Bob Manuel-Udokwu: Double gbosa for the Bob of moviedom
By this time next week, two things about the notable Nollywood actor and later day politician Bob Manuel Obidinma Udokwo would have changed. The first is that the actor will be a year older on April 18 and secondly the native of Idemili North Local Government who prides himself as having come from the same town as the literary legend Chinua Achebe would have been admitted into the knighthood of Saint Paul. So if you run into Bob, who is undoubtedly a leading and pioneer Nollywood actor and you address him as ‘Sir’ instead of ‘Mr’, you will just be in order as the actor, by virtue of the investiture ceremony which takes place today at the Cathedral Church of St. Faith in Awka, Anambra state qualifies to put ‘Sir’ in front of his name and to be addressed as such. ‘I return all the glory to God for this recognition which coincides with my 54th birthday. This double celebration is the Lords doing and my family and I are eternally grateful to God for His grace and faithfulness and to the Cathedral Church of Saint Faith and indeed the Diocese of Awka for the recognition. It is a call to greater service to God and to humanity and with God helping me, I will not disappoint’ an elated Bob said on telephone from Awka adding that a reception for both event will take place on April 18 in Awka.
An actor of vast credits and producer of ‘Wedding Bells’ – his first take as a producer, there was a time in the life of the Nigerian movie when Bob would feature in nine out of every ten works released. Bob was also at a time, the producer’s first choice for the actor who would get the lead actress fall in love with him effortlessly. Born in Enugu under the star sign Aries, Udokwu was one child star who exhibited a great passion for acting. But it was not until 1986, the same year that he gained admission to study Theatre Arts at the University of Port Harcourt that Bob’s artistic bent manifested and became really noticeable. Since then, the one-time National President of the Nigerian University Theatre Arts Association (NUTASA) and coordinator of the NYSC drama troupe during his service year in Oyo State has not looked back.
But prior to his graduation from the University of Port Harcourt, Udokwu had become something of a local champion. In school, he was a part of every other stage and screen show. Off campus, his involvement in the production of a musical on the prime time belt of the Federal Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) Enugu, ‘Kata Egwu’ (guess the tune) conferred on him a star status. He also joined an amateur theatre group, the People’s Theatre based then on the grounds of the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) Enugu to hone his skills.
An old boy of St. Peters Primary School now Hillside Primary School Enugu and Oraukwu Grammar School also in Enugu, Bob, a recipient of a number of industry awards amongst them the Nigerian Christian Filmmakers Role Model Award for the year 2004 and the THEMA and REEL awards Best Actor award first hit the mark when he featured as a supporting lead actor in the rested television soap ‘Checkmate’. It was that outing that undoubtedly shot him to prominence. As soon as the award winning ‘Checkmate’ was rested, Bob who holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Lagos moved on. Armed with a training in theatre and a pouch filled with stage and screen production credits he had taken part in, it didn’t take long before Bob became the toast of most first-rate home video producers and directors. It got to a point where everyone wanted just Bob to play the lead. His debut on home video was in the phenomenal production ‘Living in Bondage’ in 1992. Between the time he featured in ‘Living in Bondage’ and 1995 when he featured in the romantic thriller ‘When the Sun Sets’, Bob has featured in over a hundred movies.
Nearly two and half decades after, Bob says it is possible that he would have featured in over 200 movies knowing that he had been very consistent on the turf. In Bob’s acting oeuvre are such celebrated movie productions as ‘Evil Genius’, ‘Tokunboh’, ‘Blood Brothers’, ‘Risky Affairs’, ‘Pestilence’, ‘Ogbaje’, ‘My Girl’, ‘One Dollar’, ‘Gun Powder’, ‘Apology’ and ‘Beyond The Altar’. Bob’s most memorable run — as many of his teeming fans would agree — was his gripping run as a randy Reverend in the ground-breaking religious thriller from the stable of Gabosky films ‘Beyond the Vow’. Bob‘s effort in the movie raised his popularity rating and it correspondingly fetched him a number of industry awards.
Married to Cassandra Udokwu and blessed with two children Elyon and Marcus Garvey, the actor took a dash at politics when he joined the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) soon as he was appointed Senior Special Assistant on New Media to former Anambra governor Mr. Peter Obi. When Obi served out his tenure and handed over to Chief Willy Obiano, Udokwu was retained to serve in the administration of Chief Obiano but this time as Senior Special Assistant on Entertainment to the Governor. Udokwu was at his beat when the inspiration came for him to vie for political office. He sought the ticket of his party to vie for a seat in the view for a in the Anambra State House of Assembly but he was not successful. Udokwu had explained then that his move into politics is to help develop his Idemili North area into a constituency to beat in the state.
A recipient of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) Special Recognition Awards for his contribution to movie industry, Udokwu still finds time to hug his first love acting despite his crowded off-screen schedule. His latest screen efforts include ‘Adesuwa’ and ‘Living in Bondage: Breaking Free’ where he played the role of Mike.