BY CHUKS NWANNE
Though a science student, Bob-Kelly William’s interest in arts dates back to his days in Emure Grammar School, Delta State, where he was practically involved in social activities in school.
“You know what being a science student is; you don’t associate with people or even socialise. But I was part of the Press Debate and Dramatic Society (PDDS), which was more of art. I was dedicated to the association to the extent that in my JSS 3, I became the coordinator of the club.”
Williams rose to the post of the second Vice President and later the President due to his roles. His tenure saw the club being involved in different social activities within and outside the school.
“I used to write news for the school, which we read during the morning assembly; sometimes I get them from newspapers. We used to organise Christmas Carol, love feast, and other events. We even went further to introduce the club in other schools.
“When Interact Club was introduced in my school, I joined the club and started working with them even as a science student. That was when I knew that I have passion for the art world,” he notes.
Leaving secondary school, the Delta State native tried his hands in script writing, which actually attracted the attention of friends, who promised to push him into the movie industry.
“A friend of mine promised to link me to his uncle in Lagos; he told me the man will buy my scripts. I told him I didn’t want to stay in Lagos more than two days and he agreed.”
On arrival in Lagos for the first time in 2005, the story changed.
“I called the guy and he told me he was in traffic, that he will meet me later. First day, second day, third day, I didn’t see him and I was running out of cash. Later, I met a singer, Prosper. He was a member of Pillers, an acapella group; they used to back Charley Boy and Sammie Okposo then. I told him what I was passing through and he promised to help me.”
As a way of linking him to Nollywood, Prosper handed actor Emeka Ike’s number to Bob-Kelly.
“I called him, but the number wasn’t going. When I got to his office, I was told Emeka had gone to London. They actually asked me to drop the scrip with them, but having heard a lot of stories of script theft I decided to take it home.”
With directive from a friend, Bob-Kelly headed for the Actors Guild of Nigeria’s office, then at the National Theatre, Lagos.
“I met a lot of actors I used to see on screen and I started familiarising myself with them. From there, I started writing scripts for people and Churches, and receiving money for it.”
Having stamped his feet in Lagos, He delved into journalism, writing for Smile Magazine from where he moved to Surulere Watch and with hard work rose to the position of business development officer.
It was during his period with the magazine that Bob-Kelly got a link to Elvina Ibru, who runs an entertainment outfit in Lagos.
“I had four scripts with me, which I was looking for someone to buy and my friend, Prosper, took the scripts to Elvina Ibru; she fell in love with two of them. He gave my friend N5000 to give to me; that was the first time someone gave me that kind of money,” he notes.
When all efforts to meet Elvina failed, Bob-Kelly linked up with Michael, a radio presenter in Lagos.
“It was while working with Michael that I got the contact of Elvina Ibru. When she saw me, she was like, ‘oh, I know him.” That time, she was actually looking for a personal assistant; people had already applied for the job. But she offered me the job and I started working with her.
“I was with her when she did the West African Idol and other projects; we partnered with comedian AY, to produce AY Open Mic Night. I really gained a lot of experience working with Elvina until I decided to be on my own.”
Bob-Kelly started with managing artistes and packaging event until he met his partner at Wake Entertainment.
“He told me he wants to promote his dad, who is a musician. So, he wanted us to partner in the project. That was how we set up Wake Entertainment.”
Williams, now the general manager of the outfit, recalled the first time he met with his partner in Lagos.
“Then, I was working as a cleaner with Big Leaf and was on a monthly salary of N7000; that when I met him for the first time. He was actually monitoring me from the beginning. He saw the determination in me and felt we could work together. Today, we’ve unveiled his father, Opio, a juju artiste and Tiani, who is into hip-hop.
“For me, it’s not all about music; I love events and artiste management a lot. So, Wake Entertainment is not only a record label; it’s a full time entertainment company. We have a lot of project we want to do, but our major work this year will be in the Niger Delta.”
Bob-Kelly is among the long list of concerned Niger Deltans, who are disturbed by the situation of the area.
“I don’t like what I am seeing; I’m from Delta State. I don’t like the sad story of kidnapping. Look at the international scene, whenever they want to talk about Nigeria, it is the Niger Delta crisis. I don’t even know why everybody is dying about the oil. Must we all survive through oil business? There are lots of things one could do to be successful.”
He continues: “A lot of countries don’t have oil, yet their youths are very successful and helping their country to grow! We have youths with lots of energy, but due to lack of understanding, they have channeled their energy towards negative things. Look at the higher institutions in the region, we have high cases of drug, cultism and other social vices. Everyday, you see able bodied men turning themselves into touts, following politicians around and doing dirty jobs for them; this is not good for this country.”
Topmost in Bob-Kelly’s agenda is to take peace message to Niger Delta through a campaign tagged Isoko Independent Groove.
“This project is not for Isoko people alone; it’s for every young person in the region. We are going to talk about HIV/AIDS, cultism, drugs, pipeline vandalisation… there are lots of things involved. We want to talk about education and youth empowerment in our region.”
According to him, top Nigerian artistes will be involved in the project.
“The music is to attract the youths, but our main target is to change the orientation of our people. Before the main concert, there will be several other programmes we intend to run. We are going to involve successful Niger Delta men and women, who will mentor the youths. We plan to bring leaders and successful business people to show the youths that life in the region is not all about oil, crisis and kidnapping and that one can actually become successful through other means.”
On the choice of Isoko for the campaign, which is organised in partnership with Isoko North and South Local Council, Bob-Kelly said,“ charity begins at home; I’m from Isoko, so, it is ideal I start from my immediate environment. Look, I’m happy today because I know where I’m heading to. But when I see what my people are into, I get disturbed. No matter how well I am in Lagos, the truth is that my people are in crisis.”
Scheduled for October, the organisers intend to harness talents discovered during the programme.
“Some of them might end up working with us as artistes. We are also talking to other well meaning Nigerians to help these youths and we are hopeful that it’s going to be a successful initiative. We want to reach out to our leaders because this is a platform for them to contribute to the development of our people. This is an opportunity to right our wrongs and we can’t afford to miss it. I’m not the most brilliant or richest person in Niger Delta, but I believe that if we pull our resources together, we will achieve our dream,” Bob-Kelly said
To Bob-Kelly, secondary school plays a major role in the life of every youth.
“No matter what you are going to be, the secondary school stage plays a vital role. A lot of people get into trouble through friends. The books you read also affect your life as a young person; there are some books you read and you feel like putting the content it into practice.”
He continues: “People look at me today and say, ‘ah, ol boy, you are doing very well.’ But the truth is that, yes, it’s God, but whatever God has for you to, you still have a role to play; your destiny is in your hand.”