Life Time Achievement Award for comic Actor, Nkem Owoh aka Osuofia
Nollywood may not have picked up the most coveted acting and technical awards at the recent 13th edition of the prestigious Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), but one of its comic acting gift to the world, Nkem Owoh, popularly known as Osuofia, gave the industry what to at least cheer about, aside winning in the animation, production design and make-up categories.
Nkem Owoh was the lone recipient of what is considered the highest honour of the AMAA- The Life Time Achievement Award (LTAA).
The award was presented to the lanky actor and scriptwriter at the award ceremony held last Saturday at the Convention Hall of the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
In a short presentation that preceded the presentation of the Life Time Achievement crest to the actor of immense credits, the organisers said Osuofia deserved the honour, having committed over three decades in the service of the acting and scripting vocation.
The Board of the AMAA noted that it was for his immense contribution to the development of the Nigerian film industry that Osoufia was been honoured with a LTAA.
In accepting his crest, Owoh, an AMAA 2008 laureate for Best Actor, thanked the organisers for the recognition, which he dedicated to peacemakers all over the world.
He particularly commended the Founder of AMAA, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, for her consistency and dedication to promoting the African filmmakers and their works.
A self-made actor and humour merchant extra-ordinaire, whose fans giggle with excitement each time his name runs out on the credit line of a movie, a huge screen favourite and Nigeria’s hottest acting celebrity, Owoh is arguably one of the most sought after and highest paid movie actors in the Nigerian screen acting scene.
An electrical and electronics engineering graduate, one album music star, husband to Ngozi Owoh, nee Ikebude, and father of three, Owoh has continued to dominate the acting skies of Nollywood.
He has also earned a number of aliases, with four of the popular ones being Pam Pam, Atinga, Akidi and lately Osuofia, a screen name that has somewhat replaced his real names.
“The talent has always been there. It began from the day I was born,” he said, on how it all began for him.
“I have always loved acting and I feel very fulfilled each time I am giving an opportunity to do some acting right from my days in primary school and secondary and to even university.
“Though I studied engineering, my inclination has always titled towards the performing arts, which include acting, writing and singing. Which was why when I elected to work professionally, I choose the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as my first port of call and since 1979, I have been stuck to performing arts, and I want to believe that it is divine,” he said.
Armed with a pouch filled with movie appearances, at the last count, 250 major appearances, with the very notable ones being his appearance in movies, such as the two part comic encounter, Osuofia In London, Pam Pam, Akidi and Atinga, it took a large dose of diligence and hardwork and a considerable amount of commitment, as Owoh said, for him to walk out of obscurity to fame and to remain at the top of a competitive vocation as acting.
Some informed observers who have followed Osuofia’s eventful career agree that the Enugu State-born actor has carved a niche for himself and had overtime acquired a reputation, that of being a recognisable face and a forward liner.
Indeed, with Owoh, most people say, there are no dull moments in a picture.
But it was the television that prepared Owoh for the huge stride he has recorded in the home movie industry.
When he accepted over a decade ago, the challenge of standing in for a fellow who was supposed to feature as a village drunk in the then weekly television sit com, New Masquerade, Owoh said he had no idea at all that he would later rise to become an outsized version of his original story.
It was that show of courage that opened the floodgate of opportunities for the actor, who once penned scripts for New Masquerade and the late Ken Saro Wiwa’s long rested sit-com on television, Basi and Company.
Owoh was also at that time, “around 1987 and 1998,” as he tried to recall, an accredited writer for the network productions of the NTA.
But how did he get on the movie runway? He explained that he joined as a writer and was actually contracted to handle the subtitling of the phenomenal Igbo language home video, Living in Bondage soon as work was concluded on the production.
“Most people do not know that that was how I started. That was my first movie in this industry called Nollywood. I joined as a writer and not as an actor,” he said.
But an acting offer came almost a year after Living in Bondage was released for public viewing. The producers of another Igbo language movie, Circle of Doom, sought him out and engaged him to play the role of a custom officer.
He was also asked, though unofficially, to assist with the restructuring of the script.
It was with that appearance in Circle of Doom that Owoh announced his presence on the turf, as he got other producers rooting, not only for his acting abilities, but also his sense of good scripting.
It was to Owoh credits that the movie, Taboo, his third ever movie credit, was acclaimed a success.
“I carried out a thorough research after I received the script. I felt strongly that it was not enough to just tell a story about the Osu-caste system without a thorough research on the subject. I am happy with the story we eventually told,” he reminisced.
After Taboo came, and not in any particular order, Frame Up, Rattle Snake, Ikuku, Pam Pam and a dozen others.
Asked to name his favourite or most challenging movie run yet, Owoh said naming his favourite movie would amount to saying which of his children is the best. Instead, he said all the movies he has featured have challenged him in different ways.
“I can’t now say which one challenged me so well. All of them are challenging. There is something each of them demands from me. So, it would be difficult to say,” he noted.
For all this, he is both loved and reviled. His critics have accused him of rigidity. When they want to smirk at him, they say he “plays the character Osoufia in every movie,” thus making most of his movie appearances seem a sequel to what they consider his biggest work yet on video, Osuofia in London.
Even at that, Owoh is much more loved than he is reviled. His fans say they love his good humour and charm.
Those who have met him outside the screen say he is world apart from the character he interprets with his sense of humour being the only trait he shares with his roles in the movie.
They also say that he is likeable, sociable, humane and one who is modest about his physical possessions.
Owoh’s greatest interest is in the area of production and directing. He is really looking forward to exploiting his interest in the area of directing, adding: “They say there is no retirement age in acting. But when I pull out of active acting, I intend to concentrate on producing and directing. Those are my real area of interest.”
When Owoh is not on set, he spends ample time, as he said, with his wife and children.
“That’s only when I have time for them, because I am always on the road. I hardly have time to hang out with them. So, when I am not busy, I spend good time with my children and my lovely wife.”