By Benjamin Njoku
Okechukwu McAnthony Onyeghule,Â akaÂ Okey Bakassi is a a highly Â Â sought Â Â Â after stand-up comedian, Nollywood actor, master of ceremonies and acclaimed all round entertainer. He was appointed a Senior Assistant to Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo state on Entertainment few years back.
Happily married with two lovely daughters, he has been in the business of entertainment for 16 years. In this encounter at the Oâ€™jez celebrity outfit last weekend, Bakassi renders account of his office, explaining why showbiz practitioners are not getting the much needed attention from government amongst others.
You are more visible in the political arena than you are seen in the entertainment sector? I wouldnâ€™t say I have moved away from the entertainment industry into politics. Rather, I have moved from one entertainment location in Lagos to become a Senior Assistant to Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, on Entertainment. So, itâ€™s one aspect of entertainment to another aspect of entertainment in two different locations.
It has been challenging actually. I have learnt new things, and for me, itâ€™s a period of growth. It has helped me to grow and acquire more knowledge in areas where I didnâ€™t have much knowledge. Especially in the area of governance, policy making as it affects day to day running of government.
Also, it has been a rewarding experience in terms of knowledge acquisition. It has been very challenging especially in getting to know other ways of doing things thatâ€™s quite different from the way we used to do them.
Whatâ€™s it youâ€™ve have learnt in government?
Like I said earlier, when you are outside the corridors of power, there are lots of things that you believe, based on what you read in the national dailies. But when you come closer to governance, you begin to realize that some of those things you read in the papers are not the way they are represented in the media.
There are more to it than you read in the dailies. Then, you get to know first hand why certain things are done the way they are done as against what you were meant to read in the dailies. Being at the centre of activities, I got to hear, know and behold the entire story. And itâ€™s an eye- opening experience for me. Secondly, as an entertainer, I have a lot of expectations of government concerning ways of improving the lives of those in the showbiz industry in Imo state.
As one gets more involved in governance, one begins to acknowledge why entertainment is not the only issue that requires attention. Rather, there are other aspects of life that need equal attention. And I must say here that those of us in the entertainment business are responsible for what has been happening to us.
For instance, the various leadership tussles that have been trailing associations like Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, PMAN and Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, have not helped matters. These two associations are essentially set up to cater for the welfare of their members.
But instead of the major players to focus more on the business of protecting the interest and welfare of their members, they are playing dirty politics. As long as they continue to play the politics of division, no state government would want to do any business with the bodies because of the fact that the governments do not want to be associated with negativity.
You now find out that instead of the industry to get the desired attention, it is denying itself the attention by constantly fighting against things that are not relevant. When we advise against the prevailing anomaly, as those representing the industry in government, the key players donâ€™t seem to adhere to our words of wisdom.
Given your portfolio, how much experience have you brought to the entertainment industry in Imo state?
A lot of it. First and foremost, it was when I assumed office that the actorsâ€™ guild in Imo state started enjoying closer relationship with the state government as well as making inroads into government. Also, I know the role I have so far played in trying to stablise PMAN in Imo.
Besides these, I have also created a brand that has provided a platform for artistes in Imo state to showcase their talents and thus, benefit from the state government. The brand is called, â€œIbuchiafoâ€ which is the biggest concert that happens in Imo once in a year.
It takes place every 31st of December to send off the outgoing year, and perhaps, usher in the new year. We use the show to give the staff of Imo State Arts and Council the platform to showcase their talents. Also, once in a while, I try to bring in relevant artistes to theÂ Government House to perform when the need arises.
So far, how would you describe the state of entertainment industry before and after your appointment?
Before His Excellency, Ohakim appointed me as his Senior Assistant on Entertainment, Imo State was virtually overlooked in terms of entertainment. For instance,Â big multi-national companies, wishing to mount a show in Nigeria prefer taking their shows to Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt.
But the reverse is the case now as all that has changed. Imo is no longer a transit, but rather it has become a destination. Organizations now put Imo into consideration when planning to mount shows in major cities of the country.
It is on record that NBTL left Lagos to host their event in Imo State. In fact, under this administration, Imo state has played host to the Nigerian Music Awards for the first time in the history of the state. Also, we have hosted other high profile events in the state.
Night of a Thousand Laugh has been hosted in Imo for the first timeÂ in the state, just as Globacom has severally come to the state to host their events. In a nutshell, there has been an improvement in showbiz business in Imo state since this administration came on board.
While you are on a political appointment, your other careers like acting and stand-up comedy have been suffering?
Actually, something has to give way for another. Thereâ€™s no way I can give acting 100 per cent as well as giving stand-up comedy the same percentage, and at the same time perform my role as the Senior Assistant to the governor on entertainment.
My first priority at the moment is to the people of Imo state regarding the position governor Ohakim has offered me. Then, in the cause of discharging this noble duty, I still find time to perform my shows and return to my first love. But itâ€™s movie making that I have left for something now because of the fact that it requires a lot of time and attention.
How are you coping with shuttling between Imo and Lagos?
I live and work in Imo state . But I visit Lagos like every other person during weekends.
When you look back on how you started and where you are at the moment, do you have any cause to regret or applaud yourself?
Not at all. Regrets have never been in my vocabulary. I donâ€™t have to regret anything because as a human being, we are prone to making mistakes, as well as we learn from our mistakes. Most of the action I have taken in my life, I have taken them cautiously. If it pays off, to God be the glory, and if it doesnâ€™t achieve the desired result, I learn from it and then move on in life.