We want to know how your transition from employment in the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) to being a key player in the home video industry has been.
I retired from the NTA officially in 1994 and I never did anything until late 1998 when I came back on board and I started this home video thing. Along the line I think I was hooked up on a particular vice. I have talked so much about it and I think I don’t want a repeat performance of it. Thank God today, am clean. The rest is history.
You said you joined the home video industry. What was the prime motivation for joining the industry judging by the fact that it was a concept that was new in the country then ?
My former president in the ANTP, I am a member of the ANTP, though we have a number bodies now in the theater art industry. The former president,Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello) who is a close friend and associate brought me into the system. After my rehabilitation, I went to him and he encouraged me telling me I could still be very active, asking me if I could join them in the home video industry. Before I knew it, this popular guy, Muyiwa Ademola and one other producer approached me in my house in Ibadan. They said they wanted me to come and play a role in their movie.
I asked them to tell me how much they were going to pay me and they said they were going to pay me 3,500 Naira. I was shocked and I asked him what kind of money was that, I wanted to know if that was the kind of money they paid to artists then. He encouraged me, telling me that it was just the starting point. He told me that my consent would do the two of us a lot of good. I introduced the idea to my mother, my mum is somebody that is very close to me. So, I told my mum and she also encouraged me, telling me that God was behind me and I went. You won’t believe it that before the end of the month, a was in about three, four other locations, raking in little money, here and there. That was my entry into the home video industry.
What was the title of the film?
I think the title was Aderounke. That must have been that guy’s (Muyiwa Ademola’s) first or second film. When we were shooting the film, we carried cameras from one house to the other on our heads, there was no vehicles to move us but I thank God for the guy today, he rides on a jeep now that tells you how lucrative the industry is.
You have featured in many films since then, what was the highest amount of money you’ve ever been paid to feature in a movie?
Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I have been paid the sum of 100,000 Naira, the only time I was paid the sum of 120,000 was when I featured as Agboniregun in the epic Yoruba film Oduduwa, since then, I can’t remember having been paid over 100,000 Naira.
How did you get involved in the sitcom, Koko Close?
I was then a civil servant working in NTA Ibadan. The whole story began when some of us namely Akin Lewis and some others sat down to work on the concept. Credit for the idea that brought about the programme goes to one Ghanaian. Then the General Manager of NTA Ibadan, Chief Yemi Farounbi gave us all the freedom we needed to put the programme together. We were young men who were given all the opportunity to bring the programme idea to light. For the first time in the history of television programming, Koko Close was the only programme that was allotted both it’s own editing suite as well as vehicles to convey cast and crew to location. It has never happened before in NTA but because of the success of the programme these concessions were given to us. This success was too much that one of my ogas had to call me aside, telling me to make use of the success attained for lifelong opportunities.
How did you get the role in Koko Close?
The situation was such that we knew one another very well. For instance, everybody involved in the production knew I could play the role of a troublesome landlord very well, so it was not too difficult fitting perfectly into the role. Akin who played the corps member knew he was also very well suited for the role and some others who took part in the play.
You played the role of a difficult landlord. How much of yourself would you say came out of being Chief Oluwalambe?
Olumide Bakare is different from Chief Oluwalambe. Olumide Bakare is humble and gentle but Chief Oluwalambe was a typical landlord of those era who would brook no nonsense from his none paying tenant. You see, before I could do that, I picture what a typical landlord of those days went through to build a four-flat building. Chief Oluwalambe was a cocoa merchant who struggled to build his house, you will agree with me that such person would have to be aggressive while collecting his rents. That I tried to do.
Why was the programme rested?
The programme was never rested, it actually wound up. The programme ended with the landlord selling the house and ejecting the tenants. He later went ahead to buy another bungalow where he would not be bothered by the tenants.
There are so many groups in the Nollywood industry. If you look back at your participation , what gains has been achieved so far in the industry and where do you think attention should be focused on to move it forward?
If I understand your question very well, I will say we need to make improvement in all areas. I want to say that the question of Nollywood being the term to describe the industry is faulty. Probably because we have Hollywood in America, Bollywood in India and some people believe that the best term to describe the industry is Nollywood. Who is Nolly? Who is Wood? Let’s assume that the name Nollywood has come to stay to describe the Nigerian movie industry, is Nollywood being fair to the movie industry in Nigeria?
Then, do you suggest any name?
No, I can not. It only pains that the name has been hijacked by one ethnic group
Does that signifies a dichotomy in the industry?
How serious is the dichotomy?
My brother, the dichotomy is very terrible.
Then, what suggestions do you to remedy the situation both in the long and short term as the industry is beginning to attract attention from all directions?
The way forward is that all stakeholders in the Nigerian movie industry come together to form a common body. There so many bodies or groups now.
A veteran like you, Chief Chike Okpala (aka Zebrudaya) said he decided not to be part of the home video industry because those in the industry are not well grounded?
Yes, I think he is right because, some of us doing it (home video) are in it because of our love for the profession. You need to see the kind of insults we get from some of these our younger colleagues on locations. Anybody can just accost you on the road, telling you he or she wants you to help facilitate her/his emergence as an actor just like that.
Since you’ve identified the problems, have you been able to discuss them with other stakeholders who might share the same sentiments?
Presently, the ANTP has been able to put somebody at the helm of affairs. He is somebody who is very intelligent, that is in the person of Prince Jide Kosoko. He has invited a lot of us to come and give suggestions on how to move the industry forward. I believe this kind of initiative would lead to a conference.
At the end we would call on our friends in the other language sector, I mean the guys in the Igbo sector, the Hausa sector, the Kanuri sector and others. The thing is that we need to sit down and look for a way for the industry. The problem is that every sector in the industry wants to be unique. This is my grouse with Nollywood. The effect is such that the money that ought to come naturally to the artistes is going to the marketers.
When we look at our brothers in the Igbo category of Nollywood, one would conclude that they area better organised than you people in the Yoruba category. Why so?
The average Igbo executive producer is first, a businessman. He has a very a strong network of marketing. Being used to trading, they (the executive producer) will go all the way to sell their films.
You were the lead character of the now rested Koko Close (a television sitcom) that was widely and eagerly watched across the country. Now, we don’t have popular programmes that commands such viewer ship. Why has that become our lot in this country?
You see, in those days the country was much more buoyant than it is today. Security (of the country) was tight. The rate of crime when compared to what we have now is better. I also want to tell you that Nigerians have options to chose from. God has been so kind to us, he has been kind to us to have producers in the likes of Wale Adenuga. I want to tell you one thing, he has been producing a programme in the Nigerian television today, they call it Super Story. The kind of viewership that was given to Koko Close then is what super story is getting now because of the quality of production. I would still tell you that there is still something close to it.
You said the ANTP is doing something to sanitise the industry. Can you throw more light on that?
This year, God being on our side, we will invite the press to come and see some of the programmes we have in the pipeline. This year, we hope to reform the sector in terms of artiste fees, artistic quality, technicalities, marketing and content. One of our major problem is marketing.
What kind of participation would you advocate for the government in the industry since it has shown the willingness?
We have the Nigerian Film corporation, it can do a lot but I think the corporation has its own problems too, if we have a corporation that has not at anytime gone out to produce what I would call ‘a Nigerian film’ then, what is the essence of the corporation and its usefulness to artistes. What is the essence of the corporation since they don’t assist Nigerians to make movies? I have never heard of any form of collaboration between the corporation and the relevant stakeholders in the industry, especially between the so-called independent producers and the corporation and they say they have equipments. I understand that they have just bought new equipments, what are they doing with it? I believe government can still do a lot for the industry in terms of collaboration.