Okey Bakassi is a natural comedian who has the capacity to make people laugh before he says anything. This is his greatest strength and trump card as a comedian and show business man. Either as a show host or comedian, there is always something about him that evokes amusement even when the situation does not call for laughter. He is also a conscious performer who regularly deploys all his non-verbal and verbal communication skills on every occasion.
His performing journey began in his university days as an undergraduate. He was actually part of a mobile theatre group that dominated the school’s social circuit back in the day. For these fun-loving performers, no form of entertainment took place on campus without their active participation as a group or individually. So, long before graduation, Okey already knew he had a rendezvous with show business and related activities. Consequently, on arrival in Lagos in search of his destiny, he met Zeb Ejiro, a big movie producer who gave him his first major acting opportunity on the set of Fortunes in 1993. As Nick, one of the bodyguards of the Johnsons, he drew attention to himself on a network television production that eventually aided his burgeoning acting career and changed his life forever.
From there, Anthony Okechukwu Onyegbule (his real name), took off with great speed and promise. In a few years, he had gained momentum and was already airborne cruising and attracting attention and patronage from everywhere in the country, including Nollywood and corporate Nigeria. He also won many awards and recognitions in a very short time in Nigeria’s movie industry and the comedy world. The two most prestigious prizes are his 2014 Best Actor in a Leading Role and the Best of Nollywood Awards for his role in the movie, Onye Ozi.
Outside comedy which appears to interest him a great deal, Okey Bakassi is frequently hitting the airwaves and providing comic materials with the many programmes he anchors on radio and television. The Other News, a show he presents on Channels Television that showcases his multiple aptitudes, boasts of a very big viewership in Nigeria and outside.
No doubt, the story of this tough graduate of engineering who chose comedy above every other profession is still unfolding. But Okey Bakassi is not depending on outsiders alone to fill the gaps and tell his true story. So, about two years ago, he presented Memoirs of an African Comedian, an autobiography; a readable book written by him on his life’s fascinating journey. This memoir presents interesting perspectives on the comedian’s incredible life, from childhood and growing up days to adulthood with all the anticipated dramas. It is a book with facts about the comedian and his strange world.
From all the accounts, Okey Bakassi was certainly born to be an entertainer. In spite of everything, including attending Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, an institution without a theatre department, he still managed to live his dream. He did not mind all the obstacles a first time actor would naturally meet during audition and acting, including the entire gamut of production that involves interpretation of roles, directing and delivery.
But if laughter is truly the best medicine, then Nigerians and indeed everyone who subscribe to the jokes of this comedian and his colleagues owe them. Certainly, they are filling a vacuum. And the fact that many of them today are financially well off, is also a sign that they are appreciated.
This article was first published in alice, the in-flight magazine of Air Peace.