There is no doubt that Nollywood movie industry, especially the Yoruba aspect has great and talented actors, and one of the waves making among them is Alhaji Wale Akorede, popularly known as Okunnu.
Alhaji Wale Akorede is an actor, a scriptwriter, a director and a producer. He is popularly known for his comic and funny roles most especially in Yoruba movies. He has acted and produced a large number of movies. If you have seen any of these movies, the likes of Oba Korope, Omoolusho, Kariile, Gbarada, Iyebiye, Omoanibiire, Iyapaiko, Igbeyawo Rebecca, Layepe, Ebun Oluwa, Abarameji, Mallam Musa, Afolayan, Eyitayo, Kofun, Iyawo Baba, Ayederu, Okirika, and Gbajumo, you will agree with me 100percent, that indeed Okunnu is one of the best comedians the movie industry has produced and still making us happy till date.
Wale Akorede is a versatile actor who can interpret any role perfectly. He is now not only a renowned actor, but also a producer who has produced many movies to his credit.
Just in case you are reading about Wale Akorede for the first time, Wale Akorede hails from Ogbomoso in Oyo State but he was born and raised in Ibadan. He usually celebrates his birthday every November 5. After his Primary and Secondary Education, he proceeded to Ibadan State Polytechnic where he studied Fine Arts. He is married to the love of his life, and the marriage is blessed with three wonderful children, a boy and two girls. He is a proud father who enjoys staying with his family.
Although Wale Akorede discovered his acting potential while he was in Primary School and also in his secondary, but his parents were not in support of it at that time. After his University education, he enrolled into business while still nursing his desire to be an actor, until later the opportunity presented itself. He later entered into full acting years after his business and graduation.
How did he get the stage name, Okunnu? What are the challenges he went through in life as an actor? These and many more Alhaji Wale Okunnu revealed when he was hosted recently by the Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE, via City People Instagram Live Chat. Below are the excerpts of the interview.
How do you feel looking back at your years and everything you have done in the movie industry?
Well, glory be to the Almighty because it is not my decision, it is God’s wish. I always thank God for what He has done for me in the industry. There is nothing I have to say than to thank God. I always thank Him every second, every minute.
Talking about the many roles you play in the industry, how did it start? Is it something you trained for or they come naturally, I mean your comic role?
Thank you so much sir. Many people find it difficult to discover themselves in life. I started my acting career when I was in primary school. I actually started with comic roles then, but later on I quit the comedy aspect. When I wanted to do my first movie, somebody adviced me, Alhaji Kazeem Afolayan, the owner of Epsalum Production to be precise. He called me and said “while you want to write this script, why can’t you put some comedy because I perceive comedy skills in you”. Then I did so, I followed the instruction he gave me, and to God be the glory that instruction worked, and I have nothing to do than to continue in it.
You have been acting for how long now?
I started acting since 1984.
But you didn’t start as a comic actor?
No, I didn’t start as a comic actor. You know a player can never see himself on field, but those people that are watching will know where he needs to improve.
What is the difference between Okunnu and Wale Akorede?
Okunnu is a character in movies. At times when I sit down to watch Okunnu performances I always laugh, I would be asking myself if this is truly me? Is this truely Wale Akorede? But later I realised it’s Okunnu, because Wale Akorede is a very complete gentleman. I don’t talk outside, I don’t go out anyhow. I always love to watch Okunnu on TV as well because I just love the character myself and the Okunnu character would have been the only person I would love in my life if I am not the one. (Laugh).
Are there anytime you become Okunnu in real life?
Not really; but when I get to a place especially and my spirit goes with the people there, then, they will see Okunnu there.
How did you come about the name Okunnu?
I started with scriptwriting because I love to write. I realised if you want to achieve a good script, you have to use strange names, so that the name can sink in the head of those that watch the movie. When they notice the name sound strange they will follow the name and the character. I realised Okunnu is not common. I heard the name for the first time from Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister.
He did a live play in Ikorodu in 1984 and I have the opportunity to listen to that music in 1986. Since then I grabbed the name and I wrote it down in my book, that anytime I want to play a lead role in a movie I will bear that name, and it works out well, I have been using the name since then.
Why did you always sing like late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister?
Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was the music I listened to while growing up. It has really registered in my brain. My father always love to hear Yusuf Olatunji and Haruna Ishola but I chose to love Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s songs.
How did you celebrate your recent birthday?
Some of my friends and families came to my house. I wasn’t even expecting it, because it’s been a while I celebrate my birthday in Nigeria, for the past 5 years now. So, they came to my house and we celebrated it together.
Why did you have your family in Dubai while you are in Nigeria? How do you normally cope shuttilng Nigeria and Dubai?
It’s not my program, it is God’s design and He has made everything easy for us.
There was a time you left movie industry, why?
I had challenges then. When you are doing something and it is not yielding results, then you will think of quitting, you will think of doing something else. Then, I left the industry in 1991. I went to Saudi Arabia and I spent almost 13 years there. Though in between I still come to Nigeria and visit different locations until I decided that acting is my real job, and I faced it squarely.
I returned back to acting and God made all the challenges disappeared.
How do you cope with playing all the roles you play in movies?
When acting is in your blood, there is no how you won’t perform well. Once you hear action, the inspiration will definitely come. It also depends on the script; if the script is good that will ginger the actor to perform well. If the script is not too good, a professional actor must have one way or the other to deliver the job.
How do you manage stardom?
I am used to that, unlike before when I started. There was a day some people were calling me and I ran back inside, that what is happening. But we thank God for everything. People will come to you, they want to swap with, and you must attend to them even if you are eating.
Some people can even beat you unconsciously (laugh). Some people will give you a handshake, 3-days your hand is still paining you, but we thank God for everything. Fame is different from money. Some rich people use money to buy fame, but God gave us on a platter of gold and I appreciate Him for that.
How did you come into the limelight?
The movie where I bear Okunnu, the title is “Iwokuwo”, but the popularity came from my movie “Afurugbin” in 1999.
How do you always source for your slangs?
Like I said earlier, it is an inspiration, just like many musicians. It’s God. Meanwhile, comedy script is a very difficult script. I always reflect all my comedy in my personal scripts, but if they invite you for a job, some comedy script may not strong, it’s you that will fine-tune it for them. It’s not easy. It’s easy for a comedian to act in other roles but it’s not every actor that can act a comedy role.
Which project are you working on now? How many movies have you produced so far?
I have produced 6 movies. “Ise Imole, Iwo-Kuro, Afurugbin, Jemila, Tewetegbo and Alaayaki”.
How do you come about all these names?
I always want my movie to be meaningful even though it’s a comedy. I always think of what I want people to learn before infecting comedy into it because I don’t believe in 100% comedy. In Africa, if you produce any movie and they watch and laugh they will still ask themselves the meaning of the whole story. African doesn’t allow 100% comedy without any lesson.
What were the challenges you have faced or still facing in your career?
My first challenge was the one I experienced in 1991, but I discovered there was no work or job in this life that doesn’t have its own challenges and since then I have never encouraged any challenge. I always turn every challenge down for me to progress. How do we produce a movie with so much money and get the money back is one of the challenges we are facing now. The marketing situation in Nigeria now is not easy. Many professional producers are drawing back now because they are not sure of getting their money back. It’s a major challenge. To shoot a movie is not difficult but to at your money back is the problem. The economic situation of Nigeria is not encouraging at all. May God help us.
What is your message to all your fans?
Firstly, I want to appreciate all my fans home and abroad. Their encouragement is what is still helping till date, helping me to move forward. I really appreciate them.