Reputable on- air personality, Steve Onu, aka Yaw, doesn’t need any introduction especially to lovers of WAZOBIA FM (95.1). The Theatre Arts graduate of the Lagos State University has warmed his way into the hearts of many listeners both in Lagos and the neighbouring states due to his style of speaking Pidgin English and personality. Yaw is known for his popular programme, “Make una Wake, the morning show which is aired from 6am to 12 noon. Yaw, who has bagged many personality awards and nominated for several others, is rising daily in his game as he has a hand full of activities. He got launched into limelight with the then popular series known as “Flat Mates.’ His story is that of one who has experienced the lowest part of life and been picked up by sheer grace, determination and hard work. Ahead of his show tagged ‘Shalanga,’ Yaw spoke with MUTIAT ALLI on some of the expectations of the event, stage play challenges in Nigeria, next project and sundry issues. Enjoy…
What is your forthcoming coming show ‘Shalanga’ all about?
(Laughs), funny as the name sounds, Shalanga which otherwise known as Pit Latrine is a play written by actor, Femi Branch. I did ‘Poo’ stage play in 2008 alongside Kof which mirrors the society in a satiric manner. I discussed with Femi Branch that I wanted to repeat the stage again and he told me he has another play that I will love and that gave birth to Shalanga; literally the audience will enjoy a recap of what has happened in the country from the beginning of the year till now which revolves round politics, entertainment and what is generally applicable in the society at large. In essence, when you see the poster for the event, you would see me squatting and pooing into the country (Nigeria) which assumed to be the pit latrine and everybody just comes from nowhere, and all we just do is, we just deposit, it’s none of our business, we deposit it, plus the hard one, plus the watery one, everybody just drop whatever they want drop in, and we don’t care about anything. In all fairness, most times people don’t care about With Shalanga, every moment will be fun -Yaw happens to Shalanga (Pit Latrine) because we just drop and then we go. The thing there is that we are all government, and it’s not just about those in Aso Rock alone, we must contribute our own little quota and don’t wait till everything is spoilt before we start complaining. The country can only be better if we all are united and that is what Shalanga is trying to pass at the end of the day. This is the 8th edition of different plays, the same theme, talking about government, it’s just a recap of what you and I know, and we just come to watch, and we just laugh about it, and you know what satire is, satire is just like a rubber sword, you pierce someone, you don’t intend to spill blood, but you infict pain, you stab the person a little, the person feels it. At the end of the day, you might laugh and then go home, and think about it.
Unlike every other comedian whose show is just about music and comedy, yours is different; is it deliberate or that is your standard?
You know because I did drama in school and I am a proud Theatre Art graduate. From days in school when I started putting out stage plays, I said to myself I want to continue in this trend because back then in school I would do Comedy, Music and drama on my shows and the likes of Omo Baba, Jedi, Sound Sultan, Rugged man where regular attendees of those programmes. So when I came out of school, I told myself, let me continue with this same style, that’s when I started doing it. I just wanted to do something completely different, and because I am frst and foremost, an actor, a trained actor. I decided to just do that, and just infuse music, and comedy, because lots of people like to watch music, and comedy. It’s a standard I have built overtime, I can only improve but that is my stand.
Why the choice of AY for Shalanga?
Like you all know that I have acted alongside Funke Akindele, Koff, Okey Bakassi to mention but few and last year, AY approached me that he would love to be on board for the next one; so also is Sound Sultan, Akpororo. With other people lined up already that means for the next three years of my show, I have those I will be acting with. For AY, he is also a Theatre Art graduate who has done well in the comedy and movie industry; I love his craft and style and I know we can always pull through together. The stage play I bet with you will whoa the audience and the message we are trying to pass will get across to people.
So that means all through the Show, we get to see just you and AY?
Normally that’s the concept I used to do before now; I introduced the crown troop of Africa, to add to it. Crown troop will come, and do dance, to interpret, and places where we needed crowd scene, we have crown troop to help do that, but this I decided not to use the Crown troop. I wanted just to have maybe one or two 2 actors that play minor roles and they are off the stage. But majorly it’s just myself and AY that will be on stage almost all the time, because we don’t intend to have black out on stage, and all that, because that is the concept I work with.
Away from Shalanga, what is really happening to Yaws and Myn?
Ooooh! Yaws &Myn is on hold for now but pretty soon, we will be hitting location for more episodes even though putting the sitcom is quite expensive to record because we don’t have a sponsor and it is our duty to take care of all our cast and crew members. I will be airing it back soon before the end of the year as fans have been asking for it; so immediately after Shalanga show, we will commence production. Also my team and I have been working tirelessly to come up with new ideas.
You are also a comedian, don’t you think that part of you have been relegated to the background?
Comedy depends on what aspect you are looking at it from. We’ve got stand-up comedians, comedy actors, and then radio comedians, so anyone that comes my way, I am always on air 24/7. If it’s to act, I act, if you call me for stand up, I do it, but I just see myself, as a total entertainer, basically that’s just it, then it’s not everybody that is good as a comedy actor that can necessarily be as a stand-up comedian, and not all stand-up comedians can act. You might just like it for the first 1 or 2 minutes, then afterwards you just be like he should just face the stand-up comedy.
So where you stand in all?
My Sister na everything oh. In my place, they say “you don’t stand in one place to see a masquerade. If the masquerade go like this, you follow. If you want to enjoy the masquerade” and being a theatre artiste, you must be versatile, and that’s just it, you must be able to do little of almost everything.
In essence what should we expect at the event?
Expect all the best packaged fun at the show as it will be flled with performance by talented musicians and comedians that includes Olamide, Phyno, Ycee, Lil Kesh, Vector, Humble smith, Solidstar, Reminisce to mention but few and off course my colleagues on the feld. We’ve also got surprises that we are going to be working on. Last year, we had Old school act performing. After I fnished my show, a lot of people started using them too. This year, we are still using Old school act, and then some other ones, then total show package is what makes it different. I try to do something different from the regular.
Considering the present economic situation and the fuel palaver, are you not concerned that it might affect your show?
Last year the same thing happened and so this time too, there was the same fuel issues. Two years ago, the same thing. It happens every time surprisingly. So if you watch the play, the one I did with Julius, we acted something like that, where we had the fuel pump in front, and then we had people queuing up to buy fuel, even when I did with Funke Akindele, it was almost the same thing, there was fuel wahala, so am not bothered, it will come and go, that’s all I just believe, then if people stay at home, but people are not at home, because you guys are not at home, but if people are truly at home from now till that time towards my show, they will be tired of sitting at home, it will make them come out.
Who are the people you target for the show?
My sister, I target everybody oh. Nigeria na for everybody, don’t forget that the plays that I do talks about Nigeria generally. I always believe that if we start from the bottom to teach people the things that are right, you know most of us these days when we do things, we don’t do it because of the country. We just do it because she is my friend, he is my friend, that’s why we do some things. We render helps, we don’t even do it bearing the country in mind, but I also believe that when am doing it for her, she does it for me, and it goes round like that, this country will still be a better place. So it’s everybody majorly, the top, the middle, the bottom. In the plays sometimes people say, No that was too hard, don’t say it like that, but we try even though we don’t also want to build enemies, but we try to do that.
With shows most times taking place on Lagos Island which targets the upper class, what then happens to those in areas such as Ikotun, Ayobo and the likes?
That is when we decide to start doing community theatres, and then you have to take these plays to them, but you don’t even have the venue if you want to do plays for those kind of people. If I say I want to do my play, we’ve done little shows that we did in Ikeja, and you don’t see huge turnout of people, even within that area, because for you to package a play is really expensive. That’s why I say if its community theatre where it’s sponsored, you can then take it from one place to another, and then you are touching every lives. For instance, National theatre, security is key, most people till date still fnds it diffcult to go to the theatre, so I for one will not risk putting money down to do a show at national theatre because I know that people are scared of going to the theatre. When they do plays at the theatre, notice it, it is only when they have free shows or they give invite to people, that is when people will come, but for paying shows, people don’t come, and then don’t forget its government thing, you now tell them, can we have light, you just hear ahhh, ahhh!!!!! Then you go and square them something, they will put it on for you, then next thing when it’s getting to 7pm, the light would go off, you now ask them what is going on and they say ahhh!!!, the people that were there had closed by 6pm, we just resumed. By the time you start to hear these things, it’s annoying, so why would I want to take my plays there.
With your love and involvement in the entertainment industry when should we be expecting your frst musical single or probably an album?
Album for where, I did a song with Nigga, 2Shot, Rugged man in 2006 and I equally did one too with my brother Koff and X-Project which was released and that was all from me musically.
What are the challenges of stage plays in Nigeria?
It all boils down to finance and gone are those days when you get sponsors for stage plays. Another thing is that is there is no proper structure to put things in the right order.
With the current entertainment industry fght, do you think it’s favourable for the industry to grow?
Yes it is, I think it is, that is why journalist have news to write. So whether you like it or not the industry is gradually buying into it and it is better you air opinion and know your enemies. For me, I think it’s good because in Nigeria even when they beef or ditch one another, they don’t beat or shoot themselves; so it’s all good and fne.
There’s this argument that Comedians make better money than the movie practitioners, how true is that?
Says who? But you know it’s not easy for movies, because you have lots of people to pay, but it is not also easy for comedians, it is one comedian per event, so it is only one comedian that makes the money but in movie, ‘I see myself as a total entertainer’ Yaw they can be up to like 10, and they are making the money. It is either way, you know as they are making, also the comedians are making, so it’s not every actor that makes money, and it’s not every comedian that makes money. A comedian will take 10 minutes to make his money, if you miss it then you’ve spoilt your business, nobody will call you again. But for movies, they can say cut, action again, take it again, you can fx it.
Comedians seem to have also taken over the MC Job, what’s your take?
The problem of Nigeria is too much, they always want to laugh, and all this professional MCs it’s only English they can speak, so we comedians spice things up and that’s all.
Based on your radio show, you do newspaper review in the morning, its quiet entertaining the way you broadcast, do you rehearse?
I don’t rehearse because it’s what I see in the papers I review but believe me sincerely the NBC is on my neck, they said I trigger issues. I’m a humorous person, you look at the humorous part of it. I think beyond what newsmen have written. Am sure my MD didn’t have that in mind when we started WAZOBIA, but it was the way I started the presentation, and then it caught everybody. I started it with humor, I just told myself I will put humor in every part of it. Nigerians need humor. NBC said that’s not news, but people want to listen to it, but every time they call me, and say am going against NBC rules, I tell them I say things I see in the paper. They even said I should even stop opening newspaper to see, that I should only be reading front page.
What is the difference between Yaw and Steve Onu?
Steve Onu, to an extent, is a quiet reserved person; to the extent that people don’t know, but I’m shy that’s why sometimes I just want to be on my own. Left to me, I want to be at home counting money till night. But for Yaw, Yaw must be outgoing, attend events, be at red carpets, and talk.
This is Steve Onu speaking now, a Yaw will not speak English, but Steve Onu will speak English. Basically, they are totally two different people, but some things are just similar. I can’t run away from that, my humorous side. But apart from that, I just prefer to be indoors. I don’t want to go out, I don’t party, or club, I just prefer it that way.
As a Theatre Art graduate, what makes a good script?
It’s all about the style, then the plot, and then the end, because nothing is new. If you want shoot a film, stage play, nothing is new. Its key is how it is written, and then the plot, and then the end of it; even the middle and the end, it’s just the writing skills, the use of words. Those are the things that you must look out for. Then apart from that, you will look out for those who are actually behind it, who is directing, who is producing, the producer does not really matter in Nigeria for now, but who is directing and who are your co –actors are critical.