Francis Agoda, better known as I Go Dye has been a comedian for 16 years. He may be having good success in entertainment but he lives in Benin, Edo State far from the Lagos madness.

Currently involved in an international tour to showcase his comedy, he told Deputy Editor Charles Okogene, in this interview, the story of his life in comedy.

What is your tour all about?

The concept is to preach peace, African unity and to celebrate love. It is not just a tour for Africans, it is for everybody to come and enjoy themselves. It is also aimed at discouraging the young ones, who believe that the only way to success is through drug addiction, prostitution, violence and all that. We want to use the tour to educate them. People who are victims of these unpleasant acts will come on stage during the shows to share their experience. Then, my documentary, which preaches against violence will be on show; it details my experience in the orgy of violence in Niger Delta, how I survived, how I succeeded and today, I’m being celebrated.

What is your take on the bombardment of the Niger Delta by the Joint Military Taskforce (JTF)?

What I have to say to the militants is that they should drop their arms, which I believe they are willing to do and pursue other means of making the area more peaceful. The Federal Government needs to see how it can engender and promote peace in the region, which lays the golden egg for the nation. The truth is that when there is chaos like we have now, only the innocent suffer. If the place is not peaceful, development cannot take place. That is why the two sides need to dialogue over the problem not fight over it. The government needs to listen to their demands and in turn, the militants need to ceasefire to enable government to develop the area. Violence and bloodshed scare people who are interested in developing and investing in the area. I believe the government is working because when I was in Akwa Ibom recently, I saw the new express road from Akwa Ibom to Delta State. It is a development and it is also creating job opportunities for the youths. When there is job opportunity for youths, I don’t believe that anybody would want to engage in violent activity. So, there is need for government to create jobs for youths.

Your dress sense of recent has been tilting towards those in the hip-hop genre of music especially with the heavy presence of bling and all that.

First of all, the name in question is I Go Dye and I Go Dye is someone that is unpredictable, someone constantly evolving. I dress like an entertainer; the bling that I put on is something that signifies what I do, entertainment. I just want to create an image and style for myself, something different in the comedy world. I don’t just want people to see me as I Go Dye or because I wear suite they will be tempted to say that I dress like Ali Baba, Julius Agwu or Basket Mouth. I’ve asked myself what will stand me out even before people hear my joke. Fine, they used to know I Go Dye with funny suites and clothes but that was then. I told myself I need to add some beauty to it so I can look more outstanding. That is how the bling came about.

So it is now bye bye to those funny clothes and suits?

In a way yes, but I still I have the clothes I started with 16 years ago. They are the things that make I Go Dye and It will be stupid of me if I throw them away. I have a special wardrobe for them and they are the clothes I cherish most because they remind me of the beginning of my success.

Do you intend to auction them one day?

I don’t know but let’s see what the future holds.

What is your relationship with other comedians?

I have a good relationship with other comedians. I don’t envy or harbour ill feeling against anybody because if I do, success will be far from me. One thing that sets people back is envy; I don’t envy anybody. I learn from other comedians just as some of them learn from me. I’m one of the comedians who have performed with all other comedians. That is to show you that I have a good relationship with them, if I do not have, they won’t invite me and if they do, I won’t honour it.

You perform at every other comedian’s show, when are we seeing your own show?

My comedy show is coming after the world tour; we have Lagos, Benin and Abuja. I was supposed to have hosted the show last December but I opted to promote peace in the region before my show. This is because if there is no peace, people will not come out to have fun. That is why I did my documentary, which I titled Peace In Sight so that they can know that there is more to life than violence. After the tour we are coming to Nigeria to do a show called ‘I Go Dye Standing, End Of Discussion.’

The belief among entertainers is that except they are in Lagos, they cannot make it, that Lagos is where it is happening. But you seem to have punctured that belief with your success despite the fact that you stay in the ancient Benin Kingdom. What is the magic?

You can only succeed in whatever you do if you are good at it. What stands you out is your effort, competence, good work, creativity, the blessing of God and not where you live or stay. There are some people who live in Lagos but hardly get shows; so it is not about Lagos. Remember that we all must not live in Lagos. The only problem is that sometimes when I tell them (promoters) that I live in Benin or Warri, they think of the transportation and all that, that is just the draw back.

Are you then more expensive than your colleagues who stay in places like Lagos and Abuja, which are the usual venues of some of the shows you feature in?

It is not about being expensive, it is about where you find peace and are more comfortable. As for shows, I do shows the way I want to do it. I can decide to rest this week or month. I have been touring Europe and America since and I came back on May 26 to honour Benue State Governor’s 10 Years of Democracy in Nigeria celebration. I left there on May 30 to Akwa Ibom State to honour the Governor Godswill Akpabio’s celebration, on June 1 I was in Bayelsa State for the New Yam Festival, so within that week, I did three big events and here I am in Lagos for the Glo Laffta Fest. With these alone, I am okay.

How do you source for your blings?

I source for them when I travel abroad.

Do you put on the blings off stage?

What I wear on stage I don’t wear off stage because it is my costume. For me, the clothes I wear on stage, I don’t wear off stage because I consider the stage as my workshop, off the stage I’m a different person. No blings at all. When I tell people that I’m a very shy person they say, ‘how can you who stands in front of thousands of people to crack jokes say you are a shy person?’ Some people believe that as a comedian, I talk a lot but when most of them meet me off stage and see that I am very calm, very relaxed, they say, ‘you are different from the person we see on stage.’ And I tell them, ‘if you like I Go Dye, when you meet Francis, you will love him.’

How did you conquer stage fright?

Anybody who lives in Warri does not have stage fright; we can face anybody and any crowd. It is just God’s gift, it is inborn in me. I never had stage fright so I cannot tell you that this was how I overcame it. God did it for me in his own way.

Your career has spanned over 15 years; which can you single out as your most memorable show?

All the shows that I have done are memorable in their own way; they are good in one way or the other in the sense that I always give thanks to God no matter how it turns out. I can’t say that so and so show is bad or good the only thing I consider is my performance. My desire is to constantly put up good performance. All the shows I have done are good but what I must tell you is that my best is yet to come.

Which show would you say brought you into the spotlight?

That was REEL Awards organised by Encomium magazine in 1999; Azuh Arinze was the editor of the magazine. He saw my performance at (L’agbaja) Motherlan’ and he said, ‘boy! You are a bundle of talent. You need to come and perform at REEL Awards.’

I told him that I don’t even have something to wear for such high-class show and he promised to give me something to wear. He called me days later and gave me a brand new suit and said ‘I want you to put on this for the show.’ I then told him ‘but this is too big’ and he said ‘that makes you a comedian.’ When I put it on, it was my size. Each time I reflect on that incident, I give thanks to God for Azuh Arinze who gave me my first breakthrough at REEL Awards. Before I met him, I came to Lagos to see if I could perform at Nite of a Thousand Laughs but could not on the grounds that I was not considered good enough. I was about to return to Warri when a friend of mine said to me ‘instead of going to Warri today, why not accompany me to L’agbaja’s show?’ At the show I saw Ali Baba, who was surprised I was at the show. Ali Baba, who is such a free spirited fellow, who is ever willing to help his fellow comedian, said ‘oh! Come and perform.’ He introduced me on stage; he relaxed the mind of the crowd with the hype he gave to me and I did not disappoint him when I took the microphone. It was there Azuh decided that I must perform at his show. Azuh called me and asked me if I lived in Lagos and I said no. He said that with the kind of show I put up I should be in Lagos. Julius Agwu even offered to rent a house for me so I can move to Lagos. But I told them that I was okay in Warri. Today, I say I am truly grateful to Azuh, Ali Baba and Julius Agwu for their support and words of encouragement. I appreciate them from the bottom of my heart; it is good to be good. You can imagine all these happened 10 to 11 years ago but it seems like it was only yesterday. It means that whatever you do to affect people positively, they will always live to remember you no matter what. It is good to be good and it is bad to be bad.

The name I Go Dye, how did it come about?

I tell people that their belief is what stands them out and it is the beginning of their success. I’m one man who does not believe in name. The name, I Go Dye, is from my surname, which is Agoda. So, it is a direct coinage from my surname. But some people misinterpret the I Go Dye, they believe that it is I Go Dye. It is Dye which means to transform ones state, to change. So what I’m doing is transforming. That is changing people’s mood from state of sadness to one of happiness. Then, like I told people who keep asking me why I call myself I Go Dye, who keep telling me to change my name to ‘I Go Live, I have seen people who succeed but are not successful. I have seen people who are called Lucky and they have been playing the lottery without winning. So, if names were what make one successful, my name would have been 800 million pounds. So, it is not about the effort you put in whatever you do that makes you succeed. Some people will tell me ‘look at Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, luck has been following him.’ And I tell them that he has worked hard, that is why luck is following him. Those who believe entirely in luck, chance and opportunity are the people who fail in life. They are the ones that believe that one day they will just see $100 million on the way. Who will lose it? You have to work hard so that when there is an opening people will go looking for you.

What was the lowest amount I Go Dye ever received as fee?

The lowest amount I was paid was also the biggest amount I got. I was paid N100 and that was in 1997 in Warri for a birthday party. I consider it as the biggest amount I ever received so far because when I started out in comedy, though I knew I’d make it big, my family never believed this. So, when they paid me that money to transport myself to the venue of the party, I then told myself that if I can be paid N100 when I have not made an impact in this profession, it means I will get more if I work hard. That N100 was the catalyst I needed to forge ahead. If I were not paid that N100, I would have probably been in the Creeks of the Niger Delta.