decide to go in for Gulder Ultimate Search 10?
I had the craving to be a part of the show. I saw myself as being an Ultimate Man someday. I have always had the dream. My friend, Uche Nwaezeapu, won the GUS in 2006. He wasn’t as athletic as I was back then. He was just the guy next door and didn’t participate in any sports while we were in school. Now, I started seeing him on TV and he became the winner. So I felt if Uche could win, I could as well. I prayed about it and from that day, I started working towards it...
So this wasn’t your first time of trying to be a part of the show?
No. this was actually the third time. The first time, I didn’t make the preliminaries. The second time, I was evicted during the final selection and then this time around, when I went into the jungle. I played all my cards well and I prayed so much about it. I trained for almost eight months for this year’s search. I was always at the stadium and the pool training for the search. I was just ready for it. I watched all the past tasks they had in the other editions and I was just ready for anything new.
That means just as Uche won, your life ambition was to be a part of GUS?
That is true, very true. When the show came out 10 years ago, I liked it. But I was scared of the jungle. But when I saw Uche my friend doing it, I knew I could do it as well. He was my best friend in secondary school. He coached me all the while; he made sure I practised my swimming. He pushed me so hard. He told me that I wouldn’t remember all I have gone through when I start reaping the fruits of it. He was the motivational person I needed. I think I owe all of this to him.
When did you graduate from the university?
I graduated in 2009/2010. I attended University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
So you haven’t been working between then and now?
I was working in a bank. But it was a holiday job. I did my industrial training at the bank and somehow, I went back after graduation and since I was close to the bosses, they gave me a holiday job. I worked there for a while until I realised that I needed to go back to school to settle some issues. I did and that was it.
So you went in for the show and even made it a ‘life ambition’ because you didn’t have a job?
I think God has a way of planning my life. Everything went according to God’s plans. Those who come for the search are mainly those who are less occupied. If you had a nine to five job, I don’t think you would have the time to be a part of GUS; that means you would quit your job. And then, what if you didn’t become the winner after quitting your job?
How did you feel when you were declared the winner?
I told you winning the show was my priority in life. When I won, I couldn’t help how I felt. It was overwhelming. I had to fall back into the water. How do I explain being excited and happy at the same time? I couldn’t believe it. I was startled. It didn’t get to me at first but when it did? I almost fainted. I got hit by N10m on my left side and a brand new SUV on my right side so I fainted.
You raise the alarm at first even when you hadn’t found the piece you were asked to…
Yes. I saw something. It was a bag of sand. I screamed that I had found something. It turned out to be a bag of sand. But it didn’t deter me. I kept searching. I asked myself what I was coming back to if I didn’t find the piece. I didn’t mind breaking my nails and hurting myself. No matter what, I wanted to come back home with the money. I had injuries but I didn’t mind. I took the pain and I felt I would get the glory eventually. I was always reciting my favourite Psalm- Psalm 53. I kept digging. I went to a spot where I noted that the other contestants hadn’t gone. I kept searching. I found another bag. I didn’t want to raise the alarm again. I pulled it out and the more I pulled, it got bigger. Obviously, it wasn’t a sack of sand, it was the scepter. I went on my knees and thank God. There were times I would have been evicted but I kept praying that the day wouldn’t be my last day in the jungle.
What if you hadn’t won?
I still would have gone home with money. But the most important thing I am happy I came for the show this year is that it gave me the opportunity to get a GUS pendant. I longed for it. I wanted to be a part of the GUS family. I wasn’t keen about winning. But when I got into the jungle and I saw the contestants, I realised that I should win. Some of them hadn’t been through what I have been through in life. Some of them are comfortable in life. I felt I hungered for it more. The hunger kept pushing me. The longer I stayed in the jungle, the more I got weaker. People felt I was losing focus but I am human. God just protected everyone of us.
You said you have been through a lot in life, can you tell us some of what you have been through?
I have been neglected by friends. I am an only son and it sort of made me to be a one man army. I grew up having the sense of being on my own. I had issues in my family. My father was comfortable at a point but at a point, he got shot in 1998. You know what happens when the breadwinner is not able to bring in money into the family again. Things became bizarre. I can’t really say most of the things that happened. Going through the university wasn’t easy at all. But I am this kind of person that even if I wear bathroom slippers, I would still look good. I didn’t let hardship get to me. I have tasted hardship.
So many people think what we see on TV is film trick; you guys don’t get to suffer as much as...
I don’t think you were shown half of what we went through in that jungle. We didn’t have tooth brushes. We didn’t brush our teeth for a month. It is a jungle and you don’t have tooth brushes in the jungle. It was incredible. We were walking casually into the jungle not knowing what was in stock for us. We had to go into the mud for the mudslinging game. That was when reality dawned on us. Before then, we were lounging and relaxing in the hotel. In the jungle, I went without food for two and half days. I was being punished for an offence. We slept under the rain. We had bamboos as beds. We had roaches, mosquitoes and rodents all around us. We went through a lot.
Was there a time you felt like quitting?
I wanted to give up on the fourth day. But no girl complained. If no girl complained, how could I have been the first to quit? I had to endure. Our food weren’t tasty but we had to eat it. we just wanted the stomach to be filled up. Initially I thought we would go and take shelter somewhere if it rained. But that wasn’t the case. Rain or shine, we were in the jungle. It wasn’t the most wonderful experience but I thank God.
Was it all worth it, even with the N10m?
It was worth it.
You didn’t have a good relationship with the other contestants…
I wouldn’t say it that way. I didn’t want to be lukewarm. I wanted the fire to continue burning in me. I didn’t want to continue joking and laughing and playing. At a point, I felt it could make us forget the reason we were there. They said I was quarrelsome, I was just being defensive. I don’t like being bullied.
What is next now?
A new phase of my life has begun. I don’t have to rush. I had my plans before I went to the jungle. Now that I am out, some plans might be altered. Better plans have come. I am not going to sit down and start spending the money. My plan is to see if I can double the money.
What of your girlfriend?
I don’t have to say anything about that. I will keep living my life. I live a decent life and I will not have issues. I will not bring out my private life in public.
Old friends must have resurrected now since you won?
You don’t need to ask. There was a point in my life my phone didn’t use to ring. But now, it is crazy. And the thing is that you cannot be rude to anybody. My callers even call by 2am. It has been crazy. I now have to live with it. It is my cross and I will carry it humbly.