“hen! I’m dead?” — Sola Shobowale
Sola Shobowale is an actress to the core. She stands out among other Nollywood actresses with her no-nonsense, fire-spitting roles in films. In this interview with GBENGA OLUMIDE, she speaks on her career, the rumour about how she was killed in Saudi Arabia over cocaine trafficking and other sundry issues. Excerpts.
You've appeared in so many movies, both English and Yoruba, and suddenly, there was a break. Why?
There was a break because I moved all my children abroad, and I have to be visiting them. Any mother who wants good for her children must give motherly care. That was why I decided to be spending time with my children. I didn't move to the United Kingdom myself. I live both in Nigeria and abroad. I've got two homes.
When did you take your children abroad?
About five years ago.
They are living there permanently?
Yes. All of them are schooling in London.
How many are they?
How many? You can't be counting my children. It's not done in Yorubaland.
When you are in England, what do you do?
I do the same thing I do here in Nigeria –movies.
So, you have produced movies in England?
No. I only do movies as a freelancer. I've not produced my own movie. It's only here that I've produced movies, and they are not so many. I think I've produced only six movies since I came into the film industry.
Which was the most challenging role you have played so far?
That was in my newest production. The one I just finished work on a few days ago. The roles were challenging. You can't believe that it was my children that wrote the story for me. It was the twins that wrote it.
How old are they that they could write a good script for you?
They are 18 years old.
But you don't look like a woman who has 18-year-old children?
Really? I'm lucky then. It's God's doing.
You are undoubtedly a renowned artiste, how has been the journey so far?
It's been pleasant. It's been beautiful, because acting, doing movies, putting smiles on people's faces has been my passion. I don't see myself doing any other thing apart from making people happy. That's my life.
It is said that the no-nonsense, fire-spitting roles you play in films are a reflection of your true nature. How true is this?
I love it when people say that. You know why? It means I know my onions. It means I interpret any role given to me perfectly. It means I'm doing my destined work. Mi o se ise onise (I'm not doing what I'm not destined to do). What God almighty ordained me to do is what I'm doing. It is when you do your work perfectly, so easily, that people will say 'that's how she is, that's her true nature.' I've played the role of a mad woman in so many films. But I'm not mad, am I? However, there is something about me. I'm a principled person. I'm very blunt. I call a spade a spade. When something is cream-coloured, I don't call it white. I'm a very honest person, and I will never compromise that. So, that is me.
What was your parents' initial reaction about your chosen career?
My parents are disciplinarians. So, naturally their reaction was “No, you can't be an actress!” But thank God for my brother-in-law, Mr. Tunji Oyelana, a lecturer in the University of Ibadan, husband to my elder sister, Kikelomo. It was his intervention that made things easier. It was very tough at the beginning, but today, my father is very happy. In fact, I just left him about six hours ago. He lives in Ibadan. I lost my mother about two years ago.
You are a very busy woman. How do you relax?
It's true I'm very busy. But whenever I'm not on set, I'm home. I'm a very down-to-earth person. And I'm very homely. When I don't have anything doing outside, you can't find me out there. I'm in my house. I love to be with my children all the time. Anybody who knows me will tell you that. Even when they were in Nigeria, if I was on any location and they were on holidays, my driver would bring them to the location, and they would stay in the same hotel with me. I'm always with my children, no matter what. So, I relax by ensuring that when I'm not working, I'm in my house. I watch films, read and sleep very well.
You look very radiant. What's the secret?
There's no secret. It is God. If not God, who is Sola? Also, I eat well. I eat good food, African food. I'm an African woman to the core; I don't eat European or any other foreign food.
Recently, there was a hoax about your death. How did it generate?
Sincerely, I don't know how it generated or where it generated from.
What's your reaction to it?
I believe in the supremacy of God. It is only God who gives life, and gives it abundantly –it is only He whose provision is inexhaustible. I know in this world, there is life, and there is death; good or bad, and so on. There is always the other side of everything in life. And I've realised in life that things cannot be rosy all the time. When you believe in God, you know that at times things go smooth and at times they go rough. When things are rough, you will be able to carry on.
When they told me they heard that Shola Shobowale is dead, I said “hen! I'm dead?” I then pinched myself, and I said “I'm alive! I'm not dead!” Somebody said, “It doesn't even bother you.” I said, “No, it doesn't bother me; I'm alive.” I asked them how did they describe the death? They said my neck was chopped off in Saudi Arabia. Let me tell you, on the map, I don't even know where Saudi Arabia is, I don't know the route, let alone go there in the first instance. Number two, I'm a Christian, not a Muslim. So, how do I get to Saudi Arabia?
This is not the first rumour. It started when they said Sola has been imprisoned in London. They said I was caught trafficking cocaine. Somebody went to my colleague, Fali Werepe, and told her that she actually saw me in prison, that I had become dishevelled and dejected. This person went on to tell Fali that when she asked me what led me into drug trafficking, I burst into tears. Sometime later, Fali came to London and saw me. She couldn't but tell me what she had been told in Nigeria. I don't see why somebody will wake up in the morning and just feel like cooking up wicked rumours about a fellow human being? This person said she actually saw me there; so how do I defend that? But I keep saying something about my God.
When this God says 'Yes' nobody can say 'No'. Since I have God almighty who always goes with me wherever I go, I don't give a damn about anybody saying anything about me. I thank God for the people who trust me. When the cocaine trafficking rumour was spread, some people said it can never be Sola. I thank God for that. When they said I had been killed, as I was coming, at Heathrow Airport, people saw me and said, “is this not the woman they said had been killed?” I said it's magic, abracadabra. I just commanded my head back on to my neck, and they started laughing. I don't know where it generated from, I don't know what prompted it.
I don't know why people will just wake up and start spreading such bad rumours. I don't know why people derive pleasure in destroying others. I don't know why people just feel good about pulling people down, rubbing good images, good names one has worked hard to get. I don't know what they gain from it. If it's money or pleasure, I don't know. What makes them do it, I don't know. Is it jealousy? I don't know. There are so many questions on it.
Actually, I didn't want to grant any interview on the matter. Why? Because by nature, I don't believe in granting interviews, talking about myself in newspapers. I want my work to talk for me. I don't like seeking unnecessary publicity. But some elders prevailed upon me to grant this interview.
What's your beauty routine?
I don't have any beauty routine. I only take my bath twice daily, morning and night. Number two, my make-up is always minimal. I'm not 'baby pancake'. I do everything moderately. Nothing too much. I don't carry make-up to bed, I wash it off. And when it comes to food, as I said, I eat good African food, even in England –I eat pounded yam with good vegetable soup in London.
Yes, in London. I bought my pestle and mortar in Bristney in London. The only thing is that I can't pound in the evening because I'll be making too much noise. So, I do my pounding in the afternoon. I don't even use pounded yam flour. I prepare my pounded yam myself in my kitchen. I eat good food. Is it amala, ila asepo, efo soko? I eat all in London. My food is purely African.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
I don't have any embarrassing moment because I have a very thick skin. When anything that should embarrass me happens, I just ask myself, “Sola, which part of your skin has it got attached to you?” Since there is no part of my body that bears the embarrassment for the world to see, life goes on. That's me.
Has being an actress affected your private life?
Not at all.
Nothing has been said about your husband?
My husband, Dr. Shobowale is a jolly man. He's loving, caring and very supportive. He is very handsome and lives a good life. He has never disturbed me in my chosen career, rather he has always supported me. That man will live very long; nothing bad will happen to him, because nothing bothers him.
Tell us something about your background?
I had a good childhood. I'm from a disciplined home. My father is a retired principal; my mother, a retired headteacher. So, with them as my parents, I had a sound, disciplined childhood. My father is still alive, but I lost my mother about three years ago. My father is from Ifon, after Owo in Ondo State, while my mother was from Ikole-Ekiti. She was a direct descendant of Elekole of Ikole-Ekiti.
Who is your best friend?
God. He is only one who cannot disappoint you. He gives without expecting anything in return. He's always for you. He is my best friend.
Tell us about your dress code?
I have no particular dress code. I'm not a designers freak. I wear anything 'wearable'. If it's worth just one Naira and it's good on me, I buy and wear. And if it's worth one million Naira, no problem as long as it's good on me. I don't believe in dishing out my hard-earned cash for some so-called designers abroad. If it's ankara, lace, anything, so long I like it, I buy and wear.
I wear male perfumes. I like them. I wear Safari, Armani to mention a few.