Multi-talented actor and the chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Victor Osuagwu, in this interview with AZUH AMATUS, spoke extensively on a wide range of issues.
The Imo State-born Theatre Arts graduate of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, also bared his mind on how best to move Nollywood forward, romance with Glo, choosing between Jonathan and Buhari, recent chieftaincy title and many more.
Enjoy the interaction!
Let me start by saying a big congratulation to you as the chairman of AGN Lagos chapter and by extension, the newest High Chief in Nollywood
Thank you very much my brother. I just thank God that we successfully crossed over to 2015, which is something that is awesome.
You were recently conferred with a chieftaincy title in your state, Imo and you didn’t even invite your friends. How did it happen?
Well, I made an open invitation but not that type you normally send to friends. I invited people but they were just close friends because I know that period of time a lot of people would be going for Christmas. However, I still had a handful of friends, colleagues and other people that came for it. Even Actors Guild of Nigeria sent me a card congratulating me. The title was conferred on me on the 25th of January.
What is now your new title?
I am now Chief Victor Ifeayinchukwu Osuagwu, Ochinbubo 1 of Ubo community. You see, when you are doing something, you might not know how far you have affected peoples’ lives, especially in this kind of my enterprise. Be that as it may, you have to continue to do it. Every year, I celebrate the women in my community and I celebrate with the youths as well. I am sure one of these things must have attracted such conferment of this chieftaincy title on me.
Is this your first chieftaincy title?
This is not my first chieftaincy title but the first in my own community, which is the biggest hallmark. I have gotten chieftaincy titles from other areas but this particular one is dear to my heart because it shows that my people love me.
How does that make you feel, knowing this honour is from your people?
It makes me feel great and excited. In fact, I don’t know how to describe it. The truth about it is that it makes me closer to my community than ever before. That is what this title is all about. It shows that your people appreciate you and appreciate whatever you are doing.
As a very busy entertainer and Lagos AGN boss, do you think you will have enough time to mingle with your people in the village as their newest chief?
There is always enough time because I have to create time for it. And I have been creating time for it every year. That is why I have been able to do those things I am involved in without having problems. So, it cannot clash with my family responsibility and work as an AGN boss, even though being an AGN boss is like serving your country.
Let’s talk about the New Year, outside the plans you have for your people, what are your plans for Lagos AGN?
In as much as I have a communal task in my own town, I still have AGN task going on. We are still coordinating ourselves and making things happens. In this 2015, we have to first of all thank God for allowing us to cross over without any problem. Then we have decided that some of the programmes we could not achieve last year, we are bringing them over to this year. Last year, we were supposed to do Actors Week, which will include Miss AGN, the Most Beautiful Girl in AGN, but we couldn’t do it because of time factor and of course, sponsorship problem. Since we couldn’t do it that is why we have to partner with the Civil Right for African Diabetes Foundation to host one of the most successful health conferences in Nollywood, and it was a huge success.
Aside the ones mentioned above, what are your other plans for AGN?
Right now, we are already preparing for our general meeting. In that meeting, we will use it to worship and thank God because you can plans things but it is only God that can manifest it to life. I have a lot of things in my head that I am planning for AGN but it is only God that can perfect them for us. So, whatever be the plan, we are going to lay it to God to perfect it for us. That is my way of serving my people. I don’t make plans without calling on God to propel me to achieving those things. I might tell you that I am going to buy a car for AGN or take them to one place or two places, but without calling on God to perfect it for us, it would not be possible. To be candid with you, we are almost running to the end of our tenure, and by June, we should be having our elections….
(Cuts in) When did you take over?
We took over 2013. It is two year tenure. We are almost running to the end of the tenure. What we are going to do is that those programmes we could not achieve last year, we will bring them forward to this year. Last year, we were supposed to shoot one of the first mega yearly soaps for AGN, but could not. This year, we are going to start that.
I don’t want to tell you the title, but it is soap. We want to make sure that every member, no matter your class or how small you are, you must have a role there. We are shooting 26 episodes.
Why couldn’t it be shot last year?
What happened was that last year, some of us were involved in end of the year activities and also involved with our national president’s wedding. So, we could not produce that soap and we could not shoot. The problem was that first, the programme was planned but when we were about to shoot, there was no finance. When we were about to start, we met with the TV stations we were supposed to syndicate this job to and they said the minimum they could collect for a soap was 26 episodes, and we had 13 episodes down, which was a big difference.
That means you have already started
Yes, we’ve done audition, casting for it and we were about to distribute the script before the findings came out that we needed to do 26 episodes. So we had to commission the script writer again to expand it to 26 episodes. After submitting the script, we will have a script conference and then come out with a final script. That is the idea.
How is it possible for all members to act in this soap?
Yes, all members. As long as you are a registered member of AGN, you must have a role. And I thank God that the soap is 26 episodes because there is no way we can finish 26 episodes and the whole member of AGN Lagos chapter, will not have one thing or the other to do in the soap.
Like you said earlier, AGN election comes up between June and July, are you re-contesting?
I need to tell you the truth, I have not thought about that. The only thought and passion I have now is how to make AGN better with this little time I have to stay here. If I am able to set the pace to give AGN the new level and the new face we are trying to do now, I will be very happy. I am working with another hardworking person that loves good work and good things. I am talking about the national president, Ibinabo Fiberesma. She is giving AGN a new brand. So, we are working according to the new development plan to make sure AGN have a new face. So, if we are able to succeed with whatever we are doing today and the people say, Victor Osuagwu, we want you to go for a second tenure, then, we would know what to do about that. But at the moment, that is out of place. For now, let’s see how we can achieve those things I have told you, how we can achieve the soap we are about to shoot and how we can achieve the AGN meeting we have already started. We need to achieve all these things within this period of time. And whichever one we are able to achieve, it would be a step to the next stage.
For two years now, you have been at the helms of affairs of Lagos AGN, what have been the major challenges?
My brother, it has not been easy. But I thank God for everything because if you are trying to change things and you don’t have challenges, it means you are not affecting people’s lives. It means people are not feeling the impact of whatever you are doing. The challenges here make it more encouraging for me to work harder. But the biggest challenge we are having is that the Actors Guild of Nigeria has no financial backing.
Then how do you now fund your activities?
It is from the levies that people pay and sponsorships from corporate bodies and sometimes from my own pocket. Sometimes people even pay from their own pocket first. We are supposed to have support from individuals, corporate bodies and others, but it is not as easy as that. That is how it is supposed to be. That was one of the reasons we could not achieve our aims last year. It is not that we cannot go ahead and do Actors Week, but it is just the kind of Actors Week we want to do, which is a very big one. We are ready to give AGN a new face. We want to organize a big event whereby every entertainer will be involved. If we have money in our purse, we can submit a lot of programmes and start doing things. These are our challenges. But then we are struggling to meet certain levels of financial commitments. We thank God for everything because the national body has been so supportive and the BOT has been supportive. The members have been wonderful too, if not; we would not have achieved anything. Some of them took everything upon themselves. The executives have been wonderful; these are the people who actually came to serve. Anybody who is coming here as chairman should erase the thought from his mind that he is coming to chop money or to eat, but rather coming to work. You have to first of all plant before you can eat. There is no particular place where they say the FG keeps money for you as subvention. There is no subsidy given to you to run AGN. As members, we are the ones providing the funds. We must keep the platform; AGN is a platform for you to uplift yourself. It is unfortunate that a lot of people that come here, they come to just wallop the money, even the little that we get; they just want to eat out of it. But I thank God that everything we have been doing has been worth the while. We don’t collect money and we don’t collect cash. You go to the bank and pay whatever you have to pay into the account. So even if you call me today, in the morning or night to give account of what is happening, I will give you. So, nobody goes there alone, and it has two signatories. This is what I try as much as possible to make people understand. We always tell our people, don’t collect cash from anybody, let the person go to the bank and pay his or her dues.
Do you see yourself evolving from being the chairman of AGN Lagos chapter, to national politics in the nearest future?
This is just a microcosm of what the politics outside there would look like. If I am successful here, the people here would give me a recommendation. They would want to encourage me to even take up any other post than this, either in the local government, state or national levels. Whatever you are doing today people are watching you from all aspects of governance. My local government knows that I am the chairman of Actors Guild of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, and they are watching some of the activities. Sometimes you go to the local government to pay them a visit and they tell you that they love what you are doing and they love your programmes. These are the people that give recommendations and if such recommendation comes based on what you are doing, I think you can go far. But at the moment, I am telling you the truth I don’t have any inclination or intention that I want to be a politician tomorrow. I don’t want you to have that in mind because everything about life works according to what is involved at that time. When I finish my tenure tomorrow and my people say Victor go and contest for chairmanship and they are ready to support me, I will go. Right now, I am comfortable with what I am doing. In as much as God is alive, He will not allow us to go hungry, suffer and cry over one thing or the other. If tomorrow avails itself for me to go for chairmanship, house of assembly and any other positions, it will also determine itself. Right now, I cannot endanger my life and the rest of my family because the kind of politics we play in Nigeria is that of killing and elimination. There is no love. We don’t play politics of love. Even in AGN and Nollywood, you will see it, which is bad. We are supposed to do what is right and change things. That is how it is supposed to be.
What is the relationship between you and your national president, Ibinabo Fiberesima like, is it cordial or hostile?
If I have not been having a good rapport with her, I don’t think I would have been here. She has been so good, and nice in every way to me. I even call her mama anyway but she does things like a man. There are certain things she does that even a man cannot do. When you look at her, you will think she is a frail person but the energy in her is something else. That is why I love her so much. I have a very good rapport with her, with my BOT and chairmen from other state chapters. This is exactly what has been sustaining and strengthening me. Whenever you have any challenge anywhere, she has a way of asking about what is happening and helping to resolve it amicably. So, I have never found myself in any way at all having any problem with her. I have never. It is because most of the information gets to her before getting to me. She would call me and says Victor, what about this thing and that, have you found out whether it is okay or not? Look at the report I have and something like that. We would just talk it over. Sometimes I go to her office; we would just talk it over amid banters. She is such a person that loves serving the people. She serves the people with love and not violence because she does not believe in violence. It is unfortunate that because she is a woman some people try to antagonize her and say things that have nothing to do with her. She is just a selfless person and contented with whatever she has. That is one great thing about her. And the passion she has for the people is to help. So, she has my 24 hours support in whatever she does.
In Nollywood today, opinions are divided, some people have pledged their support to Jonathan and some others to Buhari, as chairman of AGN, Lagos chapter, who are you supporting or going to cast your vote for, between Jonathan and Buhari?
This question you are asking me now is a very sensitive one. But if you read my eyes, nose, my mouth and everything about me, you will know that I am supporting President Goodluck Jonathan. And I have no apology for that. Some people said he has ruled for six years and I said no because he has only ruled for four years which he has not even completed anyway. For me, he has done very well. He is the only president that has taken entertainment industry to his heart. For that alone, he must come back and God will bring him back. Do you know how many people that have fallen ill, and whenever my national president runs to him for help, he supports without delay and those ill stars are alive today? So he is not just a president but somebody who loves you to stay alive and see tomorrow. He is not too greedy about things. He is just my national president. He just sees things that it will come and go and that it is not forever. There are people who want to kill themselves or die before they even get what they want. He is not that kind of person.
You are also very close to one of the ex-militants, Ateke Tom, how close are you to him and what brought you two together?
Let me tell you one thing. If you asked me how the friendship started I don’t know. But I love him because of his passion to liberate the common people. He has a large heart and I have never seen a man like him. I have never seen a man like Ateke Tom, who is a freedom fighter. Any man that is in entertainment industry that has not benefited from him, it is because he has not got the opportunity to meet him. He does not close his gates to anybody and he does not eat alone. Whatever he has today, he shares it with people, mostly artistes. He loves the entertainment industry like Jonathan. I see him having the spirit of Jonathan.
You are one of the stars that Glo has endorsed, how does it feel being a Glo ambassador?
My brother, I just have to be candid with you, I have enjoyed good relationship with Glo worldwide. And we still have a lot of things to do together.
Is it true your contract with Glo, is for five years?
Forget about the contract because it can continue. First, I am not looking at the contract because I like doing things for Glo.
How much did Glo pay you to endorse their products as an ambassador?
The truth is that it is great working with people who loves you and your art. Glo does not play with their art because they are sure of who you are, what you are and what you can bring into the art. So, that love and personal relationship is always there. The man behind it is a man who always wants to improve the economy. Just like what I was saying before. Some people have this money but would want to sit on it. There are others who have it but would want to distribute the wealth just because they want to make everybody happy. That is Glo for you.
First published in DAYLIGHT, March 2015