TONY One Week Muonagor, long before stardom knocked on his door, had walked up to me one day and said: ‘I must make it in this industry.’ This was after a role he had concluded was going to be his stepping pad was ‘denied’ him. Tony, a day before, had been given the role of Chike in Mortal Inheritance (later played by Fred Amata). On the day he was to pick up the script, he got to the producers, Andy Amenechi and Bond Emeruwa, only to be told that he still had one more hurdle to scale and that was that he will compete for the role again with Fred Amata. He just shook his head and stormed out of the place. And when he saw me later that day, he said to me: ‘Azuh, my time hasn’t come. But I know it will come some day. How do those people expect me to compete for a role with Fred. For God’s sake. Fred na my oga,’ he blurted. The said role later fetched Fred an award, alongside his co-lead, Omotola Jaiade-Ekeinde, at THEMA Awards. A couple of months later, Tony’s time, like he had prophesised, actually came. But instead of coming via role interpretation like he had thought, it did via music. Basking in the euphoria of his new status and somewhere in Surulere, AZUH ARINZE had the opportunity to remind Tony once again of years past when the future seemed so, so bleak. As well as what the night has today given birth for both of us. I hope you will enjoy it and at the end of the day also learn one or two things on why it pays to be resilient, resourceful and responsive, no matter what…
What should we know about Tony One Week?
You sabi Tony One Week now! Abi wetin else make I talk? I’m just a struggling guy who believes that with God everything is possible.
That is definitely not all there is to be known about you. Tell me more about yourself…
I’m from Obosi, Anambra State. I was born in Enugu. 1 attended St. Patrick’s College, Emene, Abakaliki High School (now in Ebonyi State). When I finished my WAEC in 1981, I taught for sometime. I had a grade one and they offered me appointment as an auxiliary teacher. I taught for about 2-3 years. But before then, I had started doing some programmes in NTA, Enugu and ABS. Then, in Enugu too, I was part of the popular TV soap, Ikoro where I acted the role of Olololo, a houseboy. I actually wrote the script that got me into Ikoro; something on the environment. I’ve forgotten the title.
And from there what happened?
I went to Federal Polytechnic, Oko (Anambra State) where I read Mass Communication. I did both my OND and HND there and I majored in print. So, I’m a journalist. While at Oko, I was also a newscaster (in Igbo and English) with NTA, Enugu, Channel 8. I went to do my I T, they tried me and found me okay and decided to use me. AIT’s Jika Attoh was my then head of department (presentation). I can’t forget the first day I was asked to open the station as the continuity announcer.
What happened on the said day that you can never forget it?
I had been watching those who do that with keen interest and was always telling Jika that I could do better. This was in 1988. Jika himself, while doing his, was unlike others whom I felt were straight-jacketed. I felt I could do it like Jika and told him so. Then I came to work and Jika gave me the surprise of my life. He just said: ‘Tony, you are opening the station today. So, get ready’. Immediately, I started running helter-skelter, trying to get myself composed and organised. I consulted with people like Kyrian Umeayo and Gwen Okeke (Uzo Amadi’s wife). Both of them were presenters then in NTA. When it was time to do it, I went in and did it. I believe I was doing just fine when NEPA took light and I got a confirmation much later. Jika came to the OB van to say: I hear you. I can’t forget that magic word. From then on, there was no stopping me.
Whaaooh! As someone who has had the opportunity of working with the highly respected Jika Attoh, what kind of person is he?
Cool like ice water. The guy is just too cool, men! He knows the job. Look at what he’s doing at AIT. It’s not easy to do that job the way he does it. He’s ageless and knows what he’s doing.
Let’s go to your life as an actor. How did it start?
I told you I was acting in Ikoro. It started from my love for telling stories. I was watching Ikoro before I got in. So, when I did that script, wrote myself in, I went there, they liked it and that was it. After that, I had a stint with the New Masquerade.
What about music. How did that one start?
Generally, it started from my being a member of the Block Rosary in Abakaliki. I was singing church songs and stuffs like that. Then, I went into secondary school. I remember leading our morning exercise with songs while we jogged from Oye-Emene (in Enugu) and back to our school. I was also a member of the football team, but always found myself being the lead singer. Oko Polytechnic was where the thing really caught on because I joined the Kegite’s Club and it afforded me the opportunity of expressing myself like never before.
I had this bosom friend then, Dennis Onwuzulike Jnr., with whom I formed, led and developed a lot of songs, while we had the Kegite’s Club as our only outlet of exhibiting them. We were both very good drummers and we always had a field day anywhere we went for gyration. In fact, while we were in Oko, we were unarguably the two most popular students, East of the Niger.
And that meant having a lot of girlfriends too (I teased)?
Of course. We had a lot of friends. Both male and female.
You must love palm wine very much as a Kegite’s member. How often do you drink it?
Not always. I’m not even crazy about palm wine.
If you were not a praise singer, tell us why you sang about Austin Okocha in your album so much. Almost to the point of bettering those known for praise singing?
Okocha is just a friend. I got to know the family through a friend of mine, Valentine Ndubuisi (a.k.a Americana) who is now in the United States of America. I was again one of Jay-Jay’s MC’s during his wedding. I’m a fan of his. I admire his God-given talent. And most of all, I admire his humility. So, that’s why I sang about him.
Is it true that the motive behind the tribute was to share in his Dollars?
Nooo! I’m okay. I don’t beg people for money. My God is with me and I am contented with what I have. You know Nigerians are good at side talks. A lot of people say exactly what they cannot substantiate, but I’m used to it now. I can always get by. They said Jay-Jay gave me millions of Naira and a Mercedes Benz, but that’s all fabrications.
You mean Jay-Jay didn’t give you anything for eulogizing him that much?
Jay-Jay gave me $1,000, but not for playing the music.
He’s a friend of mine. We spend time together, chatting and gisting whenever he is around. It’s like goodwill. And that was after one of their matches in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
But does he like the song?
Of course, he likes it. Kanu Nwankwo likes it so much too.
Which means you are going to compose one for Kanu very soon?
If the inspiration comes, yes. It is God who brings such songs. If He says so, why not. You see, any work of art you do without inspiration doesn’t last. God is the ultimate creator. To be creative, it has to come from God. A lot of people ‘praise-sang’ some footballers after the Okocha music, but none has caught on as much as my own because God was behind me.
How did the Okocha song come about in the first place?
I think I was coming from the National Stadium (in Surulere, Lagos). I can’t remember the song, but one kid was just saying Okocha, Okocha … Few months later, I was in the studio when it just came into my head. What I even planned in the first place was just the gospel aspect of that album. Even, while in the studio, my songs were not enough and my producer, Johnson Davidson, said we should complete it with instrumentals, but I said no. Instead, I asked for pen and paper. One guy was there with us and I remember him asking whether I thought that music composition was scriptwriting. I had to do that because the money I used in paying for the studio was from Amaco (Gabriel Moses) and for my rent. Things like that are not planned. They are miracles from God.I didn’t want the money to waste. And I was lucky I was a Kegite member. So, I fell back on our song bank which I swelled further with the Okocha song and co. Till date, Johnson Davidson still says it that in the history of Miditone, nobody has achieved that feat. We did the album under 24 hours. From 10 a.m to 10 a.m the following day. Everything still boils down to all that I’ve told you. What God is behind, you don’t plan it for too long or till eternity or nothing will come out of it.
How do you see the success of that album?
I didn’t expect it. I was surprised. But I always knew that God will bless me someday because I’m hardworking. It didn’t sweep me off my feet. And that’s why I’m still my old self. I’ve always been blessed with popularity. Anywhere I am, I’ve always been among the top five. I’ve always had that favour from God. I was delighted, but it didn’t take me by surprise.
You must have a lot of female admirers because of your popularity now. How have you been coping?
They are coming like you will expect. Especially those who never cared before. But I thank God I have that discerning spirit. Those I can relate with, I do. Those I can’t, I keep them at arms’ length. All I want to do now is settle down. Get organised.
Really! Who do you want to settle down with?
My own idea of a wife is what Lagbaja is doing. All I know is that the lucky Mrs. Muonagor went to school, and she is okay for me.
Why then are you hiding this Mrs. Muonagor’s identity?
It’s not yet time. But she’s Igbo and from my own part of Anambra State. That’s the much I can tell you.
What attracted you to her and how easy was it for you to settle for her among the lot?
Azuh! I sabi where you dey go. Well, her understanding. She is somebody who believes in me, that will not doubt me and somebody that is a friend. She is also good looking and educated.
Why was your second album (No Tension) no match to your debut (You Go Bow)?
The problem was basically promotions and the quality of tape used in marketing it.
What happened to the tape?
The audio tapes were very bad and before the marketer (Amaco Investment Ltd.) could realize that, it was already late. For one to enjoy music, it has to be okay. The album is now picking because the first batch has been exhausted.
So, after No Tension what next should your fans expect from you?
I don’t have a title for it yet, but I know it’s gonna come out pretty soon. I’m not a musician anyway, but mine has always been a case of each time I have a concept that I think is good, I go to the studio, put it together and then sit back and see how it will do in the market.
Which means you are an experimentalist?
Yes. I’m not a back-to-back musician. When you want to talk about musicians, you talk about King Sunny Ade, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, Lagbaja. etc. I’m more into home video productions, scriptwriting, producing, acting and directing. But I still thank God for music because it has done for me what home videos couldn’t do for me by giving me the popularity which videos couldn’t give me. All I’m doing now is to harmonise the two to make the best of my entertainment life.
What is your own impression of acting?
Playing what you are not.
Who do you have as a role model?
In Nigeria, it’s Majek Fashek. Unfortunately, he is having one or two problems right now, like I’ve read in the papers. I wish I could help him. The guy is gifted and it will be very sad to see such a wonderful talent go down the drain. Just like that!
As someone who admires Majek this much, what have you done or what are you doing to remedy his situation?
There was this show that we were billed to perform together. I had wanted to use it to reach him, unfortunately, the show never got to hold. But I know I will still see him someday. That’s for music. Acting-wise, Liz Benson, because of her flexibility. She is not static like most actors and actresses. She stands out both as a kid and an elder. So unfortunate she has not won any award yet. An actor should be able to play so many kinds of role.
How did your parents receive your idea or rather decision to go into showbizness?
Of course, they were mad. You can imagine when you have a Master’s degree and people still see you running up and down to attend auditions. My family members thought I was crazy. It wasn’t easy. I lived with a lot of people, left my family just to get to where I am today. And that’s why I still owe a lot to Okey Ogunjiofor (a.k.a Paulo), Uche Madichie, Ifeanyi Dike and Nicholas Ogbonna for all they did for me during those trying period.
Hasn’t your family’s perception of showbiz people changed. Especially now that you have made it?
Of course! They are happy for me as far as the eyes can see.
People always complain about your being temperamental. Is that true?
Of course! But it is relative. Every human being is.
How do you intend to control it or how have you been controlling it?
A man should be temperamental o! I’m not quarrelling anytime you see me. But you see, in this kind of our job, you need it to get the job done. I believe I have some traits of volatility, but I’m getting by. Sometimes, people misunderstand my quest for perfection for being temperamental.
Do you have any regret?
Yes! That my father. Gabriel Muonagor, is not around to see what his son has become.
When did he die and what caused his death?
He died in 1977 of hepatitis.
How have you been coping without him?
It’s been a long time. I started coping from my Class Two when he died. I’m a ghetto boy. I suffered because when he died, it was like my whole world crumbled. What I probably miss now is just the fatherly advice, but what can I lo? I’m happy that my mum, Angela Ngozi Muonagor, is still alive. And that she’s very happy for me.
What can you say about the movie industry?
Well, it’s growing fast. So fast that it panics me.
Why does the growth panic you? Doesn’t the rapid growth like you said call for celebration?
I just don’t want it to crash. It should be controlled. Everything seems to be going too fast. I always remember what happened during the days of finance houses. And that’s, in fact, what panics me.
Do you still act?
Yes! I’m still going to be acting, but with reservations.
What do you mean by but with reservations?
I will look at the scripts well. I don’t want to be in every movie like most of our actors who are now becoming boring. I don’t want anything that will tarnish my image. Maybe, do one, two or three movies in a year.
What are your dreams?
To be happy always.
Failure and death. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to die.
Tony One Week? (Thinks) I just believe in God and that life is to be lived. One should not be too serious with life. I’m not a saint and I just take life as it comes. I won’t kill myself for anything. What will be, will be, for as long as God has ordained it.
Your name, I understand, is Anthony Muonagor. How did the angle of One Week take over. Majority of the people, in fact, know you as Tony One Week!
The whole thing started in 1977 when I was in Class Two at Abakaliki High School (now in Ebonyi State). I went into secondary school from elementary five. I was always taking the first position (Nobody has ever told me that he was taking the last position, I joked).
We had this literature teacher, Mr. Obijiofor (a.k.a Kodo). He was very strict; so much of a disciplinarian. It happened that the book, One Week, One Trouble, by Anezi Okoro, was what we were using. And I was to play the character of Wilson Tagboo. After that, myself and my classmate, Okezie Nwankwo (he is now a lawyer and based in Abuja) somehow bagged this name of another character in the book, Sopy Willy. People will call the guy by that name, he will ignore them. But once it is me, I will fight for the whole of that day. So, because I was always fighting whenever people called me by that name, the teacher changed my name to Tony One Week, One Trouble. In fact, till date, anywhere I go, I will still see one person who is aware of that incident. In Oko, some mischievous students changed it to One Week, One Babe or One Week, One Show. And that’s how the name got stuck ever since.