Julius Agwu says that you cannot omit his name when discussing the history of entertainment in Nigeria. To do so, you would have to ignore his illustrious career in Comedy, his music comedy catalog, and the many films he has starred in, some of which transformed Nollywood. His popular franchise, Crack Ya Ribs is billed for Christmas Day in his native Rivers State. The show did not hold in 2016 in Rivers State, and that was one of the things that fueled speculations and had people asking what happened to the iconic entertainer. In this interview we go into all these areas and even have him take us back to his origins.
Howfana: Refresh our memory. How long has this brand, Crack Your Ribs existed?
Julius: Since 1996, at Hotel Presidential, before they built the tent and took away my space. So we took it to Aztech Arcum on Stadium Road.
Are you saying it started in Port Harcourt?
No, it started at the Muson Centre in Lagos. That was before they built Eko Hotel. Later, it came to Port Harcourt and started from Hotel Presidential. And when it became very big, we took it to Eko Hotel.
What is the philosophy behind you always doing things in Rivers State? You’re not the only big entertainer from Rivers State, but you really seem to have your feet planted here.
There’s no place like home. This is the place where I grew up. I was born in Choba. I’m an Ikwerre man. I went to State School Choba. Then I shifted to UPE Choba. Then, secondary school – that was as far back as 1984. How old were you in 84?
We don’t have time to take that question [I side step several questions from him throughout the interview]. Let’s continue to go down memory lane for the sake of anybody who doesn’t know.
Secondary school was in Government Secondary School Borikiri. When I was in JSS2, I was a member of Wizzy travelling theatre. That was because my school father at the time was a member.
When I got to SS1 I had a little problem. It was the time of the Anti-SAP riots during Babangida’s time. I took a bus and somehow I was arrested along with many other people. I wasn’t involved in the riots though. I was 17 at the time. My father moved me to Akpor Grammar School, Ozuoba. There, they made me social prefect.
From Ozuoba, you moved to the University of Port Harcourt?
Exactly, I did something called CTA, which means Certificate in Theatre Arts. I hear they don’t do it anymore. CTA accumulates everything that you have to learn and put it in your head. It was worthwhile and that’s what I am practicing now. We actually had a workshop this year at UNIPORT and the students were happy that I came.
Tell us about how you got into movies.
The first film I starred in was called End of the River, directed by Sam Loco Efe. After that Francis Duru and I did Amaka Igwe’s Rattlesnake.
Why do you think Rattlesnake was so groundbreaking? That was when a lot of people started to pay attention to Nigerian movies.
It was done in Igbo. Igbos welcomed the idea and Yorubas welcomed the idea. These days we have channels that focus on movies of specific languages, Youruba, Hausa, etc. Back then there were just a few of us in movies.
There have been a lot of questions and speculation. People are curious to know about your health. What’s been going on in that regard?
God has been good and I guess I have also learned my lessons. That’s the essence of this show we’ll be having on Christmas Day; for people to know that I am back and better.
Even if we feel up the venue, after the show there will still be people speculating about your health, so what can you tell us?
I thank God that I am well now. God is great. Yesterday, I met a woman who said, “I prayed for you”.
We should all be thankful to God because He is the creator. God, who created me, knows why He is keeping me.
You usually praise and thank God at your shows. Is it something you have always done or is it a feature you added recently?
I have always done that.
There was an edition of your show where you did that and Charlie Boy complained about it. What do you have to say to people who don’t think you should spend a lot of time talking about spirituality or faith at a comedy event?
It’s a good thing God is waking them up. No matter how they go and block the main road, God is waking them up. Then, I was just saying thank you to God because a surgery is no joke. I had tumor(s). It is God. And anyone who dies and lives again should be thankful to God.
For human beings here on earth, who are you most thankful for – for standing by you? Who was your rock?
Fans generally, and people I do not know – and especially my wife. Also, my Mummy, my sisters and my brothers. I thank everyone who’s related to me and everyone whom I am not related to who prayed for me. Yesterday, I went to a show at the Hub. When they brought me on stage – the applause alone shows that God really lives. I just walk around because God has been very nice to me. You’re putting me in a mood, I don’t like it [he says, playfully].
Whenever you come to Rivers State to hold, whether it’s a symposium like you did this year at UNIPORT or Crack Ya Ribs, how do you cope with the polarization in Rivers; you have some friends who are APC and some are PDP? There seem to be these divisions but how do you as a man stay neutral, or do you not stay neutral?
You’re very smart [he claps his hands in applause]. I ask you question, you no answer, na this one you ask me. Abeg talk another thing [we laugh]… Julius is back and better with Crack Ya Ribs on the 25th of December [we’re both laughing]. I want people to laugh. That’s the whole idea of the show because a lot of people have been sad this year. Some people do not have enough to take care of themselves… so I want people to laugh into the New Year and believe God that it will be good from next year.