How do you feel at 45?
It feels great, it feels marvellous, it feels really great. Most people will tell you they pray to live at least 70 years, I have done more than half of that. So, it feels great and I pray that the Lord will continue to keep me.
What are the lessons life has taught you at 45?
The greatest lesson life has taught me is something I started realizing five years ago when I was down. I have learnt that every man will be responsible for his or her life. Then, there should be more lessons than Geography and History, there should be more lessons on philosophy. Life has taught me not to look at the material things we have as our real possession. Our possessions are our virtues and values, and with all our virtues and values, we keep making friends until your day comes. When I was sick, I had very few friends, but very important ones came my way. At 45, I have also learnt that family comes first. While we fight for what is not even enough for us, we must always keep almost every member of our family happy. As a family man, you have responsibilities, as a society man, you also have responsibilities. You must live an exemplary life, so that people can look at you and emulate you.
I absolutely do not have regret, I only have wishes at 45.
So, can you tell us your wishes?
I wish I have so much at 45. Like some billionaires will rise at 45 that wish is so that I can give. It hurts me that I only have just for my family. I want to have enough to give people. Another lesson life has taught me is that, when you are at a point between life and death, you must begin to see life as it is. That only love, friendship, truth, integrity are the things that matter. At that point, you would wish you had told less lies, you would wish you have loved more and you would wish that you have been a more loyal friend. Having done all these, if you are to leave, you will know that you have lived a good life.
I did not set any goal for myself. Btu I have always wanted to be a family man and be able to provide for my family. I think I am doing well in that direction.
Would you say life has been fair to you at 45?
Life has been fair to me, a man who was near death and he has been giving a second chance, who knows how many chances have been giving him? That is why I have become philosophical. Anytime I wake up, I just now that life has just taught me favour, it has giving me a new hope, a new dream. Life has been fair to me, likewise, everybody. We sing a song in church, but we don’t even know the meaning. The song, Count your blessings and name them one by one. I will be stupid to say that life has not been fair to me. I can’t say that somebody does not have what I have. Whenever a man wakes up, he must not only go on his knees, he must constantly pray. Prayer begins in the heart, when you appreciate this truth you are already praying. The only prayer I always say is that the Lord will keep me so that I can make my children strong and independent. I also pray that God will give me so that I can give others.
Career wise, what is the next step?
There has never been a next step. I have done everything. I started as a dancer, I became a choreographer, a qualified one with a degree. Then, I became a director, I have directed, I have written, I have done stand-up comedy. I have done MC, a little bit of freelance model. I have dabbled into journalism. What else have I not done? I think at 45, I have done everything. I have also committed myself to nurturing, inspiring some of the finest artists in the country. Timaya, Teju Babyface, Jedi, De Don, Gentle Jack. These people will not deny that their personalities were influenced by me. I think I have done enough. Right now, I have some other brands who are partnering my company to find jobs for comedians. Latina is partnering us, we are going on a tour soon. My company, Event Option is also partnering Foot Print as well. I give kudos to the MD of Foot Print for his willingness to go into developing other artists. I also have a radio show, Four Corner, which I am trying to revive. My problem has always been time. Once in a while, I might have some other things doing which has continued helping in making ends meet, they distract the radio show. I also want to record a movie with Ruke Amata, we are partnering to do the My Guy series. We want it to look like Mr. Beans. We are moving it to London, then America. In terms of work as a Master of Ceremony, I am still working with individuals, clients. In terms of stand up, rarely take such jobs again. I just think that I am heading in a different direction. I still do stand up but for a select brand, corporate functions. My style is not akin to what the youngsters are doing now, so I will allow the young ones to take up public shows. I operate on a different level. I have a tour in two weeks with some very intelligent comedians like Jedi, Teju Babyface, Koffi and Wale King. These are the things keeping me busy.
Long life, kind heart, being honest to friends, humility, the courage to be realistic and a simple person. These are the things I want God to do for me. I was born by a simple banker and a lady that worked with the defunct Kingsway Stores, I had a decent growing up but I go with my friends to the slum to eat with them. I want God to continue to give me this spirit. We all go to church but what is the state of our heart? Sometimes, people say that it is hard to approach me, that I keep a straight face but I tell them that I am a very jovial person. But I don’t give chance to some set of people, so when people come to me, I put a shield over my personality and weigh the person. If such is a down to earth, truthful, realistic person, simple and truthful, we can become friends. But, I am not ready to open my mind to fake, unrealistic people to come in.
Who are your friends?
I have Alamebo Davies, I called him before I turned 45, but he couldn’t come down for my birthday. I also have another friend who is a pilot, Tienema Obireke, he is my oldest friend. We have been friends for over 41 years. I don’t run away from my friends. After clocking 30, I met another friend who probably is my best friend. Her name is Kate Henshaw. I have some other friends as well, I don’t need to mention their names. They also see me as a friend from here to the end. I don’t call them every day but they know my mind is with them. People make friends because of what they have and what they can get. I am a friend and my test of friendship is when you come up when you fall.
Azuh Arinze is my friend from here to the end of the world. If some people run away from me, it is because they fear the truth. Today, young comedians use to say that people shouldn’t come to me because “I advice go kill them.” But when they run into trouble, they all come back to me. I teach them when they earn money from a show, they should go to their kitchen, fill it up with food, then save before they can think of any extravagance. I will also love to thank Mr. Kunle Bakare. There was a time I suffered a setback, he came with Azuh to calm the situation and offered advice. I will also thank him specially because for the past two months, he has been trying to play that birthday party but I told him that we will do it. For having that love for me, I want to thank him and I assure him that my loyalty as an associate and a friend will always appreciate.
You didn’t mention anybody in the industry, does that mean you don’t have friends in the industry?
I do, Ali Baba is my close friend. I quarrel with him more than anybody else. He has been there for me, he has been a true friend. It is just that sometimes he might not know how to consistently be a friend. I love him and I know he loves me. We make mistakes though when I am bitter with him, I stay away from him, that is a friend. Tee A is a friend, he didn’t come for my birthday party and that is the first comedian I wanted to see, he has been there all my life. I have deleted him from my BB, I want him to know, when he comes and explains to me, I will add him again. Julius is like my younger brother, we have come a long way. Francis Duru is like my twin brother, I will never forget him. I can never fault him, we are working on a project together. We want Nollywood to go back to our roots, I will talk more about the project later. I also have Mathias Obaiyagbon, he was the first man to give me accommodation.
What are the things you can’t do again now that you are 45?
A lot of things, I don’t jump around. I can’t make friends that I don’t trust and can’t tell the truth to. I can’t make friends that I can’t run to in times of need or even confide in. Friends should be friends till the end.
Any plan to venture into politics?
I have friends who are in politics if they perceive that I have something to offer, they will invite me and mentor me, they will be my boss. I have an immeasurable love for Governor Rotimi Amaechi, though he has his flaws but he has a great passion for his people. He has a passion to transform Rivers State and he is trying to realize it. I hope he will find committed, passionable men who will take over from him and continue the good work. If it is to be mentored by such a man, if it is to be inspired by such a man, then politics is something I will like to go into. It is important to be inspired and tutored.
- SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN
This story was first published in Encomium Weekly edition of Tuesday, June 19, 2012