Born in Kenta, Oke-Ejigbo Abeokuta, Ogun State, award-winning actor, movie producer and director, Ebun Oloyede is a familiar face in the Nigerian movie industry. Olaiya Igwe, as he is fondly called by his fans, in this interview by FEMI OGUNTAYO, talks about his educational background, recounts his experience as he lost a 52 million Naira project to piracy in 2014 among other issues. EXCERPTS:
Tell us about your educational background?
I went to Muslim high school, I left there for United High School and finally I graduated from Premier Grammar School, all in Abeokuta, Ogun State. The reason I passed through all those schools was that I didn’t have time for education and was so much concentrated on the acting life.
That really affected my education. So, when the school authority found out that I wasn’t attending classes, they told me I had to leave the school — Myself and some of my friends who were also running from classes. So, that was it. But the problem is this; after secondary school, I wanted to further my education but there was no money.
Then I said, I will focus on acting and take it as a career. Though, there was a time I went to Ogun State Polytechnic, but I did not finish there. I was there for just one year to study Mass Communication. I still have it in mind to complete my education, it is not that I want to use it for politics or any other thing but I just want to have it. That is if I can still do that, but if God says that is the end, I cannot decide for God.
There was a time you were known as ‘Mr. One year one movie’, what inspired that drive and why did you stop?
When I studied how difficult my profession is, I saw that it isn’t something you can just be practicing all the time, it is not where you can just be producing all the time. You need to take your time because it is an intellectual career.
You will die and your intellectual property will still remain, which means your intellectual property is bigger than you and will live after you, so you have to do it the normal way and must apply sense in whatever you are doing. That was why I ended up with one year one movie; but then, when you are doing something and you lack support, it will affect you and you will be a minority among the majority. But if you don’t relent, and be consistent, your integrity will be there for you; people will know your worth and respect your brand, though, financially, it can affect you.
Look at Wole Soyinka for example, you cannot really say he is rich financially, but he is rich in integrity, that is it. I shot my last movie in 2008 and I released it in 2014. I shot the movie in English Language and I called it ‘Mystery of Unity’. I even shot the Yoruba version, I shot both simultaneously and I released them on the same day. It was not lip-synced, I had scripts for both versions, and I called the Yoruba version ‘Aditu Ishokan’. What I did then was just to prove that I was crowned the ‘king of theatre’ by the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, for a reason. The same set of actors acted in both the English and Yoruba versions; I must say, it is on record that no other person has done that since I did it.
How much did you spend on this project?
I spent 52 million Naira on the project. So, since that time when I released it and discovered the problem of piracy, I felt sick. That was why I stopped. Now, if I want to produce a movie, I will take my time.
Some of your movies then were about this tradition of money ritual and all that. Was there any reason for this or let me say, what did you want to achieve with that?
Only three of my movies out of all were about money rituals. I don’t know why people are so concerned about the ones about money rituals. The first one, ‘Ololade Mr. Money’, I used a herbalist to perform the ritual rites and you know, when you are doing anything that has to do with religion, you have to be very careful, you have to balance it. That was why in ‘Abela Pupa’ I used a pastor, which was where I used Pastor Ajidara. Then, in Osan gangan, I used an Alfa. So, I just had to balance it. But it was because I released the three movies simultaneously, that was why people were talking about those movies. Look at my other movies like Iru Eshin, Ebute, Osuwon and many more, there was nothing like money rituals in them. So, it was not some of my films, only three were about money rituals.
People actually learnt a lot from those movies, but these days, most movies you feature in are more of comedy, why is that?
Thank God for your question and the way you asked, you said the movies I feature in, they are not mine. So, if people invite me to come and participate in their films, I will have to give them what they want. As a versatile actor, I can blend and it is a gift I have to display. You just give me the role, I will play it. Secondly, I trained as a comedian and I started as a comedian, I was called Baba Congo. I even had a group called Baba Congo and his comedy group. So, anything comedy, I know much about it. But if I want to produce my own movie, I will come out with a powerful story and people will see that this is an Olaiya movie.
How would you rate the present day Nollywood?
When we talk of technology, it is developing. But in terms of storyline, we still have some jobs to do. When we talk about the administration and organisation we need to do more too.
It’s been a long time coming for you; do you have any retirement plans?
Yes, I am planning to produce one fantastic movie which will be done like it is my last. I have that in mind and I am working on it seriously. That is what I have in mind, to do that and retire as a producer, except God says I would produce more movies after this.
How did you get the name ‘Olaiya Igwe’?
I love my mother so much. There was a movie I produced and I called it ‘Ola Iya’. I called it that name because it was my mother that rescued me while I was in bondage and if not for her, I would have died. The Igwe part was because of the honour I got from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) as the ‘King of Theater’. You know Igwe means King in Igbo, some people call me ‘Oba’ but it was ‘Igwe’ that was more popular.
What are your thoughts about the recent EndSARS protests by the youths?
Well, I supported the EndSARS protests by the youths, I supported the sincere agitations by the young people in Nigeria, but I do not support burning of police stations, burning policemen, looting of people’s businesses. I am not also in support of the killings of protesters. That is all I can say on the EndSARS protests for now.
Moving forward, what should your fans expect from you and what are your words for them?
Like I said earlier, they should expect one powerful movie from me early next year and I know they will not be disappointed. My words to my fans are that they should keep supporting and should not hesitate to correct me when I go wrong because I am not perfect.
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