Rubbing Minds With Ebuka Obi-Uchendu
The first time we laid eyes on Ebuka Obi-Uchendu was as a housemate on the first ever Big Brother Nigeria and although he didn’t win the grand prize, he remains one of the most successful housemates of all time. Uchendu admits that although he loved TV he never saw himself as a presenter or host. He says, “I got on TV because I was on Big Brother and people called me for auditions and I got TV shows and started hosting events as a result of that.” Uchendu’s ability to swing between the soft topics of pop culture to the hard topics of politics has seen him as the anchor for Rubbin Minds on Channels TV, a co-anchor on The Spot on EbonyLife TV and most recently the host of the second season of Big Brother Nigeria.
Who is Ebuka Obi-Uchendu?
Uchendu is calm and collected as he gets to the studio but transforms into a ball of comedic energy as he changes between outfits for the shoot and insists that we credit him for styling. When not being a versed and stylish host, Uchendu is a husband, father and aspires to be on TV for a very long time.
Last year, he became a father and a husband and he speaks of it as a humbling experience from being in the delivery room with his wife to having an amazing first year of marriage. The transition from bachelorhood to family man is what he describes as, “Very interesting!” he goes further to say, “They always warn you about the sleepless nights, nothing prepares you for it.”
Speaking of his marriage he says, “Marriage has been amazing, the first year is supposed to be the toughest they say but if that’s what tough means then I guess I might have a good couple of years ahead of me.”
His daughter, who he says is, “Basically in control of our lives now [laughs]”, and his wife, who he describes as a partner, have taught him the values of communication and patience, saying, “Having a partner who whether I liked it or not was a part of me, I had to change (communication) that because if I was going through stuff, that meant that she was going through that same thing and she needed to know what I was going through and I started coming out gradually.”
Uchendu hosted the first ever presidential debate focusing on youth issues in 2011 and he states that his interest was piqued by the 2000 presidential debate between Al Gore and George Bush. He hosted the debate with Chimamanda Adichie which he says was “Probably one of the highlights of my career till date.”Talking on his dream platforms to host he says, “You have the platforms like CNN, BBC and the Aljazeeras, they have a certain standard and those are the kind of platform I see myself with in the future hopefully. Maybe show them a different side to Nigeria and Africa.”
To set this in motion, Uchendu is currently using the platform on Rubbin Minds to create a name for himself as a host for entertainment and serious issues. “The show that I do on Channels is political. It’s current affairs but it’s also tilted towards the youth so they watch these things and think this is what the youths are thinking and coming from.”Speaking on the platforms he would like to be on internationally, he goes on to say, “If they see I’ve been on Channels, no offense to all the other shows, if they see that I’ve done a show like this, where I wear a suit and sound smart, they’d take me seriously.”
Big Brother from three sides
There was a little bit of surprise when Uchendu was revealed as the host of Big Brother Nigeria in place of Ik Osakioduwa and to this, he says, “Even if they had brought Ryan Seacrest to that show there would have always been “Ik wouldn’t do this” which is normal. There is no show in the world where they replace somebody and there wouldn’t be comparisons.” He was also under pressure hosting the biggest show in Africa which airs in 48 countries to which he says, “Thankfully it was a 12-13 episode show so I had time to build myself.”
Uchendu had a 360 experience from being a contestant in 2006 to hosting the show in 2017, he says, “It was a great experience for me, it was a full circle, being on the show and then hosting the show. Seeing things from the other side was crazy.” He goes on to say, “I was very humbled to be a part of it and learn even more aside from being a housemate or a presenter.”
The case of morality was one of the major issues that surrounded the 2017 Big Brother Nigeria show when Kemen was evicted for sexually harassing Kemen to which he says, “The beauty of a show like Big Brother is that it mirrors our society. There is nothing that happens on a show like that is orchestrated.” From the selection of housemates which Uchendu describes as “probably the best they have ever done,” he goes on to say, “Which is why it was the most popular Big Brother they have ever done on the continent and it was simply because they made sure they picked somebody for everybody so you could relate to at least one person.”
He also reveals that: “The most censored season of Big Brother has been this season,” which he attributes to the general perception of Nigerians towards the happenings in the house to which he says, “As much as they were being themselves, there was also the need to consider the society we live in.” His advice to the public is to make sure the children don’t watch the show stating that, “Morality is always going to be an issue.”
Talking politics and pop culture
Uchendu has positioned himself to be knowledgeable on various topics, particularly politics and pop culture. Speaking on the improvement in the entertainment industry he says, “I think we are on the right track,” and charges the government to fix issues of piracy and distribution as well as building a structure for the industry.
He goes on to say, “It’s almost impossible for us to grow much more than we are now without a structure and I’m talking about people actually going into a business with laws.” Using Tuface as an example he goes on to say, “There’s no reason why someone like Tuface should retire today and not die a millionaire even he lives for another 40-50 years because he has put in so much work.”
Regardless of the lack of structure presently, the industry is booming as Uchendu says, “I know how much I was getting paid as a presenter and MC then and how much I’m getting paid now.”
Talking about politics he speaks on the effect of social media which has helped but goes on to say, “There’s still a lot of apathy and that’s because there’s a huge disconnect because most people feel like the government isn’t doing anything for them and you can’t blame them.” Also raising a core issue of the middle class in Nigeria who tend to be influenced by politicians saying, “The real problem is that as long as there’s poverty, it’s almost impossible for people to be honest when there’s money and that’s going to keep happening when the people do not have financial stability, power or a voice. A voice cannot come on an empty stomach.”
“The most censored season of Big Brother has been this season…As much as they were being themselves, there was also the need to consider the society we live in”
Being on the job
Uchendu loves his job and is always looking for new ways to improve his craft. Although he is self-taught he says he watched other hosts and presenters as a tool to harnessing his craft. He goes on to say, “Whatever art form you are doing you should be on top of your game.” He also admits to watching his interviews saying, “I used to cringe but now I actually watch to correct myself.” Conducting an average of 50 interviews every year on Rubbin Minds, his interview with Reminisce sticks out for him for two reasons, “First of all, forgive me I judged him before he came on the show and he came on and was one of the most eloquent people I have ever interviewed and not just eloquent, he made very salient points.”
Creative Direction: Chidera Muoka
Photography: Niyi Okeowo
Styling: Nkem Okorafor and