Adewale Adeoye aka Eleso, a popular stand-up comedian and Nollywood actor, tells ADEOLA BALOGUN and ’NONYE BEN-NWANKWO about his romance with politics and how he intends to combine it with acting.
Considering your background as a stand-up comedian and actor, do you think Nigerians will take your latest incursion into politics seriously?
Of course, people will take me seriously. Is it because I am an artiste? That is even to my advantage. My people know what I can do and they will not hesitate to give me their support.
If you eventually become the chairman of your local government, will you be able to combine it with acting?
You know, acting is my calling. It is part of me. But politics has its own time and if you serve the people well, they will not stop talking about you and your performance, even after you have gone. I believe I will be able to cope with both of them. What it requires is proper planning.
Politicians, they say, cannot do without thugs. Do you also intend to surround yourself with thugs?
I will go with fellow artistes, especially comedians and when they see something good, they will continue to laugh. If I want to start my campaign, I don‘t need touts but my colleagues. If I were a soldier, I would go to the barracks and mobilize fellow soldiers. But I am an artiste. I will go to fellow artistes and ask them to help me.
Have you saved a lot of money somewhere or is someone else funding your campaign?
Osun politics is not like that. Even if you come with money, they will take it and dump you if they don‘t want you. They want me to come and lead them in the local government area and by God‘s grace, I will do my best.
Can you tell us how you got into acting in the first place?
Acting, for me, was a matter of interest and I love it. When I was in the primary school, I was always very active in entertainment. Later, I was told that for anyone to really make a mark, he should learn from established names in the profession. So, after school I went to join Femi Olukoga, alias Baba Kudi, in Ilorin. That was how I started I worked in various companies before I settled down fully to acting.
My interest in acting did not even allow me to think of any other thing. I don‘t think there was any other thing I could do at the time that would give me happiness as acting.
But back then, didn‘t people see you as an unserious person?
It was tough and rough in the beginning. But what sustained me was my interest. To buttress what I said earlier, even if everybody, including your mother, condemns what you love and you want to do, you will find a way to tell her that the best thing she could do for you was to pray and bless what you have chosen to do. Today, parents even encourage their wards to go into entertainment. When we started, it was a tug of war. My mum discouraged me, my mum discouraged me, but I found the time to discus with them. I told them that I loved the job and I preferred to a life of crime. After some time, they reasoned with me and said I should go ahead.
So you started acting on stage?
Of course, I started on stage and it was beautiful. Then there was nothing like video films. I am proud to tell you that I acted in about eleven epic films before the arrival of the home video. I worked with Ade Love and acted in four of his films, including Taxi Driver. I worked with Oga Bello in Omo Orukan; I worked with the late Hubert Ogunde in Ayanmo and some others. I must say that I have been on this job for a while and I thank God for the little He has done for me.
Have you at any time suffered discrimination because of the colour of your skin?
What is the difference between you and me, if I may ask you? Honestly, I don‘t even think about it and I have never suffered because of that. I can even tell you that I am superior in many ways. Don‘t compare me with other albinos because I have never felt inferior in my life and I have not suffered on account of my complexion. I don‘t even see myself as different from other people, I am serious.
Everything about this life is a matter of interest and nature. I told you that I started by learning from my boss and I believe that it was my boss that discovered what I could do better. He was the one that started casting me where I could maximize my talents as a comedian. However, there is no role I cannot play in a movie and if you have been following my career, you would see me play the role of a lawyer, a policeman, a pastor, an alfa, a teacher, a landlord, name it.
You are always quick to abuse people when you are acting. Is that how you behave off stage?
Ah no, I don‘t abuse people in real life. Even if anyone offends me, instead of abusing the person, I will tell him how I feel.
But how did you develop the habit?
Don‘t forget that I am a Yoruba man to the core. I am a real Yoruba man from Osun State and you know how rich our language is. We have quick answers to anything at anytime.
Are most of what you do on the screen written in the scripts or you improvise them yourself?
It depends on the producer. There are situations in which we have to strictly follow the script. But sometimes producers allow us to use our discretion. Again, don‘t forget that the directors know the strength of the various actors in a movie. There are some directors who know what people like Oga Bello can do. There are some who know what Baba Wande can do or Adewale Eleso can do. They will just tell us the role and ask us to develop and fit into the story.
Once, you had an argument with Yemi Solade, to the extent that you got violent during a meeting in Ibadan. What happened and have you settled it?
There is nothing like that anymore. It was just a misunderstanding between us. I owed him N35,000 and I sent N30,000 through my driver to his house, but he refused to accept it and insisted that I must pay everything at once. I became annoyed and I asked my driver to bring the money back to me. My driver didn‘t meet him at home, but he met the wife. He instructed his wife on the telephone, not to collect the money unless it was complete. I must tell you that I found it quite insulting and I dared him to do whatever he liked.
But as a comedian you shouldn‘t have resorted to violence.
I found his attitude very embarrassing, coming from a junior person in the industry. He can be a graduate. That is not my business, but the way I started my career is different from the way he started. I worked with the masters of the game. I worked with the likes of Pa Ogunde and Pa Oyin Adejobi. I worked with Oga Ajimajasan, Ade Love, and Oga Bello. I am not a child in this business anymore. I started my acting from elementary school, through the higher school ,and I never for once insulted my elders. If I owed someone N35,000 and I paid N30,000, was that the reason why he should reject it? I counted what he did as an insult, but we have moved on now. There is no quarrel between us again.
If you look back now, would you say you have accomplished something as an actor?
I thank God for the little I have achieved. I am very comfortable with my family. Look, I don‘t have to live like a king before I see myself as successful. I am happy with my wife and my children are doing very well.
If you are satisfied with what you have, why are you going into politics?
I love politics and I want to go into it, just to make a point. I want my people to know that I am a good boy in my area. I want to tell them that it is not always true that we can‘t have a conscientious person at the helm of affairs in the local council level.
But the general notion is that people go into politics to embezzle money.
By God‘s grace, I am satisfied with the little I have. So why should I want to go into politics with the sole aim of embezzling money? Do I look like somebody who can embezzle money? What money do I want to embezzle again at this stage? I want to make history. I want people to tell their children in future that one Adewale Eleso, an actor, once became the chairman of his local government and made indelible marks and touched the lives of thousands of people in one way or the other. That is all I want.
Do you sometimes wish that you had more privacy than you are having now?
That is the happiness of an actor. People want to see you, they want to shake hands with you, take photographs with you, and they want to show you they are pleased with you for making them happy in the movies. Honestly speaking, that is one thing I enjoy most as an actor. There was a man who gave me N40,000 along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway one day. I had a small problem with my car when its fan belt snapped. I was standing by the side of the road when a car parked and one of its occupants called out my name. He said, ”Eleso, I live in America and I must tell you that we enjoy watching you in the movies. What happened to your car?.” When I told him, he went to Shagamu to fetch me a mechanic, bought the fan belt, paid the mechanic, and gave me N40,000 in cash when he was going with a plea that he would have given me more if he had enough money on him. I was felt quite happy that somebody I didn‘t know from Adam could be that generous to me just because I am an actor.
Since you are always on location and somehow combining it with politics, how do you cope with pressures on the home front?
My home is peaceful and any time I am not busy, I go back home. Besides, my wife knows the nature of my job. She knew that before we got married. I must tell you that my home front is very fine and I am happy too.
Before married her, was your wife a fan of yours?
No, my wife doesn‘t even like the popularity associated with acting, but I always remind her whenever she benefits from it. There was a day we were passing through Ore on our way to Idanre; you know the road is terribly bad, and everybody was driving against the traffic. But I didn‘t want to do that. Then a convoy appeared on the scene and one policeman on the entourage just called my name and said I should join the convoy. I then told my wife who was sitting beside me in the car to know that she was benefiting again from the popularity she said she didn‘t like. We joke about things like that always.
What was growing up like?
Very beautiful. I had a blissful childhood with my parents. My father is no more now, but my mother is still in his house as I am talking to you. You know, when there is no break up in the family, the children often enjoy themselves growing up in their parents‘ house. Even though my parents were not rich, they were comfortable; at least going by the standard of that time.
Who among your parents was an albino?
The story that I heard from my dad is that my grandmother was an albino. I didn‘t know the woman, but the story I heard about her was that she was a very popular person in Ikirun. When I was much younger, one of my aunts once said that nobody should beat me and that anybody who did that was beating their mother. So because of this, nobody beat me. Nobody even put anything on my head.
Who among your children is an albino?
You are not serious. I told you that my father was not an albino, but his grandmother was one. Which means that if there will be another albino again, it has to be from the second generation of the family.
Why didn‘t you marry an actress when you wanted to get married?
What happened was that when I was prepared to get married, I only prayed to God that I wanted a good wife, not just any wife. I thank God, that was what happened. How many of us actually married an actress? It is not compulsory if actors don‘t get married to actresses. Those who married in the industry, that is their luck, and there is nothing wrong in that as long as they are happy.
Would you encourage any of your children to embrace acting?
By God‘s grace, I will. But sound education is paramount. I want them to be educated before they choose whatever they want to do.
Now that you want to venture into politics, isn‘t your family, especially your wife, not afraid?
No, why should she be afraid? The politics in Osun State is peaceful. Forget about some stories that fly about. Everybody is supporting me in my house because they know the kind of person I am.
But as a Muslim, why haven‘t you taken more wives?
I didn‘t tell you that when I prayed for a wife, I didn‘t say I wanted two or three wives. What I wanted, which I told God, was a good wife and that is what I got. Our usual prayer is that God should spare our lives to live till old age with our children, we are happy. Anytime I am on location, I always invite my wife over to spend time with me.
How do you handle pressure from fans, especially the female ones?
I am mature enough to handle whatever pressure you can think of. I don‘t see any difference between my male fans and female ones. Without my fans, I am nothing, I cherish them and I don‘t snub them.
How come you don‘t put on airs?
My daddy was the head of our village and he was humble in his lifetime. Likewise, my mum is the Iya Adinni of the Alasalatu of our area in Ikirun. The way I was brought up is exactly the way I am bringing up my own children. None of them looks me in the face, even though they are all mature because I didn‘t do that to my own parents. If I want to greet my mother up to this moment, I go down on all fours. That is our culture.