Listen to article

My name is Adebayo Aremu Salami. I was born on May 9, 1953 in Lagos. I had my primary and secondary education here in Lagos Island to be precise. Although I am from Kwara State by birth, I was born and raised in Lagos.

Coming into acting
I started my acting career in 1964 with a group called Young Concert Party led by my late boss, and mentor, Ojo Ladipo a.k.a. Baba Mero. Later, the group metamorphosed into Ojo Ladipo Theatre Group before it became Awada Kerikeri Theatre Group. When he died in 1978, I took up the leadership of the group and I have been in charge till date. Naturally, what led me to acting was that, when I was very young, I loved entertainment. In Lagos Island, there were series of entertainment programmes. For example, during the month of Ramadan, we had what we called Were music. I love Were and I followed them everywhere they went in those days. During the Eid el Kabir Festival (Ileya), or Easter period, they called it Meboi- Meboi. It was like a carnival. And during Christmas we used to have Fanti in which I took part when I was much younger.

What really inspired me to go into acting then was that I enjoyed watching a television serial by the late Chief Hubert Ogunde called the Village Doctor in which the activities of a village doctor were dramatised. I loved that programme very much. Apart from that, there is a street called Ricca, which is adjacent to where I lived on Lagos Island. There is a compound, which was called JK Randle where Pa Ayinla Olumegbon used to rehearse. I can call him one of my mentors. He is not dead; he is still very much alive. I learnt almost everything from him because during his rehearsals, I used to hang around to watch the artistes perform. In the bathroom, I would try to imitate the artistes. I picked interest in acting, and I joined the young concert party later.

Films? Is it my productions or those that I featured in? As for the films that I have featured in from 1977 till date, I have lost count. I featured in the first Yoruba film by Dr. Ola Balogun titled Ajani Ogun. Then, the main actor was the late Ade love. And I participated in late Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade Love)'s second movie entitled: Kadara. But my films are 11. I started with Omo Orukan, Eri Okan, Ogun Ajaiye; these three are on celluloids. With the evolution of home video, I have also produced Asewo tore Mecca, Oko (stone), Ilu le, Gbemisola among others.

Most memorable role
My most memorable role was on the day I first appeared on stage. I will never forget that day till I die. The title of the drama was Taiye ba n'yeni (Tread softly), in 1966. I remembered that it was a struggle to secure the role of an Ifa priest, which I acted perfectly well.

I think television drama brought me to limelight. That was Duro Ladipo's Half-hour series in those days.

Children in acting
Yes, why won't I be happy that my children are taking after me? Four of my children are already in the business. Molara, Femi, Sodiq and Kemi are all doing pretty well.

New project
Well, I have just finished shooting my new flick, which I call Agbara Obirin (The Power of a Woman). The sermon, I tried to preach was to let people know that women are powerful and to let the women folk realize that they use their powers positively and judiciously. I used over 300 cast and crew for the film. We shot it in Ilorin because of the serenity.

Well, I thank God for bringing me to where I am now. What I did in office was to inject discipline into the association; create love among theatre practitioners as well as unite them. Also, I was able to fight for the recognition of artistes at the Federal and State levels even internationally.
I also created a good working relationship between ANTP and the marketers. I made sure that our consumers gets value for their money, as well as creating a conducive atmosphere for the video club owners, though most of them are still infringing on our rights. Before my arrival as the president, most Yoruba movies lack technical quality, I injected quality and today I thank God that Yoruba movies can compete with others.
Welfare of our artistes became paramount and we made our national anthem. These are some of the things that I did while I was in office. I have tried my best and I think that whoever will come in will start from where I left.

English movie
Well, I do not know why English producers have not called me to star in their movies. Maybe, they think that I don't understand English language or that I can not speak it fluently (Laughter). But that is not a problem really. Let me be honest with you, I prefer to be with the Yoruba artistes because that is what I have been known for. And I won't like to dwell much on that, because there are some things that I might say that can spring up rancour among the English and Yoruba artistes. The facts remain that we have more than enough culture infused in Yoruba movies. Moreso, we are the pioneers of the movie industry and culture. And I want to seize this opportunity to correct a statement that Nigerian movies start with Living in Bondage. This is a big lie! If you say Living in bondage is the genesis of movie production, what about Bisi, Daughter of a river, Money power, Oyenusi by Eddie Ugboma? What do we say about Aye, Kadara, Omo Orukan? All these films came even before the producers of Living in bondage dreamt of producing it. We are the pioneers, we graduated from stage performances and travelling theatre to film industry.

As long as I remain a loving husband and a responsible father to my children, what else should they clamour for? The most important thing is to be responsible in all ramifications. And being a polygamist is a matter of choice; it brings out the best in your wives. If she is the only one, she won't know her husband's worth but when she is competing with others; she will know why she needs to take better care of her husband. (Laughter) But the most important thing is to have the grace of God to help you.
20 wives and intention to marry more
(Laughter) People are entitled to their opinions. I won't disclose how many wives I have on the pages of a newspaper. But I am glad to inform you that I am a responsible polygamist.

Love for women
Oh yes that is my hobby! I like women very much. I cannot resist them. My mother is a woman. Just bring out a man that doesn't like a woman. Can we live without women? You are a pretty woman (referring to this reporter). You are interviewing me because I would grant you audience faster than your male colleague. That is the way God made it. Moreso, I can not resist women, even if I want to. You ask me why, I will tell you, and they are the reason why I am in business today. I get inspired by their discussions and use them as plot in my stories. There was even a time that a national daily wrote an headline that Oga Bello loves women (laughter). My first daughter Modinat read it and said, "Yes, Oga Bello loves women and so what? So, that I love women it is no longer news. I just can't do without them. Each time I see them, they thrill me.

Separation from first wife, Ronke
That is my personal life. We agreed on purely professional questions

What went wrong?
Who told you? O.K you read it in newspapers? Fine, I can tell you that it was all lies. (Laughter) You think, I did not know that it was you who did the story? I did my investigations. Look, I was in Ilorin, when I read that story in your newspaper. Her children were embarrassed. I can tell you that, there is nothing like that. If you want, I can call her on her mobile phone now to prove a point. What Ronke Adebayo and I have is a memorandum of understanding. We are not divorced neither are we quarreling nor separated. She is the mother of my Children; no Jupiter can change that.

My dear! I just said that we did not quarrel. So what is the need for reconciliation. Very well, you have said it yourself (addressing the journalist) just now that it is well. Thank you.