He is a senior member of the Theatre Arts and Movie Practitioners Association of Nigeria, TAMPAN, Kwara Council, actually the vice Chairman of Elders Council. He is a practising Artist and same time a herbalist. He shares his experience in the two worlds in which he operates that words should not be joked with whether in acting or real life . Saheed Is’haq aka Baba Awopegba bares his mind out to Joseph Dasilva: Excerpts:
Can we meet you?
My name is Saheed Is’haq also known but by stage name is Awopegba .
How long have you been into acting?
I became independent since 1971, when I left my master who is popularly called Olasunmbo. His theatre group was Olasunmbo Theatre Group. He is from Abeokuta in Ogun State. As at then, he based at Badiya, Lagos. I was his apprentice 1967 all through to 1970, when he died. He died in 1970 and since after his death I never joined any master again.
When you started acting, what was the name of your group?
I started as Elewuetu Theatre Group in Lagos, I bore this name for a while but when I returned to Ilorin, I was challenged for using the name Elewuetu and that the name belongs to a family and I am not from that family, so I changed it to Igbalode Theatre Group but as time goes on people attached several evils to the name-calling it names of strange diseased so I changed again to Olubisi Theatre Group.
Since you started acting can you recollect any of the titles that you took part and the roles you actively played?
I was in Ija Orogun by Ade Love, I was part of almost all plays by Jimoh Aliu, so many of them. Personally I have done Gbolohun Kan, Orun Oganjo, Egbo Emi and I wrote and scripted Asabi Oge movie, a three cast movie, I starred in it but I am not the independent producer.
What were the challenges in being a Yoruba Actor?
There are many of them. Primarily, envy, rivalry and strife is the bottom line. There was a time some members ganged up against me accusing me of having an affair with the wife of another member. I was poisoned mysteriously but in the end, God vindicated me because I was innocent. Many had been so accused poisoned and are dead by now, I thank God for being by my side. The Movie industry is replica of what we see in daily life, with its evils and good. At another time, I was accused of dating a girl and was placed under suspension but the elders at that time waded into it and when the accusation had no substance, I was let go and the suspension lifted. There plan was to make sure that Awopegba no longer exists in fame and recognition. I thank God, there is no other Awopegba in the length and breadth of the Yoruba Movie industry till date, I am the only one.
Is it true that Actresses and Actors are promiscuous unable to maintain their homes and relationships?
That allegation is not true. I am an Actor and my wife is also into acting and three of my children are into acting, including the female among them. I hve seen the length and breadth of acting in Nigeria, what we see out there does not differ from what happens in the industry. It all depends on individual integrity and discipline. A person with the potentials to be promiscuous will be him or herself no matter which profession they find themselves. There are people like that in all fields of Endeavour. There are promiscuous persons in Pudah, wife of Pastors or even Pastors or Imams. A person who will be promiscuous will definitely be no matter what professions, so I cannot rule out such bad eggs in this profession. The truth is, a good actress, well trained in this profession will eschew such immorality because we are society molders. We mold character for the society. As to issue of keeping a relationship or marriage, most actresses that marry outside this profession may likely have problems in the marriage. The reason is when such an actress becomes a star; as she is invited to a location in Ibadan today, on the way coming out of there, she is been invited to Osogbo and from there to another location. The husband will not enjoy the spate of traveling and so for not understanding the nature of the work such homes may not stand. That is why most at times it is better marrying someone from the profession, who can understand all these.
Why should there arise strife and envy among actors and actresses?
Being an Actor or Actress is about being talented. Some are not talented but wished to Act, they will struggle to achieve, but the talented will find it easier to take on assigned roles. Those who are not talented will seem to struggle with the talented and that causes envy and strife. Some love this job while the job loves some of us. There is a difference in it. I always advise that everyone should accept what the creator made of us, no need for envy, or strife. No matter the efforts we put in, our destinies cannot be changed. It happens in all other professions too, strife and envy is not peculiar to the Acting profession.
We often see some parts where roles like Herbalist is being played, are such people naturally herbalists or they learn the path?
Well that area of your question is somewhat dicey. Dicey in the sense that, personally, I am often used as Herbalist in most plays and in real life, I am a practicing herbalist and that is what my parents did for a living. Having said that, I also know some of our Actors who are not herbalist by profession but when they act the role, they do excellently well. As an Actor, you must be able to present the roles assigned to you very well and real.
Have you ever experienced a scenario that you act a part and it happened life as if real and becomes a tragedy?
You see what we call acting is a presentation of reality, that is why we always warn that its not good to joke with words. If you make incantations, you are calling some powers into action, they don’t joke in the spirit world. What you say comes to pass. There was an instance, we prepared a stage called it abode of witches. It was actually a place where we were to act a scene of the meeting of witches. After we set the stage, we waited till its dark to act the scene, lo and behold, real witches came to occupy the place At night when we were to act our play, we lit the red head lights and those people were bursting our bulbs, That night we lost more than fifteen expensive bulbs, so in frustration, we had to abandon that role till next day. There was another day that I was making incantations calling the witches to accept a sacrifice in a play. The camera was on, we continued acting, lo and behold, and the real witches came as if to accept the sacrifice. Before you know it, the camera men, assistants and crew members took to their heels. It was the director and I that remained behind. That is why placing a curse on others saying it’s a joke is not acceptable. You don’t joke with spiritual things. As prayers are effective, so also curses are effective. If you hold a gun and aims at someone, you need to be careful, else the wicked powers of this world will cause the actual shooting and you will find yourself in trouble. That is why whatever you are doing putting God first is paramount. As e claim ownership of space, those powers too claim ownership of space and time. If you sit where they lay claim to and God is not on your side, there could be danger. We live in a world of wickedness and only God can be our effective guide and protector.
How cordial is your relationship with other actors from across Nigeria?
There is no Actor from any part of Nigeria that does not have dealing with me. I am the only Awopegba in the Yoruba Movie industry, My boss, Oga Bello on the board of trustee, Latin, our big boss and all others too numerous to mention are in good working relations with us here.
How did you come about the name Awopegba?
It was given to me by a former director, he is now a Prophet at a town called Olokoto. He wanted to give me a stage name and asked what my faters name is and I told him that my father is Awodele, so he said I should answer Awopegba and it stands till date.
What causes disputes among the Association leadership as often noticed?
Power. Someone who seeks to hold on to power forever will stop at nothing to cling on to power. The reason is not farfetched. They have one thing or the other to hide by staying in power but can they be there forever? No! They will eventually leave no matter how long they stay. Sit tight leadership is part of us here in this part of the globe. When such sit tight leaders are eventually removed from the post they occupy, what you see them do next is to start another organization where they could be leader again. A true, professional Actor or Actress will not be jumping from one association to the other. As Actors, we act every part that you see in life. We act the rich, poor, mad, sane, healthy and the sick, we act politician, desirable and undesirable elements in the society. We play all parts, so why would we not know which of these parts that we play that is not good, yet we act the bad part. We ought to be the salt of the earth, even by our conduct.
What motivated you into Acting?
It is a matter of talent from heaven. My late master, Olasunmbo, lived very close to my father’s house in Lagos. Every time I see them rehearse or beat drum, dancing, I get thrilled. Even when am sick, their drum makes me whole, so one day I walked up to him and requested to join the group. He asked about my parent and our house and was surprised that our houses were so close yet he didn’t know me. Our house was just about three houses intervals from each other. He was surprised when he got to our house he saw my father. My father just said that as long as the work is not robber or any form of crime, he gives me a go ahead to join. In those days, whenever I go for rehearsals I wear only panties with a top. I was so young; I don’t care about someone looking at me.
Who among the known Actors is your role model that you look up to?
My boss, my father and mentor, Oga Bello, Alhaji Adebayo Salami comes first to mind. Then followed by my father in Osogbo, Kareem Adepoju, Baba Wande and others in his category. In his life time, Baba Ray was my role model, so also Iso Pepper, Isola Ogunsola. These people have almost all their children in the industry so they have proven that this work is good and can be inherited by our children. Am taking after them, that is why my family, children and wife are in the industry working along with me.
As a boss, how many names had come out of your group that gains prominent?
Many of them too numerous to mention; Bororo yellow, Sodik Dasilva and Jeje both of them directors, Lekan Kajogbola, Ola Babadarijiwon, I can go on and on counting up to forty like that. That trained under me.
Can we recall your happiest day?
That was the day my own child produced his own play. I was impressed because it’s a sign that even when I am no more alive, my name will live after me ad prove of all that I labored for is coming to fruition gradually. I produced a movie and my child also produced, in the industry, it is a mark of excellence and so a thing of joy.
What about the Saddest day?
My saddest day was the day I was poisoned, I almost died. I don’t pray for such an experience again in my life, never.
But as a herbalist, should you fear such things as poisoning?
Have you been t the blacksmiths workshop before. Those blacksmiths that work on iron doing all manner of things with metal sometimes get injured by the weapon he uses in molding iron. The sledge hammer can hit his hand and he would bleed. Being careful in taking steps does not prevent man from stumbling or hitting his leg on a stone or prevent one from stumbling. God is the only perfect protector who can protect man, not the work of hand or herbalist. Many were so tried and are dead, thank God I am alive to tell this story.
What is your understanding about destiny?
Destiny of man is that irrevocable fate of man that no man can change whether by himself or by some others. Destiny is Gods prerogative; no man has any power over destiny. In Arabic it is called Kadara. That is why I always tell people that to be popular, wealthy or famous is Gods work, not the work of herbalists. If you patronize a herbalist and it works, it had been in your destiny that such efforts will be crowned. Without seeking any source of help, what God had destined with man will surely come to pass. I advise human beings that we should seek God and not self help thinking it is a way out, only God is our ultimate.
Do you believe that one can seek some spiritual assistance for one to become popular as an artiste?
That is what I am saying. If you make efforts and it sails through, God had so planned it in your destiny, it’s not the work. Though I always tell people to work hard, as much as you can. Hard work is just to justify conscience, not a yardstick for riches. See me as an example, as a herbalist cant I prepare some charms to make me rich or famous? No, what God had destined with man is his portion and fate. No man can rise taller than his God ordained destiny. If you run father than your legs, fall is imminent.
What advise do you have for upcoming artistes or those who aspire to join the acting?
Anyone who is joining Acting should their eyes well. They should not join a group that doesn’t have national spread or that doesn’t have a grassroots base. There are several mushroom societies or association which are roads leading to nowhere in life. An aspiring Actor or Actress must not follow those who will not be able to mentor them for a brighter future. Also, I always tell younger ones that they should not abandon their education because of this ambition to be an actor or actress, both can go hand in hand. In fact education will help their prospects in life. One can be in primary school and join acting. When school is in session, such will stay in school but when school closes, he or she can then fully utilize the holidays for training as an actor. That is my advice. You can be an actor as a University undergraduate.
What comes to mind when you remember those great names in theatre that are no more?
It reminds me that someday, I will be no more. My prayer is that God should grant me the grace to die well like those whose names are not forgotten. If you do well, you will be leaving a good legacy that others will emulate.
What advice for Performing Theatre artistes who engage in politics?
Any Actress or Actor engaging in politics is not wise, I call such people harlots. You can share political sentiments but do not play it openly as an ardent supporter. What happens if your party loses election? We as Artistes are role models; we must not be seen to play hypocrisy. We need the support of the people but when we chose some segment of the society as political friends and the other segment as political enemies, such doesn’t make any sense. However, I am not against an Actor or Actress contesting in election, it is a fundamental human right, but using your office or opportunity as a performing artiste and using that platform to abuse, denigrate or insult perceived political opponent is no ideal. Real politicians don’t make enemies, they know how to maneuver but you that is just interested in participating in politics, they may make you an enemy and when you need them later in life, you chances will be slim. The Theatre Arts and Movie Practitioners Association of Nigeria, TAMPAN is the only association that can guarantee a future for upcoming artistes.
Thank you for your time spared for us.
You are welcome