Nollywood has come a great distance from the million naira business it was on the flip of the millennium. Now value billions of Naira, Nigeria’s movie business contributed 2.3% and about N239 billion ($660 million) to the GDP of the nation in 2021.
Whereas that accounts for films alone, different types of leisure like music and comedy contribute to the financial development and even high quality of lifetime of Nigerians. Okechukwu Anthony Onyegbule, extra generally often known as Okey Bakassi determined a very long time in the past that he wouldn’t solely be a silent observer of the present socio-political local weather and developments within the leisure enterprise.
Okey Bakassi has come a great distance from his first position on TV within the 90s however he nonetheless has extra to perform. Talking to Nairametrics, he shared his expertise and ideas concerning the begin of his profession, what the digital age is doing for comedy, and the civic obligation everybody with an leisure platform has. He strongly believes that Nigerians within the diaspora have an important position to play within the rebirth of Nigeria and he desires to play an important position by way of his artwork.
How did you get into the enterprise of appearing and comedy?
After finding out agricultural engineering, I got here to Lagos for the primary time 1993 for my nationwide youth service. Issues had been somewhat powerful then. I had 4 siblings again dwelling on the establishment degree, and my father had retired from the military. I left Port Harcourt and arrived in Lagos with solely N750 on my particular person. Then I headed to the Iyana Ipaja orientation camp. On the finish of orientation, I had no clue what I’d do however knew I needed to succeed”.
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Okey reached out to a pal who was gracious sufficient to host him. Former college mates had been instrumental for him in these first couple of months till he was about to lease his first place – a one-room residence in Palmgrove, after which one thing in Festac. He knew he needed to be reasonable and take issues one step at a time, not dwelling above his means as so many within the leisure business are vulnerable to.
You’re extra recognized in your comedy. Did Comedy come earlier than appearing?
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In college, I did campus leisure. It entailed all the things from dwell skits to stand-up comedy and performs. It was the campus performs and dramas that motivated me to pursue a occupation in it”.
Zeb Ejiro and his late brother, Chico gave him his first platform. I featured in 11 episodes at the moment. Nollywood was in its formative stage and didn’t pay prefer it did now nevertheless it was an important expertise to be part of one thing like that. I gathered the expertise from all the things I learnt at school and utilized it to the position. I additionally dreamt larger and noticed issues in a different way. Opa Williams was additionally a considerable a part of my early profession. Opa Williams created Evening of a Thousand Laughs and it revolutionised comedy in Nigeria, paving a approach for comics to earn cash for his or her work.
Ripples was the longest-running drama collection on NTA within the Nineties, a interval that many take into account the golden age of Nigeria tv collection and exhibits and Key Bakasi featured in it.
Would you encourage younger folks to enter comedy?
Sure, I don’t see why not. I’d advise anybody to enter any optimistic platform that they discover happiness in and that might enrich mankind and our expertise right here.
What’s preparation for you earlier than a present?
It relies upon. A present that I produce and a present that I solely carry out at have totally different preparation instances. Producing is extra tasking. Because the producer, I’d be saddled with the accountability of bringing on different artists, advertising and marketing, working with companions, and logistics. In some instances, I might even be performing along with producing. However in instances when there’s a promoter or a producer, the workload is much less.
Finally, making ready to carry out is merely writing out a information. It may be ready correctly however spontaneity would change issues after I’m on stage. Nigerian comics don’t have comedy writers like there are in different nations. Right here, we function each writers and performers. The power from the viewers and issues that come up could change my setlist.
The digital age has modified how comedy is perceived. The final couple of years have seen an increase in comedic skits made by younger Nigerians. Do you suppose this could imply fewer stand-up comics and extra digital comedians?
Know-how will at all times evolve, and because it does, so does the best way we devour content material. First, it was images, there was a time not everybody had a digicam or didn’t know what to do with the movie after taking photos however now many individuals have smartphones. We’ve additionally seen it in videography. It developed from tape to CDs to laserdisc to DVD, however in the long run, dwell theatre nonetheless exists.
It will probably by no means go extinct as a result of moreover having fun with the content material on gadgets, folks will nonetheless need to watch dwell as a result of it’s a totally different expertise. Within the enterprise of content material creation, one has to study to cater to all demographics. I made skits again in college nevertheless it was dwell. If it occurred in right this moment’s world, it could have been recorded. Adapt creativity to the brand new platform.
There may be additionally an fascinating skit-maker to Nollywood actor pipeline. Do you suppose it’s merited?
The demerits of numerous issues turning into digital is that it has created lazy entertainers. Many new entertainers don’t write authentic. They simply regurgitate, plagiarise, and pirate content material they’ve seen earlier than. When this occurs, it comes right down to who the buyer sees firsts. You would watch 5 variations of a skit and never know who first got here up with it. It tears away the authenticity and makes the entertainers look like thieves typically.
So, whereas we have fun know-how and social media and the alternatives it offers us, I’d encourage entertainers to work tougher in creating authentic content material.
You may have been vocal about your political perception and stance. Why do you suppose it’s extra necessary now for entertainers and content material creators to be extra hands-on now?
Politics is without doubt one of the trickiest issues an entertainer will need to dabble into. They function within the public eye and it earns social capital. Scorching button subjects like faith, politics can result in murky waters. As soon as it’s risked and people subjects are topic in your content material, you might be certain to threat dropping potential followers and even turning present ones to energetic adversaries.
As a human, and as somebody who’s of age, we can’t distance ourselves from social obligations. Politics is a method and course of and we can’t flip a deaf eye and ear to it or block out what is going on. After we achieve this, we fail ourselves nevertheless it instantly impacts us.
Society suffers when good males don’t act. We’ve got shied away from our accountability for therefore lengthy so now we should communicate. Followers could not perceive however being within the public eye means we now have to do what we really feel is correct and hope that on the finish of that, historical past will decide us proper.
Are you presently engaged on something?
Due to all that has been occurring within the nation and the Japa phenomenon, Nigerians within the diaspora. You’ll have left the motherland however all of us have roots there. When you could search greener pastures, we must always bear in mind our ancestral dwelling. No matter the place we’re, we must always assist the nation in any approach we are able to. Contemplating all of this, we’re internet hosting an Independence present on October 1 in Toronto, Canada.
Nigerian artists who’ve relocated can be performing. There can be an opera singer flown in for the present. The Don, E-Gus, Grand Commander, and myself amongst different abilities will likely be there so as to add color to the day.
It will likely be a day to assemble and have fun the nation that produced us and produced different nice folks. Our personal Naija day in Canada.