In an interview with Encomiun weekly, Bob-Manuel and his wife Casandra opens up on marriage and life as a politician.
You’ve been married for solid 15 years, what has kept your marriage?
CASANDRA: It’s love, pure love, sincere love. Love has different dimensions. God has also been with us because He sees the heart.
Other than God and love, what would you say has helped your marriage?
BOB-MANUEL: Determination to make the marriage work. From the word go, we pledged to make it work. Again, we always leave room for dialogue. If you close the door for dialogue in your marriage, you open the door for disaster.
You are obviously happy after 15 years in marriage?
CASANDRA: Yes, I am happy.
BOB-MANUEL: We also needed to tell the world that celebrities equally make homes. Some of us also enjoy marital bliss.
Are there early memories of your marriage you still keep with you?
CASANDRA: The day I had my daughter, he was in the labour room. So, I won’t forget it.
BOB-MANUEL: Yes, it was a very landmark experience being my first time to have a baby. It was such a pleasant experience because after cleaning up the baby, the Chief Matron handed her over to me and I didn’t know what to do. At that very moment, my perception of life changed. I suddenly realized that this baby handed over to me is a life I am responsible for. It dawned on me I’m no longer living a life for myself alone. You know you have a responsibility for other people. So, it’s fundamental shift from bachelorhood to being married and then being a father.
What year was that?
I will leave that for the sake of my daughter.
Your daughter shouldn’t be more than 15 unless you had her before your wedding?
CASANDRA: She’s 14.
When you have issues, how do you resolve them?
BOB-MANUEL: I’m not given to impulsive action. I’m the contemplative type, so I might just keep quiet to understand the issue. But there must be dialogue. You don’t allow the issue or pressure of the moment to get at you, and then become irrational.
Madam, but there has been this big issue that almost ruined your marriage?
Nothing like that, my brother.
BOB-MANUEL: If there had been any issue I would tell you. We have never had such monumental, earth-shaking marital problem.
What about the sweetest part of your marriage?
You know when you have a nice person as a partner, it’s always sweet. I tell him to his face, ‘you are nice.’ You can imagine when you call your husband and say, ‘Honey, may God bless you. You have been so, so nice to me.’
BOB-MANUEL: I think being an actor also helps. There are things I do with my family at home. If you have a camera to record such scenes, I bet you it would be a best seller. Stardom stops at the front of my house. It’s a different ball game in there. So, my family savours every moment I spend with them.
There are some actors’ spouses who complain bitterly about their absentee husbands. Have you had such a challenge considering your hubby’s busy schedule…
BOB-MANUEL: Let me come in. My wife had that experience first-hand. The first night we came back from the traditional marriage, I and Sam Loco Efe, Norbert Young, Victor Eriabe…were shooting a movie at Ilogbo (Badagry, Lagos). So, we had to continue the shoot. The long and short of it is that she slept alone on our first night as man and wife. So, if she was not ready to marry, she would have left the next morning. She would just say, ‘I can’t take this, if this is what I’m going to experience.’ She never complained. Except your wife doesn’t know your itinerary, that’s when a problem would arise.
If I get a script, I share it with her. Sometimes, I ask her to read. She acts like my manager. So, it’s a family thing. She even knows how much I get paid. If it’s below that, she gives me her advise on it.
Has it been all that rosy?
CASANDRA: It has been rosy but with some little thorns. We are all humans. But those thorns we handle them fine and like he said, through dialogue. It has been fun and sweet.
What’s your take on celebrities whose marriages crash as soon as they are contracted? How should they get it right?
BOB-MANUEL: I think a lot of patience has to go into it. Maturity is not just about age. One needs to be mentally, physically and psychologically mature before getting married since both of you are coming from different backgrounds. Marriage has to come from sincere minds. You make up your mind you are going to get married. You make up your mind you have to make it work. You actually have to work on marriage. If you have a beautiful house and you don’t clean it, weeds would take it over. If you have a swimming pool and you don’t maintain it, nature would take it over and mess it up. That’s the same thing with marriage. You have to nurture your marriage.
You’ve got two lovely children. Can you please tell us about them?
BOB-MANUEL: The girl came first. Her name is Elyon Chinaza Udokwu. She’s in Queens College. The boy came next. His name is Garvey. I named him after the late Marcus Garvey of Jamaica. Garvey Chibugo Udokwu is in Federal Science and Technical College (FSTC), Yaba, Lagos. Both of them are in secondary school. They have actually appeared with me in one, two commercials and movie. They are doing their thing.
What do you do, ma?
I’m a teacher. I am the Deputy Director, Mileu Haven Montessori School, here in Lagos.
How is your job?
You mean the political aspect?
I’m still a Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Anambra State.
What’s your portfolio?
SSA on Movie and the Entertainment Industry. We are trying to see how to make Anambra State the hub of entertainment. You are aware that notable names in the industry are from Anambra State. And the Governor (Obiano) is one man that knows the value of entertainment. Moreso, now that the rebasing of the Nigerian economy was based on two main items: oil and gas and Nollywood. So, we are working on making Anambra the hub of the creative enterprises. We have so far organized some programmes like the Heritage Festival, held in December 2014. We work with the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism and of course, the Youths and Sports as well as the media team. It has been a collaborative effort. We work to achieve the same goal.
But some people think nothing much has really been done to achieve this?
That is not true. The Anambra State Government under Chief Willie Obiano is making giant strides in all aspects. A lot of movie makers ran away from Anambra State, but go to the state right now, movies are being shot in all the nooks and crannies of the state. There is even a production he is partnering with the church, a major epic movie based on true life story of the origin of Enugwu Ukwu people. A whole lot is happening. This Easter a lot would also be done.
Are there programmes you have now that would empower Nollywood filmmakers?
Of course. Our job is always in public domain. People would sure see it.
Do you miss Nollywood?
I have never left Nollywood to say I miss it.
So, you still act?
I just finished a movie last week. My job with the government is about movie and entertainment. So, I have to be involved to be able to advise the governor properly.
You featured in some of the early Nollywood movies. When are you going to start your own production?
I’ve actually shot and directed two films, Wedding Bells and Matters of the Heart. These were done years back. More are also on the way.
Let’s talk about politics. What really happened to Bob-Manuel Udokwu’s aspiration to Anambra State House of Assembly?
I didn’t get the party ticket for reasons I can’t really explain. I had to resign as a political appointee to vie for the elective office, but when I didn’t get the APGA ticket, the governor was magnanimous enough to reinstate me.
Not at all. It has enriched me as a person. We are not letting up, we are moving forward. We just have to be part of the contribution to the political process of this country.
Would you give it another shot in 2019?
Oh, why not?
The Lord has indeed been very good to you and your lovely wife and family. What more do you want from Him?
One can never be satisfied. There are dreams and aspirations one had to accomplish. One needs to get the level where like a fisherman, you can cast a net for the benefit of the people.
What about you, madam?
Life and good health. I’ve also told my husband, in my next world, you would be my husband. My mother-in-law would be my mother-in-law, my father-in-law would be my father-in-law. In fact, I want to still be with all the good and beautiful people who have made my life here sweet and comfortable.