When it comes to entertainment, Bovi Ugboma has made a name for himself with his infectious humour and undeniable wit. But behind the spotlight and the uproarious laughter lies a side of Bovi that many may not be familiar with: his role as a devoted father. To mark this year’s Father’s Day, we had the privilege of sitting down with this multi-talented comedian and actor to delve into his personal journey of balancing fatherhood and fame. With his characteristic charm and uncanny ability to find the perfect punchline in any situation, Bovi Ugboma opens up about the joys, challenges, and lessons he’s learned on this unpredictable and hilarious journey called parenting.
Happy Father’s Day, Bovi. Let’s talk a bit about fatherhood. What does it mean to you, and how has it influenced your outlook on life?
Thank you. Being a father is fun only on paper. The only thing I love is my unconditional love for my children. Outside that, it has forced me into responsibility. Probably quicker than I planned. I have stopped living for me 100 and started to make sacrifices with joy. As an adult, it’s kind of fulfilling to be experiencing these feelings for the first time. It’s not easy, but that’s the honest truth. I had no forewarning.
What challenges do you face as a modern-day parent, and how do you strike a balance between work, family, and personal life?
I’m one person who tries not to do to others what was done to me. That’s what I didn’t like. Our parents didn’t understand us. I knew they wanted the best for me, but they also needed to know times have changed. Now I find myself in the same boat with my kids, and to be honest, I’m quite cool. I try to understand where they’re coming from. The only thing I don’t compromise on is their safety. By the time they’re teenagers, I’ll let them go wherever they want. But I’d certainly have security shadowing them without them knowing. My work is flexible in a way that allows me to be home most of the time. If I’m not working, I’m home. So it’s good.
Let’s talk a bit about your kids. Your daughter Elena has captured the hearts of your social media followers. It appears you both share a special bond.
What my daughter and I share is not peculiar to us. Most first daughters and their fathers are very fond of each other. It’s an Electra complex. But what makes ours evident is that she’s a natural-born entertainer. Even if I weren’t an entertainer, she would have still been famous because she came to this world preprogrammed like that.
From the look of things, she’s following in your footsteps in the entertainment industry. How would that make you feel?
It’s flattery to say she’s following in my footsteps. Even if I were a native doctor, I’m sure she would still be who she is—an entertainer. It’s in her blood. It only seems like she’s following my path because I’m in showbiz. She was expressing herself way before she had developed the ability to do so. As a tot, she communicated and had a sense of humour. As crazy as that sounds, it’s the gospel truth. I advise her always to do what makes her happy.
It is popularly believed that parenting boys can present unique challenges. Has this been your experience, and how do you approach parenting them while instilling your cherished values?
I allow the boys to be boys. You know, there’s a limit to where they can go. They know there are consequences for the wrong actions, but I also make sure the punishment doesn’t outweigh the crime. The last thing I want to do is make my kids timid. So I try my best to be as balanced as possible.
So what’s your relationship with them like?
My sons don’t have my time the way they have their mom’s time. I put it down to the Oedipus complex—especially my first. I’m the one who’s always calling them and trying to strike up conversations. They can go days without seeing me and not really be bothered. I call them quarrelling because they don’t ask of me, and all they say is sorry. The only time they want to be with me is to play PlayStation. So I take my pound of flesh by whooping them silly. I play them like I’m playing with my mates. I remind them that I’ve been playing the game since the turn of the millennium.
Fatherhood can be both rewarding and demanding. How do you navigate the fine line between being a fun-loving dad and a responsible parent?
Well, certain rules must not be broken, and they know them. Do they break them? Yes, they do, but I make sure the punishment doesn’t outweigh the crime. I also negotiate a lot with them. If there’s anything I desire, it’s for them to communicate properly with me. I prioritised open communication and less criticism. I think it’s helped to cushion the surprises. I don’t want them to be timid, and I don’t want them to be reckless. I’m also ensuring to avoid raising them with a general method because they have different temperaments.
Your entry into the entertainment industry began with the “Extended Family” sitcom, which you wrote and produced. What were the early days like?
Just know that I was a lucky chap. Fame found me before anything else. The programme hit the airwaves by 8 pm on Sunday, 1st of April 2007. And by the next day, I couldn’t walk the streets anymore. It’s a crazy situation to blow and not have a dime or a car. Fans went into hysteria when they saw me. I loved it and dreaded it at the same time. But I kept pushing. Now I’m grateful for everyone who helped me and everyone who cheated me. It was an ok growth for me.
As a producer, you have successfully created comedy shows and events such as “Bovi Man on Fire” and “Visa on Arrival.” What do you consider when selecting projects, and how do you ensure they resonate with your audience?
They must strike a chord in my heart first. Stand-up is different. Producing it is like producing any other show. But for stand-up, I’m the performer. I have stories to tell for ages. As regards TV shows, I like to mirror society. Visa on Arrival is a satire. You know Nigerians don’t issue visas. We are telling the story of Nigerians in public offices and how unprofessional they can be. I like to tell stories people can relate to. That’s why the show, like previous ones I’ve done, was a hit.
Your career has witnessed significant growth and success. What do you attribute to this upward trajectory, and how do you maintain your motivation to push the boundaries of your craft?
Maintaining motivation is hard. I can’t even lie. Especially because, for someone like me, I get easily bored. I think every Nigerian artist has had motivation for years. We just lack the structures to break new ground. I started doing my shows at Eko Hotel in 2013. I’ve done it there four times. I wish we had a 10-thousand or 20-thousand-capacity arena. That’s what I should be doing at this stage of my career. So you see, these are some of the issues. How many arenas do we have in Nigeria? I mean proper arenas. When the system isn’t growing, the artist gets to the top and just starts going on to station. Burna and Wiz are selling out stadiums outside their own country. Which stadium in Naija will be conducive for them to do the same at home? That’s a rhetorical question.
How do you maintain a balance between pushing boundaries with your comedy and ensuring your jokes are received positively?
You can’t get it right all the time. But for me, I try to see the merits and demerits of every topic. People are less offended when you make them know that you see their “why”. I think that’s been my survival skill. I don’t judge anybody, but that doesn’t stop me from having a different opinion.
Fans are eagerly anticipating your upcoming American tour. And, of course, here in Lagos come September. What can they expect from your live performances?
The usual. I just keep it real. I try to be as authentic as possible. I try to touch on what everyone is thinking but not wanting to talk about. Yep. That’s it. I’m doing Atlanta, New York, Maryland and Dallas. The beauty of comedy is that people want to hear a comic version of what’s happening in life. Some jokes cut across. While some of them you have to tweak. It just depends on the city. Sometimes the difference is slight. Other times, you tweak it altogether. Drop some jokes. Add others.
With the rise of social media and online platforms, comedians have gained new avenues to connect with their audience. How has this digital landscape impacted your career?
I’ve been making skits and short clips even before social media exploded. Don’t forget that we used skits to promote shows on TV. So once social media blew up, it took us into more homes. It brought us into direct contact with consumers. It’s a beautiful thing.
Being a father often comes with its fair share of unexpected and humorous moments. Can you share a funny anecdote from your parenting journey that still makes you smile?
The most recent was when my 9-year-old daughter thanked me for carrying her on my back. And my response was, “Yeah, your mom can’t do that for you, but I can”. She replied, saying, “Dad, that’s sexist”. I froze.
Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals for the future? Are there any projects or endeavours you are particularly excited about?
I’m holding all that close to my chest. Just know that the version of me you see today, you won’t see tomorrow. I’m like an app that is constantly updated. I’m so done with everything you know. And I’m exploring new frontiers.
What valuable lessons do you hope to pass on to your children about love, respect, and navigating life’s challenges?
I’m just taking it one day at a time. Above all, I want them to treat others with respect while protecting their self-esteem. I tell them always how special they are and that their journey in life is about using their gifts to affect mankind.