WHY I CAN’T REMARRY –SAM LOCO EFE
Sam Loco Efe has been in the entertainment industry for more than three decades.
Many would say he is a comedian; but Efe, in this interview with 'NONYE IWUAGWU, says he fits into all parts.
He also speaks on his first love, and why he had to leave it for acting. You speak Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa fluently, though you're not from any of these tribes...
I seem to have a knack for languages. I had the interest to learn the languages as well. There is no language that is not important. I can speak Hausa 40 per cent; Igbo and Yoruba, 100 per cent. Of course, I can speak Benin language 100 per cent.
You can comfortably pass for an Igbo man.
I am not even from the Igbo-speaking part of the South South. I am from Benin. Most people keep saying I am from Benue. Some say I am an Ogbomosho man. Others feel this is 'Omo Ibadan.'
I like it that way. The more controversial it is, the better for me. Nobody is going to cheat me.
You have been in the movies for a very long time...
No, not for too long. On the stage, maybe I have stayed over 47 years. In the movies, I think I can say 35 years.
Why did you opt for the acting?
Theatre was an 'accidental discharge.' When I was in primary school in those days, I was a one-man riot squad. I started being an MC par excellence right from standard six. I was able to grasp the use of English language properly right from standard one. I never confused my tenses. I began to see myself as somebody who could make people happy.
Along the line, I started performing in staff clubs. Remember that we had white masters then. I did one performance, and I thought I did badly. But the accolade that accompanied that performance was great. I said to myself, 'Men, you are too much!'
So without training, I started off.
But was acting what you wanted to do right from time?
To be frank with you, I wanted to be a political scientist. That was when I got into college anyway. I was very good at European history, Law was not common as it is now. All mothers all wanted to be called Mama Lawyer. I wanted to go into political science or engineering.
What happened to the engineering dream?
I was not very good at figures. I was very lazy in arithmetic. But along the line, something happened.
I was opportune to go to Government College, Umuahia one day. I saw this guy talking without referring to any book. By then, college guys were regarded as mini masters. I walked up to the guy and asked him how he managed it. He said, 'My boy' – you can imagine, that monkey was calling me a boy; meanwhile he was in Form One – 'all you need is interest and perseverance.' I asked him what he meant by perseverance. He delved into a very terrible description of terminologies, which I couldn't even understand and which confused me the more.
But instead of feeling beaten, I said if this man could manipulate English this way, I was going to check up the meaning of perseverance.
I checked in my small dictionary, and I determined then that I was going to be an actor.
Just like that?
Yes, I wanted to be an actor just for the sake of it. I didn't plan to take it up as a profession. That year, I produced, played the lead role and directed a play on stage without any formal training.
It was a double-edged sword. We put in the play for a festival in Abakiliki Province. It was meant for tertiary institutions. We were the only primary school that came in for the competition. My play came last.
We acted Julius Caeser and we bastardised the play. When 'Brutus' wanted to stab 'Caesar' (I played the role of Caesar), we fought for 20 minutes. We were used to Roman films. We were jumping from one end of the stage to the other, just for one stab. The District Officer was the chairman at the event, and the oyibo man laughed his head off.
But you see, even as my play came last, I was adjudged the best actor in the competition and that was how I got my scholarship to go to secondary school. I spent about 12 to 13 years in primary school.
How come, sir, were you that dull?
It was not my fault. I would stay at home and sell akara for one year to get money to go to school the following year. When my nephew joined us, it became worse. We had to stay two years at home before going back to school.
I had no hope of going to secondary school. I wanted to go and learn mechanic or carpentry before the scholarship came up.
It was about 12 pounds to go to college. The oyibo man said he was going to train me for the first three years. I became a king. So I said I would not stop, this thing that earned me this scholarship.
Effectively, I have been an active actor since 1960.
Are you not ready to quit?
I will soon quit active acting, but I will remain a passive actor. When I retire, I will go back to my farm like some people I know have gone back to their farms. I will now become Ex-Head of State Sam Loco.
As an actor, why did you choose comedy?
I have been accusing you people that you are not saying the truth. There is interference with the truth.
I am not a comedian.
What are you?
I am an actor. I have done many movies that are not comedy. If you have watched Sergeant Okoro and Picadilly that made a lot of people cry as they watched the film, you will not call me a comedian. I got more than six awards on each of those movies.
How can you play the role of an Igwe or an Emir in a movie and you do comedy?
It is either the writer is dead or the producer is mad or the actor is a combination of both.
When I was on stage, I did serious plays apart from Our Husband Have Gone Mad Again. I played the lead role for Nigeria in FESTAC 77. After traumatic auditions and rehearsals, I still came out strongest and I played the lead role. Could I have been comic in the role I played?
I am an actor, and an actor, and an actor. I am not a comedian.
If a script is given to you, do you usually change the lines and use your own?
It depends on the script. If Shakespeare, which is the only book you are supposed to deliver verbatim, could be tampered with, then any other play written by any human being under the sun could be tampered with.
There are several comic writers who don't know comedy much. There should be good interpreters of comedy who should know areas that should be beefed up and those that should be left as they were.
If we did the scripts verbatim as they came, they might not be as interesting as they have turned out to be. The writers are doing well, I am not condemning them. But the interpreter is a stronger writer.
The 'Loco' in your name, I hear it is not your real name.
Ask the person who told you that to tell you what my real name is.
But is it your real name?
It is my real name because it has been with me for more than 40 years.
It was not a name your mother gave you when you were born.
My mother did not give me any name. She had no right.
It was not the name your father gave you.
My father did not give me the name either. Somebody greater than my father in terms of what I was doing gave me that name.
What do you mean?
I was more of a footballer than an actor years ago. It was from football that I got the name 'Locomotion'. Before then, I had been given too many names –Man Alone, Akrikpa Njoma, Panasona, Locomotion and many others. But Locomotion stuck.
In 1962 in Onitsha here, some boys were arguing. They were saying that one boy in their school was a great footballer. One of them would say the one in his school, Panasona was the best; another would say, the footballer, Man Alone, in his school was the best. They didn't know until later that they were talking about the same person.
How did they get to know?
I went to buy something at the Ochanja market here, and I saw some boys arguing. All of them started shouting at the same time: 'This is Locomotion! This is Panasona! This is ...' They were mentioning all the nicknames I was known with. That was when they realised they were talking about the same person.
How come, didn't you go to just one secondary school?
After the three years of scholarship, there was no money again to take me to school. In the Eastern part of Nigeria then, if you could play football very well, you would be absorbed in any school you wanted free of charge.
So, I became a mercenary. I would spend four months here; move to another school, stay with that school for some time; and move on to another. I could do that because I was a good footballer. I was like hot cake. All schools wanted 'Locomotion'. I dey play soccer o; it was very exciting.
If it was that exciting, do you not regret leaving football for acting?
No way! I saw money and I left football. When my mates were earning 12 pounds, I was earning about 32 pounds a month. Much later, I joined Dunlop; and I earned 40 pounds.
I am a child of God. He has been so good to me.
But you don't go to church.
My relationship with God is like that of Fela and his mother. When many Nigerians were condemning Fela, his mother loved him till death. God loves Sam Loco so much. I don't go to church, but I talk to God everyday. I am not saying people should not go to church, but I have a personal conviction that God does not reside in every gigantic edifice. I am a special child of God. There are many of us anyway, but I come first.
Many scripts come your way, going by the number of films you have featured in. How do you manage them?
I have the capacity and the capability. But then, when at times the scripts clash, two things would happen: the producers would agree within themselves and come up with an understanding; otherwise the highest bidder becomes the contractor.
Then again, because of the status I have assumed, I have to be careful in what I do. If I suspend you for taking two scripts that clash, why should I, 'the suspender,' do same?
Some of my colleagues collect more than 20 scripts at the same time. Ha! You are not doing yourself any favour, you are just insulting yourself.
Why didn't you ever think of joining politics?
I thought about it; but the same swiftness I used in thinking about it was the same swiftness with which I rejected it.
In popularity ratio, I will stand out to say without fear or favour: if Tafawa Belewa, Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obasanjo and I go out and test might, I will score them hands up, not even hands down.
But politics is not for people like us. I am too decent for certain indecent things. I will not be the person to fortify myself because I want to become a governor, which I am even too big for now anyway. I will not hire thugs to go and kill because you are a stumbling block to me.
Let us go down memory lane. How was growing up like?
It was tough and rough. When I look at this modern world, I weep. I used to weep for them, now I weep for myself.
My father was a warder. He left this world very early, without permission anyway. My mother took up all his responsibilities. I fried and sold akara in the morning; when I came back from school (if I went to school), I would hawk kola nut in the evening.
Parents were more godly than what we have now. I was the only son and the last-born. There was no discrimination. When my nephew came to live with us, my mother still insisted that we should go to school in rotation. If it were today, only your son would go to school.
As an only son, you must have had pressures from your mother to get married early.
She never thought of that. She had no right to think of it. I was so stubborn, she was too busy pampering me. Till now, I cannot make eba. I cannot cook stew; in fact, I can't cook anything.
Things were so rough that she didn't think of that. In those days at age 19, 20, 21, one was still in primary school. These days at 26, somebody is a professor.
You cannot send your child to school and you want him to go and get married.
How do you cope with female fans?
I am born again, mind you (laughs). To be frank with you, female fans ... I admire them o, but I am too shy to talk to them. But I talk with them when they talk to me. There was a philosopher who said a man naturally has abundant talents, he will share the talents with his 'sisters' according to their needs. No woman, even you sitting down here, can have more than 20 kids in her lifetime. But a man can have 1000 children. So we have enough talents in us, which we are supposed to 'share' with you people. I can have you and have another girl. Within nine months, when you are still gestating, I have given 20 different 'gestators' a life span. So before you have only one kid, I have had one times 19.
In essence, that is how I deal with female fans. If they talk to me, I talk with them. I have to help them as well.
You smoke and you drink…
Did you see me smoke? You, don't you drink? Those are not all I do. I read a lot. I am a student of military science. I love words and I hate destruction of words. I travel a lot, I smile a lot and I love a lot. I am godly as well.
The Ngwere (lizard) that fell from the Iroko tree looked right and left and decided to praise himself. There are many things I do that I know may not be from God's leading, without being preached at by any Pentecostal pastor.
These pastors are growing with their escapades and our girls are falling more for them. I hear that the quickest means of enlarging your congregation, if you are not a genuine pastor, is to use the three key propositions – if you need wealth, come; if you need husband, come; if you need long life, come. Our girls prefer these three things.
You have not been given a national honour…
No, I have not. I am more than a national honour. I am not soliciting for it because this is a country where I see any monkey being a star. This is a country where you kick excellence with your right foot and retain excreta with our left foot.
Let us look at my industry first, what are the criteria for the honour? Is it because you are not from a particular tribe, or because you are too proud of your good deeds or because you refused to condone certain unforeseen contingencies, or because they want you to be a pawn in their chess game?
Most of the people who have won awards in this country, if you go to their barometer, you would begin to find out that they were not supposed to have gotten that award at that time; though they could get it along the line now.
How come you never thought of remarrying?
My wives died. I owe them one small honour. My youngest child is about 24. I am not used to old women; and if I go and marry a girl of 24 who will be the same age with my last son, my last son might be tempted to 'chase' the girl. It does not pay me at all. There will be no intra or inter family respect any more. You don't expect my first son, who will be older than my new wife, to call her madam. But as long as she is the wife in the house, she should be respected. So you see, there is nothing I can do unless I want to create explosive situations: your family would be sitting on a powder keg, which requires only a matchstick to it ablaze.
But I have married o. I have six wives. My six children are my wives.
So what is your vision like, what do we expect?
I have told you that I am going back to farming. I am going to be as successful as I am as an actor right there on the farm.
And remember there is a role for everyone. Instead of making up a young boy who is 30 to act the role of a 100-year-old man, I can act that role. Still, we must leave the stage when the ovation is loudest.
Where is home for you now? Is it Enugu or Onitsha or Benin?
I am an actor plenipotentiary. I am the most Nigerian actor. I don't believe in segmentation. I am from Benin like I told you, but I am one of the few prophets who have not visited home much but who are known in their home.
If I had been younger, if I had thought about it when I was younger, I would have taken wives from all the tribes in the country.