Friday, 19 September 2014

Victor Osuagwu: The clown who runs things for Lagos actor

Actor Victor Osuagwu means different things to different
people. While some see him as a clown, others see him
as just funny and humorous. However, when he rose to
become the Chairman of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN),
Lagos Chapter, where he has been running things for the
past one year, he took many by surprise. Could a clown
still run things? Here is the story of his life in a-no-holds-
barred interview with TS Weekend.

While some view you as a comedian, others see you
either as a funny man, a humorist or clown. How do you
see yourself?
I see myself as an artiste capable of interpreting any role
given to me. I do not associate myself with the word
clown or funny. I play the character and leave you to your
own imagination; I am just an artiste doing his job.
But you have played more roles that portray you as
If you say so. I have played a lot of such roles but I have
also done several other roles to the best of my ability.
Are you really a funny man deep down in your soul?
I am not a rigid person. I am always in a happy mood.
But with my works I impact reality. Some people have
told me they appreciate my works and that tells me that I
am communicating. But there is a difference between
when I am at work or when at play; my daily life routine
is not all about trivialities.
How did you come into Nollywood?
By the early 1990s I was already involved in a production
directed by Ndubuisi Okoh which was shot in Jos. He had
come to the University of Port Harcourt where I was at
that time to run an audition and I was one of those casted
for the production entitled 'Coat of Many Colours'. Jos
had landmark locations that Ndubisi Okoh loved so we
were all in Jos for that film. However, 1994 remains the
year I really entered the industry. It was during this long
NUPENG strike which kept every student at home. We
couldn't bear the pangs of lazing about so we all rushed
to seek whatever jobs we could get. We all made the
move including the likes of Francis Duru, Julius Agwu,
Michael Ogundu and Samuel Alamu. We met Ejike
Asiegbu who had started making a name for himself then
in Nollywood. He connected us to 'Abeigi',where the
actors hang out at the National Theater, Lagos; it was the
melting pot for thespians in those days. We were all on
an adventure inspired by the hope of getting some
money before school resumed. At 'Abeigi' we met
Sydney Dialla who had already graduated from the
diploma programme of University of Port Harcourt and
was famous for his role in 'Living in Bondage'. He told us
about the audition for 'Evil Passion' Part 2 which
was coming up in a couple of days. We went and I got a
role. That audition was my first entry into what is now
known as Nollywood.
With this story one is compelled to say you studied
Theatre Arts with your eyes wide open. Could we say
you discovered your talent quite early?
Yes. It is good for one to discover one's talents early. It is
the greatest gift of God to any man. I was in secondary
school when I realized I would do well in Theatre Arts. I
earlier thought about being an architect because I was
good at Technical Drawing and Engineering subjects. But
as we grew older, fellow students told me I was very
funny. I was a member of the Debating & Dramatic
Society and I was also chairman of a fan club. During
inter-house sports or other competitions, the school looked
up to Victor Osuagwu to take care of the entertainment
aspect. A fellow student came to me to advise that if I
studied Theatre Arts I would be like Jegede Sokoya or
Zebrudaya, renowned artistes whom we admired in
those days. Jegede Sokoya was from a neighbouring
So what happened?
It was then the fool's paradise of secondary school
leavers set in. We all hoped that as soon as we left
secondary school we would get jobs and be given 504
Peugotte cars to cruise around and a flat to live in but no
one was even looking our way; even the job of a
houseboy was not available. Again, you were also
looking at those who had graduated from the university
with Master's degree without jobs and the real message
started sinking; it became obvious that one had to step
So what did you do?
I left home for Port Harcourt where my eldest sister lived
with her family. I am the last in my family and was left in
the village where I attended school. I always spent my
holiday with my eldest siblings some of whom lived in
Onitsha. But I loved Port Harcourt because my mum also
comes from Opobo in Rivers State. Part of my primary
school was at Queens Town, Opobo. It was while doing
my GCE to make up for my papers in Port Harcourt that I
heard about a certificate course in Theatre Arts at
University of Port Harcourt which I was assured
guaranteed me admission to do a Bachelor's degree.
Some of the best actors we have in Nigeria benefitted
from this programme and became well grounded. People
like Bob Manuel-Udokwu, Ejike Asiegbu, Francis Duru,
Lancelot Imasuen, Charles Inojie, Sydney Dialla and a
host of others all did. When I joined Nollywood, my
intention was to take up directing but acting took over
me. However, I think I act well because I know about
directing; my knowledge of directing has complemented
my acting.
How easy was your transition from stage to the screens?
There is a big difference between acting on stage and
appearing on screen. The camera does so much for the
actor in a film or on television but while on stage, the
actor does so much by himself. For me, the transition was
smooth especially when I had someone like Zeb Ejiro to
guide me. He directed my first film, 'Evil Passion' part 2.
You must have forgotten the stage by now…
No way, once a stage man always a stage man. I was
trained for the stage and can't ever forget that. I am
looking forward to a stage performance very soon.
When you compare Nollywood then and now, what do
you see?
Nollywood has always been vibrant no matter what
some people think. The only difference is that it has
become more mature. You no longer see audition centres
like before because contacts have been made. In those
days, we had gatherings to meet each other but now we
have made the contacts. What we do now is table cast
by making calls to desired artistes. Nollywood has grown
rapidly. It is not like those days when you had a few
directors, producers and few equipment. I believe that
there has been a big advancement in Nollywood.
What do you consider your staying power as some of
the people you started with are no longer in the forefront
like you?
God and consistency. God and no one else make one
consistent. I also know that some of those who are not
doing it big in the movies are doing big in other fields.
They may have realized earlier that movies were not their
area of advantage and towed other paths. I realized
quite early that this was my area and stuck to it and by
God's grace, I have paid my dues and impacted so much
that I could be called on the phone to come and be part
of a production. For you to create an impact, you don't
have to be an amateur but one who has faced it full time
and it's not with one leg in and the other out. If it is your
calling, then you must be there and not in your house
expecting someone to call you to come and eat; we must
all be in the trenches of our profession. You continue to
test yourself until people notice you are good and begin
to call you up.
Which film would you say established you?
I often run away from this kind of question; it is the
people that have the answer to this question, it is the
society that tells you who you are. Personally I see every
work as a challenge and I take all of them serious. When
you walk on the streets and people call you all kinds of
names based on the films you have acted, it tells you the
kind of impact you are making. I have been called One
Dollar, Awilo Sharp Sharp and Nwa Teacher both in
Nigeria and abroad. In a nutshell, it is impossible for me
to say which my best is because all my films have been
Since you started having fan adulation, have you ever
had an embarrassing moment?
Every day of my life I get embarrassed by fans but I have
built up myself to absorb whatever I see outside my
home. I recall that I went to Silverbird Galleria a few
days back with my twin friends, the Mamuze Twins, and I
encountered four young women who screamed on seeing
me. Three of them flocked around me to take photos but
one said no, and discouraged the others from doing that.
One of the girls openly told the one that was
discouraging them, 'Victor is my star; my mega star but I
don't know about you.' You should have seen the look on
her face as she stood aside while the others posed with
me for shots. That girl must have been regretting her
actions. If she had succeeded in taking them away, what
would have happened? This is one of the things that
happen around stars. But I do not see it negatively; I do
not grumble about it. There are several people who
would say 'please forget that mumu while millions of
others would say 'leave the mumu for me, I love him.'
How did you get the name 'man na mumu' which many
call you?
It was the first movie I produced entitled 'Love in High
Places'. It is the story of two elderly people; a man and a
woman who met while waiting on a cue to collect their
pensions and fell in love. They were actually neighbours
but did not know they were neighbours and guess what,
their sons were at logger heads yet these people were in
love with each other.
How do those who see you as mumu react now that you
are AGN Lagos Chapter Chairman?
That is the irony of life. When I was vying for the position
I was discouraged by many people who felt that nothing
good or serious would ever come out of me. They refused
to realize that there is a very big difference between the
man and the work he does. That is the surprising aspect
of my becoming AGN Lagos Chapter Chairman. We have
celebrated one year of my first term in office and gunning
to complete the second year.
How challenging has it been?
It has been challenging. But it gives me joy to serve the
people. I like what I am doing and it is what I have
always loved to do. I am not just the Chairman but the
actors' houseboy or house man; I am out to change
things. Someone needs to change things. Someone needs
to improve the association; I see myself as the servant.
What are those things you want to change and how
much have you done?
There was no office, no account and no documents when I
came on board; everything was in disarray. Lagos is the
headquarters of the industry with almost 85 per cent of
artistes living here. We inherited nothing from our
predecessors. But by the grace of God, we have
something now. Members who left when they saw
nothing happening have started returning. Those who felt
bad and angry have been reconciled back into the fold.
When I came on board, I started by first reconciling
members. From 12 members we grew to 28 and then 30,
and now we are over two thousands members. Those top
artistes who hated meetings because of various
disagreements and frayed nerves are now back; they
have all come to revalidate their membership. They now
see meaning in what we are doing and I feel good about
So you mean there are no more fights and breaking of
Exactly because we have everything working right; I have
never seen a turn around like we are having now; it is
flowing down from the top. AGN president, Ibinabo
Fiberesima, is a great woman and her goodness is
rubbing off on the entire system and trickling down to all
the chapters; it is infectious. AGN celebrated Omotola
when she was named as one of the world's most
influential women by TIME magazine. A lot has been
done about insurance. Our monthly meetings are now
filled with quality members where we discuss issues
affecting actors based in Lagos. We now have a very
functional secretariat. We have a website and it is
working well. We are also on all social media. There was
prestige in those days when Remi Ohajianya was
Chairman. I am very grateful to Chief Joseph Odebeatu
of Ojez who threw his place open for our meetings. It is
one of the greatest gifts I have received as Chairman of
AGN Lagos.
How did you meet your wife?
I met my wife while I was in school in Port Harcourt. She is
from Choba. I lived very close to their house. We courted
for many years before we decided to get married. It was
on December 8, 2012 that I decided to celebrate her.
Before then, we had had our children having done all the
traditional ceremonies and dowries and all that. What I
did was to celebrate her love for me after many years in
fulfilment of my agreement with God.
What stood her out from the crowd of girls flocking
around you?
I first noticed she was homely. It was on our first meeting
that I told her I was going to marry her. I had seen her
with some of my classmates one of which was her
godmother whom she always came to visit. There and
then I told her that she would be my wife but that I would
allow her to grow up. I could still remember the smile on
her face on that day but she took me serious. She was
then in Secondary school. I really wanted her to finish
secondary school and it came to pass. It was when she
gained admission to study in Uniport that I knew she had
grown. By the grace of God we are blessed with two
boys and two girls and I consider myself a rich man, a
wealthy man and influential man by all standards.
How do you cope with the vices that follow
entertainment business?
Vices are there all the time as part of life but an artiste
must be aware of their existence and avoid them. Even if
you run away from vices, they chase you around. Many
people have fallen for vices either knowingly or
unknowingly. But all must devise a way of avoiding
trouble. Think of the partner you have at home and
consider whether she would love you to do those things
that you are tempted to do. However, you must
appreciate your fans and people especially the opposite
sex. Each time I see members of the opposite sex, I see
them as my mothers. A man must have principles and
know his limitations. I try to approach life as a pious and
Godly man.

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

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