Just like the recently inaugurated first African American and 44th American President, Barack Obama, Yomi Ifashola Lanso is clamouring for a change in the Nigerian movie world. Though, unlike Obama, Yomi isn’t one of those steering the wheels of the association responsible for the wellbeing and state of the industry and its players.
However, the fair-skinned actor has decided to start the wind of change by leading a new clique known as the Guerillas just like Obama did from the American Senate.
“We have only two to three guerillas in the movie industry. I’m Guerilla 1, my very good friend, Funsho Adeolu is Guerilla 2 and we are currently grooming Guerilla 3. We have formed this clique to enable us begin the wind of change and as such, we work long, do our things without any form of mediocrity or favour, and we don’t condone nonsense nor take crap from nobody.
“We don’t cheat and we don’t allow others cheat us, we make impact on the industry and tell it as it is irrespective of the consequence, we are fearless, not loved by many but we are strictly out to make a change and the change is now. We are coming into ANTP (Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners) to make a change, no more sitting on the fence and that’s why we have termed and seen ourselves as guerillas in the industry.”
For a star actor, who has made his mark in the Yoruba movie genre many wouldn’t have expected this reaction that has been termed rebellious in some quarters. What is responsible for this?
“We have people like us all around. Those are the people we see fit and known to have always taken the bull by the horn. So, many things have happened and we’ve not really achieved a lot but we are still stuck and for how long are we going to continue to do that. “We are all shouting and talking about Obama’s dream of change but had he been sitting on the fence, we wouldn’t have had all we had. We need to come out and do something urgent and be serious about it because for now, there isn’t any structure.
“Corporate bodies are afraid to come in even as much as we need their support and finance and this can only be achieved through good structure coordination. Majority of our productions are wishy-washy and this change can’t happen with all these, so that’s our reason for taking up the challenge as guerillas to make the change.
“As a matter of fact, I relaxed for a while two years ago because in the industry I am known as a fearless hyena and I needed to see what was really going on from the background. I found out that many people wanted something good out of the industry but no one was ready to listen. I’m not a rebel like many think or believe but I am seen as one because I don’t condone non-professionalism. I was suspended, placed on a ban and all sorts because of my outbursts and attempt at making others see reason for professionalism to be paramount. All these happened between me and the leaders or people that are supposed to be the leaders.”
Many reasons have been attached to why Yomi has remained a rebel leader with a cause in the Yoruba genre of the Nigeria movie industry, what is his take on this?
“First thing I want you to know is that this is my life. Acting is my major source of living. I engage in other businesses, endorsements and more but sincerely, acting has given me what I wanted out of life and I try my best to protect and guard it jealously. Acting is my life. As such, I am clamouring for this change because it is the only way to better pay, better structure and international acceptance. TK (Tunde Kelani) can’t do it alone; Kunle Afolayan is doing great but we need more capable hands and professionals. My main aim is making an impact, earn or eke out good and substantial remunerations from it. At least if not the same with our contemporaries abroad, something meaningful but in due course, things will fall into shape.”
So, what does he think the problem is?
“You see, people are running away from knowledge. They don’t want to acquire more knowledge than the menial ones they have learnt by going about as artisans do after being freed by their masters. This is a profession that needs all level of seriousness and professionalism. I have been to ITPAN (Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria) School, to upgrade my knowledge several times.
“There, I learnt things I did not know and those that I had always wondered how they were being done. So, what is stopping others from attending this workshops, courses or trainings? They forget that knowledge is power.
“We have been encouraging them to go and acquire more skills but they’d rather stay and learn from amateurs and turn themselves into ‘superstars’ overnight. We have the Nigerian Film Institute in Jos, PEFTI, ITPAN and many more to upgrade their knowledge but they just won’t and this is highly responsible for the rubbish we are given every week.”
How soon does he see this change coming to being?
“I see the changes taking effect soonest like Obama has been able to achieve. Although I can’t place a time frame on it but I know it’s sooner than you might expect.”
As a director cum producer, how much is expected to complete an internationally accepted Nigerian made movie?
“I’m not a producer as such, I am trained as a director but with the situation of things in the industry, we are planning on working on something that will show examples and class cum change that we are propagating. Those doing well can’t do it all alone, so we need more hands and that’s why I am joining forces with other people to come out with something unique.
“With the sum of N10-17 million, you can shoot a movie using HD and not necessarily celluloid. And when you present such sneak preview, you find out that the quality is different. Because before completing your works, you must have perfected your postproduction. And God willing, I see my film being premiered at an international film festival this year.”
Definitely, Yomi’s name can’t be overlooked when talking about Nigerian actors, who have been romantically linked with several ladies in and outside the country. What is his side of the story?
“Let anyone that has caught us during the act or doing anything come out with evidence and facts. I’m used to it, I was romantically linked with late Funmi Martins, Sola Sobowale, Rachael Oniga, Bisi Ibidapo Obe among many other ladies and I kind of laugh it off because I know its all rubbish and it hardly bothers me. I don’t let most of these things bother me because I know the profession I’m in and I know I mortgaged my privacy when I decided to take up acting as a career. So, things like that don’t get to me. Before I started out professionally, I studied foreign artistes, read about them, saw what they faced and are still facing, so I know I’m also going to face these things either positively or negatively. When you play, joke, sit, drink or eat with a lady or colleague, they say you are dating or having an affair with them but when you stay away from them, news starts flying about that you are just an arrogant personality. So, this doesn’t bother me.
“Even while I was in America last year, I knew what went round. This having affair or sex is a thing of the mind. If you really want to blank out, then do so without hesitating but if not, then do whatever pleases you and stop pretending. Even before I got married, I didn’t just jump at every offer from girls or ladies, I get to know you very well because I can’t cope with one who has one problem or the other. So, sleeping around or having affairs can’t happen with me.
“Aside this, have you not known that it isn’t only when you are happy and you don’t have things troubling your mind that you think of having sex with every Tom, Dick and Harry?”
What about his candid opinion about the much publicised sexual harassment and sex in Nollywood?
“I won’t support sexual harassment but what happens in Nollywood is mutual consent. It’s not rape and nothing near sexual harassment. If you are harassed by anybody, why don’t you tell the world and let’s all make a scapegoat out of these so-called sexual harassers in Nollywood? But someone makes sexual advances at you or wants a romantic relationship from you before you get a role and you consent without revealing the person, then you come out and say or most times start shouting sexual harassment. Let someone come out and tell us what’s going on.
“If you’ve been sexually harassed then name the culprit and reveal his or her identity. You see, some ladies are in the industry to have fun and they go about luring and seducing star actors, producers and directors to bed. And you know what? They go about boasting of their sexual prowess and their sexual escapade with Mr. A or Mr. B was. That’s to tell you what is obtainable in the industry. It’s saddening.”
One thing about Yomi is his mastery of the English language despite his constant appearance on the Yoruba genre of the Nigeria home video. Aside his lead role in some of the series of Wale Adenuga’s Super Story TV series, many wouldn’t have believed Yomi could readily express himself in Yoruba. What is his take on the English speaking Nigerian home video genre and why hasn’t he appeared in any of the flicks?
“I don’t want to join issues with anyone but I wonder when people say English films are better than Yoruba flicks. Is it when you promote rituals, fraud or crime that you make a good movie? Or be a good actor? I’m saying this as a liberal-minded man and with all sincerity and seriousness; most of the Yoruba movies have content but little or no finance. Films are not only about glamour or beauty or make-believe; they are also meant to input morals, values and contribute positively to the society. So, if anybody is saying the English speaking Nigerian flicks are better than Yoruba speaking ones, then it’s all good but definitely time would tell.
“I am happy that the word English speaking Nigerian movies is gradually coming into the consciousness of many and not English films. My name is Oluwayomi Ifashola Lanso. I’m a Yoruba man and equally a Nigerian. I’m not English and I don’t pretend to be one because I am extremely proud of who and what I am. I would only speak English if you don’t understand my language but in the movie world, it can be translated to the audience just like Indian and Chinese films are translated and we watch. “Moreover, I am yet to see the Americans come up with a totally different language from theirs just as the British would forever stick to the Queen’s English whenever and wherever and however. So, if they are so proud of their culture, tradition and language, then what is my problem in trying to be them and not propagating my own? Speak the English as much as you can, they would insult you by saying they can’t understand what you are saying! So, what really is our problem trying to make a film in English? Who are we impressing? Who are we training? What would be the future of our youth and children, who go to school and are being taught in English and they still come back home to watch English-speaking Nigeria movies?
“All the Americans are spending money on right now is anything new and that includes our films produced in our indigenous languages, our clothes, styles, culture, tradition and many more but not in anyway imitating them. Imagine Americans paying a lot for Jackie Chan, Jet Li and many more just to make an Asian-American movie for them…so also are Bollywood actors and actresses.
“You see, in America, there’s a hall that is strictly for showcasing Indian movies, so, why can’t we have one where we showcase only films that are made in Nigerian indigenous languages? I doubt if I would want to partake in the English-speaking Nigerian flicks because I don’t see them as being indigenous.”
What if the pay is right?
That is quite tempting…I might reconsider my stand if the pay is enough but all the same, it’s something we need to take into consideration and do a review on to help our industry grow. We need to come together and produce indigenous flicks with our languages and I tell you that I would be more than glad and eager to partake in such flicks. Our founding fathers excelled and made money and fame when they started and this was through the propagation of our indigenous flicks. Stars like Hubert Ogunde, Ade Love, Ojo ladipo and many others.”