Wednesday, 28 August 2013

AK Comedians deserve to be treated fairly by State Govt - Sir James

AK Comedians deserve to be treated fairly by State Govt - Sir James

The name “Sir James” has become a ringtone in the South-South comedy industry. Widely travelled, he remains the 1st Akwa Ibom born comedy act to package his creativity into a video CD in 2004 titled “Judas”. Again, he is the 1st comedian from Akwa-Cross to be nominated into Niger-Delta Advancement Awards – NDAA, under the Best Uprising Comedian category. Recently, he emerged as Best Akwa – Cross Comedian – 2013 on the stables of NTANTA Awards. In a chat with THE INK newspaper, the chairman, Comedian’s International – Akwa Ibom State bares his mind on Sundry issues.

it is on record that you are Akwa Ibom’s most decorated comedian; lead us into some of the awards.
Hahaha… As the saying goes, it’s the Lords doing and it’s marvelous in our eyes. But to be sincere, it’s not all about me but my state Akwa Ibom. We are blessed in all ramifications. In the entertainment circles we are not left out and I can reveal to you that Akwa Ibom State still has more talents yet to be discovered. Nine years ago when destiny introduced me into comedy, I made a vow to God that if comedy will not make me a success story, he should retract my paths in life and today, God has not failed me. To be listed amongst the made names is still a dream to me.

I have paid my dues in the game; I have travelled to also see what is happening in other places. Akwa Ibom comedians are good. To your question, Hmmm! I have 21 awards & recognitions from various bodies and organizations but I will love to cherish 5 of those awards. They are Best Comedian in Tuskers Republic (University of Uyo) in 2006, coming from an institution. I barely spent 2 years before the award. In 2007, a humanitarian organization Save the Children’s Campaign S.T.C.C. recognized me during their Annual Camp meeting in far away Akpabuyo L.G.A. in Cross River State. The third is my nomination as Best Uprising Comedian in Niger-Delta by Niger-Delta Advancement Award. Even if I don’t win, I will forever be grateful to God Almighty for using my fans to earn me such nomination. I remain the only Akwa-Cross Comedian to make NDAA list till date. Lastly, the recent award from Ntanta Awards as Best Akwa-Cross Comedian. Other awards came from The Performing Musicians & Employer’s Association of Nigeria – PMAN, faculties & departments within the Uniuyo community, Bush House Nigeria, etc.

But there is this information going round that Akwa Ibom comedians are not good enough for government events. This leads to the invitation of Lagos professionals for government events.
Such information will till eternity remain lies for as long as I remain a comedian. I earlier told you that Akwa Ibom State is blessed and still has a lot of talents untapped. When one government official resorts to auditioning a comedian before performance, how will such artiste present his best? Comedy is a profession not a hubby. I was once invited for a government event and on arrival a day to the event, I was told to crack jokes I intended to present and I smiled back to the man because at that point, I saw him as a fool. A man who is occupied by the exigencies of his portfolio, with a confused schedule telling me to perform to his already occupied brains. At the end, I and Bishop (Okon Lagos) missed performing that night. Let the truth be told, with respect to my colleagues based in Lagos & Abuja, many of them cannot stand most Akwa Ibom comedians to a competition. Their excuses surrounds on “Our comedians are not good” or “they are local comedians”. There is nothing like local comedian but home based comedian. Our entertainment loving governor Chief (Dr.) Godswill Akpabio has revolved Akwa Ibom to a digital state; he has created a unique environment for comedians to practice their trade, why should some selfish folks allege comedians wrongly? A Lagos based comedian will come and crack an old joke and at the end goes back with millions of our resources yet we the home based artistes who deserve a share of our state resources are left out. The fact is that when they invite those Lagos boys, their gain is far more than what they will gain when a home based artiste is invited.

If a Lagos based artiste is billed on N1.5million and at the end the artiste is paid N500, 000.00 won’t his invitee pocket N1million? Compared to a bill of N500,000 for an home based comedian and at the end, the home based goes him with N200,000.00 of what use is N300,000 as compared to N1milion naira to members of that “club” who keep shouting that Akwa Ibom State lacks good comedian? I recall two instances, in 2008, I was invited to perform at Engr. Patrick Ekpotu’s birthday and at the end, I was presented with a receipt of N500, 000 to sign but I was paid 150,000.

Of recent, I was billed to perform at the African Women’s Conference, everything was arranged at Abuja but on that gala/dinner night, the same people clamoring how Akwa Ibom lacks comic acts struck off my name and replaced it with Sheyi Law. On that night, Sheyi Law was a shadow of himself with a wack performance it was only Helen Paul that gave god account of herself. Lastly, when His Excellency, the president of Ghana visited Uyo, I was shocked to my bone marrows when a colleague who is an indigene of Rivers State, Dan De’ Humorous was introduced to the microphone as “Son of the Soil”, meaning an indigene of Akwa Ibom State. What an eye service? I pinched myself, what a lie on a Sunday afternoon. They keep fooling themselves thinking they are fooling us. Can you imagine a situation where Mista Xto, Mish, Pastor Goody Goody are asked to submit their music for screening before being scheduled to perform in a state function? Where was that fellow when these people made their names? I will always be controversial until the likes of MC Spinosky, Rechargeable, Utang Akwa Ibom, Skippo and many other tested comic acts from this state are availed the opportunity to also enjoy their state resources. Nobody is challenging their choice of inviting Lagos comedians; the protest is while inviting your “Lagos boys” also add our home based guys because they deserve to perform before their uncommon transforming governor who has transformed Akwa Ibom State to them to play their games. Go to the video market and pick up “Sak Sio” volume I & II, you will agree with me that Akwa Ibom has talents. If we were not good, I, Utang Akwa Ibom, Ice Kyd and Sir Wilker Jackson wouldn’t have been invited to Ghana for Akwa Ibom summit.

Before they started seeing me as controversial, I had been on their performance list a couple of times and we keep arguing on payment packages. I have been to the Annual Ukana Concert at Essien Udim and another government office holder after watching my performance asked why I am no longer a regular feature at government events, I replied “forces” within the corridors of power believes I should remain a fool for them to enrich their pockets. Our governor is not bad, only folks who sees his achievements as a threat believes Akpabio is the worst governor ever, but I differ from their believes.

I won’t fail to appreciate the few government office holders who despite the rumors still invite Akwa Ibom comedians for their events. Finally, I have an advice for those peddling wrong information about comedians from Akwa Ibom State. They should remember that there is another life after government, power is not till eternity. Will there be able to boost about one artiste (comedian) they promoted when God blessed them with a particular position. We pray every day to God to change them but since they are still adamant, we will hit the road one day on a protest and they should be prepared to kill us. The truth is that the Governor’s aide on protocol Aniekpeno Mkpanang is not fair to us, it appears he doesn’t believe in Akpabio and his brand of promoting home talents otherwise how do you explain a situation where the Governor is trying to encourage the growth of talents from Akwa Ibom state and he is attempting to suppress us simply because we disagree with him on some issues. The point am making is that Mkpanang doesn’t want us(Akwa Ibom) comedians to grow, I dont want to believe he is a cheat.

You were on AKBC TV and suddenly you left the state owned media outfit on a controversial way. Your exit was uncelebrated
Hmmm!... this is one question, I have kept answers secret. I want to first of all appreciate the board, management and staff of AKBC for adding immensely to who and what I am today. I was struggling on the streets of Uyo striving to make a name until the Late Ekaette Okon and Dan Otu of NTA television provided me a chance on their programme “Weekend Train”. I used to feature as a comedian with my friend who is now based in United Kingdom, El-Mafreks. Incidentally, the same El-Mafreks whom I started my 1st television comedy series years back was the last guest I interviewed on T.V. before I left the screen profession. There at NTA, I was invited by Mr. Mfreke Ikpeikpe to coordinate a youth programme he just initiated on AKBC television, I was glad and I took the offer in good faith. Since 2005 till 2012, I can boost that the television prgramme Youth Corner on AKBC was yet to record “Query”, if we were off air any Saturday, maybe there is a government event which was beamed live or a political guest was hosted.

 Youth corner still remains evergreen in my memories. Let me shock you, I cried the day I made it open to my producer Mr. Okon David and Mr. Ikpeikpe that I will no longer be a crew of Youth Corner. I want to make it clear that at no time was Sir James booted out of Youth Corner or AKBC, besides I was not a staff of AKBC neither a producer, why should a non-staff be booted out of programme? It is totally wrong to believe such, after all many intellects had left AKBC before me; I am not the only person who left AKBC. It is just normal for people to fly negative news about any situation and it’s a privilege to be counted among. I even read on the internet that I had a face-off with the director General of AKBC and I was arrested by the members of the Nigeria Police Force. Someone stopped me on the road once and demanded to know why I was battered on the orders of the DG.

 The issue was totally internal issues which is a normal event in a day-to-day life. I tendered a letter of resignation to my producer, he accepted it after I gave him quality reasons as to why I decided to quit. The rumor has extended to a point where mischief makers are rumoring that the management placed an embargo to any advert or publicity as to the brand “Sir James”. My brother, in life there is what we call stages and it’s irresistible to humanity, it was time for me to quit the state. I never advised the crew that worked with me to quit. The truth is Iniodu is married and as at when I resigned from AKBC, she was expecting her baby. The case of Ubon Marcus is clear, he was the president of Etinan Students Association, Worldwide and was at that time aspiring to lead NANS on a vice-president capacity which he won. 

Both of them were my next in control, so with the two of them I was comfortable but their new roles I believe kept them out of the show.  The fact remains that I as the coordinator of Youth Corner gave an instruction to one of the crew to stay off production that day, she felt I was wrong to instruct her off screen, along the line she altered words I wasn’t used to as by way of insult and I swiftly reacted to make her realize that even in Youth Corner TV show what we call hierarchy exists like it is obtained in other spheres of life. A meeting was summoned by the management and it was resolved. I am a no nonsense dude, I don’t accept injustice and I hate what is called “powers from above”. Even before the meeting, I had made it known to those who summoned the meeting that I will not associate myself with the programme henceforth. That was why I refused acting on the result or outcome of the meeting. For goodness sake, I didn’t put in any application letter to join AKBC so nobody had the right to trample on my integrity. I have witnessed three decades on this earth, have been through the four walls of the three tiers of education and I can know when my right has been wrongly approached.

 Yes, it’s true that the DG met with me to hear what transpired as a father but he never ordered for my arrest or send security operatives  after me, so I challenge whoever is going round with fake information to produce facts proving I was arrested. Can you mention one guest artiste from AKBC whose exit was celebrated? Why should mine be celebrated? Creativity need exploration and coast enlargement, one doesn’t need to be confined to one location. I can assure you that I have the best of relationship with AKBC staffs, I meet many of them on the social media chat forum, on the road, they invite me for their functions and I attend if I am chanced. Let us stop celebrating and circulating rumors, let us see each other as brothers and sisters there and then Akwa Ibom State will improve much better.

Is it true that you are off circulation as regards performance because we hardly see you on stage?
Hahaha… You are a journalist; I should be asking you why most newspapers I used to read years back are no longer in circulation. Sir James is still on top of his game, I attend events when contacted. I love the Holy Bible so much, if I forget any scriptures definitely not, the one that says: “The talent of a man shall make way for him, shall make him sit before great men…” Comedy has taken me to various locations but you don’t also expect me to be seen everywhere. A clergy made a statement and I love it so much. He said that any man, who intends to build a mansion, should first of all sit and plan, the planning needs to be hidden. When I left AKBC, I initiated a radio show “Crossroad junction” on Atlantic 104.5 FM, as we chat, Sir James is the entertainment columnist of Sensor Newspaper, he is the chairman of an umbrella body that shelters Akwa Ibom born comedians, he MCs events on weekly basis, definitely, he is still in circulation if I quote you right. Comedy pays my bills so you don’t expect me to circulate in places money is not involved. Next month, I will debut with a comedy club show that will be hosted once every month in Akwa Ibom State. 

The comedy club is created to avail up and coming comedians to prove to the world that indeed our state is blessed. It will also feature performances from renowned music acts as well as dance, competition of various sorts etc. All these are what make me a busy man. Again, most events I anchor are private ceremonies which may not need media hype for people to know that I am involved. The fact that I receive awards yearly is a prove that Sir James is not retired and he is not ready to retire, not so soon. Talent is not like education that one will vacate the scene after a certain time, talent dies with the individual and a clear example is the Late Sam Loco Efe.

What’s your motivating factor?
It’s a conventional answer that God is a motivating factor even to a thief or sinners. But let me differ a bit. I am one artiste who did not embark on the comedy journey because of a godfather factor; you hear some established comedian give kudos to their senior colleagues as to their success. The need to see an Akwa Ibom son on the national comedy map, the desire to explore the world of creativity, the dream of seeing my state compete with othercreative comic acts globally were my reasons or should I say motivated me into joining the comedy business. The fact that I don’t mimic any national comedian performance wise should beam clearly that I define my path single handedly. I have shared performances stage wise with big name comedians and I can tell you that many of them lack serious creativity. Be that as it may, I still have respect for the likes of Klint De’ Drunk, Gandoki, I Go Dye, Okey Bakassi and Basket Mouth and some others as regards to their presentations package. I wouldn’t be a success story today if I didn’t have a fan base and few friends who encouraged me when I had many reasons to end comedy practice; their one strong reason has kept me going. When I received the statuette of Best Comedian 2013 from Ntanta Awards organizers, I mentioned the names of Mista Xto and Pasto Goody Goody and people asked questions as to why I dedicated the award to them.

 Mista Xto and Pasto Goody Goody are men with sharp eyes and good heart. Both of them added immensely to my success story. My brother, I must be sincere, comedy practice is the best creativity God gave to mankind. To me, I have vowed to take my state into the comedy map but I will only actualize this when I receive the support of Akwa Ibom indigenes. I pray God continue to grant me the strength to strive on. I assure my fans that with their continous support, I will make Akwa Ibom State proud. Today, we have Ini Edo, Moses Armstrong, Bishop (Okon Lagos), Eve Esin and most others including Nse Ikpe and others representing our state well in Nollywood. It is my desire to lead my state to the national comedy map.

Politically, everybody is talking about succession, since inception of Comedians International you sit as president. Are you its life president?
Nigeria is runned politically according to its constitution that is why people refer to the constitution. But in Comedians International, we are not politically based. We don’t run according to any constitution for now, leadership is by appointment not by elections. I’m the pioneer president not life president, in an association that members are less than 30 creative talents, we easily understand ourselves and my continuous stay is as a result of unified decisions by members. Again! Like I have always made it known to them (my colleagues), one day, somebody soon we will embark on 100% dissolution of leadership and a fresh set of comedians will take up the mantle to run the association and I will also be a floor member. Comedians’ international is more of a family than association because we understand ourselves and matured enough to settle our differences indoors without a third party. Above all, we will soon begin the process of enacting a constitution for ourselves which shall act as our guiding light.

From the early set of comedians produced by Akwa Ibom State, it seems you are the only one running things till now. Where are other big names?
No! I’m not a product of early stage comedy. Remember names like Chief Ntafiong, Late Udo Sunday of the comedy train radio fame, Late Rally Babs Ekpenyong, Emmanuel Eyo, Oni Baba. They remain members of the early stage of Akwa Ibom comedians. Those days I didn’t miss “City Caravan”, “Comedy train” on radio. Much respect to them all because they set the pace though many of them are yet to be celebrated. These men are left uncelebrated, but we celebrate them in our little ways.

 It’s high time our government look into the well being and survival angles of comedians. The business of creating smiles on people’s faces isn’t easy, at times, we end up making others smile but we go back home frowning. Now, to answer the last segment of your question, I am not the one ringing bell till now, I belong to the second generation of comedians with the likes of Rechargeable, Oga Joe, Bishop (Okon Lagos), Oga Sandy, etc. The fact remains biblical “while many of us were called into comedy, few were accepted as core-gospel comedians. Rechargeable, Oga Sandy, Gideon are 80% gospel comedians and they are doing very well generally. Sandy, Gideon and Oga Joe are enjoying their married life but they are still very relevant in the game because of their five star performances whenever they hit the stage. I’m not saying that I am not gospel based, the truth is that I started as a church comedian but at a point I discovered that secular performances seems to pay more. All my gaggle friends are still practicing the profession of comedy and it’s paying their bills.

As one of the talents from Akwa Ibom State, compare and contrast Akwa Ibom entertainment as regards other states?
The influx of Lagos based entertainers into Akwa Ibom State is a clear example that Akwa Ibom is now 90% on ground as regards entertainment practice. The government of Chief Godswill Akpabio sees entertainment as a top priority. This was witnessed during the 2011electioneering campaign where top ranking Nollywood actors, musicians and comedians came to Akwa Ibom State to show solidarity for Akpabio, thereby making him the first governorship aspirant to receive the notch of entertainers in Akwa Ibom State. Today is not a speech making day, so I will not like to mention or talk about the Ibom Tropicana entertainment centre, I will not mention the Le Meridien Hotel that has hosted numerous show biz events, I will not mention the Ibom Plaza, I will not talk about the appointment of entertainers into government parastatals, like I said earlier, I will not talk about Akpabio’s achievements. Yes Lord! I hear you… I hear the Lord say that he will keep surprising Akwa Ibom people. The Lord says I should tell Akwa Ibom people that more entertainers will receive more cars and cash. 
Yes Lord!! Speak… I hear the Lord say that 
entertainers will keep smiling. Thank you Lord. I will not talk about the over 300 urban roads he has done. Are your going to talk about the drainage system? Are you going to talk about the more than five (5) brand new hospitals? Are you going to talk about the free and compulsory education? Are you going to talk about the gas processing plant? Are going to talk about the international airport? Are you going to talk about the concept of the deep sea port? What will you be saying was the legacy of this man called Akpabio? To we entertainers! The legacy of Governor Godswill Akpabio will be that there was a governor who believed not only in God but entertainers and who took entertainers back to God.

Of recent, comedy posters flood the city but most of it turns out to be failed shows. Is this not a setback to comedy industry?
Fake shows abound in all the segments of the entertainment industry not only comedy. Just that of recent that of comedy has become rampant. As a grounded comic act, I know shows from its poster. A young less-creative individual in a bid to force what he is not on himself embarks on poster productions when he lacks the creative techniques to actualize it. Many so called comedians would have been wealthy “media designers” than wasting time organizing a show. Recently, one of such play-boys flooded Uyo metropolis with fake posters with Iyanya on it and I laughed. Iyanya is a music icon whose performance price is worth 2million. And a fellow who stakes his DVD machine to a graphic designer just to produce that poster believes in his wildest dreams he could host Iyanya.

 How is such realistic? Stage comedy is different from television presentation. Few months ago, this same shameless fellow embarked again on another vain mission, this time he rampaged this town with another poster using artiste he has not consulted including my picture he claimed he dragged from facebook and at the end that show flopped. I once arrested him and the parent came begging but it seems he has gone amok again and we will soon alleviate his futuristic ambitions because very soon he will kill this industry if his insanity is not worked upon. February last year, AY was disgraced with an empty hall in the name of an event. We have had successful ones; a clear example was “Two Mad Men” with MC Spinosky and MC Pashun. Nobody is against anybody but we need to stand up and voice out else shadows will kill the profession.

2015 Where will comedians cede itself to?
Comedians International is apolitical but we will play our own part to make sure that Godswill emerges in the state. Don’t get me wrong, what I mean is that it’s our business to use microphone to preach for one man – one vote, credible elections and fair play. We are microphone practitioners not politicians but to some extent we deserve to be governed by a credible personality. 2015 is still about 16 months away.

What’s your advice to upcoming comedians?
Many venture into this profession because others are succeeding while they still struggle. Creativity is from God not purchased in any market. First, discover if you have a comic trait, then work on it to expose it. Above all, let God be your inspiration, avoid the “copy cat” syndrome or pirating. Be natural; seek guidance from more experienced colleagues. Avoid money mentality at the initial stage so you can sell your creativity well and definitely money will find you because the market is vast.

Thank you for your time
You are welcome, keep THE INK flowing God bless you guys. One love

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