By Pascal AIGBOGUN & Ekaette Bassey
Daniel Nwoka, popularly known as Dan D Humourous is a household name in the Nigerian entertainment industry. In this interview with Vanguard correspondents, the standup comedian cum actor bares it all on issues relating to family, career, politics and a potent message to the Nigerian youths.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Daniel Chibuzor Nnwoka. I am a Nigerian from Rivers state. I am a comedian, an actor, an entertainment entrepreneur. I am politically conscious and socially aware. I am a husband, a father, a brother and of course, popularly known as Dan D Humourous.
As a comedian and actor, which of these give you more personal satisfaction?
Well, I will say it is standup comedy because that is the root. It is where I started from. Stand up comedy requires one to very imaginative. So, I can say that it is stand up comedy that has shaped me to be the actor I am now and will be later. This is because whatever level of success I attain as an actor tomorrow is always going to be traced back to Dan D Humouous, the comedian.
You have background in the science and arts, now you are stuck with the arts, did you choose it or it chose you?
Well, I think I was born with the arts. I just did not realise it on time. I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer. I do not regret my foray into science though because it has helped me to approach my arts in a scientific way. I belong to the arts but I am glad I went through a scientific route.
A lot of people knew you as a Port-Harcourt based comedian but these days, with some of your new projects, you have become a household name in Lagos. How did you manage the transition?
Well, first I will like to say it is the work of the Almighty God. The Holy book says that except the Lord keeps a city, the watcher watches but in vain. That aside though, I started out with a broad mindset, in the sense that I always saw myself not as a Port-Harcourt comedian but one with a national and global outlook. I am a national and global performer who only resided in Port-Harcourt at a time. Even when I was in Port-Harcourt, I created and nurtured professional relationships across the aisle, under the mentorship of Julius Agwu. So, moving to Lagos was not a transition but a mere geographical relocation. Plus, Lagos has a way of specially welcoming people even when you think you already know the town. So, these existing relationships helped me a lot and looking back now, I would say it was a good move because if I were still in Port-Harcourt, I probably would not have attained some professional heights that I have reached today.
As a live performer, would you say there is difference between South-South and the Lagos audience?
Well, yes. Just like humans have their peculiar tastes and preferences, their are differences. For example, the Lagos audience is more open minded, probably because of their party and fun loving nature. They are more patient. They give you a chance. In the South, your first one minute is your make or break one. You must make and keep that impression or risk being pulled off balance but in Lagos, a comedian can be up there for the first two to three minutes before he finds the rhythm and the audience still rides on. It is worse in the East. The South Eastern audience is a bit too loud and impatient with stand up comedians. It is more difficult for first time performers in Port-Harcourt but if they accept you, they accept you with all your flaws and if they do not accept you, they will reject you with all your accolades.
As a standup comedian and actor, what are your worst challenges in the industry?
I would say it is largely how to sustain, maintain and raise the bar on performance each time a level of success is attained. It is always how to change the status quo and do something different and better. For instance, I started out as a standup comedian. Then I went on to anchor some political satire shows on television. Then came “flatmates” which has been on for more than three years now. So, the challenge is always how to create new concepts and do things better.
Your craft requires you to be on the road a lot, you also have a spouse who happens to be in the entertainment industry, how then do you balance things up on the home front?
For me, I think it is all about prioritisation. Luckily, I happen to be blessed with a very understanding partner. We understand our schedules and the peculiarities of our jobs. She is very patient and supportive. The understanding and co-operation is there, so everything is covered. We always find time to balance things up, especially being there for the children.
As a standup comedian, how has social media enhanced your brand and what is your take on it’s planned regulation by government?
First of all, I like to say that social media is a blessing to this generation. It is direct means of exportation and importation of information, entertainment, culture and other values across to users beyond geographical boundaries. Social media has proved to be one of the best space for effective and efficient distribution of contents in a fast changing world.
That is why we have people these days who reside in other states but are major players in the entertainment industry whose headquarter is in Lagos. All they need to do is create good content and circulate same via social media. It’s influence can not be de-emphasised.
However, people who are pushing for it’s censorship or regulation have to come out and sincerely tell the people the spirit and letters behind their calls. Let the parameters be clear. Of course we know the dangers in fake news and the fact that people peddle hateful and divisive narratives on social media but there are existing laws to checkmate these. There are existing laws on plagiarism, slander, libel and seditious contents. But for someone to just wake up one day and say shut down social media, that will be creating nine problems while trying to solve one. Nobody can shut down social media.
You participated in the end SARS protests, looking back at the whole turn of event, would you say it worth it?
To a very reasonable extent, it was worth it because we see some sort of activities from government. Even though they may not be as timely and accurate as we may have envisaged, but they did hear our voices. Social media also played a role in the organisation of these protests. Unfortunately, we let things fester and the protests got hijacked by some other elements.
That was why I was always fighting for the need to engage the government on a round table. You will recall that the government initially agreed with the five demands of the youth and even called for representations but a lot of people declined. I had a problem with that because I know that the key word in such struggles should be engagement. Every demonstration should naturally lead to a point of engagement. This is the point where we must gather ourselves and set performance parameters that are tied to time. We need to do more in terms of effectively engage the government.
There was this controversy during the whole crisis, were some persons accused you of taking sides with government and supporting and participating in pro-Sars
Rally in Port-Harcourt, is this true?
No, it is not true. It was nothing more than the handwork of some youths like me, sadly, who happen to be on the other side of the political divide in my state. Police brutality cannot be politically coloured. We have all been victims directly or indirectly at different times.
If not for public recognition, my ordeals with them might have well gone very sour on some occasions. In fact, the prayer walk and peaceful march carried out in my area of Ojodu/Magodo was conceptualized and powered by my friends and I. We all saw it. It was highly publicised.
How can I pull down a house that I helped to build? The only difference is I partook in a peaceful walk by some of my colleagues in Port-Harcourt where we preached the message of changing gears by engaging the government on a round table discussion. The demands were clear. We only said let us pin actions and timelines to yhe implementation of these demands. Does that amount to marching in favour of SARS? Well, I am used to these type of political blackmails in my state. I think they had to come up with something because they have obviously missed me for so long.
How should the struggle for better governance be managed going forward?
Good governance is more of a journey than a destination. The actualisation of one course natural leads to the other. The impact of the ENDSARS movement was phenomenal.
For the first time in a long time, the youths of this country across all divides spike with one voice. Our parents and gobernment listened. What they do with what they heard is left to be witnessed.
However, I think we have passed the stage of protests. It is time for the Nigerian youths to come out and participate actively in the political process. We need a change in policies, we must be part of the politics. We must go back to the basics.
At the local or state level, there is something that we all can contribute. We should be the ones who build consciousness and help other people become more aware. I am a member of a think tank group whose responsibility is to better the lots of the greater number through good policies in my state.
Politics affects every facets of our lives and the sooner the youths of this country gets more involved, the better it will be for us all. I encourage all youths out there to get registered to vote and be voted for before the next general elections. The days of the devil we know should end. It is possible to have a collection of angels we do know. We can not achieve that if the angles do not come out to make their impact felt.
Having said all that, can we safely assume that you are a member of a political party?
Yes I am. I have been since 2012.
Does your membership of a political party limit your level of objectivity?
Traditionally, members of a political party should align with the visions of their party but it should not be like that all the times. That is why you have people defecting to other parties. Being a party member doesn’t make one a slave. As a reasonable person, when I am told to jump, i should ask why and not how high. I was a member of another party at a different time. My political mentor was also a member of different parties at different times. We must participate in politics if a peaceful and prosperous society is what we want. We cannot do this if we as youths continually take the back seat.
Do you have issues with some celebrities who did not support the SARS movement?
Not at all. These things are based on convictions. We all have reasons why we do what we do. They have a right to own their opinions. Some of us didn’t appear in Lekki for personal reservations but that did not stop us from organising people for peaceful walks in our areas. Besides it was not only celebrities who did not show support. Some lawyers abstained. Some other professionals too. Even the thugs and hoodlums also had some of their members who stayed away because of one or two reasons. In life, it is important not to pile unnecessary pressures on people. Most of them are entertainers and not activists or social crusaders. It is ok for people not to endorse products or movements that they do not believe in.
How did you come about the honorable Dan Chibuike Wike sobriquet?
Well, in a way, that was just me taking advantage of the rivalry between the two political gladiators in my state, from a humourous angle of course. If you like you can call them the Davido and Wizkid of Rivers politics. It does not mean I am a combination of both characters. That is why the emphasis is on the “or”, for disclaiming purpose.
What should your fans expect as new projects soon?
This was supposed to be a great year. We had a lot of plans but Covid 19 came. We have some good contents already prepared and some political satires are also in the pipeline. However, we can not do things the way we use to due to the exigency of the times and that is why we need to move the playground to the internet. My fans should expect a lot before the year runs out and in the first quarter of next year. Details of these are there on my pages on social media.
Do you think you suffer political aggression in Rivers state because of your relationship with the Transportation Minister?
Well, I am happy to have got political mentorship and tutelage from him. He inspired the leadership tendencies in me but that does not mean I must align with all he says or does. I have people who depend on me for inspiration and leadership too. The man has paid his price. I am his mentee but not a stooge.
Lastly, a message for Nigerian Youths
To the youths. This is the time we have been clamouring for. The future is here. We cannot ride on wishes. We need to start organising ourselves. 2023 is just around the corner. This is our time. We need to be part of the process. There is always something to contribute. Support your friends who are aspirants. Spread the consciousness and together, we can have a better society. May God bless Nigeria.