In the entertainment circle in Nigeria, Evangelist Moses Olaiya Adejumo aka Baba Sala, needs no introduction. Way back in the early 70s down to the 80s, he thrilled everyone expertly with his comedy home and abroad with his Alawada Group International Limited. In this interview with YEMISI ADENIRAN, he recalled how his dream of making it big in acting got shattered, how he has coped till now and his plans for the future.
It is good to see you again, Baba Sala. How has it been? Thank you. It’s been rough, hard and frustrating but we thank God, we are still alive and hopeful on God.
What are you doing precisely and where do you live?By the grace of God, I live in Ibadan, or do I say I shuttle between Ibadan and Ilesha as I have embraced the ministry. I am the elder apostle in the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Ilesha, and I am quite busy.
Have you abandoned acting totally?
Obviously not. It is the experience I had then that has cut me off from the scene. And as you can see, I have been invited to participate in this year’s “Behind The Scene” by Remdel and their promise is to help resuscitate me.
What actually happened?We were having it cool and our future appeared very bright until the Orunmooru incident happened. All along, we were doing our thing on stage and television stations. We also record some on audio-cassettes for viewers’ delight. But there came a time when people began to see more prospect in what we are doing and they advised us to take more advantage of the situation. Precisely in 1980, Elder G M Johnson prompted me into film making.
Honestly, he did it in good faith. His intention then was to open a new avenue for me to make more money for the effort I had put into the profession. Unfortuately, this whole idea ended up destroying not only the envisaged fortune from the Orunmooru film, but also the career I had built for many years. My whole world came down crashing. Initially, we did it on 36mm and later reduced it to 16mm. This film, unknown to us, was dubbed by some wicked people and pirated as original.
I had never experienced such a disappointment in my life. I was shocked to the marrow and only God knew how I survived paralysism at this period. I was cheated and left shattered. For the realization of this dream, I had gone to borrow over N1.5m from a bank to see me through the business. You can imagine how much that can translate into in the present day. I automatically became indebted. I sold most of my properties to settle the debt. First was my three-storey building at Mushin. Even another one at Ibadan. It was that bad.
Weren’t there friends and colleagues that could come to your assistance?There was little people could do. The debt was so enormous and you know then, not many people were as daring as now. You know almost every film that is produced ths day is pirated and artistes still survive. I was the first actor to be hard-hit by pirates and lots of my friends were of no help. Was it Baba Mero or Ade Love that I trained that had not made money that would help or even Ogunde? These people were not asking much money then too. But of course, I approached the Oyo State Government then and some contracts were awarded me as a way of assistance. Pa Awolowo also helped me. But I tell you most of the funds went for the settlement of the debts.
There were rumors that one of your children was responsible. Is this true?None of them is dead and we all suffered it. If it is any of them that did the job I believe he or she should have made enough money at least that could have made life easier for us then and even now. I am sure that person should have become wealthy enough for the society or at least we his blood to see and confirm.
But as a man of God, you might have made an utterance to debar him from making such success.Oh, as for utterances and proclamations, there were many of them from me personally and from well-wishers who did so out of sympathy. Or what do you expect? You think someone will come out of the blues to squander all I had labored for for so many years and such a person would go scot-free?I am sure you yourself would not have spared him. My dissatisfied fans were also another group to contend with. You cannot imagine what I passed through. I lost money, properties and was shunned out of fame. It was indeed an harrowing experience. But emphatically, I want to insist that none of my children had any hand in it.
In those days, what and who would you say drew you into acting?Nothing and no one in particular. This trait of acting I believe is in-born and I had long discovered it since I was about ten years old. I went into acting just to exhibit my God-given talent. I did and people were impressed. I grew up in Lagos and I will only say Dr Ola Balogun was one person who encouraged and mentored me.
Did you make money then as artistes do these days?Making money is easier these days than then. There were no home videos, only television series and stage dramas and these really didn’t bring as much money. But then, if one is focused and hard-working, he would make money. I was very popular and irresistible by television stations. I was on all over Lagos, Oyo State, Kwara, Ogun, Ondo and even in in the north. I made at least enough money to take care of my immediate needs and to fend for my troupe and from the landed properties lost to the bank, you would know that I wasn’t doing badly after all. Above a, what got us stuck to the acting industry ten was he fame we accrued from it. It opened doors, it still does, even before we knock on them.
Were you in any way trained for this?No, nobody trained me. I was lucky to have been endowed by God and like I said, it comes naturally.
Since the Orunmoru saga, what have you been doing?I went into full-time ministry. I am sure this was what enabled me to remain alive. Otherwise, I would be dead and forgotten. The grace of God has been helping me. I now live a life of impacting life into others, citing my experience as an example unto them. Honestly, as this has continued to help the despondent, it is also giving me reason to live and not give up on life.
Does that mean you have not given up totally on acting?My dear, the answer is no. The same God that has preserved me till date sure has better plans for me. I am hopeful and I believe I will still taste some sweet pies of the profession before I kiss the world good-bye. Otherwise I repeat, I should have been long forgotten before now. Presenltly, mu plan is to have all my work on home video and get them circulated. I mean the likes of Mosebolatan, Orunmooru, Obeegbona should be on video CDs for people’s delight. Believe me, with my children behind me and God, I am back in business with vengeance. I mean to recover all that I have lost. There is an entirely new movie that is ready now for release now. With enough financial assistance, it shod be I the market soon. It is title Oku Abuke. I am sure everyone will like it.
Do you still keep the old Alawada Group?No, apart from Iya Sala that is still very relevant, others have died and those alive have taken solace in other professions. Basically, I am working jointly with some of my children who have also taken after my acting traits.
Can you tell us names of those children?Well, Lanrewaju, Dimeji, Muyiwa and Abiodun Adejumo have all indicated their interest and have started acting in their small way. Luckily, they are lettered and more polished than I in all ways.
A lot of people believe Iya Sala is your wife. Is this true?No, she is not. Iya Sala is wife to Okondo, one of my co-actors. She was only my wife on the stage and thank God Okondo was always acting along with us so, no one could say we were doing anything behind the general face. Okondo is dead now but Iya Sala is still alive.
When exactly did you start acting?In1960 in Lagos.
How were you able to cope with your fans, especially the female ones?Like you said, they were many, but God helped me to cope with them in different ways. The ladies then were not as desperate and daring as they are now. This of course does not mean that we don’t have some nasty ones then, but with wisdom, we were able to cope.
Don’t you think old age may hinder this dream of coming back on stage?Agreed, age is not on my side. But remember I never acted or got famous through a youthful role. I was always acting the old and ignorant man. I ams till relevant and I believe my present age and appearance will make it more real and better. The only challenge crying for solution is that of funding and I know God is able to raise people up for us.
Who among the actors did you train?The late Ade Love was with me for six years until 1972 when he left. King Sunny Ade also got trained by me and a few others.
What is your source of inspiration?My inspiration is natural and comes intuitively.