Friday, January 22, 2021

Entertainers are Sustaining the Integrity of Nigeria more than Politicians---Francis Duru


Francis Duru is a veteran Nollywood actor, model, Master of Ceremony, comedian, television personality, director, investor, entrepreneur and a philanthropist. In 2007, he received the United Nations Ambassador of Peace award for his positive influence on the youths. In 2010, Duru was appointed as the interim president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria and in the same year, was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the Africa Movie Academy Award. Duru was born in Cameroon where he had his primary and part of his secondary education; thereafter proceeded to the University of Port-Harcourt where he bagged a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts. In this interview with TOPFLYERS MAGAZINE, he speaks about the entertainment industry and his rise to fame.


Welcome to Topflyers Magazine Exclusive Session. Can we meet you?

I feel pleased to be here. My name is Francis Duru, I am an actor, Nollywood is my constituency and entertainment is my foretell

Where are you from, we mean state of Origin?

I am an Indigene of Imo State, Isiala Mbanor, Eziama to be precise so I am an Ibo boy.

What is your educational background?

I was born in Cameroon, I did my primary and part of my secondary school in Cameroon.  I came back to Nigeria and finished my secondary school in Nigeria, St. Thomas Aquinax and University of Port Harcourt, UNIPORT where I graduated from the department of Theatre Arts.

How did you discover you had a talent for acting?

(Smiles) For me, it was not about discovery, it was about opportunity bringing me closer to what I never knew was my calling in life.  All through my secondary school, writing JAMB, I had it in mind to either study Law or Mass Communication. However, as fortune would permit, opportunity came calling when I followed a friend of mine, Theophilus Nnebuchi to their theatre where they normally carry out their drama rehearsals and behold, that day there was an opportunity for me. The drama group needed someone who could speak like someone from Akwa Ibom and I have always done such kind of thing, I mean mimicking and things related to it. From there, the rest is history and that was how I moved from Celtel production to Wizzy theatre which people call “willy-willy”. Two principal persons, Mr. Paul Euria Worica and Professor Innocent, the Willy-willy people talk about. These two platforms were what I used in getting into the university and my skills were horned by my teachers especially Columbus Erusonga who is one man who actually mid-wifed my process and cleaned me from raw dirty goal to multiple karat goal. He is one of the person on whose shoulders I stand tall and late Amachu B. These two persons principally groomed me as well as many other lecturers lik, Dr. Nwafor, my big brother in the industry, Ejike Asiegbu, Emmanuel Odogwu, Uche Ogbonna and a whole lot of persons. That is how the process came to be and today we speak the language of excellence in the movie industry but there are people who actually gave us the leverage and lay a path for us to work through.

How long have you been into acting?

Well, I can’t really say the actual date but again I started around 1989 so it is about 31 years now.

How has the journey been so far for you?

Well, the journey has been like a beautiful sandwich which must have the sweet, sour and bitter, but at the end of the day I don’t remember the sour or bitter part. It is only the sweet part because if I am still relevant today then it means the journey has been sweet. If I measure where I am coming from compared to where I am today, I am not where I am supposed to be but I am not where I used to be which means that there has been some tremendous progress. I live my life one day at a time, activated and accelerated by the grace of God. We don’t stand to impress anybody but as our innate virtues to make the world a better place and put smiles in the face of people by virtue of what we do and that is how it has been for me.

Apart from acting, what other things do you do?

Well, I am privileged because when the Bible says, "we are designed for signs and wonders; wonderfully and fearfully made", it speaks of diverse gifting and I thank God for the fact that I have stretched myself within the confines of the entertainment industry. I can use the microphone to make people laugh, I am a Master of Ceremony (MC), I do consultancy, a Writer, producer, director and I teach. I also manage my wife and children so if you look at it critically, I have been cultivating very well within God’s vineyard (laughs).

Are you under any management or do you manage people?

(Smile) Well, in the course of what we do, we meet people who have to manage our process or we manage theirs. I have managed so many people’s processes. I have been planted in a family worship center for 20 years working in the youth church where teenagers, young men and women grow to become men/women and are now fathers and mothers. When I see what they have become today, It speaks that i have been part of those who managed their process. So I have been a manger of talents, processes and destinies and that is what I have found myself in but for now I manage myself but when some jobs come I take it to people who understand the dynamics so that I am not short-paid and because I don’t know everything, I sometimes have to look for people who will fortify my ignorance and I leverage on their wisdom and roles.

How would you rate the entertainment industry in Nigeria today?

Interestingly, The entertainment industry in Nigeria has grown and is still growing and that is what life is all about. We are all growing. But at each point we are growing, it means that we have grown to become something worth more than what we used to be and so let’s look beyond the things we have not done right and look at where we came from which speaks one thing—we have grown. If we look inward we will see dimensions of progress. Netflix is now focused in Nigeria; they are giving Oscars and have an interest in the Nigerian Film industry. So what is it that we have been doing that is still attracting the world? It speaks one thing, strength. Our creative ingenuity is unparalleled. Nigerians are creative and that is what has kept this country together. If you go to so many small countries, they don’t have half the things we have in this country but we are so blessed even when we have abused some of these things. If you talk about the industry in Nigeria, we have COME TO BE. If anyone does not like it, it is their business. In music, dance, fashion, music, comedy, cuisine, etc we have come to be. So rather than crying wolf unnecessarily, let us look at our strength and give it a push.

Interviewer adds in: We totally agree with you this. Focusing on the strength and giving it more push is the underlying factor to getting to the TOP.

How would you want the Nigerian government to support the entertainment industry?

We have cried alot. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala are some of the Nigerians who understood the power in the entertainment industry. They opened an interface for promotion in the entertainment industry even though things didn’t go as planned. Government policies using the National Broadcasting Code (NBC) could hamper the growth of the industry. Policy makers make decisions without carrying the people along, so if you must give me Panadol, let me tell you that I have headache. What that means is that, the government should ask the movie industry what their challenges really are before providing solutions. They should understand the dynamics of the problem of the entertainment industry before they proffer solutions. Solutions should not be based on assumptions and the opinion of some selfish individuals in the industry. The government should understand our needs, the needs of every stake holder in the industry. Government policies should further be devoid of sentiments, ethnicism, religion and tribalism.

Are you currently working on any movie?

(Laughs) Oh Yes! we just finished “Living in Abuja” part 3 and 4. It is about the many fake lives people live in Abuja. We rounded off the movie “Ojukwu” recently and I am preparing for my own production.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic have any effect on your business?

Yes, it did. As an MC, I was supposed to be in the South Africa, United States of America (USA), Canada and Kenya but Covid-19 messed it up. The money did not come. Also, there is so much pain and strain on the economy which is affecting people no matter how rich they are. Some businesses that have been on hold for over four months cannot rise again. However, we are creating solutions. We have started shooting movies as things are getting back to normalcy, although our major challenge is pay cuts. So there is a tremendous devastation. However, life continues.

How do you relax?

I am a non-conformist. I can relax anyhow because I move by impulse. However, over the time I spend most time at home because my family inspires me. I am also a worker in the church so I am always in the church too. Infact, our work environment is the same place we relax and it is beautiful.

Interviewer adds in: That's amazing!

What is family to you?

Hmm...Family is everything. One may not really know the impact until he or she is away for three days. Family is key.

You have a lot of people who (probably) would want to be like you. What is your message to them?

Thank you. But my appeal to those looking up to me is not to be like me but to be greater than me. In addition, life is a journey, understand it. Life is a gift from God for His purpose. Your giftings are meant for you to change your world. If you say you want to be a star, just ask yourself what problems you intending solving with it. I am not popular, I am famous. Being popular and being famous are two different things. Fame is associated with solutions and values. I am who I am today not because I am popular but because I am famous. Boko Haram is born out of notoriety and their leader is popular but we cannot tell people to follow him because his lifestyle is zero so young men who want to rule their world must first of all create values. You cannot provide values or be sustained if you are not processed. So, to my fans I am saying, get a process; get a mentor. I have good mentors; I went to them they did not come to me. Do not work to become a star, work to be good at what you do, it would attract stardom.

Is there anyone one you would like to give a special shout out to?

It would be selfish to give a shout out to just one person. I will simply say to all creative natives in the entertainment industry, God bless you. We have been the ones keeping this country alive. The dignity, integrity, prestige and heritage of this country are being secured by us. We are the custodians of the integrity of this nation beyond what politicians are doing to our country. If there is anything Nigerians are known for, it is their skills, the entertainment (sports, Nollywood, music, comedy, fashion) industry and nobody can write us off because we have come to be. If not for anything, let that be our heritage beyond our vegetation and other things that have been abused.  God bless you all.

I'm signing out now. Don't forget to follow me on social media (IG: @francis.duru )

Interviewer: You have spoken amazingly well not just about the entertainment industry but given us Life nuggets, which I believe will instill a sense of belonging to the youths and entertainers all over the World. Thanks for being our Host

Replies: Thank You once again TOPFLYERS MAGAZINE INTERNATIONAL and the team.


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