Looking resplendent and gorgeous in his milk-coloured suit, all smiles, he moved around majestically in a nobly fashion, depicting his gargantuan status as a seasoned actor and erudite scholar as he welcomed in warm embraces very eminent personalities to the Ptotea Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, venue of the Bread Fruit Foundation’s (BFF) 1st Annual Patrons Dinner held recently.
BFF is a non-profit organization that famous actor and Lagos State University lecturer, Sola Fosudo founded to plaster smiles on the faces of widows, widow’s children, orphans and other vulnerable children in the society. A man of charisma, who has been described as an astute personality with a golden heart, and inspired by God to care for the underprivileged, Fosudo has established the foundation because of his experiences in life.
But what was his growing up like? How has it been in the Nollywood industry where he has held sway over the years?
How has he been able to combine teaching and acting? What about his pet project, BFF, as a president and founder? All these and more were extracted from philanthropist Fosudo. Excerpts:
For Sola Fosudo, growing up was like that of a normal child from a middle class family. He was well trained and had the privilege of a good education.
But then he confessed to have been very lucky to receive the grace of God. “Personally, I have been very lucky to receive the grace of God in my life. I had a very fruitful and well trained growing up. It is really with the guidance of God and of my parents. I have been privileged to have a very good education, privileged to have had several opportunities in my profession, my career both as an actor, director and a teacher, so I am grateful to God.”
According to Fosudo, the journey to acting stardom all started while he was in primary school. Then they used to have end of the year activities in the school and he turned out to be one of the prominent artistes, a hero in those events. The same thing happened when Fosudo got to secondary school where he was a very strong member of the dramatic and cultural society. But it was while at the Teacher’s College that the turning point happened.
He was involved in a play and one man in the audience who happened to be a seasoned and accomplished professional saw him on stage, summoned him and said, ‘you are the man of the theatre. I think you should consider theatre as a profession when you grow up’.
Fosudo recalls: “I didn’t know what he was talking about because I was just having fun doing school plays. But he saw something that later metamorphosed into what we are appreciating God for now, because eventually I found myself taking to that advice. I took the necessary actions and steps to go to school and to be immensely involved in the profession. It is by providence, and planned by God. By the time he said that to me I had other plans. I wanted to read History which was my best subject in school. At a time, I wanted to go abroad to study Computer Science, when it did not work out, I went back to the man and said ‘sir, tell me more about that Theatre Arts, I want to do it now’, that was in the 1970s. It was that encounter that eventually saw me in the theatre.”
The actor cum University lecturer is enjoying the best of two worlds. Fosudo believes he is doing just the same thing as an actor and teacher of Theatre Arts. “I was not combining anything. If am a medical doctor and at the same time acting then I am combining. But I teach and practice Theatre Arts so, they are one.”
But as a popular actor and lecturer, how does Fosudo cope with his numerous female admirers? His response: “I don’t have anything to cope with. I have not experienced advances from women because I don’t recognize it. There was no room for it .My lifestyle does not allow for such things. From the way I was brought up and trained, those things did not count.”
Movie industry, says Fosudo, is moving in an unsure direction. It is an uncertain industry that can collapse anytime unless practitioners move away from passion for home video production and move into cinema, while government should also encourage production of films to be shown in cinema theatre where the private sector people can begin to invest in cinema structures.
“This is how Nigeria can grow in terms of movies. It is then you can talk of movie industry. For now, they are doing television video drama, home video and they call it movies. Go to Hollywood and ask them if it is this kind of camera we use here that they use to record their films. Our people carry TV cameras to locations. When you say movies or films, you are talking about motion pictures, so the television is also motion pictures, that is why they are saying movies or films. Film is cinema and big business. If we are actually doing films or have film industries in Nigeria you can’t be seeing actors anyhow. But here, you see actors at Idumota bus stop. God will help us.”
Does Fasudo have any regret for being an actor? He responds thus: “No, God has been very gracious to me. I had good parental care from the beginning, good education and good opportunities for career development. I have a job and a family. God is supporting my endeavours, and He puts in my heart this time around to set up a foundation to take care of other people. So, it is marvelous in my heart.”
On the future Of Nollywood, Fosudo says it’s difficult for anyone to forecast into the future. The actor is even afraid that if care is not taken, the movie industry may crash.
He says the imminent crash can only be aborted only if the practitioners take advice and move away from the present deception in which they are and move into the right direction. But then there is still hope as Fosudo predicts a booming and vibrant industry very soon.
The actor, however, asked a nagging question thus: “Is Nollywood a concept, a notion or an entity, or is it a place? Go to San Francisco in USA, they will take you to where Hollywood is; it is a big city where stars live and where they have their studios. It is the same thing in India. If the Hollywood people come to Nigeria and say ‘Hello, we have been hearing of Nigerian movies, can you take us to Nollywood?’ Will they take them to Idumota? Or is there any other place? It is Idumota where they are selling films in the streets, inside noise and rowdiness. Since this Nollywood thing has been on, no government whether state or federal has deemed it necessary to begin to build infrastructure for the development of Nigerian movie industry. No government, no professional studios, no serious policy directed at driving the industry to really make it a world class, the way it is in America.”
One of the things Fosudo has been advocating as a lecturer in LASU is the development of the curricular for a film education in Nigeria. A curricular that will cover cinematography, film techniques and film production among others.
He says: “We don’t have the theatre people who we can rely upon to fill the gap for film industry. They are not really trained for films even though they can find relevance there. I am a theatre person and not film, I will say that anytime. Even though, when I was in school, I received some training about acting which is a general course. You can act on stage or on different media, television, film, etc. You are also taught as a director, you should be able to direct plays because it is only about production in different media which have their own techniques.
“The stage where artistes are principally trained has different techniques to the medium of television or film. There is a serious gap in Nigeria. These other people, many of them are not interested in joining Nollywood, you will be surprised to find out. The only other thing that comes near film education is mass communication and those ones are not really trained to be producing films. Also, they are communicators even though they might have done some courses in television production, but not in details as they would do in film schools. Theatre education and mass communication are different from film education, and there is no university in Nigeria where they are offering film studies, yet we have many people who are practicing it. Where did they come from? They are roadside people and we cannot be driven intellectually so they are all merchants doing business.”
BFF, which means Bread Fruit Foundation for widows and orphans, was launched in 2008. Luckily for Fosudo, that event was also used to mark his 50th birthday. According to him, the foundation is a non-profit organization, whose sole objective is to cater for widows, widows’ children, orphans and other vulnerable children in the society. It is duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“This is the first dinner organized by the foundation and it’s going to be an annual event where we bring together our patrons, board of trustees and raise money even if it is just for next year, we will keep it on,” he concludes