Seasoned Nollywood actor-cum-politician, Bob-Manuel Udokwu needs no introduction as far as the Nigerian entertainment industry is concerned. The multi-award winning thespian has made a name by featuring in many successful flicks, including the television soap operas from the early 90s. Needless to say, Bob-Manuel’s success didn’t happen overnight, he really did put in efforts to earn it and, eventually, it paid off big. In this interview, he shares his experience in acting and playing politics with the Editor, FOLORUNSHO HAMSAT. Enjoy…
You are a big actor but the goals and priorities must have changed since you went into government. Tell us about it.
My goals and priorities haven’t changed much since I went into government. The work I do in the government of Anambra State is in relation to my field as an entertainer. I’m the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Creative Media (Movie/Entertainment Industry) and a member of the Board of Directors for Anambra Broadcasting Service and Anambra State Newspapers Printing and Publishing Company Ltd. This will tell you that I’m still very much within the entertainment industry circuit even as a political appointee. I interface with about four ministries in Anambra State especially the Ministry of Youth Empowerment and Creative Economy which works hard to harness and empower creative people in the state.
Do you still find time to feature in movies and when was the last time you did and what is the movie title?
In February this year, I played the overall leading role in a new television drama series titled “It’s A Crazy World”. It is yet to start airing. This year also, I was part of the movie “Living In Bondage: Breaking Free”, a remake of the classic movie LIVING IN BONDAGE, the classic movie that started in industry we know today as Nollywood. If I don’t interface and take part in activities in the entertainment industry, how can I advise my state government or even the federal government on how to develop the creative industry?
You were no doubt an actor that was able to conquer hearts and fame, did you really set out for acting and how did your family react when you went into acting?
I went into the entertainment industry with a clear understanding that the world needs to see my talent. I studied Theatre Arts under the late Prof. Ola Rotimi at the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State. I started with a one year Certificate Course in Theatre Arts and made Distinction grade. I also won the Runner-up prize for Student-Actor-Of-The-Year award! I continued with the degree programme and graduated with a Second Class Upper Division grade degree. There was a little resistance from my dad when I indicated that I’ll study Theater Arts but with time, he relented.
Would you say being in politics and engaging with the public are more interesting than just being a movie actor?
Being a movie actor brings you closer to the public because many people know you from your movies. Politics and politicking are different ball games; being a celebrity enhances your visibility in politics! Sometimes, it makes things work in your favour but in other times it can be a disadvantage because people will “beef” you unnecessarily since they see your popularity as a threat.
How much has coming into government changed your point of view about governance?
It has fundamentally deepened my understanding of governance and the intricacies/intrigues therein. Official bureaucracy is the bane of governance in Nigeria.
In your new position, what efforts are you making that will make an impact on policies and attitudes in relation to the public?
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State understands the importance of entertainment industry and is seriously putting things in place to make the state the hub of activities of the industry. I won’t go into specifics here because it’s easy for people to steal other people’s ideas. In time, everything will be unveiled.
The showbiz industry is believed to be the largest employer in Nigeria after agriculture. What are the ways you think the government should assist the industry to be more viable?
Government should encourage and partner with the private sector to build world class entertainment industry infrastructure and encourage both local and foreign investors to invest heavily in the industry. This, they can do by granting interest free loans to practitioners and tax rebate to companies and foreign investors interested in developing the environmental industry.
How would you define the progress of the movie industry’s manual era of celluloid compared with the digital revolution of the 1990s?
It’s a giant leap in the right direction. LIVING IN BONDAGE was shot on Super VHS tapes. Today, everything is shot in the digital format. The compelling thing about new technology is that if you don’t quickly adapt, you’ll be left behind. Nollywood no dey carry last.
Will you be returning fully to acting after your time in government or you have a plan to go full time into public service?
I have never left my profession and the idea of returning doesn’t arise. However, all options are open because you never can tell where providence will lead.
Would you like to speak on the governance styles of both Gov. Willie Obiano and his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi, under whom you also served in the same capacity?
His Excellency Governor Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State and the incumbent Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano are two different individuals. There is no need to compare their governance styles. Suffice it to say that Anambra State is very stable and safe today because Governor Obiano came into government with a mission to continue, complete and commission new projects. Anambra State is definitely better than it was in 2014 when Governor Willie Obiano came due to continuity policy of the APGA political party in Anambra State and Governor Obiano’s vision to leave the state far better than he met it.
How do you find time to unwind with a new task at hand?
I watch documentaries, read novels, do some writing or hang out with fellow political appointees and friends. May I also inform you that, I’m also into music. I’ve just finished work on my first full studio music album. It will be released in due course.
Where do you like to spend the holiday with the family?
If it’s Christmas holidays, we usually spend it in my hometown, Ogidi in Idemili LGA of Anambra State. It’s refreshing to retire to the village during the harmattan season and leave all the pollution in the city to enjoy countryside life!