Bob-Mauael Udokwu is among the top notch Nollywood personalities. He began his career in acting since 23 years ago and today, he is the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State on Creative Media domiciled in movie and entertainment industry.
‘Bob’ in this interview with our reporter, expressed fear that entertainment industry under President Mohammadu Buhari’s watch will die a natural death. Excerpt:
How would you describe your transition from mainstream acting to government work?
I am still in mainstream acting, I haven’t stopped acting but the thing is that there is always need for diversification when you have the requisite experience and training to contribute more in the development of not just your primary area of specialty, but in some other areas too, where your experience, training and pedigree will be brought to bear.
Having said that, politics is life, just like art and artistry is an imitation of life and so anything we do on earth has an element of politics, just like acting.
Just as some persons will tell you that politics is their profession, I disagree with them, except they want us to believe that they are jobless.
I have not seen anyone anywhere in the world that is born that starts with politicking. It is at some point in life that actually one will like to contribute depending on the motive you have especially in African politics where politicians wield too much powers.
My interest is how we can change the fortunes of our people for the better. You see, what we mirror in our movies is the life of the people. If you indict leadership in your movies and if the society indicts leadership in their day to day life and comment, then, something must be wrong and sometimes, you pick up the challenge to see how you can be part of that leadership to help and change the perception by making sure that things are done the right way.
That is why I am involved in politics and having been part of building an industry out of nothing, a vibrant film industry which is now world class. I think we should welcome any kind of help positively that we can get.
So, you mean your involvement in active politics is not conflicting with what you do in movie industry as an actor?
My designation for now is Senior Special Assistant to Governor on Creative Media domiciled in movie entertainment industry. If I don’t know what is going on in the entertainment industry, how will I advise the governor on the same industry that transformed Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP to overtake that of South Africa..
You know in Nigeria we are always quick to write off something when an innovation or new thing begins and that is why we have our journalists here who classify somebody that broke out from music into acting as a musician turned actor which is derogatory.
But look at Europe and America where we copied this form of entertainment, all the major musicians you know from Europe to America today are actors and their press doesn’t label them such, even somebody that as well known in the American movie industry as Eddy Murphy is also into music.
We castigate our talents here so much that we wonder why our journalists do that. So, that line of thought is what I want to address and correct.
As the SSA to the Governor of Anambra State His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano on Creative Media, (Movie/Entertainment Industry) what practical programmes have you tried to put in place to offer Anambrarians that peace and relaxation derivable from entertainment?
(cuts in) I don’t discuss my programmes in advance with anybody. It is a closely guarded thing. Right now I am organizing a talent hunt as a first step to giving talented people a platform to actualise their creative dreams but before the idea could hit the ground, I shared it with somebody who was supposed help me actualise it.That same person is duplicating the idea right now as we speak.
I have many more things to do. It is not like normal day to day work where you roll out your work plan for the public to see. People steal other’s creative & business ideas in this country and it’s bad.
It’s just like piracy, the pirate stays in his own comfort zone and waits for you to finish work and once it becomes public, they hit it. I am in the process of organizing a talent hunt and somebody I shared it with scheduled his own almost on the same day. So, my brother, I won’t tell you what my programmes are but I can assure you that they are quite innovatively creative!
But you have many of them?
Please, let’s leave it at that because I feel very bad about that and I feel very concerned.
My show is titled “Naija New Dawn Show; Raising New Stars and Creating Employment in The Entertainment Industry”.
My mandate is from His Excellency, the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano who told me,”Bob Manuel,you are outstanding in the entertainment and show business. Generate ideas and programmes that will create employment for our people.”
That is my mandate and that is what I am doing. We will take it one step after another .I have so many things in stock. It doesn’t stop anybody from doing what they want to do but things have to be streamlined in the area of people coming out of the blues to ask people to pay all kinds of money in the bank to participate in shows but at the end of the day, you won’t see the show anywhere. It has to stop.
We have to evolve a strategy where if you are genuine and desiring to do a show in Anambra State, we have to know who you are to hold you responsible for your words and actions. It’s not just going on air, printing hand bills, banners and placing jingles on radio and television and then rub people of their hard earned money and these are young people who don’t earn money anywhere but they believe they have talents and you fleece them and disappear into thin air. We won’t let that continue.
You are of the opinion that youths of today are lazy, how will this programme, “Naija New Dawn Show” get them to work?
Yes, you are correct, I also believe in that dictum that “hard work pays” and hard work doesn’t kill anybody but will probably make you stronger.
I am not indicting young people per se but I want them to always look at their lives as probably continuation of life process and if you don’t work hard as a young person how will you handle leadership responsibilities and challenges that life throws at you.
So, I try to encourage them to be the best they can without looking for short cuts. Sometimes, shortcuts get you into dark corner of disaster and misery. If you work hard enough and you are genuinely talented, you will be able to make it. The thing I see in young people of nowadays is that they all want to be stars and celebrities. They are thrilled by glitz and glamour they see on television, forgetting that it is all illusory!
Even in Hollywood, you find that there is a lot of faking and it has translated into the life style of some celebrities here. Some of my colleagues live fake lives forgetting that it influences young ones. I think that our young people should learn to be who they are.
You set the trend and not letting others set it for you and give that worth in you.
My work in Gulder Ultimate Search stands out and it is a landmark in my career because till date, I am the only anchor man of Gulder Ultimate Search who did it five years plus without breaking in the ten seasons of the reality show. I guess that makes me outstanding!
After five years or more that I handled Gulder Ultimate Search, some of the contestants I handled are still in touch with me, seeing me as a big brother and mentor. Some call me when they are at crossroads or during celebration, while some are in my BBM network. However during the show, they saw me as a no nonsense guy, unapproachable and all that but when it ended, they began to understand I was doing a job I was asked to do without fear or favour.
When the show is over, I bring them together to let them know there is another side of me that will encourage them to look up to me as somebody they can depend on.
I know it is not easy to change the mind set of young people but we should start from ourselves by living by example.
Do you think government has a role to play in that?
Government is already doing something. His Excellency Gov. Willie Obiano is a very serious-minded, result-oriented governor who has track records.
He hit the ground running and for his first 100 days in office, there is a lot to show for it and now that he is there for more than a year, there is a lot more to show for it and he has blue print to develop Anambra State beyond people’s expectation. If half of it is achieved in the next four years, Anambra State will be totally transformed. Don’t forget that Anambra State is the “Light Of The Nation” and we have reason to be the light of the nation. We are first in so many things.
There is this feeler that entertainment pays and that is why everybody wants to be a celebrity, but on the contrary, most of the stars are now in active politics; does that mean there is more money in politics than the entertainment industry?
I can tell you that I don’t know the motivation for those in entertainment for going into politics .I can answer only for myself. Money is not my own motivation. The Wisdom of Solomon has nothing to do with the age of Methuselah. They can answer for themselves but one thing I have to use this your question to point out is that there is quite some money in show business, perhaps that is why some young ones want to go into it. Yes, there is money there. I was one of the actors in the ‘Living in Bondage’. I am glad to be among the top notch Nollywood personalities even today, 23 years after ‘Living In Bondage’ was released. I’m in government today as a result of the recognition of my contribution to nation building through the movie industry.
However today ,the industry struggles to survive, there is money to be made alright, but the industry people are not making it. Some live below poverty level due to piracy and such cabal holding the entertainment industry at the jugular.
All sort of dubious characters have also infiltrated the industry. People who offer fake auditions and promote programmes that never see the light of day and talents hunts that haunt those who are looking for a way to expose their God-given talents!
So, the money that sincere practitioners are suppose to make, are lost.
You have been exposed to different scenario in this country, you are educated, a celebrity and you look at some of the political actors in this country and you wonder, “is this the best this country can offer”?. We hear that people are thrown out of government because they forged certificate, which example are they showing and so you ask yourself “why is that person in that position in the first instance”?. I can answer for myself because I have a platform where I can influence people. A press statement I make can change a lot of things.
If you don’t think am right, let me insult government in this interview and you will see how I will get phone calls. So, when I give advice or express my feelings over some issues, the government listens.(light goes off)This is an issue that Nigerians have not been able to address since independence
(Cuts in) Why are you asking me? Are you not a journalist? Do we have constant power supply since independence? Our roads are they good? Do we have portable drinking water? Is quality of life better now than when we got independence? Are people not openly wishing that the British were still here? Or are you not seeing how people are leaving this country in droves? And if my children grow up tomorrow and ask me as an old man, “dad, you had a platform to contribute in changing mindsets, what did you do”? History will not forgive me if I do nothing now. But, if I try as I have tried to get party nomination to go to the State House of Assembly and I didn’t get it, I will be convinced that I have tried. I know why I didn’t get the ticket. I was the most qualified aspirant to represent my constituency in the last state House of Assembly election but I didn’t get the party ticket at the primary. I have little or no regret because I have learnt from the
You talked about piracy in the entertainment industry, what is the AGN doing to curtail that?
I am not an elected official of the Actors Guild of Nigeria. I am not jack of all trades and I don’t claim to know everything. I will refer you to elected officials of our guild,AGN.
Most people in the entertainment industry were seen in the last election rooting for Jonathan. Was that act of love or money?
Well, when you talk about money, I don’t think you have proof even as a journalist that we were all following Jonathan and PDP because of money. If you have such proof, you would have published it and I don’t think that there is anything wrong for the president of the country inviting people in your profession for dialogue. An important sector of the economy which in his own time boosted the country’s GDP over and above every other country in Africa. A president who in his own time looked beyond the myopia of those who were there before him as presidents to know that this particular sector of the economy needed to be developed further, needs to be encouraged and harnessed.
Let me tell you this, Jonathan’s administration did so much for the entertainment industry and it has never happened in this country. The apprehension in the entertainment industry today is that President Mohammadu Buhari is ultra conservative and perhaps has aversion for anything entertainment! I’m not sure he attends social functions not to talk about being open minded about entertainment generally. Let him prove me wrong. Let President Buhari prove me wrong now that he is the president of Nigeria by inviting us to a meeting to assure us that he will not kill entertainment industry.
So, you have the fear that his assumption office as president will signal an end to entertainment in Nigeria?
It is not about me having fear. The world is concerned and I am deeply concerned to. I know his media aides will attack me but I think it’s better I say this now, so that he will know. The apprehension in the entertainment industry is that Buhari will destroy the entertainment industry. Let me ask you, have you ever seen the man in any party? Has he ever attended any social function? Who is his favourite actor, actress or musician?
At least I rememberthat former President Jonathan in one of his documentaries I watched, loves the music of Bongos Ikwue and Bob Marley among others.Onyeka Onwenu and Kanayo O. Kanayo got political appointments.
Many artistes got national honours as recognition of their honest effort in entertaining the people. Which artistes are president Buhari’s favourites? What films or drama does he like to watch on television? I was shocked one day former president Jonathan told me my very first Film he watched! It turned out to be “When The Sun Sets” which we did around 1994. It was a pleasant surprise coming from the president. My brother, I don’t feel the same about Buhari but let him read this interview and prove us wrong because the apprehension is palpable that he won’t want anything to do with the entertainment industry.
As a very popular person, can you honestly tell us why you didn’t translate your popularity to electoral victory in the last election?
Well, you see, I always remember the saying that “talent is not enough”. That means, there must be something extra. That extra is probably what worked against me. Sometimes too, your popularity can work against you. Don’t forget that it is not the general public that gives you ticket, it’s the party. Even when the electorates are yearning for you, that can only work out when you get the ticket and if those who will facilitate the ticket don’t share your views, then its bye bye ticket. I won’t say more than this but of course I got enough experience from that adventure. It is interesting how these things turn out sometimes but I have no single regret going into it. Again, it enriches me as a person. It enriches my understanding of human nature, my appreciation of life in terms of the subterfuge that pervades the system. But who God has lifted, no man can bring him down and I thank His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano. I resigned my
appointment to vie for an election
not for any ulterior motive but to make an input. But I am still glad that APGA party won in my constituency and the governor was magnanimous enough to bring me back into his government. Among the people that resigned, I was the first person he called back and that is what gave me the impetus to organize Naija New Dawn Show to let people know that Anambra is safe to do business.
But we learnt that your high handedness and unapproachable attitude cost you the election?
Last night, I was with people and this issue of being seen as unapproachable came up and somebody there said “those who don’t know Bob will say he is unapproachable – he is the most approachable person I have ever met”.
Again, I have found out that what people that are not close to me think is different from what I am. I am very principled, I stay on my own, I am even shy which is different from the talent of acting. When people read that I keep to myself, they wrongly assume that you feel you are better than others. They may not understand that it is a mechanism of self defence. It is also important to guage the mood of the people. Sometimes you come into a place, people stare at you. You don’t know what is in their minds. Here we judge the book by the cover. You need to see my relationship with people I knew before I become a celebrity.
So, what I will tell people who think I’m unapproachable is that I respect myself and when you see me, show some respect so that we respect each other and get along.
I also like making friends because that way you bring happiness to more people.
My philosophy in life is, work hard, believe in yourself and trust God.