By OPEOLUWANI OGUNJIMI
In Nigeria today, the name Julius Agwu has become a household name. A comedian, singer and author, he shares some of his plans and experiences in this chat. Excerpts:
What is it about this year’s ‘Crack Ya Ribs’?
It was something we started here in Nigeria but at some point, we just thought it was necessary to take it across to, not just Nigerians in diaspora but to the whole world; that Nigerians have something to offer.
Some negative stories other countries have about us should be erased. Of course, every country has its good and the bad side. But ours have been over-celebrated. So Crack Ya ribs is a way to let them know that we have something worthwhile to offer. We use entertainment as a vehicle to celebrate ourselves.
And part of what I do is try as much as possible to use comedy not just for laughing but to teach morals and for nation-building.
When you see talents like Bovi and Funny Bones, they are those that can carry what we have to other countries and say we are proud to be Nigerians.
So when is it holding?
The London show holds on the 23rd of August. And by the way, it’s the first time we will be having it at the Indigo O2. So as I clock 40, I decided to redo a lot of things. I just decided to re-arrange myself and re-package myself. We are doing Manchester this year and it’s going to be the first time. For the London event we have Bovi, FunnyBone, Senator, Akpororo, and another comedians based in the UK. On the side of music, we have Kcee, May D, Harrison and other artistes, some of them based in the UK. Over the years, I realized that so many talents abound and they don’t have the opportunity to showcase. So I use this platform to showcase them.
Do you already have sponsors?
We tried to get Diamond Bank because they just opened their UK branch. But after a lot of hurdles, they agreed to support us but it hasn’t been fully signed. Another is Cargo services, a company based in the UK and Liberia.
Why is Arik not supporting this year?
We already wrote them and we believe they might still come up to do something. But what they did is to remove N10 000 from each ticket so what it means is that we are buying tickets this time.
What about the Abuja show?
When we return from UK, we will hold the Abuja show. But Hon.Abike Dabiri who is my friend, I called her and told her the importance of using this platform to promote the image of the country especially as Nigeria is approaching centenary. You can’t talk about laundering the image of this country without using entertainment as a vehicle. What’s fascinating about Nigeria without entertainment. When they want to travel, we know how many charlatans follow them, people who don’t have any role they are going to play with them over there! I’ve been saying it over the years that entertainers are the ambassadors of this country because their generation has failed us. Our entertainment is no.1 in Africa.
We know what we pass through to get sponsors. Last year, we were stranded in America because we decided to ignore other foreign airlines and patronise our local airline. We flew Virgin Nigeria to London. From London we flew to New York and we were supposed to fly back through London. We were in New York when we heard that Virgin Nigeria has closed down. Till today, nobody is talking about refunds and we can’t even sue them, that’s Nigeria for you.
So I spoke with Hon.Abike Dabiri but she hasn’t responded. Meanwhile, we have many of our artistes who supported us even when I haven’t paid them a dime but they’ll definitely get paid.
Why didn’t you stage the show in Lagos?
Lagos appears to have seen it all concerning the show. So I decided to starve Lagosians with Crack Ya Ribs for a while and see if they will complain or not. Lagosians are too familiar with us and they seem to have seen it all so they don’t get excited about shows again. So let me go to places where they still appreciate me and when Lagosians are hungry then we will come back.
So how would you know when to bring it back?
We will know when they start complaining. We did it for Laff 4 Christ Sake held a couple of weeks back and it worked.
Let me say this- it is sad that we don’t have event venues. We are always at the mercies of hotels. Entertainment in Nigeria has passed the stage of lack of venue. Do you know that it costs N16m to stage a show in Eko Hotel. So if I spend that much on the venue, what about adverts? The Nigerian government doesn’t want Nigerians to be happy anymore because they charge us for everything. And even when we call for sponsors we don’t get. So that was why we had to move it out of Lagos because we have loads of challenges facing us. So the Abuja show is on the 29th then we end it in Port-Harcourt.
I’m also planning the Julius Agwu Ruff,Rugged and Raw show in November. It’s going to be the last vulgar show I’ll be holding.
Why the last vulgar show from you?
Trust me, it’s something that people look forward to. I believe that God is calling me but he hasn’t called me directly because I can’t decide on my own.
Why are you into music because it doesn’t seem to be as strong as your comic side
Let it be known that I’m not into music to be judged by my dexterity or be placed at par with the likes of Banky W. I do it because it’s my passion and it gives me joy. A lot of people wonder why I spend so much money on music and I tell them it’s just a way of catching fun.
I’ve come to grow with comedy and that’s how I came to meet comedians like FunnyBone. I met him at a show . Then I heard there’s a young man in Kaduna who claims to be me as a role model. So anywhere there was a show they would call him and he would go and dance Okombo for them. I didn’t know about this until I went for a show in Kaduna and after the show, someone said FunnyBone wanted to see me. By the time I saw him, he looked tattered and wore a Dunlop slippers. He wanted to faint when he saw me. And that was what an album did for me, it made me a household name. So when he told me he wanted to do comedy, I told him to first go to school. Now he’s a Theater Arts graduate from the University of Jos.
When we started the game, we were poor children trying to convince our parents to allow us because education doesn’t guarantee wealth, that we could make it with our talents. But now, even rich men allow their children go into comedy. Now it’s easy to be a star and it was not so during our time. So we have met the standard of America.
So after my first album, some said I’m nothing without Awilo because they felt I copied his music and can’t sing. So to prove to them that I can do my thing, I had to release another track called My Style.
So I released an album Julius De Junius in 2011. In it, I have tracks with the likes of Tuface, Efya, M.I and Jesse Jagz , and the album have lots of great songs in it. So I’m proud of my achievement in music.
What about your book?
It’s titled Jokes Apart.If someone like King Sunny Ade can still be an entertainer at is age, then why should I give up? God knows the right time for everyone of us to blow on this job even though we have been around for so long. Some Goodluck Jonathan’s friends became rich at old age as a result of Jonathan’s influence. So there’s no hurry in life because you’ll get to where God wants you to get to. At this stage I should know that entertainment is my calling so I can’t change to another career.
The only thing is that more young people come into the field everyday. The only thing is to rebrand because there must be challenges in everything we do. So the book is about everything I went through on my way to stardom. Anybody can become a star but not everybody can manage stardom.
How do you handle your female fans?
My wife understands the kind of business that I do. I have an understanding wife and I know where to draw the line. That’s the truth. God has been the bedrock of our marriage. That understanding that we both share; understanding of each other’s temperament and shortcomings has been made possible by God.