As A Child, I Was A Rebel - Yemi Solade
Yemi Solade is easily one of Nigeria's most popular actors. He started acting on stage before joining Nollywood. Here, he tells Gbenga Olumide that because of his independent-mindedness, people think he is arrogant.
Who is Yemi Solade?
Yemi Solade is an actor. Or let me put it this way: I am a theatre-cum-media art practitioner. That is basically what I do.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in Surulere, in the heart of Surulere then, Ogunlana drive; what we used to know as chess club, now Eagle Club-Adeniran Ogunsanya axis. I went to primary and secondary schools in Lagos, and by the special grace of God, the present governor of Lagos State and I went to the same school, Bashmeer High School, at Colbil Crescent.
So, we were all Surulere guys. It was so interesting. That was the Surulere that one would regard then as a very blissful environment. We had a playing ground there where we could play football after school hours. We had recreational facilities, but they have all disappeared now and transformed into shopping complex and other sorts of lock-up shops. When I see Surulere today, I shed tears that the Surulere of my dream, that I grew up in, has been eroded.
We learnt you started acting in 1977.
How old were you then?
I was 17 years old.
Were you still in school?
Yes, I was a student. I had always been an actor before I actually went for a degree in it in Ife. I was a dancer. I was a prominent disco dancer. I danced all forms of disco dancing. I've been that old in the field of acting.
What was the reaction of your parents then?
They wouldn't hear of it. You know, I was an enfant terrible. I was a rebel. I would 'bail' (that was the language then) from home and they would start looking for me. When I returned home, I would tell them that I wouldn't do it again. Just give me a few days and I would do it all over again. So, it was independent-mindedness that led me into becoming an artiste. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer. I actually got admission to study Law in Ife. I switched over to Drama because I wanted Prof. Wole Soyinka to teach me – which he did. He was the head of that great department in Ife then.
How do you spend your leisure?
I am a music buff. I listen to music a lot. Then, I like to watch interesting programmes on television, mainly the news. I like to keep abreast of happenings around me – even beyond the shores of Nigeria. And basically, I rest a lot. Resting is my pastime, because what I do takes a lot of energy and I don't have extra energy to engage in some extra-curricula activities. So, I just relax in my house, have a wonderful time with my family. I hang around them and we have fun at home.
What is your guiding principle?
Just to be who I am. I dictate what I want. I do what I want when I want. I don't want to hurt anybody. I don't want to step on toes, but who am I not to step on toes? I could step on toes by my articulation, by my views and opinions, you know, in any way. But then, it is not in my character; it is not fashionable for me to go out of my way, hurt anybody or to step on toes. So, my guiding principle really is just to be who I am and that is what I am.
What misconception do people have about you?
They think I'm arrogant. They think I'm egocentric. They think I'm egoistic, and they think I'm pompous. But it is just because anybody who is independent-minded like myself and who has a kind of education I have would be labelled such. So, it does not move me. It does not pull a strand of hair on my body. It's just that people who hold such views don't know me.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
When I work and producers don't pay me. It's so embarrassing that I have to do all that and when I go home, I can't deliver to my wife that this is the turnover from my absence from home for days or weeks. And I start making some excuses which do not hold water before my family. It's so embarrassing really.
You don't look 48. What is the secret?
There is no secret. I take care of myself. I don't overdo things. I don't really party. I don't club, because of the kind of work I do. I exert so much energy to work and I need an equal amount of rest too. So, I'll be disappointing you if you invite me to a social gathering. I'm such a lazy brat after work. I put all my energy to work and I try and get an equal measure when I have to rest. That is just it.
But people believe you like women.
Why won't I? By the grace of God, I should. The opposite sex form a greater percentage in the constituency of my fans. And, of course, if you look at my wife, you will know why I have to like the opposite sex. My wife is so pretty. If I didn't like the opposite sex, I wouldn't have such a pretty woman in my house. But there is always a limit. There is a line drawn between what you want to believe that I engage in. But you can't divorce the opposite sex from what we do. It is showbiz. But then as a married man, I have my limit.