One of Nigeria’s foremost entertainer Steve Onu popularly known as yaw will be celebrating his 10 years on stage this year. Although he has been in the media industry for the past 13 years, he started off acting in home videos then to stage production,before he found his way to the BBC where he had a project with them called “story story” where he played the character Ejike and then finally to wazobia fm(a broken English radio station) where he hosts the morning show.
He started producing and starring in his stage play 10 years ago and over the years he has collaborated with some of the industry’s heavyweight like AY, a foremost comedian in Nigeria, Owen gee, Funke Akindele, Sound Sultan, just to mention a few.
His stage play has gained momentum over the years and he has had to change the venue from the Muson centre in Lagos Nigeria to Eko hotel and suites which is one of the biggest and most expensive halls in Lagos.
Excerpts from the telephone interview with Yaw
Your stage show has become popular over the years, what is the idea behind the shows?
Over the years I have been able to try to pass this message across, it is all about governance, it is all about our people, and the need for people to sit down and not allow our politicians just bamboozle us with their theories and all the lies that they know how to spew. I decided to do my stage production year in year out and because it is a satire with a blend of comedy and I also bring musicians to perform, it stands out because every year people look forward to it and want to be a part of it and I am sure it is because of my message
Who or what is your inspiration(s)
Society at large. Things that are happening to the Nigerian youths to the African youths basically.
You will be celebrating your 10 years on stage this year; how far do you think you’ve come?
Yes, I am doing it. I do my shows every may but because of the political calendar in Nigeria this year, I am not doing may this year, I postponed it till November and I will be taking two days to do a production that centres around governance because what I do is satire, I have already started preparation towards it to make sure that it is achieved.
How do you feel knowing it’s been 10 years since you started your stage show?
I never knew that I was going to last this long because of the topics that I discuss, and it is what the government has made the country into and that what I try to portray in everything I do in my dramas. It’s been encouraging because I have brands that come on board to support the show year in year out they look forward to it. I know three brands that have called me to say what’s happening are we not doing our yearly show this year, so it is obvious they are waiting for it. I am happy I have come this far
What was your first show about?
The title of the first show I did was “PO”. “PO” is a satire of the current situation of the country that we were in at the time and unfortunately the same thing that happened then is still happening today. We still don’t have water, we still have good roads, good educational system, light, and everyone is providing this things for themselves. The play I did 10 years ago written by Femi branch interestingly that’s the same play I am showcasing this year just to celebrate the ten years.
Producing a play of this magnitude must not have easy, what are the challenges you’ve faced and how have you been able to overcome them?
It takes a lot for you to plan, from getting the venue which is very expensive. To get just the hall alone is as high as 18 million naira (€40,910) and then there are the equipment. It cost me an average of 20 million (€45,454) and above to put a production together. However, I get a lot of support from some brands and individuals, they come on board to support the dream. To a large extent I have been able to scale through, it is not easy, it is tasking but we still manage to survive.
Your stage name is “YAW”, how was that name coined?
I started off acting with Kayode Peters on a sitcom we called flatmates and I was always saying “ohwawu pawpaw mehn yaw” and because it was too long for people to call me that, everywhere I went they just called me “yaw” and that was how the name started and this sitcom started 13 years ago and the rest is history now.
In this day of reboots everywhere, “flatmates” has been rebooted and airing right now, how did the reboot happen and why?
Flatmates started way back about 12/13 years back and the response when we did it then when there was no financial support was really encouraging but this time around Multichoice (the owner of DSTv) decided to independently produce us, give us money to build content and they decided to give it to basketmouth (a foremost comedian in Africa) and because he was also part of the show then, they commissioned him to produce the new content. Then it was called just “flatmates” now it is called “my flatmates”. It is about 4 guys that stays in a house and all the gimmicks that comes with it. It is a sitcom.
You are also an Olympic torch bearer; how did that happen and how proud were you of that moment?
It is not easy, out of billions in the world you are chosen to represent your Africa. I got a call from the London organising committee courtesy Samsung Nigeria and they said they wanted me to be one of those who is to represent west Africa to list the Olympic torch, I felt really honoured that I was chosen and that all my efforts were not in vain.
You are a very popular radio presenter on wazobia fm, how long have you been a presenter for?
I joined Wazobia FM in 2007, December 3rd, 2007. I host the morning show from 6am -10am. The radio station has been number one for a very long time because it is majorly grass root. We talk to the people in the language that they understand and that is the Pidgin English. Even the BBC world service just launched their own in pidgin service also. We see lots of other international media houses also coming up with the pidgin English because that is one language everyone understands, that is their own form of communication, that is the way you can talk to them and they will understand what it is that you are saying
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years in the media business?
In the next 10 years, the media business I am trying to build up what I call “yawnaija entertainment”. An entertainment outfit that does basically productions. We are into online TV and radio, artiste, PR, film and stage, event production basically anything entertainment. Maybe that’s the business angle but if you ask me as Yaw specifically, I cannot say that this is where I will be in the next 10 years because everything that I have done just happened and I am glad that it happened every time. I just look at myself and I know I will definitely get to where I want to, it might take time but I will definitely get there.