On the memorable day I met Veteran actor, Olumide Bakare, I was in awe of a lot of things he did. He was so pleasant and treated me like I was his son. Aside the fact that he knew me as a journalist, “Baba” and I as I always called him had a personal relationship. I visited him at his Ibadan home. Once I see him he would get into the kitchen and cook and made sure I was ok. He was always full of ideas and always wanted to share his thoughts with me. We got closer after he clocked 60 on 26th November, 2013. Unfortunately, he was hospitalized at an Ibadan, Oyo State hospital for an heart related ailment. He was later discharged. Thereafter he travelled to United States of America for a visit to his children and grandchildren and siblings. And he also got some medical attention while in the US. He was under the direct supervision of his elder brother who is a Surgeon, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, whom he later introduced to me and I ran some very profitable errands for him whenever he visited the country. Baba never asked me for any favour in return for all I got from his brother. The news of his death got me shivering and I have not been able put myself together. I pray the good Lord will give all his family members and practitioners of the theatre and movie industry the fortitude to bear the loss. Amen.
Baba, I know you have gone to be with your creator.
I will miss your selflessness and humble mien. Sun Re Baba rere!
HIS 60TH BIRTHDAY INTERVIEW
To most viewers of NTA, Ibadan in the 80s, the programme, Koko Close was very popular on the TV station. The main character in the programme, Chief Koko of Oluwalanbe Lodge, is one witty and cantacerous man. He was an imperialist landlord of sort on the programme back then. His name is Olumide Bakare.
His imposing stature and husky voice gave him away as a no-nonsense man. This veteran actor was born about 60 years ago in the Northern city of Kano to parents from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.
At age 10, he made up his mind he would not only become an actor but a respected professional one at that. With a tinge of pride, he tells whoever cares to listen that the greatest thing to happen to him was to have been trained as actor by the likes of Professor Wole Soyinka, Late Professor Zulu Sofola and several other world acclaimed academics.
How does it feel to be 60?
I feel good and thankful to God. I am more gentle now than before. Though I can’t do what I used I do 10 years ago. It is a good thing I clocked 60 on November 26, 2013. Though I clocked 60 on the hospital bed in Ibadan but I thank God I am back on my feet and I am on my way to the United States where I would see my children, grandchildren and siblings and getting some medical attention.
And when you come back from the United States?
My project will go on air. I believe ‘Koko Close’ would be a child’s play compared to the new drama series that would be shown.
Are there plans to formally celebrate your turning 60?
Yes. When I come back from my trip. I am sure it is going to be a big celebration. A lot of people had planned something elaborate but I fell sick so we had to shelve the party.
Are there things you have learnt?
I have learnt a lot and God has been good to me. I have learnt to trust God more in all I do.
Are there plans to remarry now that you are 60?
(Loud laughter) The new bride for now is Christ Jesus.
Jesus is the heavenly bride. What of the earthly bride?
Let us leave that for now.
But it is not to say you won’t remarry?
We would talk about that some other time (laughs).
Over the years, you have carved a niche for yourself as one actor who is highly spontaneous, with punchy lines. How have you been able to achieve this?
I did not become an actor overnight. It all started when I was a kid. I made people in the neighbourhood laugh. While in secondary school, I was a good student of Literature in English. With the encouragement from my school Principal then, we formed a Drama Group. After the secondary school experience, I decided to study Theatre Arts at the University Of Ibadan (UI) in 1973. Then I had an uncle, Bayo Oduneye who came from America. At the time he was in the country, my mum worried me about what I wanted to study in the University. I told her I wanted to study Theatre Arts. She then sent for my uncle that I wanted to study Theatre Arts. Those days in the University, we had School of Drama in the Department of Theatre Arts, Faculty of Arts.
About this time there was advert in the newspapers for professionals to study Theatre Arts. I was eventually selected to study a programme organised by the School of Drama under late Professor Zulu Sofola, whom I will call my mother in the Arts. It was an 18 month programme. The programme was rigorous and it ran from 8am till late in the evening.
Things we learnt included Aerobics, Acting, and Voice Training. This helped me achieve my unique voice which I have today. I later proceeded to the then University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife for my CDA (Certificate in Dramatic Arts). I have been trained by the best hands in the country. I was a student of Professor Wole Soyinka, Chuck Mike, Professor Femi Osofisan and Professor Zulu Sofola.
What is your guiding philosophy that makes you put in your best in every movie?
I wonder how people nowadays, after featuring in 1 or 2 movies, they call themselves stars. Whoever must excel as an actor must be properly grounded. You must be informed and educated. The knowledge any actor acquires must be put into the art. Notwithstanding the fact that I have put more than 37 years into the profession I still make sure I learn and acquire more knowledge. The problem nowadays is that a lot of people in the industry see themselves as stars so soon. I don’t know where they are coming from.
Some people have so much bastardised the profession that there is no control in the industry. There is no yardstick to determine who is a professional, who is talented. I believe a time will soon come when those who are real in the industry will be known. The real owners of the industry will soon take over. You know you can’t wake up one morning and say you are a Medical Doctor, a Lawyer. But our profession lacks control and this has encouraged people to set up mushroom theatre arts schools. No one knows the knowledge the students are acquiring.
Is that why you did not set up a drama school of your own?
I have the ambition of setting up a drama school that will be of good/high standard and affiliated to a University. I am seriously working towards this.
Can you give us the exact number of movies and soap operas you have starred in?
I must confess to you I have lost count.
Have you ever acted in movies from other parts of the world?
At a time when I was working with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), some group of producers came from Netherland. We did some programmes with them. To my utmost surprise, a couple of months ago, I got a letter from NTA, Ibadan giving me 5 pounds for what I did several years back. That is like a royalty fee for a job I did and was shown on Netherland Television. They sent the money through NTA, Ibadan because it was the only address they could trace me with. I worked with NTA, Ibadan for 17 years as a Producer and an artiste.
How does it feel getting 5 pounds for a role you played several years ago?
I felt good. To me, it was pay back time. I did not expect a dime to come from any production that had been produced for that long. It gave me a sense of pride. It shows the movie industry over there is organised unlike what obtains here in Nigeria. No producer in Nigeria has ever paid me N150,000.
What do you think is responsible for this?
Because things are not being done the right way. We have a lot of producers who are liars, deceivers and cheats. This is more in the Yoruba movie industry. All they say is “Baba wa le je, eyin naa le fi ise yi le wa lowo” (you are our father in the industry, we met you in the profession). All they do is beg. At the end of the day they would have got so much from the marketer but they will short-change the actors and actresses.
A lot of people in the industry say you are a disciplinarian and they don’t want to have dealings with you. Why is this so?
I can liken the situation in the Yoruba movie industry to a situation where about 65% of the practitioners are illiterates. That is why it is difficult for me to really associate with them. They don’t want to improve, they lie. They don’t pay attention to quality except a handful of producers.
Does that explain why you feature more in TV series and soaps?
Yes. It pays more. If a producer is offering to pay about N25,000 per episode and the series has 13 episodes and you have to spend about 10 days on location considering Nigeria’s economy, it pays better.
But the Yoruba movie industry by late Chief Hubert Ogunde was founded on a symbiotic style of production…
(Cuts in) That has to change. It must not be like that forever. Must I be a producer before I make money in the industry? Artistes should be paid their worth. I put in my best for every production. Yoruba theatre started from the Alarinjo Theatre (Mobile theatre). During Hubert Ogunde’s life time, it was a family affair. He started with his wife and children. Those days are gone. We need to start proper business to make N250,000 in 10 days. I prefer that to being on a location, lodge in a shabby hotel, no good food. The best they can offer you is N1,000 feeding allowance.
Can’t something be done about the situation?
A lot can be done but the people are not prepared for change. The producers create the problems of the meagre wages in the industry. They don’t pay artistes their worth. The producers of English speaking movies in Nigeria are making money because they are really doing business now.
Can you tell us about your family background?
My parents hail from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State but I was born in Kano. This is why I see myself as an Hausa man. This, to a large extent informs my carefree nature. I had to caution myself when I was going to be tagged an extravagant person. I attended primary school in Kano, my secondary school was at Multilateral Grammar School, Okun Owa in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.
So what was the attraction for the theatre industry as a young chap?
I got attracted through the television. Then television sets were not common items at homes. Television came into Nigeria in 1959 and my parents bought the one that influenced me by 1960. Then I watched Radio Kano Television (RKTU). There was a programme which caught my attention then. It was an interesting programme where the lead character at the end of the programme will say “The Lone Ranger Rises Again Next Week”.
Then I was about 10 years old and I made up my mind, I would be an actor. My being raised in Kano has been responsible for my mastery of Hausa Language.
Do you have plans of retiring from acting one day?
Acting is a profession that does not have a retirement age. If the legendary Pa Adebayo Faleti can still be very relevant at his age, why would I want to stop acting? My ambition is to have a production company and establish a drama training school.
Do you have any regret(s) as an actor?
If I come back to this world again, I would still be a Theatre Artiste.
And what would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for my good works, good acting and as a committed Theatre Artiste.
What is your philosophy of life?
First thing is the fear of God, secondly, honesty. These 2 things have helped me a great deal.