Adebayo Aremu Salami, a.k.a. Oga Bello, is, no doubt, a highly respected Nollywood actor. With a career spanning over 50 years, this Ilorin, Kwara State-born front-line movie producer, who says his journey to stardom did not come on a platter of gold, explains that no mountain is too high for a man to climb, provided he sets his mind on achieving the goal. In this encounter with The Point’s OWOLOLA ADEBOLA, the ace actor talks about talents, technology and sundry issues. Excerpts;
What is your assessment of the film industry in Nigeria?
What I have discovered is that, we have talents here; I mean we have creative, sharp and analytical minds. In terms of concepts, storylines, actors and others, yes, we can compete with the Western world. But the major problem we have now has to do with technology. Do we really have enough technology to compete favourably with our counterparts abroad? The answer is no. We do not have what it takes to make a very big movie. For now, we are trying, but I must confess that we are not yet there in terms of technology. In terms of professionalism too, we only appear to be there but we are not really there yet. For now, we do not have a befitting film village, where all the scenes in a particular film can be shot. We also have the problem of finance. Nigeria’s film industry can generate a lot of revenue if resources are directed there.
How do you think piracy can be effectively checked in this society?
We can curb piracy but we cannot eradicate it. Piracy is all over the world. To curb it in Nigeria, Government has to take control. Right now, the punishment for those who pirate movies is very mild. If we had a capital punishment, definitely people would run away from it. But we have a situation whereby if you pirate my movie and I sue, after all said and done, the judge will only fine you N100,000 or N50,000. That’s nothing to the accused, but the judge won’t go beyond the law. I think we are working towards changing that. We want the House of Representatives to settle very well; we plan to move down to Abuja to cry out to them. Thank God, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the current government will support us in all aspects of piracy.
Findings have shown that some movie producers are flirts, marrying many wives and keeping scores of concubines. Where do we place Oga Bello?
All I know is that movie producers nowadays don’t marry more than one wife. Most of them don’t even marry at all. If you look back, you would realise that it was the alarinjos (the moving theatre artistes) that metamorphosed into the stars we have today in the movie industry. Now, let me take myself as an example; I started from stage performances. As at that point in time, we married many wives because we wanted those who would be working together with us. Experience has taught us that the moment a lady is trained in the rudiments of theatre practice, if she gets married, her husband may not allow her to act again. But if I marry you, definitely, you won’t go anywhere, which means I will be the one to benefit from all the training that I gave to you.
There have been allegations of sexual harrassment at locations? Why is this a common occurrence?
That one has to do with individuals; and I must tell you that as a man. Take for instance; you are there as a producer, you are there as a director, and somebody wants you to give her a job or a role. If you make any ‘proposal’, if she likes it, she will take it; if she doesn’t like it, she won’t take it. You cannot force anybody into a relationship. You cannot force anybody into bed because you want to give her a role. It’s based on agreement. It is a consensual thing. You cannot force a horse to drink water. If you like, you say okay. If you have a decent girl, the decent girl will say ‘no, I don’t want.’ The sexual harassment you are talking about is all over; go to companies, go to wherever. Sexual harassment is commonplace nowadays. I will soon come out with a television series called Aderonke. It has to do with sexual harassment, the maltreatment of widows and other important aspects of the issue. It depends on how you want to take it.
Looking back at the years you have put into acting, would it be appropriate to say that you are fulfilled and thus should quit the stage for the upcoming ones?
To the glory of Almighty Allah, I would say that I’m fulfilled. But that is not to say I don’t still want some things from God. I’ve been on stage for the past 50 years; I celebrated my 50th anniversary last December. The relevance is still there and my fans and admirers still reckon with me in the country. I have my children, who are taking after me. An example is Femi, despite the fact that he is a lawyer. I’m fulfilled. I’m okay. Whatever I have today, I am contented and I thank the Almighty for everything. For instance, I have a house, I have good cars, I eat what I love to eat, and I dress well as an omoluabi (well-cultured man).
Can you recall some bad moments in your life?
They are many because there is no journey without any challenge. Once you can face your own challenges, you will eventually overcome them. But I don’t like talking about challenges; I just put them behind me and move on with my life. There are a lot of things that you can remember and things that you don’t want to remember; be it negative or positive. You face a lot of disappointments during shooting; business partners may disappoint you, but as you grow, you learn. You learn till the end of your life.
How did you come about your stage name, Oga Bello?
I think it happened in the 1970s. There was a programme on the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA 10, then situated at Victoria Island in Lagos. It was called Bar Beach Show, produced by Oladele Bank Olemo. The anchor of the programme then was Art Alade, the father of Darey Art Alade. So they gave us a comedy segment, a 15-minute segment, called Comedy Sketch by Ojo Ladipo. I was to play the role of an executive man. Mama Awero was to play a social woman. Baba Awero himself was a principal character, a comedian. Then we started giving names, and they gave me the role, ‘Oga Bello.’ (in line with the popular Yoruba saying that there are so many people called Bello in Ilorin). That was how the name became my nickname till today.
How do you spend your free time?
Well, because of my position in the society and in the industry, it’s always difficult for me to create my free time. We are in a country where if you don’t, through some sort of force, excuse yourself out of the daily tight schedules, it could be difficult to have a rest. But what I do mostly is to travel out of the country to unwind for three days. I cannot rest for more than three days because I will get bored; I’ll start falling ill. So, what I do is to put off all my phones and tell all my family members that I deliberately put off the phones.