I WAS MKO’S WIFE, NOT MISTRESS - REMI ABIOLA
Movie actress, Remi Abiola, has said that claims that she started acting at the advent of the Yoruba genre of what is now known as Nollywood are untrue. She stated that she had earlier been in some television drama that aired on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Channel 10, Lagos. Unknown to many of her admirers, she trained as a stage actor in England. She disclosed this to our correspondents in an exclusive interview at her Jakande Estate, Abesan, Lagos residence.
Soft-spoken but with the ability to raise her voice when occasion demands, she disclosed that her training has made it possible for her to interpret scripts on stage in Yoruba as well as in English language productions, saying acting is no big deal for her.
Abiola started out on stage in London in the 1970s while she was on study leave from her employers, the defunct Nigerian Airways, where she worked as a flight attendant. Though she was comfortable, the quest for higher education saw her take a study leave from the country's national carrier at the time. When she got to England, she fell for acting and enrolled at the Fielding School for Dramatic Arts, where she went on stage for the first time.
However, when she came back to the country, she auditioned for roles in television series, which was the vogue at the time, for the duo of Bayo Awala and Chief Tunde Oloyede series, which ran on NTA.
Though she was trained, her acting career never really took off for a combination of reasons. One being marriage and much later, having children. She returned to the scene in 1989 in a movie produced by Yemi and Segun Remi. And has since become a household name in the country's acting scene.
The mother of two, one of which was born for late MKO Abiola, however, believes that no Nigerian film can compete internationally. She attributes this to lack of encouragement from the government.
"Many people don't know but I have come a long way in this industry," said the woman who named Andy Amenechi, Tunde Kelani, Lancelot Oduah Imasuen and Tade Ogidan as her favourite directors in the country. "I have been involved with acting since 1978 when I was studying at the Fielding School for Dramatic Arts, in London. I started on stage; there was no way you would be in that school and not taste what acting on stage is like; it was part of the curriculum," she said.
Even though she has become a household name in the Yoruba movie scene, her acting credits are not limited to that sub sector of Nollwood. Some of which Include Yesterday, directed by Lancelot Oduah Imasuen and Vigilante, which was shot by Afolabi Adesanya, now the head of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC).
When taken up on her assertion that Nigerian movies fall short of international standards, Remi Abiola said the exception are films derected by Tunde Kelani and The Throne – a Ladi Ladebo film, which she appeared in – that she said won an award at one of the film festivals where it was screened abroad.
She was quick to applaud the competence of Nigerian artistes though. She gave an analogy for her contention with one of the experiences that Tunde Kelani suffered during the shooting of one of his films.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying our people are not good enough; rather, what I'm saying is that we have not produced enough movies that can pass for international standard. And that is because we are not getting enough encouragement from the government. Sometimes we want to shoot a low budget film and have need for government facilities, in such cases we're made to pay for such facilities when the government could have allowed us use it free as a way of encouraging the practitioners and growing the industry," she argued.
Continuing, she said, " A classic case was when Tunde Kelani was shooting a film and had need for the airport; the people there said he should pay to use the place and he simply took the job outside the country to Cotonou (Benin Republic), the government there was more receptive. Things like that happen all the time and they stunt the growth of the industry," declared the woman that insisted she was not late MKO Abiola's mistress but his wife, which was why her son Kamorudeen was recognised in the late business mogul *** politician's will.