NIGERIAN ECONOMY IS NOT BAD - IDAAMU PADI MUKAILU
Tubosun Odunsi, a renowned artiste, vet-practitioner of repute and pastor has been in the saddle of acting for the past 53 years. He recently spoke with Gbenga Olumide about his career, life and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
YOU are referred to as Idaamu Paadi Mukailu. How did you come by this name?
Alagba Adebayo Faleti wrote the book, Idaamu Paadi Mukailu and I acted it on the television, the then WNTV/WNBS. We took Idaamu Paadi Mukailu out to all parts of the country, including some parts in West Africa like Accra in Ghana, Cotonou and so on. It was there I derived the name — Idaamu Paadi Mukailu. So, people have since been calling me Paadi, Paadi.
Apart from this, you are also called Baba Amoye, how come?
Amoye is a series on OGTV. I created it for OGTV. Amoye, people could call it, the thinking of our philosophers, not a Babalawo, not a prophet. You can't give it to the Christian neither the Muslim nor the traditionalist. Amoye touched on every aspect of human life — on marriage, profession, successes, failures and so on.
When did you become an actor?
I started acting in the year 1955 with one Syncopation Orchestra led by Chief Olayeni. Many people believe that I started with Ogunde, no!I started with Chief Olayeni. He lived at Apapa Road near the Fire Station then. He had his hotel there. I could remember there was a time a cow with five legs was brought to Lagos, it was in his hotel people were paying ticket to watch it. It was that cow I went there to see that I met them rehearsing a play and eventually this play was brought to our church at Jehovah Jireh African Church. And in that play titled, Queen Shebba Meets Solomon, a young chap had to give a gift to Queen Shebba, so I was chosen to be that boy giving gift to Queen Shebba and I was given a T-shirt that day. I was so small then, very tiny in stature. That was how I developed interest in it. After my secondary school days, I worked with West Africa Thread Company in Apapa where they were making singlets and so on. But then the quest for theatre was very deep in me. I was doing it part-time but I later discovered that Chief 'Layeni was a “Lagos rat,” so you wouldn't travel outside Lagos. Later I heard that Pa Ogunde was travelling all over the country and that made me switch over to Pa Ogunde.
People, even co-actors, hold you in high esteem. Is it because of your age?
It is not because of my age. My dear brother, I'm a servant of the people. I served our elders and I'm serving the young ones today because I want to be a leader all my life, I don't want to be a boss. Those who have worked under me know me to be a leader, and not a boss. Anything we want to do, I will be the first person to do it, then they would join saying, “Ha, Oga, why should you be doing this in our presence.” So, as a leader, you don't leave the people to make mistake(s). For example, when I get to locations, many times I would find there are some hitches, one problem or the other, which they may not know how to solve, I will quickly jump into action and solve such a problem. When I get to locations, I become the Production Manager (PM), sometimes I become the set designer, I will be setting their benches, the curtains, I will also join the light men to put the cable on, just to put things in order. Many of them quote me among themselves that Baba says every minute costs money, therefore, we should not waste a second. I make sure I put things in order and that's why many of them see me as their mate, though they respect my age.
You have never played a violent role, it is either you are a pastor or an amiable elderly man (peacemaker). Is it that you are naturally quiet or you just like playing such roles?
I wish you watched Ejo ni'gboro; I was Ejo ni'gboro and that was my nickname then. There is a film coming out soon, we recorded it about three months ago, I happen to be Abiran and when you see my performance there, you will know that sometimes I could be very tough. It is just that many have not discovered that about me; only Afeez Owo discovered that. He made me a baron and I killed those in my way. In fact, I had to destroy a whole family in that production. People were surprised to see me as a bad guy.
You've seen it all in terms of acting. You could be said to have paid your dues. Are you fulfilled?
I'm not yet fulfilled. I don't think a good actor can say he has arrived because when you write a play, after shooting it into a film you still see room for improvement. So all the time, you are struggling to see that your new production(s) supersede(s) those before them. I have a very, very different dream in terms of art and a lot of our people sometimes share my view; I don't know if this is due to the fact that I have participated in some films abroad and I want to see that happen here too. So, going to locations, I see it as an opportunity to teach many of our artistes what to do. I have not really done what I want to do. I'm still looking for the opportunity to really show us that there is more to what we can do, more to what one can achieve in the world of art.
Monetarily, are you okay?
No. Right now, I have a business here. I produce cement blocks but my interest in that acting endures; it will not allow me to just drop it like that . A good artiste can't just quit like that, you know, once a soldier will always be a soldier.
Any films of your own?
I had Ejo ni'gboro on celluloid. In fact, people are now agitating that I should repeat into video. I did another one titled — Ayorunbo — but the way the marketers were talking about it would not let me give it to them, so I gave it to a television house to run. Right now I have some new scripts. I used to write epics, but the way things are, I don't know how we can get it to production, because when I shoot a film of about N12 million, how do I get the money back? So I have to prune down my writing to what obtains in the country now. I have new scripts that we can shoot into present standard, but I also have those epics.
Are you saying that you are stepping down because of our bad economy?
My dear brother, I don't always like saying that the economy is bad. I don't believe in seeing it like that. I don't want to think of it. The economy of this nation is not bad. There is a passage in the Bible that says: “He who wants money will always search for more like the womb of a barren woman. Those who want wealth will always search for more like the womb of a barren man.” I was taught in Japan by the President of our school, that there is enough for every man's need if we will share what we have equally but not enough for every man's greed. It is greed that brought that language into our nation's vocabulary. They coin it out of selfishness. In one man's account we have billions, trillions, is our economy bad? Where do these billions, trillions and whatever come from? If the economy is bad, can we mention billions, can we mention trillions? Now one man is having that and in the state that he resides, we hear no money for transformer, no money for schools, they cannot pay teachers, they are owing workers in the same state 17 months salary, pension arrears. It's just that the government is trying to reduce its people's population through starvation. How does somebody who has not been paid for 17 months feed? So, the economy is not bad, the operators of the economy are bad.
What are people like you doing to ensure that artistes are united nationally?
We are trying our best, in fact, that's the reason for this. I'm trying to plead that we all should just bury our grievances and move forward. But you know Nigerians, those who benefit from the rift of any organisation will not want to bend their heads, that's the problem.