THE CURSE OF PLAYING SANGO -WALE ADEBAYO
• Wale Adebayo
Wale Adebayo is not your ordinary guy. He is the guy that gave the deity, Sango, a face when he played the epic role that is now both a blessing and a curse. However, Wale Sango, as he is fondly called, had always had a mixture of everything in life – a life of want and blessing, a mother's love and a life without wife.
For the record, Wale entered OAU in 1992 and didn't graduate until 2004. In this interview, he speaks passionately and honestly about things he had never said before, even to the point of tears when he talked about his mother. This is Sango uncensored.
Is your Sango brand a blessing or a curse?
Okay, I am going to look at it from two basic perspectives. I would not call it a curse because I have come across a lot of useful stuffs in my life playing the role of Sango, if you check the statistics of the good/positive stuffs I have gotten with regards to whatever I might have found negative, God has blessed me tremendously for giving me the opportunity to play the role of Sango.
I would say it is a blessing. Today, I am regarded as a director in the industry; I don't think I would have thought about it 10 years ago, even though I might be called 'awesome wonder', Sango was done 14 years ago, but today I am still as relevant as those constantly on television and always in the movies and all that. That just tells you that I have been able to instill the Sango brand to make sure that with each passing year, as long as I don't relent, somehow I get new messages because somehow people always remember, 'Oh yeah, of course, you can work with this person, you can work with her' and all that. So, I think in 99.15%, it is a huge blessing.
Now, let's start with the blessing. What would you say are the blessings from the Sango brand?
First and foremost, it positioned me to be able to talk to people that hitherto would have looked down on me as an upcoming actor, but the moment they saw me in that movie, Sango, I became a major player. I could sit down and say this is how a movie should be done and they would listen to me, because I have a good background coming from a movie base that works in Nigeria. Even if shooting the movie in such place as Hollywood (we still shoot in Hollywood) the entire country will stand up, and because of that I stand here today talking to you not because I am a Nollywood actor per se, but because you see me on every advert in Nollywood.
I still have people who have this funny feeling that with my background they would ask, so what happened after that? You understand what I'm saying, because that's the question I also ask myself. Not because I didn't try, but somehow maybe the period we came out the country was not really ready for an experience like that, we were still used to the normal Nollywood home videos shots every Mondays and all that.
So, with the industry you now wake up to the fact that it would really be like this, that is when they would say the new boys are taking over. Really, I was not sleeping, that is why I was in a movie like Figurine; it is one of the few movies in Nigeria today that is raking the ground and I would say that is a huge accomplishment.
Now, let's talk about the curse (in quote?)
I won't say it is a curse, because I was young and to be honest with you, I was not ready for the fame that came with it, I mean being put in the eye of the public all of a sudden. Not that I did anything outlandish, but it was more like what I know now compared to what I knew then are quite different and you know a lot of my colleagues did turn their own to fortune. You wish for a lot of things to happen, but they did not, and it did not turn to a fat bank account. I think one of the things that actually happened was being in an environment you are known and could still not afford to send your kids to study abroad.
Those are things that should come with it, and you think it can't be this huge and you are not able to afford this kind of stuff. But over time I outgrew it and kept telling God that I'm not there yet, you have to reposition me. What I could not use the Sango brand to achieve then I could still do now, though it might have been delayed, but somehow I could still rebrand the old brand and make it relevant so that whatever I feel like doing in this new era I would be able to push it.
So, what have you been doing?
It has not been easy, but I should not dwell in the past, mistakes were made, things that should have been done were left undone and that really dragged me for quite a long time. I am an entertainment person and every year I keep trying to make sure things work and I make movies that could make me relevant in the industry and make Nigerians proud that I was neither a fluke nor a mistake. Currently, I am the general manager of Raw Entertainment, a record label, and we are really working hard to make things work. We have got about three soaps lined up that I created and I got two nice films that have the prospect of putting money in my pocket.
Are you still working on Super Mom?
Well, that's like a project for me, like a second skin, and when I am done with that there are still some things to be done. When I was called for Super Mom last year, it was like why didn't I think of that? And I kept kicking myself that I needed to do something extraordinary for my mum, because she is more than life to me, my mum is super extraordinary and that is why I really believed in Super Mum so much.
And while working with them I kept telling them how great they are and that they should keep up the good work.
Did student unionism cost you a lot?
Yes, it did cost me something. I had an extra year and I graduated fully in 1998 and finished my completion papers in 2004.
So, you did not finish until 2004?
How many movies have you directed?
I have not done anything major, and am still an upcoming director. But the major ones I did was when I was an assistant director to Kunle Afolayan in Figurine, and director for Wale Adenuga's Binta & Friends and Papa
Ajasco and Company. This is apart from Super Mom director and NMS. Those are the major ones I would say I have directed.
Did you finish your law degree at Ife?
Did your inability to do some things affect your career?
Well, in Nollywood you can only do harm to yourself. When I started, it had not really metamorphosed into Nollywood, and right now, like I said earlier, I can only reposition myself. So, I would not say it cost me anything, but the only thing I would say is that I did not mix well with people at that time when I should, because I did not know how they were playing it then. But it is also good for me because that is why I am still relevant today because I am not associated with one marketer or producer.
Have you ever worked under someone before?
I have always been a freelance and somehow I would say that all my achievements had been a blessing from God, and He had always directed my steps and the things I had done. I am the kind of person that looks anybody in the eye and insult him when I am angry. But somehow God had always been there and makes things happen for me when I don't even expect it.
When did you get married?
I was hoping to avoid talking about my marital status for reasons known to me. And I want to keep my family out of the media.
Okay, but are you married?
Yes and no. I was married in July 1999 to an American and she lives in America. I have never told anybody about it and I don't want to turn it into
a media show, because there are a lot of issues, and people would not really understand.
But you are not divorced?
That is why I said it is a bigger story because nobody really knew that
I am married and I have not discussed it before.
Did being an actor cost you your wife?
Did you ever regret it?
Let us just say I have moved on and I think she has, too.
How many women have had children for you?
I won't answer that.
You are not proud of them or what?
I am proud of my kids, but then it becomes something of a stigma for them and that is why I don't go to their school. I love my kids and because I happen to have kids from different mothers is not something I should morally propagate, because people look at you and they don't understand where you are coming from.
But there are so many celebrities with kids from different mothers, isn't it true?
Yes, but everyone has a different approach to the way they do things, and for Wale Adebayo do things the way he feels, not the way others do it. I am an African man and I don't have issues with it. I am not saying it is wrong, but it is the people sometimes that are wrong. Before the white men came we don't have problems with it and when they came it was adulterated and the women became evil as they say, and everybody now blamed the woman, but I don't believe that it is just survival.
Does a woman live with you now?
You are sure no woman lives with you?
Well, my younger sister lives with me.
You are in your late thirties and you don't feel bad that no woman lives with you?
Once in a while it is lonely, but I have been there and if I am going to do it again, it has to be worth it. Because I am not a child anymore and whatever would make me do it now, I have to be sure it is the real thing, and will work for me. And you know I am a marriage counselor, when I talk to people they always ask me, but why have I not been able to follow my own advice and counsel. So, I won't just rush it because I want it to be okay and proper, and I want it to be good.
Do you have problem with a woman living with you?
I don't know and I can't answer that, there will always be issues and that would still not make you run away from the fact.
But, from a third party view, what do you feel?
Look, I had a wonderful woman before, but there are times that there are things that should have been done, but are not and when they accumulate they become issues and when those issues escalate you just have to ease yourself out before everything degenerates to the point of saying things you might regret after, because you guys can still be friends and still relate in the nearest future.
Would you say you are friends with all the mothers of your kids?
I won't answer that.
In my opinion, maybe I should say you are a terrible person, are you?
Well, it's your opinion, but in my own opinion too, I might just be and maybe I did not do it right and maybe I was too arrogant, because there were stuff I could just let go and it wouldn't make me less a man than I am. And if I knew what I know now, I could have done things differently, like not taking decisions that were far-reaching, because I would just put it as a feminine thing.
So, you would have done things differently?
Yes, I love women and I love being around them, they are wonderful and they can make or break you. And as an only son, you will understand why it is like that.
When was the last time a woman lived with you?
I won't answer that for legal reasons.
How did you get the 'Sango' role?
I auditioned for it and was called for the role some weeks later. And as they always say, the rest is history now.
Tell me about your mum?
My mother, Mrs. Funmilayo Adebayo (sighs). My mum left before she could really see me blossom and I wish she were alive, because there are things she was yet to do. I don't like talking about it, but there are some songs I wish I could sing for my mum. Asa's song, for instance, because that is a beautiful song and whenever I listen to it I always break down in tears and I wish my mum is around so I could sing it for her. She was above the extraordinary; she was a super good mum.
When did she die?
November 22, 2007.
Do you feel maybe if she were alive you could have done the marriage stuff again?
She died in 2007 and she was there when it all happened. She did her best to save it.
Why didn't you listen to her?
The story is a little tacky, it is not the kind of message you take on the surface. There are so many things attached to it. But, for me, I don't believe it is a woman that breaks marriage.
That's new. Why?
Women always have issues and there are always problems, but a strong man should be able to handle all this and see them when they are coming. A woman is always defensive and not offensive. Whatever she does that is offensive is only a way to defend what is coming her way, and when she reacts this way it is because immediately she goes into that defensive mood she becomes offensive and when she is offensive you don't see it as a man, because you don't count it.
But, does that still not account for a man being the reason for a broken home?
No, because when you notice all these you will be able to nip it in the bud and save a lot of troubles. Let's take the case of extra-marital affairs where a man thinks the woman does not know, but she knows and keeps quiet and withdraws to her female friends. Then, you need to do something about it and try to remedy the situation so as to get your wife back.
So, it is the man that should work to get her back?
Yes, even though she is in your house, you have lost her and you have to make her come back to you, because when a woman makes up her mind about something you can't do anything again, because they are that strong. When they say they are not doing again, believe me, they are not doing again. If they are still talking to your friends and some people, you know that means they have not made up their mind, because when they do, you can't change it.
You are talking like someone with experience, aren't you?
Yes, I have lived it and I have counseled people who are traumatized by the experience, because they don't know what to do. And when I am talking about it they say no, but when I tell them my experience, they know.
A man does not have that depth; he only has a way of chasing them away, but not when it comes to making that kind of decision, except only when a man catches his wife with another man. They are strong enough to say no to what they can still continue, but the day they find out they can't continue anymore they stand up and look into your eyes and tell you no. When they stand up and walk away, don't bother yourself, you will just be sleeping with the enemy.
If you know so much, why did you not save your marriage and your affairs?
Like I told you, if I knew then what I know now, I probably won't be able to handle stuffs like that anymore, but I decided starting everything afresh.
Will a new woman be able to cope with the kids?
That's for me to know, and for you to find out.
Does your wife abroad live with her son?
Does he get to talk to you?
I talk to him once in a while.
How old is he?
He is 11.
Does he know who his father is?
He is on my facebook.
What were your memories of your mum?
She was a labourer, factory worker, before she started working with NNPC at Telecom. All her life as a young woman, every single kobo she earned was spent on her children. There is no school I have been that my mother had not been.
I was a very stubborn kid, she was the one that followed me during crisis, she would not only go there with me; she also helps every other person that was caught in the melee. She was the one that bailed me and other guys from police station.