"Trust in Nigeria's Future"

"Trust in Nigeria's Future"

Monday 21 April 2014

Comedians earn far more than actors in Nigeria — Okey Bakassi

Okechukwu Mac-Anthony known in the entertainment world as Okey Bakassi has been around in the make-believe world for over two decades. As an accomplished actor and stand-up comedian, Okey’s rich profile earned him appointment as  Senior Special Assistant on Entertainment Affairs to the erstwhile Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State. He speaks with Richard Udofia on variety of issues, including his purported letter to God on the problems of Nigeria. Excerpts:

As the former Senior Special Assistant to the  administration in Imo State on Entertainment Matters, will you love to serve if given an opportunity under the incumbent government?
The answer to this is dependent on my predisposition, and I don’t put such response in the public domain. But honestly speaking, I do embrace every opportunity to serve the people, but when the philosophy, ideology and beliefs of any administration  are  not in consonance with mine, I find it difficult to function. As for this administration in my state, I want to state it categorically that I will not want to serve in any capacity because we do not have the same philosophy and ideology.

You were quoted as saying that, being a comedian pays more than an actor in the movie industry in Nigeria. How?
An A- list stand-up comedian today in Nigeria earns more than an actor in the movie industry, that’s a fact. Forget about the glamour, the pictures or mansions you see, I speak as an authority.

Aside the entertainment industry, that is, comedy and acting, which area would you love to give a try?
I would rather love to stay in my area of strength, and maximize it. As a graduate of Agricultural engineering, I can function in sectors like agriculture, engineering, among others. In life, it is needful to always give your best to that which you see as being your area of strength and develop on it.

You love being addressed as a comedian rather than an ex-politician. Why?
I love being addressed as an entertainer, because as either a comedian or an actor, you entertain people and make them forget their problems. Entertainment industry is where I derive my joy from, and I won’t trade it for anything.

Sometime ago, you were alleged to have written a letter to God. What prompted you to do it?
Long before our so-called bigwigs began to write open-letters, I had written mine to God. I woke up one day and I started reminiscing on the fate of Nigeria, looking at all the corruption practices, wanton killings, high rate of inflation, political scheaming among others, and I said to myself, if I am given an opportunity to see God face to face, some of the questions I would love him  to  answers, and for me to get the items right, I needed to put them in black and white; that prompted me to write that letter that went viral.

Although if you go through the items I wrote, they were mostly national issues and not personal.  We live in a country where nobody is safe, street urchins are there daily, unemployment is having a multiplier effect on the economy, corruption is glorified, insecurity is sky-rocketing, insensitivity of government to the cries of the ordinary man are ignored. There and many more issues prompted me to write that letter.

I want to correct the notion that I meant death for myself, rather, it was only logical for me to put down things I would have loved God to correct in our country. Or have you forgotten that comedians are very logical, sensitive and clinical in delivery of content?

Recently, Nollywood celebrated her twentieth anniversary. How do you assess the industry?
Honestly speaking, we tend not to know the value of what we have until we lose it. Nollywood has done a lot for this country, in terms of branding, packaging and delivery to the outside world. In my candid view, Nollywood is rated second or third in the world in the  entertainment industry. I have met a lot of foreigners who were thrilled about our cultures and opportunities.

Also, it has created more job opportunities for thousands of Nigerians.  Nollywood is striving to overtake Hollywood. Have you asked yourself how Hollywood was when it celebrated its twentieth anniversary? With time and hardwork, Nollywood will grow to be a force to reckon with in the world.

What can you say Nigeria needs in order to claim the ‘Giant of Africa’ status?
Nigeria is suffering from leadership problem; and until we get it right, we won’t get anywhere. Corruption is the bane of Nigeria;  and if we have leaders who are ready to serve, then our fortunes can be turned around.

Parting words
My wife is the key to my success in this industry, aside God. She is indeed a friend who did give me time to nurture my dream and craft to the best of my ability. Many people don’t know that I am twenty years in this industry. Although I did serve in government in Imo State, and also engage in other chains of businesses, people do think I am a rich man,  in this industry, I don’t know of riches but one thing I know is that, I am a happy man.

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