We are nothing but pencils in the hands of our creator.” Those were the words of award winning TV soap opera producer, Mr. Wale Adenuga. Notable as a great figure in TV production today, one little secret you may not know about him is his simplicity.
The Ogun State father of five took a retrospective look back to the days of Ikebe Super, Binta and friends and the main reason he had to stop the publication.
Resting Ikebe Super magazine
Well, I started Ikebe Super in the late 1980s and having produced till then, in the early 90s, Nigeria's economy took a dive and it affected the cost of production of all magazines in the country. This made business un-attractive, so we started looking for another media of showcasing our stories and then we stumbled on TV and that was how we put Papa Ajasco, Binta and Friends, Super Story on TV. These three were formerly in magazine form.
The magazine itself was Ikebe Super but then the characters inside were created due to our quest for funky names. The name Papa Ajasco was extracted from the word “James.” And we were able to create Pa James, Boy Alinco, Pa Jimoh and others and soon they became popular.
TV- Soap operas
I have produced five TV soap operas. We have the Super Story, Papa Ajasco, This Life, Odd World, Binta and Friends. But I cannot recall the number of series.
Challenges as a producer
Basically, we produce this programme and then look for sponsors and advertisers. The major problem we have is that of advertising, advertisers are not paying in time. In the sense that you look for money to produce this programmes, put them on television, pay the television house, then nobody to pay for this advert and sometimes the money doesn't come in time, so since you must produce all the time, you just have to look for sponsors. We have been producing now for the past 10 years and have been able to resolve all the knotty issues. Producing is no longer a problem to us, so also is marketing, but getting adverts and sponsors for this programmes have not been easy. I still think marketing poses a problem to every producer.
My father is my role model any day, he portrayed a quality I admire so much and that quality is honesty. His honest approach to business is my guiding policy in life. Late Chief Joseph Adesoya Adenuga was a merchant, a distributor of Nigeria Tobacco Company at Ile –Ife, though we were not from Ile ife, he migrated there in the early 1930s. Up till today, I don't do a lot of things because of money. I try to be as honest as possible in whatever transaction I do. So the greatest virtue I derived from my father was honesty and this policy has really paved way for success in my profession.
Message of the stories
Super Story is designed to focus on various social issues at all times. We try to project the good, the bad and the ugly of the society. It just happened that the current soap opera is Beeping on the Police. Other stories are focused on the lawyers, doctors, students, lecturers. For instance, I remember we produced a series entitled Mr Lecturer. The next would be centred on the average Nigerian female child with the title as Omoiya, meaning 'that child like you'.
Reason for the title?
Yes, we have a lot of female stories embedded in this story and which people will see when they are watching this particular series.
I personally believe that the TV media is much more bigger than the home video, so what we sometimes do is to re-package our TV series into home video format, but I cannot put a fresh story on home video because it will be a wasted effort. People will see a fresh story more on the TV than on video of which only a few copies will be sold.
Having graduated from the university in 1974, I got married a year later and as God will have it, I started having kids the following year. I had them every year because I believe that what is worth doing is worth doing well. I am married to Mrs Iherawa Adenuga, the proprieties of Binta Nursery, Primary and High School. We have five children, three girls and two boys. My youngest son is 22 years old this year, my eldest daughter got married April this year. So I thank God for the favour he has shown to me.
I don't like dishonesty, I don't like noise. I like people who are down to earth. I like normal people, people who are natural. I hate pretenders. I think what turns me on is whenever I meet men and women of worth who are humble, who still have the fear of God. In terms of dressing, I go for simple wears.
Yes! Of course, there have been moments in my life, which will always remain memorable, but I must confess that the one that had the greatest impact on me was the day I was born.
Any dream of Hollywood?
I don't deceive myself, in terms of film production, we Nigerian producers are on our own. What I mean is that the video sector is booming quite alright, but unfortunately, the format we are adopting in this country is not universally acceptable. When the white men talk about film, they are probably referring to celluloid on which they usually organise their competitions around the world,
Nigerians are not represented in many of these competitions because we cannot take our own video format to international film conference. But I want to say that we should not give up. I personally believe that the most important thing is the quality of the story you are dishing out and not the type of tape you are using. I believe in the effect of stories, so if the white man cannot accept our format, then let us organise our own competition within Nigeria and within Africa. Let us try to excel in what we are doing. and stop using the white man's standard as yardstick.
Writing of stories
Initially, I use to write them myself. But with the expansion, we now have a consortium of writers. I have about three writers, two of the best in the country, Loiuse Ayorinde and Lamson Yusuf. We hold story conferences to discuss and analyse stories, develop stories before recording. It is a team work, it's not only Wale Adenuga's effort that people watch on this TV. All is made possible by the coming together of many heads (talents) from the Director, P.M, camera man, editor and all of them try as much as possible to excel in what they do.
Duration of each production
Sometimes, writing of the stories, breaking it down and writing the scripts takes four weeks, but if we are talking about a production of 13 episodes of one hour programme, we spend three months on the story and the writing of the scripts. The recording of 13 episodes could also take a month but the editing of the episode would also take a month, that means the total production of 13 episode for a good job well done will take six months.
The film and television institute
We now have two schools in the group. The Binta International Nursery, Primary and High School and the film school- the Pencils Film and Television Institute (PEFTI), is recognised by both the state and federal governments. Basically, what we do in PEFTI is that we offer three-month certificate courses in script writing, costumes/make up, editing, acting, production management/producing, continuity and also six-month certificate courses in cinematography, presentation, set design and directing.
Business administrator turned producer
Like I usually say, we are pencils in the hands of our creator. I woke up one morning then and discovered that I could draw.
You see, God is the only being you can call a creator and the creator has anointed people like me to do what I am doing today. I will say it was a call.
He gives me the idea of entertaining people, so I am not the originator, but a tool in His hand. So when I started the cartoon magazine, Ikebe Super, in 1978 and then the cartoon graduated into TV series, I then converted the TV stories to TV series.
I drew the Ikebe magazine that came out for the first four years. Then I began the Binta magazine in 1980, Papa Ajasco actually came on air in 1996, Super Story in 2001 and Binta and Friends this year 2005.
Sexual harassment by producers
As far as I am concerned, we don't do that here. And this is why our stories are so credible because we are objective in our casting. We are never subjective, we give roles to the artistes whom we feel are best at what they do, and we don't look at faces. We call for audition and actors and actress come here in their hundreds and we look at the story at hand, and pick competent ones for the roles.
I love watching films and watching human behaviours. I have a swimming pool, but I don't swim.
Yes I must say that I appreciate every encouragement from fans. I have received international and local awards. I have received 13 awards such as Dr. Kwame Nkruma outstanding merit Award on April 30, 2004 for West African International Magazine, International Foundation for Excellence (IFEX) 2002, Nigeria Film Festival for Guinness Gold Prize, which was presented for the Best TV series and the 12th Super Story award presented by Ambassador Segun Olusola and so on.