Chinwetalu Agu… Travails of Nollywood elder
There was uproar across the country penultimate Thursday, when news filtered out that, men of the Nigerian Army in Onitsha, Anambra State, had arrested veteran actor, writer and producer, Chinwetalu Agu.
The actor was arrested after men of the Nigerian Army on patrol spotted him wearing an outfit made from the Biafra flag. The actor was subsequently detained.
Next day, news broke that the actor has been released. The Actors Guild Of Nigeria (AGN), in a statement signed by its Director of Communication Monalisa Chinda Coker, broke the cheery news that the National President of the AGN Emeka Rollas had secured the release of the actor of vast credit from the custody of the Nigerian Army.
A few hours later, news broke again that Chinwetalu Agu has again been picked up, this time, by officers of the Department of State Services (DSS) and flown to Abuja for further investigation and interrogation.
Again, after the intervention of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria (AGN) and the effort of Constitutional Lawyer Mike Ozekhome, the Department of State Services released Chinwetalu Agu after searching his phone and found nothing incriminating.
There was wild jubilation, especially across the membership of the AGN, when the DSS announced Agu’s release from detention. The leadership and members of the Enugu Chapter of the AGN hurriedly organised a welcome back event where Chinwetalu had the opportunity to explain the events that led to his arrest and eventual release.
“It didn’t start well, but God took control. I was only buying bread for the poor; soldiers came in and started scattering things. They said they are calling me in the office, but they did not tell me my offence. Because they did not tell me my offence, I refused to follow them. That drama that took place was important so that they will know that Igbo are here. That moment of Upper Iweka till the time we got to the army barracks close to Zik Mausoleum, to 82 Division of the Nigerian Army and to DSS office in Abuja, nobody touched me. They treated me with respect. Every officer wanted to be involved in the case so that they can have the opportunity to interact with Chinwetalu Agu,’’ he narrated.
But Agu is not new to controversies. The actor got everyone talking when he remarked in an interview that he “will act for a good price.” Agu who won the 2012 Nollywood Movie Awards for best actor in an indigenous movie for his role in the Igbo language movie titled Nkwocha, didn’t stop there. He asked all those running commentaries on the issue of sexual harassment in the industry not to dissipate energies on the matter, as the issue of sexual harassment is an issue with a general phenomenon.
The actor was quoted to have alluded that sexual harassment in the movie industry has persisted because ‘Nollywood actresses are well endowed.”
Virulent comments, even by some industry practitioners greeted his comments. But his recent arrest first by the Nigerian Army and then the Department of State Securities (DSS) was the height of the controversy around the actor of many credits, who is best known for his usage of specific language slang, phrases or clichés as the refrain in many films. The consistent use of different slang and phrases has made him a household name amongst his fans and the plenty of viewers of Nollywood movies.
A versatile actor, husband to Nkechi Chinwetalu Agu and father to three sons and daughters, Agu started his acting career on television before joining the home video industry. The star of Abba Makama’s Lost Okoroshi is among the few practitioners who transited easily from television to Nollywood and are still holing on the ace.
The actor revealed that he was a major part of the popular but long rested Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) comic series Ikoro as produced by Joe Onyekwelu. The drama was a production of the defunct NTA Production centre in Enugu. From Ikoro, Agu was auditioned and selected to feature in the television adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, as directed for the NTA by David Oriere.
Agu featured in a couple of television series and soaps including Ripples where he featured as Chief Abunna and At Your Service before he joined Nollywood. Since the 67-year-old joined Nollywood, there has been no dry season for him in terms of performance. It has been from one movie set to another for the actor who mixes freely with colleagues old and young and who close friends described as a family man and a man who has tremendous regards for his local custom and tradition.
Star of the four-part movie Last Ofalla, Return of Justice By Fire, Fire on the Mountain, Price of the Wicked, The Priest Must Die and The Price of Sacrifice, Agu has featured in so many Nollywood movies. At the last count, there are more than 200 movies in which he has featured as an actor.
“I have lost count; I cannot count the number of movies I have featured in. it is like counting the hair on your head. But I have done quite a lot. Quite a lot,” he said.
The other movies in his loaded pouch include The Catechist, Police Recruit, Across the Niger, Royal Messengers, Royal Destiny, Holy Anger, Evil Twin, The Wedding Party 2, two-part movie Battle of the Gods, and The Maidens starring Clarion Chukwurah.
A titled Chief, Agu who holds the traditional titles of Okemilinaezoluora I of Etiti and the Odezulumba of Ogbunike town, was born in Enugu in 1956. He hails from Amokwe in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. He had his early education at St Lukes’ Primary School Ogui Nike, College of Immaculate Conception (CIC) both in Enugu and at Wisent College West Germany where he studied drama.
On his return from Germany in 1981, Agu set up a theatre group known as the Inspirers and together, they produced a soap opera entitled The Advocate, which was never aired because of lack of sponsorship. In 1987, Agu moved to Lagos and grabbed a leading role in Ripples as produced and directed by Zeb Ejiro. When development peaked for Nollywood, Agu found a spot in the team that produced the phenomenal Living in Bondage as produced by Kenneth Nnebue and directed by Chris Obi-Rapu.
Another phenomenal Nollywood classic of the 90’s Taboo was next for Agu after Living in Bondage. He played the role of Ichie Ogwu and the roles have continued to pile up for the actor.
Asked to state his most memorable movie and role, Agu who revealed that his second given name is Christian replied thus: “It is like asking me to name my best child; I have several of them that are memorable. In fact, I know the memorable ones whenever I encounter my fans some of who include very top government functionaries and captains of industry. There was a time a governor saw me and asked me the title of the movie that I did where the red cap was coming from the sky and perching on people’s head and you will tell the person ‘prepare to leave this world you are going to die.’ He asked about the slogan I used in the movie. I told him Igba nni na ofe. When I said that, the governor in the course of laughter wanted to slip and fall and had to be supported. So, I have so many memorable movies that I cannot just pick one.”
Asked to state the gains of being a performer, Agu snapped and said, “Plenty. It has availed me the opportunity to meet the high and mighty. This has really opened doors. The gains are worth more than the financial remuneration. I really thank God for how far He has brought me. I am glad that God has used me as an instrument to bring joy in many homes not just in Africa, but also outside the continent.”