By SAMUEL OLATUNJI
There is arguably no bigger star on radio at the moment than Steve Onu popularly known as Yaw. But he has not always been like this. His beginning was so rough that he jokingly said his shadow would refuse to follow him when the trekking was unbearable. Today, Yaw is a celebrity raking in millions and making millions happy. In this interview with The Entertainer, the On-Air-Personality shed more light on his life journey. Excerpts:
What is this year’s show all about?
What I am doing is basically satire every year. It is about what is happening in government of Nigeria, from last year to date, that is the beauty of the whole thing. So everything that you saw happened throughout 2012 and a part of 2013 are what we are going to re-enact. We would be using humour to pass our message. It’s just for you to come there live and hope you pick something. And my own definition of humour is just like you are using a rubber bullet to shoot someone, you didn’t intend to spill blood, but whether you like it or not, you fired. So, if you come on that day you watch, laugh and go home, and don’t pick anything that is left for you.
You included Funke Akindele this year?
To start with, I wanted to have a female and secondly, I was looking for someone who is versatile, someone that’s got creativity. Because most of the things we are working with, even though scripted, are like a guide. And we are bringing everything that has happened like I said, in Nigeria, and we have to mimic some people. So, basically I just told myself, I have not seen Funke on stage doing drama, that is why I said let me have Funke this time around
Would you say you are lucky to have made it?
I wouldn’t say it is luck, I believe in hard work, and the favour of God. I don’t think there is anything like luck, I joined the industry in 1995. 1995 till date is nearly 17 years. If you went to primary school, you would have graduated into secondary and even be moving to the next level. 17 years of my life I have put into this. I started with Twilight Zone, but I started up with normal home videos. I joined the movie industry when Ifeanyi Dike was AGN President. And I think he was the first president, if they had any president before him I can’t really say. Emma Ogidan was the next; I was there when he was elected. Then I left the industry, why did I leave? They never believed I had the talent, but I knew I had it. Along the line, I met RMD who told me to go study Theatre Arts; that he believed I would make it as an artiste or as an actor; that was what he told me. I then went to LASU in 1995/1996. I did Diploma in Theatre Arts at LASU. Later, I got admission into University of Ibadan, but I couldn’t stay in UI, I wanted Lagos, it was that period I did Twilight Zone. Along the line, I started a stage play, Flatmates, doing story with the BBC, and also applied for WAZOBIA. So, I wouldn’t say it is luck, I just believe its the grace and favour of God, secondly, it is hard work.
So, you never received a single day lecture in UI?
No. I stayed back in Lagos till LASU started degree programme and then went back to LASU to do a degree course.
A lot of Lagosians knew you through Flatmates. Would you say that was a challenging period for you?
In life, I have never seen anything as a challenge. I just see opportunities.
You became popular with WAZOBIA FM morning show and it was surprising when you became head of all presenters. How did you shoot up?
Yes, it was just Marshal and I that started the radio station. The radio station started in November 27, 2007 and we joined December 1, 2007.
Who were the presenters before you started, and how did you get the job?
Nobody, there were people who just played music, but not talking, till we joined. I was doing content supply. I had told myself before then that I was not going to write any letter of application because RMD had said I would make it as an actor. So, I had that in my head. I was concentrating on acting when Bunmi Davies took me to see Abrahim Abubakar in Cool FM. The man told Bunmi that they wanted to open a Pidgin radio station, that Bunmi can supply them content. I told Bunmi I would love to work there. I was called for interview, before then I took my friend, Lanre Dele Abraham’s CV, I changed all the places he wrote his name, qualification, and submitted, leaving qualities and abilities. The day for interview came, I folded my shirt, wore a jeans and Timberland and went to look for job. I got to the reception, I saw other applicants dressed in suits and ties. I told myself ‘see people wey come find work, no be me’.
My turn came, I was asked one or two questions, and to also list out my qualities and abilities, I couldn’t, so I said ‘oga make I tell you the truth nor be me write am, na my friend’s CV I copy’. They said among themselves ‘this guy is mad and this is the kind of person we need in our radio station’. That was how I got the job.
When I resumed at the radio station, Dan (Forster) called me and said ‘you just have to be yourself on radio, don’t be fake’. Then I used to read news, but this day I wanted to read news and I didn’t know where I kept the script, then I began to say ‘where I kip dis paper’. I didn’t know that my microphone was on. As I discovered, I continued ‘na witch people be no want make I read news for una, but shame to bad people, I go read dis news today’. Later, my boss came and asked me if that was a mistake. I said yes, he said ‘believe me that was natural, and that is what Lagosians want’.
The next day people called in to say ‘thank God today say witch no steal your papers’. From then on, I started to do a lot of things, just to improve myself.
How did you get the MTN job while still working in WAZOBIA?
They just called me to come and do it. I think it is what you said that is working, trying to build your brand, you get to a level and every other thing then starts to fall into place. I think I have done something earlier on for GLO. I think they used that only in the east, because it was strictly Ibo, then the BBC, I still do stuff for BBC.
What was your first day on radio like?
First day on radio, as usual you will be scared, trying to mind things you say because there are certain things you shouldn’t say. I might not remember the feeling, but part of the new things I said are some of my early experiences. But it wasn’t easy too, because they give you your script in English and you have to read it in Pidgin. It wasn’t easy in the early stage but with time you adapt.
Were you vast in Pidgin before WAZOBIA?
Not at all. In my house, we used to speak Yoruba language, and I’m Ibo. At a point, we changed and we started speaking Ibo or English because my father was particular about it. But I think my ability to also do that is because it is in me. When I say it is in me I meant I also studied theatre, as a theatre artist you should be versatile and should be able to do almost everything, and with time it grew. This is the 5th year I have been doing it, we are bound to grow.
At what point did you look back and say thank God?
In my house, people felt I was a useless person but the moment I started acting and they saw me in my first movie, they liked it. Then I took pictures with some actors and took them home. When they saw them, they started believing. In my mind, I said ‘thank God’ that is it. When that became a regular thing for me, I started the Twilight Zone, I became constant, and they see me on TV every week. I told myself that the money would soon come, that is it. When I started doing Face 2 Face at the Muson Centre, dignitaries came to watch, that was another break for me. Then we started Flatmate, which became more popular than Twilight Zone, it was on STV. Everywhere I went, it was YAW, YAW! Then when I started doing the BBC stuff, I said ‘na so people come recognize me reach’, I said thank God. Every point in time, I always thank God. Me, wey dey trek looking for how to survive, you don trek the kind trek wey your shadow go tire to follow you?
When did you get that feeling that you can begin to do MC and stand-up comedy?
I think it first started from school, during my diploma days. When I told myself it is just best to start acting comic roles, I discovered that early I just keyed into it.
There was a time you were so close to Ali Baba?
Up till now, I am still close to him. I love his movement.
I heard you impregnated a girl, is it true?
People just say things; I don’t discuss female issues with the press. Anybody can go out and write anything.
When will you marry?
Once it is time people will know, I am involved.
Now that you are a celebrity, I know many women would want to have a piece of you?
So far on my phone I think I have ‘don’t pick’ numbers up to fifteen. For some, they come out directly to tell you what they want. For those who don’t, they are your friends, but keep them at arm’s length.
What is the big deal if they want something, can’t you give it to them?
No. That I got it freely does not mean I should give it back freely.
You said at a point your parents didn’t want to see you, how bad could it have been? What happened?
Yes, it was that bad. Because I told them I wanted to do theatre, and I had to leave the house.
But now you are in good relationship with them.
They are in good relationship with me.
How many of you in the family?
We are 10, and I’m number seven.
How many wives did your father have?
Just one. And we call her ‘Abada’, that’s her nickname. I am from Awka in Anambra State, we don’t call people auntie or brother, we address them by their nicknames.
When you left home who did you stay with?
I stayed with an uncle at Iyana-Iba Estate. One day, he sent me packing saying, he couldn’t continue to feed me. Then I stayed with a friend in that same Iyana-Iba, I lived with him for nearly two years. And those two years of my life I was lucky. Because that period, I finished my diploma course, I was just going to LASU to act, present and so on. From there, I went to stay with someone else; I was always staying with people because I could not afford to pay rent.