•Tells City People His Plan
They have most things in common. Obviously, their skin colour is not one of those. As veteran actor, Prince Adeoye Adewale Elesho is of velvety white skin or what some would call albino. And Otunba Bolaji Amusan popularly known as Mr. Latin, an actor also of long-standing in the industry, is of dark pigmentation. Save for that, most other aspects of their personalities are alike. To start with, they are both comic actors. They have both enjoyed illustrious careers as movie stars in their own rights. Wait for this: they are both from the same state, Osun, South West, Nigeria. Though, Baba Dammy (Dammy’s dad) as Adewale Elesho is also fondly called is from Ikirun, while Mr. Latin is from Gbongan. And more importantly, they are both presidents of the two factions in the Yoruba movie industry. Baba Dammy was recently elected as the president of the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) and Mr. Latin was also elected as the president of Theatre Art and Motion Picture Producers Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN) not long ago. Before, emerging presidents, they were very close as Mr. Latin would relate with Adewale Elesho as a big brother and boss in the industry. But are they still close? The rest of this story would deal with that.
First things first. This writer had an exclusive, no-holds-barred interview session with Mr. Enu’njawaya as Adewale Elesho is also called due to his loquaciousness in movies which usually sees him lashing out, albeit, wittily and jokingly at any mortal that crosses his path and does not behave their self. The interview was at Radio Lagos/Eko F.M. ground, Agidingbi, Lagos State. And diverse issues were dissected, x-rayed, and examined like a surgeon. Knowing that Adewale Elesho would normally be an interviewer’s delight since he comes across as blunt and fearless, there was no need to really prepare questions ahead for him. But naturally, the session had to start with when and how he found his way into acting. At this point, he was just getting into the groove of the interview and had to get composed for the task before him. In brief, “can you remember how your journey into the movie industry started?” That’s how the question was posed to him. And without actually meaning to be comical, he responded: “Haaa, that cannot be remembered oh, because the journey has been long.” But he should be able to remember the year he started. He was asked: “On a serious note, it has been a long time, but conservatively, I started acting about forty years ago.” He surmised. And he said he was trained by one Mr. Femi Olukoga from Ilorin, Kwara State.
As an actor typecast as a bluntly funny character, asking him a blunt question too should not be out of order. So, did the colour of his skin pose any issue to his being accepted into acting back then? He was asked. To be very sure of what the question was, “you mean my skin colour,” he asked emphatically and this writer nodded in the affirmative. “Well, I must tell you that my skin colour was never an issue at that time. In fact, my skin colour contrarily made me a star right from birth.” He looked at the face of this writer and saw that he was wondering how. So, he continued: “ Immediately I was born, according to my mum, people trooped down from far and near to come and see the kind of baby it was. Because of the same skin colour, people were said to be wondering whether the new baby was of the white species or an albino. A Briton or an American baby? So that made me to be popular right from birth because the news travelled very fast that an unusually whitish kind of baby had been given birth to in town. And I was told people that came started hailing me as: “ Oyinbo, ‘yinbo,” ( a white baby), or “ Afin,” (an Albino) and the rest of it.” So, that is how I started my life and I have never felt like I have an inferior skin colour.
“Let me even tell you this,” he added. “According to my mum, she said when I was in primary school, I wrote Afinwale Adeoye instead of Adewale Adeoye as my name on my books!” (Meaning: here comes the Albino, instead of here comes the Crown). And he used that to emphasise the fact that he had always been proud of his unique skin colour. And evidently, from the way he said it smiling, he was truly proud of it. Meanwhile, by now, you must be wondering where the aspect of his stake on Mr. Latin and the ANTP versus TAMPAM thing comes into the fray. But that would soon be thrown up after getting to know a little more about Baba Dammy’s career which actually propelled him to the lofty position of the ANTP President. Like how many movies of his own has he produced? And he said: “ My own movies are like 13.” Apparently, the ones he has been featured in are uncountable and still counting. But he also reeled out the titles of some of his self-produced movies to include: Agbada Ote, Moyo Fun E, Oluwa Mbe, Ona Abayo, Oro Iya, Odun Mo Olohun and so on. When he was asked which of the movies brought him to the limelight, he said: “ I was made popular by television series, not any home video. It was Ogun Laye Omo Araye Le, a television series that was produced in the early ’90s that brought me to the limelight.”
Rationalizing how he was made popular by television series, he said that there was no proliferation of tv stations then like there are today. “ We only had Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Abeokuta, NTA, Ilorin, just NTA stations everywhere. And before home video, I had taken part in about 14 Optical Movies (what is known today as the Cinema). I did 3 with Oga Ade Love: Taxi Driver, Eyin Oku and Ori Olori. With Segun Rasko, I partook in Kirakita, Haa Eniyan! And I did some others with Baba Sala and some with the Awada Keri Keri Organization. I was in Eri Okan and others like that.” Whoever is familiar with Adewale Elesho should know they also call him Enu’njawaya. Why do they call him that? He was asked. “ You should know that is not part of the names my parents gave me.” He said jokingly before continuing: “ It was Gbenga Adewusi (Bayowa) that did the promo for a movie back then, and when he was reeling out names of star actors in the movie he said, Jide Kosoko— Of Idoma, Baba Suwe— Seriki n Comedy and Adewale Elesho Enu’jawaya! And as a matter of fact, I had not heard anything like Enu’jawaya before then. It was after the movie promo went on air that my little son then, now a big boy, said to me that ‘daddy they said you are Enu’jawaya,’ and I asked where he heard that. His mum then told me it was in the promo of a new movie.” And that was how the nickname stuck to him like a stamp to an envelope since then.
This question must agitate the mind of any of the fans of Adewale Elesho. Do they write those funny, witty and endlessly stuffs he says in movies for him or he just say them on impulse? “ Well, a job you are very grounded in should always come easy for you. Talking seamlessly and like you said, in a funny and witty manner, is a gift from God. No one can script that. They would only give us a guide like, talk towards this direction and this is what we want to achieve with it. And there and then, I would enter into the character. The truth is, a director that would give people like us dialogue would have to be exceptionally good because God has talented us with the dialogue from heaven.” Now, to ANTP which he was recently elected to lead as the president. Did he contest unopposed? He said no, but would not like to mention the name of the person he defeated in order not to sound like he was ridiculing the person. And since he would not let out the name even after some persuasions, he was let be on that. But he said it was a keenly contested election and he had mentioned the name of his opponent somewhere before which did not go down well with the affected person.
It is pertinent to run a short profile of ANTP as an association of Yoruba movie actors for the essence of this aspect of the interview to be fully appreciated. ANTP was reportedly created by late Hubert Ogunde who is regarded as the Doyen of African Theatre. According to Adedara Oduguwa in “Biography of (Dr.) Hubert Adedeji Ogunde— The Doyen of African Theatre”, “Ogunde founded the Union of Nigerian Dramatist and Playwrights and became its first president. The Union is today called ‘Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners (ANTP)’. Hence, the ANTP presently (currently) boasts of membership in there (sic) hundreds and professional travailing Theatre companies throughout Nigeria.” Though Oduguwa did not mention precisely the year the Union was created by Ogunde, but it was understood in his book that it had been in existence as at 1975 when it (the Union) rejected the invitation of the South African Troupe to stage ‘Ipi Tombi’ to mark the official opening of the National Theatre, Iganmu. The reason stated for the rejection is not of interest here. Meanwhile, ANTP remained the only association of Yoruba movie actors until a leadership tussle between one Comrade Victor Ashaolu and veteran actor, Dele Odule rocked it. The matter became a legal tussle in which Ashaolu came out victorious.
It was consequent upon that, Veteran Actors, Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello) and Prince Jide Kosoko, both former presidents of ANTP, led a revolution of a break-away group that formed TAMPAN and left Ashaolu with the largely depleted ANTP in terms of members. Dele Odule later became the first president of TAMPAN and handed over to Mr. Latin who was elected on December 23rd, 2018. And on October 25th, 2019, Adewale Elesho on his own part was elected ANTP President. So, the question is, does Baba Dammy not think ANTP is now a shadow of its former self as TAMPAN has taken over completely with almost all the prominent and relevant actors its members? It is a difficult question but he still managed to answer it. “ TAMPAN cannot and has not taken over because we still have prominent thespians in ANTP as well. It is a pity you were not there when we held the last election. ANTP is an association with a deep-rooted history viz-a-viz the founding fathers of theatre in Nigeria. And an adage in Yoruba says: ‘Ti omode ba ni aso bi agba, ko le ni akisa bi agba’ ( Age and experience would always place the elders above the younger ones). When you hear the names of great actors and illustrious veterans who are in our Board of Trustees like Chief Jimoh Aliu who got MFR because of theatre, Chief Lere Paimo who got MFR because of theatre, Chief Yemi Elebuibon, the Araba of Oshogbo, Chief Yemi Farounbi, Wole Olowowojuore (Baba Gebu), and Alhaji Kareem Adepoju (Baba Wande), you would know ANTP is on a solid ground,” he contended.
But then how are their new positions affecting the well-established relationship between him and Mr. Latin? “ Mr. Latin, the TAMPAN President is a very intelligent man and very respectful. Despite being the president of TAMPAN, we still relate very cordially. In fact, he called me sometime before our election that, ‘Incoming President’, some of their TAMPAN members in Odeda, Ogun State, were doing inauguration. He just called to inform me and then prayed for me to win my election as ANTP President then. Remember that Mr. Latin himself had been the ANTP Governor of Ogun State at a point in time. Likewise, my Oga, Prince Jide Kosoko, when some people needed my number at a location in Ibadan, he was the one that gave them my number and I went for that job. That is to tell you there is no animosity between members of ANTP and members of TAMPAN, we still relate cordially. What happened then and split ANTP was the handiwork of the devil and we shall overcome.” He then stressed that ANTP was the origin of all of them as Oga Bello and Prince Jide Kosoko were both ex-presidents of ANTP and Mr. Latin an ex-governor.
In the final analysis, how far is Adewale Elesho ready to go to ensure that everyone would return under the umbrella of ANTP and he staked very high. In fact, his stake was un-African. “ If Mr. Latin agrees today to lead members of TAMPAN back into the fold of ANTP, I will relinquish my position as ANTP President to him immediately. He is capable to lead us!” How many Africans can do that? And Elesho was asked to repeat what he said for emphasis and be very sure he knew what he was saying and he repeated it. Hence, in the event that happens, it would surely come as a pleasant surprise to Mr. Latin. Wouldn’t it?