Nigerian entertainer turned politician, Tony Muonagor, popularly known as Tony One Week, has come a long way in the entertainment industry. Since making his Nollywood debut in 1998, Tony One Week has conquered the three major genres of entertainment in Nigeria: comedy, acting and music. Now a politician, Tony One Week, who is currently a minority leader in the Anambra State House of Assembly, is encouraging more entertainers to venture into politics. In this interview with NET, the Anambra State-born entertainer talks about how he became famous, his life as a politician and his ambitions.
How did you become a musician, comedian and an actor?
I was born in Enugu, grew up in Abakaliki and went back to Enugu for my secondary school. When I finished serving, I came to Lagos for holidays in 1997. My brother Peter told me about an audition at Ajao Estate for the movie Betrayer 2. When I got there, Kenneth Okonkwo just saw me and just shook my hands and said, ‘You are in this movie but I don’t know the role you are to play’. I hadn’t auditioned, and he didn’t know me before. At the end of the day, they gave me the role of a minister. It was an Igbo movie, and I was paid two thousand naira for it in 1997. I borrowed my brother in-law’s babariga to play that role as a minster.
How about music?
When I was in the higher institution I was in a Kegite club. We’d take a Christian song and turn it into a gyration song. After Betrayal 2, I started writing songs. For the next 12 months I slept in Okey Ogunjiofor’s office at number 56, Enitan Street in Surulere. You know God comes to you at your lowest; in 1998, God gave me the opportunity. We were writing a movie for Amaco Investments in Mascot Hotel in Surulere. One Stanley Okorie, a fair guy that did this song popular song ‘Goodness of God’ and I were there writing the script when our chairman wrote a cheque of three hundred thousand and gave him and he left. I went to my Chairman and said, ‘Chairman, wetin dis guy do wey you dey give am dis kind money?’ Then he told me, ‘Ah the guy music dey sell now.’ I was shocked; I told my boss, if that be the case, I will record my songs and give it to you. He was rolling in laughter. After that I started writing gospel songs because the musician that got that huge cheque from my boss was a gospel musician too. After some months, my boss asked me, ‘Where is the song you said you were going to record for me?’ I collected my N20, 000 from him for the scripts I wrote for him and from other people. I wanted to go and pay for a self-contained with the money but I went to a studio to book session. That night, I recorded the album that changed my life.
What does it tell you?
That the best things in life are free. In one night, the Tony that you see was transformed, and to the glory of God. I want to do a remix now, and I may bring in Naeto C, or any rap artiste.
You came back last year to release a song with 2face Idibia, are you planning a comeback? It’s not really a comeback because I only started thinking of an album after I had done the song. I just did the song with 2face because of the relationship I had with him. I am building a better relationship with 2face’s management company that can partner with me, to empower the talented youths of my local government (Idemili north). When I was campaigning, I promised my people that I was going to discover one or two people in the areas of music, movies, comedy which was my main area. Now Muzik has signed K-slim, the winner of the talent hunt competition I organised in my constituency. At the end of the day we had the first, second, and third, and gave them prizes, but the winner has been signed by Now Muzik and that promise is what we are fulfilling now.
Tell us how you joined politics?
People think Tony One Week is a very lucky guy but I just thank God. I joined the PDP in 2005 after I left Lagos in 2005. I left Lagos after the Actors’ Guild election; I felt I was cheated by the marketers because they came from everywhere to support my opponent. I am not saying this because it makes me feel bad; if they didn’t cheat me I wouldn’t have been where I am today. Just to tell you that everything that happens in life is for a reason. I went to anchor an event in Abuja and when I came back I told my wife we have to move. That was how I relocated and joined the PDP in 2006. I tried getting a ticket in PDP in 2007, but I failed. I left the PDP in 2009 because I knew I wouldn’t progress there. I campaigned and at the end of the day people appreciated me more because I am Tony One Week. I contested and won and to the glory of God again, inside the house I was made the Minority Leader in the Anambra State House of Assembly, Awka.
How do you combine being a politician and a musician?
Initially I wasn’t doing music after I got into the House of Assembly. Then at some point I made it public that I can only do charity events or maybe ‘one of my friends wan do something e can call me make I come’. Nothing stops me. I can go to a wedding and when I get excited, I can sing. However, I cannot be standing on stage singing with a bottle of beer; that wouldn’t go down well with my person and what I represent. When you listen to the lyrics of ‘Ifedinmma’, you’ll see that it makes sense, and when you watch the video you’ll see that there’s no nudity and vulgarity or these things that are dominant in what we watch today. We have to be responsible because that’s important.
You know once you are an entertainer you’ll always be an entertainer and I am still doing very well as a politician. As I’m talking to you now, that same musician that people did not give any chance has the highest number of motions in the House of Assembly in Anambra State. If you go there and ask they will tell you. In the history of the assembly, I don’t know if anyone has had 23 motions and 3 bills in less than four years in the house and these motions are related to road, education, erosion and social welfare for my constituency. Speaking about that, when you got into the house, did they look at you differently because you are Tony One Week? In a way, they did. I remember the first day the governor presented a budget and he was trying to tell the people how serious he is as a human being. He said something like, ‘I have not come here to play, I’m not a comedian’. He suddenly looked at me and said, ‘Ah,tony you’re here’. Most times they depend on me for some level of humour in the house. There are times that I know that the speaker just wants me to talk because he knows I’m going to say something that will be funny. How did you become a comedian?
That one started long time ago while I was still in Federal Polytechnic, Oko. I set up an entertainment outfit called Thriller Entertainment with my friend Dennis Onwuzurike Junior who is now a pastor. I was anchoring events, making people laugh; we were doing that and paying school fees. We were doing shows in school; it started right from there and I’ve always had a good sense of humour. When I started making my own movies I concentrated on comedy and my first movie was ‘Hooligans’ which I shot with my money, produced and directed. What do you think entertainers can offer as politicians? We are like children. An entertainer does not keep anything in his mind. We are not very rigid. We are jolly fellows and this is the kind of mindset we need in the leadership of the country. If you have an entertainer that has the basic educational qualification and is exposed, then you can get your perfect leader. I schooled in the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, for my H.N.D then to University of Nigeria for P.G.D and M.B.A. I’m not just a musician. You may say who be dis musician wey just come enter house? But when I start talking, when I start blowing grammar you go say dis person nah correct person.
You have been married for a long time now, tell us about that
My father was a wonderful man – he was happily married but he died early, when I was in class 2. Somehow within me I’ve always wanted to marry in time. In 1998, God made me a star; by 1999 I performed at the Benson & Hedges show which was the biggest event in Nigeria at that time. That same 1999, I got married….