Hot 99.5 FM Owerri presenter Uzodinma Akalonu aka U-zone does not need a long story to introduce him, having reigned over lots of exciting programmes on the hot station.
U-zone recently stepped into the huge shoes of late Raymond Ayuba, to present the Birthday Show, a move which will be considered as a bold step into the shoes of an irreplaceable gem.
His passion and creativity are not far from his reserved personality and in this interview with CHINEDU HARDY NWADIKE of www.otowngist.com, U-zone shares his genesis down to the very chapter he is savoring in his life at the moment, as well as other issues that affects his job, personality and the entertainment industry.
I started as a lover of music and a very passionate listener of the radio. I started rapping in 1999 with friends way back in school, but before then I was rapping and doing remixes with my brother at home and my mum supported us by buying us a deck which we used in recording on tapes.
I look back at those days and realize that I have all these in me without knowing it.
Back in University of Nigeria Nsukka, I did songs with my friends at a studio over there in Nsukka, and there we did our part of the hustling to make it in music but it didn’t work out.
At a point I decided to do something different because music wasn’t really bringing money and I needed money then.
I joined Lion 91.1 FM Nsukka while in school, spending a year and half there before leaving for Hot 98.3 FM Abuja and then in 2011, I came down to Owerri to work with Hot 99.5 FM.
Course of study
I studied Veterinary Medicine
What happened to the Dr.?
A lot of people asked me the same question earlier, but I guess I was confused back then in school because one of the things we were never taught was how to discover our purpose and how one could use his talent to device the path into his future.
There was no relationship between Veterinary Medicine and who I am today, it’s just that the passion I lacked for one was focused on the other. I just wanted to go to school and study, get me degree and get out.
Did you waste your time in school?
No! I have never regretted studying Veterinary Medicine and I will never walk that lane. It’s just that at some point I felt I was wasting too much time, but I never regretted it. I thought I did, but I’ve come to realize the relevance of the course I studied.
It has taught me how to be a professional in what I do because it is a professional course. I relate with people better and all that came from being a veterinary doctor.
Going back to school
Yes I want to go back to school, but radio is not all for me. I’m an entertainer because I still rap. I present and produce as well as other things, so radio is like a stepping stone for me.
When I go back to school, I would be studying Business Administration and when I’m done with that, you should expect a bigger U-zone, a conglomerate of entertainment both in Nigeria and abroad. We will be organizing big entertainment events, package artistes and show people what it means to be in the entertainment industry.
I am going into Business Administration because I want to know what it means to do business, everything I do now is just crude business, but I want to know what it means to do the real thing.
Role in Hot 99.5 FM
I am a producer and presenter.
Programmes you work on
I’ve presented almost every show in Hot FM because of the kind of spirit I have. I love stepping up to challenges and my ‘can do spirit’ enables me to do that without looking back.
Most passionate programme
Every programme comes with a different passion but I have extra passion for few. One is the the Traffic Jam, which I initially didn’t like it, but somehow I was able connect with it. In all, my passion goes most to Real Talk, which is like a show I designed for myself. There I talk about problems, give out solution, and I enjoy it.
You and the Birthday Show
The birthday show is not new to Hot FM, it is eighth years old. It was born in Abuja and was brought down to Hot FM Owerri which is just two years old.
Raymond Ayuba did excellently well on the show and wearing his shoes seems so big for me. What I am trying to do is create a different style for the birthday show, not really go with Raymond’s style, because Ayuba is Ayuba, and U-Zone is U-Zone.
Raymond is gone and I love the kind of support people have shown to him but we have to move on and continue in the habit of making people happy and I do my best to see that this is achieved.
I miss Raymond a lot because he was a friend and we stayed in the same house. I don’t even know to express this to people, but all I can do is put the excitement on the show and somehow it’s going to work out well.
When people call you Ayuba
I’m an emotional person. Raymond’s death touched me because no one anticipated it. But anytime people refer to me as Ayuba or still wish to see him on the show, apart from the fact that it is destabilizing, it also demoralizes me.
When people call in and say Yuba Yuba Yuba, I feel sad about it. Everyone should just move on and forget about it. I just try to control myself and I have once told my boss that if it continues, I will just shut down the system and walk way. It’s not because people call in and say Yuba Yuba Yuba, but because I miss him as well. So I always feel sad those times.
The style to expect
I can be very crazy, but it’s just for us to wait for the emotional wounds to heal and my style will come out. Raymond did not preplan his style, the ideas came in as he was presenting. So that’s what my case will be, with time, my creativity and spontaneity will come and I promise to give everything to the programme, but that has to be after the healing process.
Imo State and entertainment
I will say that the entertainment is not grown, it is still growing and we all have a role to play. One of the things lacking in the industry is unity. Everybody wants to do it on their own, people compete unnecessary which is very unhealthy for growth.
Producers and artistes fight each other over the fame they don’t even have, but we have come in to solve these ground problems by uniting the artistes and bringing quality entertainment to the people.
We have to first of all take money out of the picture because money brings jealousy and other ills that go with it. Only people with passion can transform the state’s industry and that is when money will starts coming.
Entertainment is monopolized in the state as well, where few people with money draw the artistes to their side, leaving other scrambling for the few that are left.
More people need to invest for the state to grow.
First part to work on
We need to improve on publicity, because there is this law that states that repetition creates a lasting impression, which means that artistes must be publicized very well before they can be known.
But before we start promoting these artistes, there has to be a very good foundation. You have to be sure of what you are promoting; else the whole thing will turn out to be a waste of time.
For now, the town has not really given us what to promote, until that happens, we will not be promoting plenty things from here.
Some artistes in Lagos are not as good as the ones we have here, but they charge millions to come down here to compete with our own artistes who we pay nothing because they have gotten good publicity and PR system.
What we need
If I break publicity down, we will start with the social media. Our bloggers need to be on point and every entertainer needs to know how to use twitter and facebook.
We need good radio stations to induce healthy competition in the state and the same thing with TV stations.
We also need well packaged events, the kind people will see and say wow.
Someone outside the state said that Imolites don’t pay for shows, that they prefer hanging out in bars to paying for shows, but I believe the reason I just that they have not seen a good show to attend.
Artistes should also use street movements to promote themselves.
We need to teach the artistes how to manage themselves. An upcoming artiste does not need a manager, he needs a good PR system and artistes need to have a good character as well because a good image sells faster.
PMAN as a bridge
Mr Uzor as the leader of PMAN in the state has the passion and all it takes to transform that sector, but he cannot do it alone.
PMAN has a package, but the body requires entities which will be made up of good followers and I am ready to work them.
It is a very good platform for the artistes and if they don’t utilize it, it is not going to work out for them.
By the end of 2013
I won’t say the industry will be grown by the end of the year because even the Nigeria entertainment sector is not fully grown. We still see selfish attitudes among our artistes and promoters.
There are lots of plans on ground but an enabling environment is needed to make things work.
The state is a civil servants’ zone and somehow we are buying politics into the system. We wouldn’t want to politicize entertainment because it is the only voice the youths have.
There will surely be growth by the end of the year, but we need to give it more time to mature.
They have a role to play. Why did they create the entertainment sector in their setting? They were created to improve this sector, but the missing link is between the man representing the government and the entertainer himself.
Because most of them are not really honest, they divert funds meant for the entertainers leaving them with nothing.
I’m a God fearing person, and even when I can’t say that I live in the church, I’m a spiritual person.
Everything I do is inspired by the Holy Spirit and I run to God for guidance anytime I want to do anything.
I come to work everyday and my job is one of my major hobbies. I love producing, reading and writing. I write songs and inspirational quotes as they come into my head.
I don’t really hang out much; I hang out with people of like minds that’s all about me.
I’m going to get married very soon, just expect that.