I HAVE MANY PASSES FROM WOMEN - ROTIMI MAKINDE
A man of many parts, Rotimi Makinde, who hails from Ile-Ife (Ife Central) in Osun State, is an actor, a script writer, a producer and an accountant. He has produced a number of films which, among others, include Ojo Eye, Enikan Olaye, Osebi and Eniyan Loburuju. He enjoys activities that call for initiative and has brought this quality to bear on the various roles he has played in films. He recently spoke with GBENGA OLUMIDE. Excerpts:
How has it been?
Well, I have many reasons to glorify God. I have passed through many temptations; but with God on my side, I have been able to overcome them. So, I see myself as working towards fulfilling my ambition in life.
What type of ambition?
It would be my joy to depart this world fulfilled; that is getting to the apex of my career and having the joy to recount how many people's lives I have touched positively.
How old are you in this profession?
I have loved acting right from my childhood days. To say when I cut my niche in acting, it was precisely with the Late Gbenga Adeboye, who happened to be a very close family friend.
He was like a brother when I was growing up in Ife. Before I met him, I was privileged to live with the late Ishola Ogunsola (I Show Pepper). He was a tenant in my father's compound and he lived there for many years. So, I grew along with his children and because of my love for acting, I partook in most of his works. But as a young lad then, I cannot vividly remember his works I partook in.
Today, you are an accountant-cum-actor. How did that happen?
Incidentally, I was trained as an accountant. Acting to me was more like a hobby, although in recent times, it has been financially rewarding. But I must be categorical that I'm still an accountant. In fact, I'm currently pursuing a Master's degree in Business Administration at the Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso.
As much as I practise my profession, the love for acting keeps manifesting everyday of my life; and that explains why I went into the industry precisely in 1994. There's is no way one can hide his or her talent. Despite the fact that I'm very comfortable, my love and admiration for acting keeps manifesting in my life. So, I began by writing stories – even when I was in school – and selling them to producers. But in 1994, I was advised against doing so by the late Gbenga Adeboye, who happened to be the go-getter for me.
He encouraged me in producing the stories by myself and he did all he could then to ensure that I produced my first movie in 1995, when he linked me with Olaiya Group and some other groups in the industry where I produced Ohun Eniyan.
Though this film was not an immediate success, people began to see me as a writer to be watched. And to cap it all in 1997, I produced another film entitled Ojo Eye, which actually brought me into limelight. Ojo Eye was more or less my childhood story; my personal experience.
People say you are choosy about the type of films you take part in and that is why, you are not seen as frequently as many of your colleagues. Is this true?
Yes, to a certain extent, I think it is true. As I've said earlier, I'm not in the industry to make money. Let me be categorical that there are story lines, especially stories that I co-write, that I lobby for roles in it. There are some producers whom I have identified as credible in the society that I beg to partake in their films; and there are some producers in the industry that if they give me N1 million I can't partake in their films. But if you give me a sense of belonging to partake in your story line, we need to sit down; I bring my own talent into it because two good heads are better than one. This is not to say I'm very proud. And it is not the money. Money is very proud. And it is not the money. Money is secondary. I have been into many locations that I even spent my money to join the producer to ensure he got the best. I want to say that 80 per cent of films I partake in, I don't take any money on them. There are other producers that if I hear they are on location, I lobby to partake in their films, regardless of their age bracket or religion or whether they have become veterans or whatever. These are films you watch and you see as enviable.
Look at the work of people like Tunde Kelani, Kabiratu Kafidipe. These are people whose works speak volume for them. There are some fantastic producers like that. Demola Authentic, Olaiya, Ogogo, Yinka Quadri and the like are very good producers. But there are so many people who are in the industry for commercial purposes. You see them producing junk. Marketers dictate their story lines. You see them listening and submitting to marketers dictating the title and who is to feature in their films. Do you want the likes of me to partake in such films? I want to partake in films that will live after me, so that when I go, people will still know me.
If you look at my films like Enikan o laye, Olorun o sebi, Eniyan lo buru ju, you will see that the titles alone speak volumes. These are films that bring to fore the ills in the society. They preach against wickedness and the like.
Most stars are snobbish, are you?
I don't see myself as snobbish for any reason. I'm well polished. I have seen the other side of the world. I have been a taxi driver in my life. I have been a bus conductor on Lagos roads. Growing up was not very rosy for me. So I think I'm prepared for the stage I found myself. But when people don't prepare themselves for the fame they are getting, they misbehave. That is why I tell our people that going back to school is never too late. That is why most of them are shying away from the media. When they shy away from journalists, it is not because they hate them, but they are trying to hide their problems. You should also know that we are public servants due to the nature of our job. We must subject ourselves. People will call you maybe just for admiration or whatever. You don't need to be rude.
What is the difference between the real Rotimi Makinde and the star actor?
The actor Rotimi Makinde plays to the tune of the story line, which is more dimensional. I can act as a taxi driver. I have acted as a guard, as a king, and that will tell you Rotimi is multi-dimensional. But talking of Rotimi himself as a person, you will discover that I'm very humble, very religious, very creative, very enterprising and very blunt. And what gives me joy is touching people's life positively. And I hate lies; I don't forgive liars. Admitting mistakes is a starting point towards progress in my own approach to life. Anything you do and you believe you are wrong, openly admit it. I overlook things easily. Yoruba ni eni to ba gbon bi eni, a kii paro tan je (You don't lie to someone who is as intelligent as you are). There is hardly anything anybody can do or use in life to fool me, except if I want to overlook it.
Can you tell us about your social life?
I socialise a lot though with limitations. I see my immediate family, especially my wife, as my brain box. I'm lucky to have a very beautiful wife at home. That checkmates a lot of things in me; and for me to have an affair outside, I think that person must have extra-ordinary qualities; because here is a wife who has it all – beautiful, intelligent, romantic and so on. Though I have many passes from women, I am always able to overcome them. I'm a social drinker. I drink when it is extremely necessary. I meet people here and there and my wife understands me. Anything that could touch my marriage, I excuse myself from it.
There seems to be factions in ANTP today. You hear of A1 House and the like. Which of them do you belong to?
For so many reasons, I recognise ANTP as one. I know there are factions of some people congregating to see themselves as parallel bodies, but to the best of my knowledge they stand condemned. I must confess, I am one of those who believe we should remain one – even NANTAP or whatever body like that should not exist in the country. I love unity a lot. I know if we are united, we will be a force to be reckoned with. Let me digress a little. Perhaps you don't know. I ventured into politics not long ago, and championing the cause of theatre industry would have been one of my principal targets in the House. I want to see a united Nollywood, not Yoruba, Hausa, or Ibo. It shouldn't be.
Let's see the likes of Fidelis Duker, Jide Kosoko, Dele Odule and the rest of us as a united team, and let's encourage investors into this industry. Let's encourage government to partake and see us as a body. As it is now, it is difficult for government at any level to come to our aid. It's not the best; not to talk of some people wanting to split even ANTP. I would not subscribe to that. I quite agree that there could be some reasons why some people want to disgress, but I would expect the leadership of the body to encourage these people. They need to preach unity. We need to remain united and no prize is too much by this present regime to ensure that the house is never divided against itself.
Our leaders who are still alive – people like Alagba Adebayo Faleti, Baba Sala, Jimoh-Aliu should try as much as possible to see that what our pioneers Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, I Show Pepper did remains as it is and I'm sure they are working towards that. For those who are angry in one way or the other, they should channel their grievances appropriately rather than becoming a nuisance. The ANTP president, Prince Jide Kosoko, too should be mindful of what the history will say about him.
How would you describe Nollywood?
To the best of my knowledge, Nollywood has come to stay. But it is working within the limited resources, within limited knowledge, within protective law; and that is very bad. I would give kudos to every player in it for being able to manage with all these I analysed. We were recognised all over the world despite our limited resources, limited knowledge epileptic electricity supply and copyright problem.
How related is ANTP to Nollywood?
They are supposed to be one body as I've said. Nollywood is an umbrella that ought to have covered all aspects of the theatre industry nationwide. But what we are seeing is that Nollywood is being hijacked by people who believe that they are the architects of the Nollywood themselves and these are mostly those who find themselves in the English film circle. Let me at this juncture say without regret that nobody is producing English film in this country.
What we are producing is Nigeria lingua and the Nigeria factors are still there. If any Nigerian English artiste speaks, he speaks his local language. I'm trying to let you know that everybody is working within their limited knowledge. There are fantastic and well educated artistes within the Yoruba circle. This is not to say that we Yoruba artistes can't produce English films, but some people have turned themselves to demigods and they have a kind of caucus that is very difficult to break. Recently, I wanted to produce an English film. You can't believe it that a Yoruba marketer told me that we might find it difficult to market it; and he had his reasons for saying that. Jide Kosoko has produced English film before, but it never sold well.
That explains why outside this country, they tend to believe that our culture in Nigeria is those they are watch in movies that are available to them in English. If the Yoruba equally have the chance to produce most of their films in English as well, it will further project our multi-dimensional culture to the outside world. I want to see how the Nollywood can become a point of integration between the Yoruba and the other ethnic groups. And funny enough, the Yoruba are the pioneers of this industry. But Igbo people seem to be having the upper hand now, because they have the resources at their disposal. They see it as a venture and they are encouraging their people with everything they have. They support them with good houses, good costumes, good cars. But come to the Yoruba circle, we are working with limited resources.
What project are you working on at present?
In the meantime, I am answering the call of my community and I'm making myself available to serve them politically. This occupies my time and mind. I have always seen myself as an instrument of liberation and touching people's lives positively.