Arguably the most successful Yoruba actor presently. Odunlade Adekola is in a class of his own. The multi-talented thespian who has put in two decades in the industry has also acted in a couple of English Nollywood movies. In this chat with the Abeokuta-born actor and father of four, he speaks to SAMUEL ABULUDE on his success secret among others. things.
It’s a pleasure meeting you, what have you been up to?
I have been busy doing what I love to do. I have been in movie locations in Abeokuta and in Lagos. I thank God for his grace. I have also been busy with the Glo Lafta Fest at weekends. It has been lovely. So watch out for Odunlade doing new things.
What has made the Yoruba section of Nollywood popular over the years?
I joined the industry in 1996 and the Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners, now TAMPAN, in 1998. It has been over 20 years since I began my career in the movie industry. I believe the Yoruba movie industry has benefited from the advent of the internet and social media. The introduction of African Magic Yoruba in DSTV has also contributed to the global awareness of the industry. Every industry, however, needs continuous improvement. And we need to also move up with the trend because when you are moving with the times you solidify your ground. We need to protect our future by adapting to changes in the world.
Poor subtitling of Yoruba movies has been recurring, do you think it can be nipped in the bud?
To be sincere, people still complain to us about that. In fact, it is a jocular topic on social media. And I think, if we want to be honest, that changes have really begun in that direction. A lot of our people have brushed themselves up. We no longer hire incompetent people to handle that area of movie production. We now have professionals who proofread our movies before they are released. For instance, I have not received any complaints of the sort for the movies that I have produced. And I know some producers, who are equally making efforts to correct poor subtitling.
It is believed that acting in ‘Taxi Driver’ brought you into the mainstream movie industry?
Before Taxi Driver, I had done some English movies, though they are still unreleased. My motto in life is, do anything you want to do to the best of your ability. That is the way I approach my work. You never know the extent to which your actions would go. I didn’t quite anticipate that Taxi Driver (Oko Ashawo) will get this far when we started. But today, a lot of people are talking about it. I say again, try to put all your efforts in anything you do.
As a versatile actor, what comes to your mind when you land a new project?
A lot of people say I am versatile and I appreciate them. And I always tell people this, if acting is your profession you should protect it. To my mind, this is my own way of protecting my job, being the best that I can be. If I am invited to play any role, after reading the script thoroughly, I try to understand it. Once I understand the character, then am I able to inject my own ideas. Most of the times it is not always easy. Being versatile is the result of long term hard work.
What is your take on scandals the media involve you in?
Some elements have hijacked the social media for their own mischievous gains. People just sit down and cook up stories simply because they want traffic, they want to make money. I think Nigerians need to get it right. It is not everything that is on social media that is factual. An entertainer who knows his craft should not be carried away with social media. This is because before social media, we have been in this industry. It is not social media that will bring us down. I have been in the industry for more than twenty years. So social media cannot bring me down.
A lot of people have tied your rise to fame to diabolic means. Do you feel any need to react to it?
Yes I have reacted to it. I am a Christian. I was born in a Christian family. I grew up in a Christian home. As far as I am concerned, if you are in one level in this country and people have not said this thing about you it means you have not gotten high enough. If you are a celebrity and are bordered about what people write about you it means you still need to pray very well for Baba God to take you higher. We are still praying. People have said Pastors use jazz. So, why would they not say the same thing about me? I am a Christian and I am still in Christ.
How did you rise to fame?
Like I said, I am a Christian and it will always show. If I am still talking about what I have gone through in the past, it means I do not appreciate God. Okay. I told you, I was born over forty years ago in a Christian home. I went to St John’s Primary School. I attended St Peter’s College, Olomore, Abeokuta, Ogun State. From there, I went to Moshood Abiola Polytechnic and then to the University of Lagos. I am presently in 500 Level at the University of Lagos studying Business Administration. When I was a young man, I had so much interest in singing because my dad was a former choir master in our church. He is now a pastor. Then, I had so much interest in singing because I composed songs. And in school, I loved Business studies. I also loved anything that pertained to leadership. That is why I am studying Business Administration. I love to administer. But God said, “No. It’s good. You will still administer but come and join the movie industry first”. So, the knowledge of business administration is key to the smooth running of any organisation.
And I tell young actors, if you want to come into the industry, you must go to school. If you tell me you are interested in acting, I will ask you, “What are you doing presently? … When you finish it come.” If you are in school, finish it before you join the movie industry. If you were learning a trade, make sure you are certified before you join the movie industry. If you are looking for admission, first finish your studies before you come because if you do not do these things once you are accomplished in the movie industry it will be difficult for you to go back. Education is important to anything you do.
Do you patronise made-in-Nigeria clothiers or you shop abroad?
The same tailor that has been working with me for a long time is still the one making all my clothes. I always support my own people.
In the course of your travels, which country have you enjoyed the most?
There is no country I have travelled to that is not good. But there is nothing I see in those places that I don’t see in Nigeria. Nigeria is far better than a lot of other countries. If we can just have stable electricity supply, a lot of people, even foreigners, would want to live in Nigeria. That’s because most areas of the country are peaceful. There is no place I have travelled to that does not have steady power supply. Even in Abidjan,Ivory Coast which is way smaller than Nigeria, they have uninterrupted electricity. It is not encouraging for a business person to spend most of his money on generating electricity for his business.
How has the economic recession affected you?
It has affected everybody. We are all human beings; the only difference is that we are into the theatre business and people sometimes treat us specially. Everything that affects the larger society impacts us too. The prices of commodities have increased greatly, yet income is stagnant.
Some people feel that Yoruba movie producers don’t pay well, what’s your reaction to that?
I don’t agree with that. The pay is reasonable enough.
Entertainers are beginning to show interest in leadership. With your love for administration, do you see yourself joining the train someday?
If you have any opportunity in this country and at this time use it. Make use of any opportunity positively, I mean good opportunities. In my own case, I can’t say anything pertaining to politics for now.
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