By Anthony Ada Abraham
Ayo Adeduyi Emmanuel popularly known as Nollywood Policeman is a veteran in the Nigerian film industry. He has acted in more than 200 films as a policeman or detective. In this interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM, the actor who was mistaken for a police spy, beaten, insulted at Oshodi Motor Park speaks on his journey into Nollywood and the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was born in Lagos in the early 60s to a cleric and customs officer, Pa. Emmanuel, who died 10 years ago. I’m from Ondo State, Ifedore LG, Idanre (the big hill city). My Education was all in Lagos, Primary at St. Mathias Catholic School, Lafiaji, Lagos, secondary at Nigerian People High school, Ebute Meta, and HSC at Igbobi College. ( We did Forms 1-5) in secondary, not this Indomie, JSS and SSS o…(laughs). I had my university education at the University of Lagos, where I read Physical and Health Education and majored in Sport Administration. I also had a Grade 2 football coaching certificate.
While in the university, I was playing State League Football. I played for few clubs in Lagos, Savannah Bank FC, Arab Bank FC, Radio Nigeria FC and lastly Eagles Club FC (it’s an oil company called SHELL Oil, later changed to Marion Oil) where I played alongside, Nduka Ugbade (the Golden Eaglets captain), Bawa Abdullahi, both of the then Golden Eaglets. I stopped playing after a knee injury in the mid-90s and then concentrated on modelling.
While modelling, I was also working in the civil service . I started working with Office of the Head of Service, from there, I was posted to the Ministry of Agriculture, then moved to Office of the Accountant General as an auditor. I was later loaned by the government to the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) before I retired from service.
First contact with Nollywood
In 1993, a friend of mine known as Alex brought me to Nollywood. He took me to Zeb Ejiro, we call him the “Sheikh of Nollywood”. He was then the number one producer and director in the industry. Marketers were beginning to work with him. He was also shooting the TV series “Ripples,” which happened to be the longest soap on NTA. I remember it was the soap that introduced Alex Omaigbo. Apart from getting small jobs as extra, you were paid N500. I remember I did a job for Nkem Owoh, I got paid N500 as an extra. Then in 1993, Chiko Ejiro, the younger brother of Zeb Ejiro started his own production house in Surulere called Grandtouch. In his first film, he combined Yoruba and English actors, co-produced with Lola now in Canada. They did a job called Aiye Ma Le (The world is tough) which featured Sola Fosudo, Jide Kosoko and others. I played a sub-lead role as a detective, and that was my stepping stone into Nollywood. After the job, Chiko became the marketers celebrity for jobs. He hardly did any job without inviting me. I lost count of jobs for Grandtouch and it was during the period Zeb Ejiro shot Domitila where I also played detective. I became a stereotyped policeman ever since then.
Movies that boost your career
The other producer and director that also helped my movie career was Teco Benson. When he auditioned for Dirty Game, I never knew I could get a role due to the calibre of known faces at the audition. But I got it and the job also brought me fame, as Inspector Sani which people still call me till now. I must confess, I owe a lot of producers and directors my gratitude. Some are my close friends today. I owe them great thanks for who they made me be. Andy Amenechi, (daddy) Fidel’s Duker (when he was in Surulere), Opa Williams, (he touched my life also.) I acted as Sgt Okoro with Ayo Mogaji, Francis Duru, Late Uncle Sam Loco.
Numbers of movies starred in
I lost count of jobs I have done. I hardly remember names now. I know, Formidable Force, Queen Of Aso Rock, In Line Of Duty, Sharon Stone In Abuja etc. I even acted a lot in Abuja that I can’t remember their titles. If I Am A President will always be in my memory.
Now if you ask me why I’m still in Nollywood, it’s simple, the joy I derive from interpreting my role especially the role of policing which has to do with being disciplined and enforcing better policing in Nigeria. My role in movies has brought me bought sorrow and joy.
I started with the beating I received from area boys. That was just one out of three different occasions in Lagos alone. I also get complement from police officers, even when driving or paying a visit to the Command or Force Headquarters. I have never been involved in any crime in my life or invited to partake in a crime. I believe when you have the spirit of God in you, you will excel. The first person to call me was late Aunty Amaka Igwe, at one of her film festivals in Abuja. I was used as a topic of stereotype in movies, advantage and disadvantages. I’ve had very troubled times on set. I remember in 1999 at a location in Lagos, I was given a pistol said to be empty no bullet ( the movie is called, “Ajiko Forest” after Okija forest saga.) I was to aim and pretend to shoot someone on the set. But the spirit in me insisted I recheck the pistol. I asked the officers that brought them, he told me they were empty. I just decided to check before shooting, face the gun on an empty space, pressed trigger, Baam ! It echoed in the air. Your guess is as good as mine. We had to leave that scene for a week. That’s part of the hazard we face on set. When I was in London in 2015-2017, I got to know how important it is to keep good image of yourself and your country. I was at a place watching Nollywood movie with some Nigerians, we saw a note, you are too good in policeman’s dress. It became a topic there, because some of them recognised me. The question was thrown to me, if this is how policemen in Nigeria behaved and dressed? You can imagine my problem. I’ve acted in more than 200 films as a policeman or detective in Nollywood. If your script is playing a bad cop and you don’t have where the officer was punished and you are not ready to amend for good policing so that the public could to see, I’ll drop the script and leave. Your movie goes out to portray us, good or bad.
I have 15 different awards from different organisations and agencies. I’m affiliated with four NGOs, two are against women molestation, another two are for the girl child. Two in Lagos, one in Port Harcourt and one here in Abuja. I also support friends’ NGOs here in Abuja when they call.
Most memorable moment
My happiest moment in this industry was the day I visited Aso Rock with some National Executive of the Actors Guild. While we were doing the introduction, I mentioned my name and the former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said, “Yes, policeman.” I became swollen head. It was a great joy.
There’s an NGO online campaign group I belong here in Abuja. We know we have the virus here in Nigeria but , to me, it’s not as dangerous as blown by the NCDC. I don’t agree. Our narratives and hunger for money, corruption and selfishness has made a rubbish of the monitoring and census of the real number affected. It has been politicised and NCDC is already compromised. A Nigeria Health consultant from US, attacked the head of NCDC, challenged him to give some medical equipment that supposed be used like testing kits, which are not available in Nigeria, told him to stop giving false information to the government. The virus has symptoms like asthma, typhoid fever, and it’s more related to regions with cold weather, and common in older people, because it fights their immune system. I ask, who has forensically confirmed the cooked figures from the states sent to the central data for announcement? Why are they not showing us people infected or getting healed like other countries? All the PTF, NCDC heads are compromised because of the allowances attached and the millions doled out by the FG to curtail the spread, they claim it’s rising. They are chasing the target for fund from Europe, EU. One said, they noticed in Nigeria, the case is not as heavy as reported for assistance. Now the NCDC is going to make sure they hit target and for that, all states must contribute figures to make up everyday. Since last week, the figure from states has increased dramatically.
Rivers and Kogi have refused to be part of the dubious game. The NCDC visited Kogi and Governor Yayaha Bello insisted they be quarantined, they ran away. (Laughs)
I don’t see us out of this in three months from now. A lot are benefiting from it . Look at the distribution of palliatives announced by the President. A good heart, it was a free diversion for those placed in charge, including those in charge of the project. Money was distributed to selected few, food taken to chiefs’ house who call those he want to benefit. I experienced one in Biaji, Kubwa, Abuja. The President was wrongly briefed of the palliatives, some of the foods were diverted, some not consumable. The President wasn’t aware of all the bad and wrong information given to him. I always quarrel with anyone blaming him. Some women were given N2000 but they snapped them with N20,000. Politicians, unscrupulous officers, and the staff of the agency are all cohort. Who knew NCDC before now? It’s been there with no funding. If the government did not involve itself, I trust Naija by now, it would have gotten solution, with herbs to stop it. Economy is down, the most affected now is the entertainment industry that is completely shot down. We will keep preaching the slogan, cover face, wash hands, etc but when will it stop? Nigerians are not lazy people, Ebola came, we survived, HIV came we are winning, the virus to me has a cure.
Advice to potential actors
Education is very important in all fields. Training is very helpful. I still attend workshops and trainings. Knowledge is power and will build you up. Humility, patience and humbleness will take you far. A lot of our noodles actors and actresses these days don’t have it. Don’t put money as your pivot coming to Nollywood; only your ability and humbleness will take you far.
Association Of Africa Creative Minds
Laudable but majority of our guys, male and female, old and, including the Indomie noodles celebrities are ego tripping and pride has taken over their senses. I can’t imagine following someone who does not see me as a person. I met Wizkid in Lagos at a mall at Ajah, I called him first and he recognised me and call me Olola Sir. We exchanged contacts and he promised to call me for a musical video. I followed him on Instagram, Twitter and called him, no response, no follow back. So I erased his contact and deleted him. If all could work according to their dream, we will be good. You will not need any of them to follow.