Comic actor, Victor Osuagwu is one of the easily recognisable actors in the industry. He has partaken in over 200 movies and he is still a hot cake today. He was elected the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Lagos chapter, Chiarman recently. His position is however challenged by his opponents. He speaks with Lekan Wells on his trials, travails and family life
Congratulations on your election victory and instatement as the Chairman of Lagos State chapter of the Actors Guild of Nigeria(AGN)
Thank you very much. It has always being my mission to contest for this position and eventually become the chairman. This is because I have been watching the chapter for a long time and I feel it is time that it is given a new face, It is time to liberate it. So winning the election was like a dream come true. I can finally work on the chapter and make it an example for other state guilds to follow and I promise that I will never go back on any of my electoral promises.
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You said you want to liberate it, was it in bondage before?
The truth is that the past 16 years I have spent in the industry, I found out that AGN especially in Lagos has not been well represented. Our collective responsibilities, our liberties and principles are being eroded by some disgruntled elements. They are not only bringing the guild down, they also want to cover it and swallow it. That was the guild I met before my election. A guild where the leadership is not conscious of collective good but are only there to fill their pockets. Any association like ours should have a target and do well for the benefit of others. So that when you leave the position, people will look back and say that you have done well. We have never had such history. The only history we remember is that of individuals turning the guild into a personal business, and squander all the guilds money, and when the leave they leave the coffers empty.
Despite your victory at the elections, some still say that you are not the winner of the election, how do you hope to reconcile the opposition?
After any election, there are always such challenges. Even before I contested, I knew that I would be faced with people who will not concede to my victory. The truth is that things should be done properly. If I had lost, I would not go rogue, I will go through the proper channels to make my voice heard. There is a process to challenge any election in the AGN. After the election that was free and fair, I was made the chairman. Anyone who feels that he is not happy about the outcome, there is a procedure to take. It is wrong for anybody to go on air to declare themselves winner or claim what is not true.
The people in AGN are learned people. If you complain that the election is not fair, then a panel will be set up to hear your grievances. If it is found that there are irregularities, then they will take steps to rectify it. What I expected is that the losers will write a petition against me. In fact they have the right to go to court to fight the election. It is wrong to go to the press to say bad things about the guild. This is the same guild you want to represent. It is wrong from any angle you look at it.
Some say you also brought thugs to the election venue and you were spoilt for a fight
That is a lie. That is a fantastic lie. The truth is that when you never expected some certain things to happen you can now say things you like to discredit those who are in the right. my coming in to contest is a blessing to a lot of actors in Lagos here. It is not like a do or die affair for me. For me to have abandoned all my businesses to contest for election was a thing of joy for many of the actors. Many of them who had not been attending meetings quickly went to revalidate their membership when they got to know that I was contesting. They all came out to support me and vote for me. One even told me that he was happy that I am contesting that they were all tired of the rubbish going on in the guild.
Even the man who is contesting against me, I don’t know him. I don’t know where he is coming from. Does he really have the pedigree, can he pull such support that I can pull. I have been in the industry for 16 years and I have paid my dues. Right now, I am not just an actor, I am a brand. I am easily recognisable, and my name opens doors. I am not bragging. So I see no reason such a person will find it hard to accept that I won the election fair and square.
All that talk that I brought in thugs are merely talks. There were many people at the place where the election held and they will tell you that I did not have any thug with me. All my supporters came casted their vote, and the electoral body did their job. Even the police force were there to make sure there was peace. Have the police made any report that I brought thugs? Can thugs operate where there are armed policemen? All these are just talks. Even the campaign manager to the man that lost the election came out to say that the elections were free and fair. So what other proof do you want? There was nothing like thugs or fight.
Won’t the position affect your career in any way?
It will not affect my career, instead it will take my career to another level. Who knows if this position will push me forward to bigger positions. It will be a big publicity for my brand and I will make sure that I keep everything professional. I will not let my work affect AGN nor AGN affect my work. Who knows, after these, I may try my hand on the local government chairman of my state
It’s like you are interested in full time politics
I am just making an example. This is just a step to somewhere. Contesting and winning an election can spur me on to go for higher offices. That is what I am saying.
There are lots of young actors out there who are still finding their footing. State AGN are meant to reach grassroots actors, how are you going to do this?
That is one of my manifesto. I want to create a platform for young actors to be able to find themselves and create a niche for themselves. There are lots of young actors out there who do not know what it takes to grow their talents. We are working on programmes to search for, train and engage young actors. That is surely in our plans. Our door are open. We ask anyone who is in the profession to come and be a part of us. Even old members who have stopped relating with the guild, we ask them to come. I was once an up and coming actor.
You once said you came to Lagos to hustle for roles, we can say that paid off.
Yes, I came in to Lagos to hustle. It took me sic years to get a role that made me popular, it took me another 16 years to get me to where I am today. the problem with the young ones of today is that they want to start acting today and instantly be a Genevieve or an Omotola. It is not easy to become a star. Out of a hundred, maybe just two will finally make it to stardom. Sometimes you can act in the whole film and not get recognised, and you can act in just one scene and become a huge success.
What is the secret to your own success?
An artiste that wants to be successful creates opportunities for himself or herself. When we were coming up, we used to scout for auditions. Even after graduating with a degree from Theatre arts. We would still go and allow ourselves to be auditioned by somebody we could lecture but these days, there is a lot of laziness which is really what leads to all the exploitation and sexual harassment. You can't sit on your backside and wait for a producer to call up your phone and ask you to come play in his movie. He will most likely ask for favours to do that for you. They need to be out there looking for how best to break through while the guild provides them with support services.
You act mostly funny roles, can you ever act serious roles?
It is you that see it as a funny role. For me all the roles are challenging. You may see how I am acting and it will make you laugh, but look at me very well, you will see that I am serious while acting these roles. It is all part of the training. For you cut across your audience, you must be serious and have passion in what you do. If someone can watch you and cry or watch you and cry, it shows you have done very well with your work as an actor.
You must have faced difficult times when coming up?
Not really. I knew very early in life that nothing good comes easy. So I was ready to work very hard to achieve success. I am a graduate of theatre arts and when I came out, I saw people who were hustling for roles like myself.
There are many actor falling to scams, when they are promised roles, that is not good for the profession don’t you think?
We are aware of what is going on. Much as we are working hard to identify these people and prosecute them the artistes themselves are also to blame. I do not know why a new artiste, even some established ones will allow themselves to be used as pawns because they want to work. How can a man sleep with you, ask you to pay for it, give you a waka pass role and when the production is finished you won't get remunerated. I mean that is absolute madness. But I promise you such things will stop when we get into office.
Registered AGN members will soon start demanding a producer or directors registration details before agreeing to work with such people. We will make sure of that. It is not just registration scams. We do not have a secretariat so there is no accountability. People finish from office and walk away with documents so we cannot ask questions about financial improprieties. Part of my work will include creating opportunities for creative entrepreneurship. An artiste needs to have multiple streams of income and we are going to be bringing professionals from different fields to interface with us on how to get involved in other areas of industry and the economy so we can be empowered more.
What is the talk of health care for actors, what is it about?
In conjunction with my President Ibinabo I will also work to improve health care, insurance and housing for the artiste. All those schemes are already on we just need to continue working to improve on the ground work which has already been done. I also believe that we need to start celebrating ourselves while we are alive. I don't want to attend another candle light procession for a deceased artsiste. It is because of this that we are hosting past interim chairman Prince Ifeanyi Dike on the same election Saturday at Mac Nuel productions. It is a trend we need to foster.
Why did it take you almost 14 years before taking your wife to the altar?
Some people even said it was because I didn’t have money to organise the wedding. But to me, it was a deliberate act. It was a promise made to God that when he blesses me I’m going to celebrate my marriage in a very big way. I don’t owe my in-laws, everything about marriage was done in 2002 but I promised God that if he keeps me alive by the time my last born would be five years old, I would celebrate my marriage, alongside my children. And that was exactly what I did immediately my last born clocked five.
What motivated you to have your wedding in a truck?
That was my own way of entertaining people because the entertainment must continue and that is my job as a comic actor. I must apply all the tactics within my disposal to make my fans happy. It is not only on screen that I can make people smile and laugh. I felt that I could also achieve same without being on TV. I was using the occasion to celebrate my wife having endured for a long time waiting for me. I made my fans realise that I’m a core entertainer on and off the screen. Port Harcourt knew that someone was wedding on that day.
You must command a lot of attention from ladies, as a married man how do you cope?
If these female fans are not there, there won't be me. But basically part of what I've learnt in life that has sustained me so far is how to manage myself as an artiste. Women are part of my success and they need to be treated with care. They will always be there. No African woman will come and tell you she loves you and you should take her to bed. It's not our culture. These women respect me apart from just admiring me and I respect myself. Besides, I'm a happily married man so why would any woman want to have something intimate with me especially when I'm not that kind of man. I'm not a womanizer and I don't think I would ever be. My wife has always been enough for me. She is a precious gift to me.
Comedy for you was it inborn or you learnt it?
It's inborn and runs in the blood. It's a special talent that God has given me. Even if you learn it you won't be able to do it like someone who was born with it who is gifted.
How come you don't do stand-up comedy then?
I still do stand-up comedy but it's not my specialty. Most times I'm always on the set when I'm being called for stand up comedy shows. I have an annual comedy show titled Owerri Must Laugh and normally invite some other artistes to come and entertain people