There's much envy in entertainment industry -Tony Oneweek
Few persons in the entertainment industry are as multi talented as singer, actor, film director and comedian Tony Oneweek is. Now based in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) the versatile artiste who is known off the stage as Tony Muonagor, is one who speaks his mind no matter whose ox is gored. Correspondent Kemi Yesufu cornered the Anambra-born show biz impresario for a chat. Typical of him, he bared his mind on the state of affairs in the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), his reasons for leaving Lagos and also explained why he is organising a show to mark his tenth years in showbiz.
The first time we heard you had relocated to Abuja, was when you anchored the presidential declaration of Professor Jerry Gana. Has it been the same with you smiling to the bank?
To God be the glory, I have been getting by. The most important thing that happened to me since I relocated to Abuja is the fact that I now have peace of mind. Six years in Lagos for me was like years with no sleep. I was constantly conscious, I had to be alerted all the times because it's either armed robbers were robbing behind or in your front or you were making sure somebody did not steal your phone. It's quite unfortunate that Lagos has turned out the way it is. I am happy that I live in Abuja. I believe that the money will come.
We know that you are doing well, so we may not agree with you saying the money will come. As it is you are already making money.
This is a newspaper interview, the people reading this interview cannot see me. I am very lean (laughter). If you say I am doing well, I say to God be the glory. It is not easy relocating your whole family to a new place, where you are forced to start from the scratch. When I first came, I could recall, people were asking why I moved here. They would say they thought Lagos was the best place for an entertainer. They also would ask me if I was going to survive Abuja. But I know that even if I live in Obosi, my hometown, as long as I have a phone, I will continue with my business. To be honest with you, my phone is my office. I am here today to anchor a book launch; I was contacted for the job on phone. One thing I want you to understand is that I am living not just for myself, I live for my wife, my kids and for my family. For example, while I was in Lagos, my children could hardly step outside to play. Where I lived, a three-bedroom bungalow was in Surulere, which by all standards was a decent accommodation but out of fear we could not let the children play inside our compound. If I pray the kind of prayer I prayed in Lagos here in Abuja, this whole place will end up being turned upside down. In Lagos from one street to the other you will hear tales of people killing each other through evil means. Even if you say it doesn't bother you since you are not part of the killing, at some point, you begin to notice that some people have become envious of your progress. Lagos is chocked up, so people see each other too often and that gives room for them to begin to compare themselves to you. This breeds envy. Where I live here in Abuja, I am like a child, I don't have enemies. Any time I have a job in Lagos, I begin to fret. Right from when you alight from the plane, you begin to adjust yourself to the Lagos lifestyle. First thing is for you to lock the doors of the taxi. I am sorry if I am sounding so negative about Lagos but I am only telling you how I and millions of Lagosians lived.
At the level of the entertainment industry, it is unfortunate but most of the people in Lagos envy each other. You know it is the same with other industries each person tries to be ahead of the other. But here in Abuja there are few entertainers, so there is nobody envying you. In Lagos I was restricted to the entertainment industry but here there is no limit to what I can do. God has broadened my horizon. As you see me so I am a contractor. I can build roads, I can handle any contract awarded my company. I am a politician. In my community I am a major stakeholder in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It is not all about money, people tend to asses success with your level of wealth but it shouldn't be so. I am happy here, my horizon has been broadened.
Couple of years back, you used to be the host in a TV show with a number of comedians like Julius Agwu, Okey Bakassi, Shedi Baba, as regular guests. You were like a Godfather to them. May be if someone like you had taught these guys any better, there would not be the level of envy described in the showbiz world.
No, no, not with my guys. My guys are okay. I was talking about Lagos in general, when somebody said "Tony Oneweek buy jeep, me too I must buy jeep." Because you and some one are in the same industry you begin to compete with him. You forget that you are two different individuals with different destinies. Those guys, who used to be on My House, that's what my programme was called, are mutual friends. Some of them are younger, but I wasn't their Godfather. I only believed in carrying people along. Again I want to say that it takes plenty of guts, and the support of God to do what I did, move from Lagos to Abuja. My relocation to Abuja began with the invitation of Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu to me to be the compere at his younger brother Sunny's wedding. Barry, Chief Ukachukwu's Personal Assistant, insisted I came for the wedding and after the wedding I made up my mind to move here. God made me meet the Ukachukwu brothers, gentlemen to the core. Also Chief Olisah Metu was instrumental to my stabilising in Abuja.
Still talking about the showbiz people in Lagos, what is your relationship with Ejike Asiegbu the National President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN)?
I cannot say I have a relationship with Ejike (Asiegbu). Yes, I could say I consider him to be my friend, but I don't like the way he is handling issues. He consciously shut out people like me. When you feel that someone is your political enemy... You know we both ran for presidency of the guild. We contested, at the end of the day he did not win but he assumed office. I say this because we were told before the elections that the Rivers State delegates, Benue and some other states would not be allowed to vote. So I and other candidates did not go to these states to campaign. For now, I have decided to withdraw to my shell to watch and see how things happen. When the time comes I could still become the national president of the AGN, I could still serve the AGN. But now, like I said I will not involve myself with issues concerning the AGN. Some of the people who betrayed me today are Ejike's (Asiegbu) victims, mine is to watch the scenario unfold because these same people do not have peace. Ejike (Asiegbu) does not have peace; the AGN does not have peace.
Coming back to you, the talk of the town is that you are celebrating your 10th anniversary as an entertainer.
Yes, Tony Oneweek At Ten is a show I am packaging to celebrate ten fruitful years on stage. I remember clearly, back in 1998 when God blessed me as a musician, I performed at the Benson and Hedges Wicked and Wild Concert and from then till date I am still relevant. I still play mega shows, people still reckon with me any where I go. This is worth celebrating with the mother of all shows which will take place at the Transcorp Hilton hotel in November. Ali Baba is the chairman organising committee and it will be a night of stars led by Austin Jay-Jay Okocha and the tree senators from Anambra, my home state.