By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Conversations With Showbiz Stars by Azuh Arinze; YES International Ventures, Akute, Ogun State; 2022; 294pp
The 1954 American film There Is No Business Like Show Business, directed by the legendary Walter Lang and featuring amongst its stars the even more legendary immortal beauty, Marilyn Monroe, owes its birth to the 1946 musical composition of the great Russian-American music composer Irving Berlin. The blending of music, movies, comedy and impresarios can be heartily celebrated in the book Conversations With Showbiz Stars by Azuh Arinze, the bestselling author of The CEO’s Bible and Success Is Not Served A La Carte.
Azuh Arinze has carved a niche in human interest journalism from when as a 26-year-old he edited Reel Stars magazine and then went on to serve as the editor of Encomium Weekly between 2003 and 2011. He is now the celebrated Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine and Convener of the magazine’s annual lecture.
The book Conversations With Showbiz Stars which remarkably bears the sub-title “How to make it in the glittering and glamorous world of music, movies and comedy” is dedicatedto Femi Akintunde-Johnson, popularly known as FAJ, “for giving me the first opportunity ever to write professionally.” Conversations With Showbiz Stars and its author have powerful endorsers such as the advertising gurus Udeme Ufot, Tunji Olugboji, and Biodun Shobanjo; Ovation publisher and presidential aspirant, Dele Momodu; former Nigerian ambassador to Spain and Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s widow Bianca Ojukwu; Orangun of Oke-Ila and Founder of Abolarin College, HRM Oba Adedokun Abolarin; Executive Chairman and Founder of Econet Group, Strive Masiyiwa; former MD/Chairman of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Plc., Sam Ohuabunwa etc.
In the Foreword to Conversations With Showbiz Stars, journalist/media consultant and former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde writes: “In three sections and with 35 interviews, all but one personally conducted by the author over the last 10 years, this book is a window into the hearts and world of Nigeria’s contemporary stars in the art of showbusiness. It is a story of different voices with different vibes who still deserve to be heard in their own words.” There are four sections actually!
Iconic musician King Sunny Ade, otherwise known as Otunba Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye, or simply KSA, speaks of his private life thusly: “Since I became King Sunny Ade, do you think I would have that? My private life has been given to you.”
Femi Kuti, the irrepressible son of the legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti says matter-of-factly: “There’s no man I now like my father.”
Onyeka Onwenu who Azuh Arinze depicts as “Nigeria’s biggest female artiste” stresses upfront: “I don’t put limitations on myself.” The ever personable Innocent Ujah Idibia, who is celebrated as 2Face or 2Baba, remembers the singular event that turned around his life as “the first time I met a man like Edi Lawani.”
The masked musician Lagbaja reveals: “The mask is actually a hindrance, because the most powerful thing for an artiste, a musician is your face, is when you communicate, especially if you have a good face.”
The acclaimed King of Fuji Music, Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde Anifowoshe, aka K1 De Ultimate, believes that “A good musician is any musician that does the business like the real business.”
The delectable crooner, Tiwa Savage, took to music because while in school she had a crush on a boy who “used to hang out with all the musicians” but when she started singing with her acknowledged pretty voice “the guy still did not pay me any attention.”
Tunde Obe, aka TO, insists that genuine skills and talent are the necessary tricks while gospel singer Sammie Okposo advises the sundry artistes to never allow success make them lazy. Sunny Neji, the “Oruka” and “Ikebe” hit-maker, knows that hit songs do not come every day.
In the “Movies” section of Conversations With Showbiz Stars, Richard Mofe-Damijo, RMD for short, asserts that “getting to the top is not the problem, it’s staying there.”
Everybody’s darling of the screen, Genevieve Nnaji, prays for God to continue to bless her – “Especially with the right man and a good family.”
The guru of the screen, Pete Edochie, informs: “I believe in giving the master’s touch.” Little wonder BBC, London dispatched a team from the UK to interview him for his masterly acting of the role of Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
Funke Akindele-Bello showcases herself thus: “My strength is that I am very pushy. I can withstand anything. I am focused, I am a go-getter. You can’t stop me getting to the top.”
Kenneth Okonkwo who played the lead role of Andy in the landmark movie, Living in Bondage, humbly says: “I really contributed nothing to making myself.”
Kanayo Onyekwere Kanayo, aka KOK, declares: “You cannot be popular forever.” Segun Arinze has the advice that artistes should not pretend but should rather be themselves. For Chidi Mokeme, the hardest thing is to maintain success. The key for Desmond Elliot is to push yourself beyond your limits.
The anchoring words for the adorable actress Chioma Chukwuka-Akpotha are discipline, determination, focus and humility.
In the field of “Comedy”, the king of them all, Ali Baba, asserts the old truism: “Knowledge is power.” Okey Bakassi, who kindly undertook the emcee duties of my wedding free-of-charge, preaches the gospel of originality, spontaneity and mastery of the audience.
Gbenga Adeyinka, who Azuh Arinze describes as “the kindest comedian that I know”, stresses that preparation is key. Basketmouth, originally known as Bright Okpocha, advises: “Be yourself.” Julius “De Genius” Agwu asserts: “Don’t forget where you are coming from.” For Basorge Tariah, Jnr., “My dream is to keep creating employment.” Tee A, whose real name is Tunde Adewale, informs that criticism is good for success. AY, that is Ayo Makun, does not find it funny when he is in a serious environment, doing serious business only for people to think he is joking!
The ace female comedian Mandy Uzonitsha advises comedians not to depend on hype. Bovi, whose real name is Abovi Ugboma, sees stand-up comedy as a one-man stage play.
The final section of Conversations With Showbiz Stars, which Azu Arinze tags “Ancillary”, contains interviews with Zeb Ejiro, Amaka Igwe, Opa Williams, Kenny Ogungbe, and Don Jazzy. For Zeb Ejiro, “Most people lose it when they allow stardom to take over.” The deceased Amaka Igwe stresses that producers must not take the audience for granted. Opa Williams, the creator of Nite of a Thousand Laughs says: “Always sharpen your knife.” According to Kenny Ogungbe, “If you want to fail, listen to critics.” Don Jazzy, whose real name is Michael Collins Ajere, declares: “Don’t be a follower, be a trend setter.”
Azuh Arinze is a class act who has put down for posterity a splendid collector’s item in Conversations With Showbiz Stars. This calls for celebration.