Pint-sized Olaitan Ile-Aje Adeniyi was one of the early stars who entertainned movie buffs in the 80s and 90s. Still basking in the euphoria of that fame, he spoke to Nollywood about his life, disability and other issues.
Q: Please tell us your name
A: I’m Chief Olaitan Ile-Aje Adeniyi a.k.a. Toromagbe (Orisabunmi’s father). I’m from Ago-Iwoye in Ogun State.
Q: Your name indicates that you are from a royal family?
A: That is absolutely true. I’m also an Islamic chief. I’m the Irawo Adini of my mosque at Ojota.
Q: What informed the name ‘Ile-Aje’?
A: My mother gave me the name. It was actually a long story but I will try to make it short. I went through some difficulties when I was a kid. I was amore a year old before I started to walk and that brought about people giving me different names but because these names were bad, my mother re-named me Ile-Aje (Warehouse of wealth).
Q: How many of you did your mum gave birth to?
A: We are five. I have three elders and one younger one.
Q: Can you let us into your family background?
A: I’m from a polygamous home, we are five from my mother’s side- three girls, two boys and that effected me in so many ways. I had to drop out of school for acting in 1974. I joined Osonaya group ( a theatre group) that same year but I wouldn’t say I started acting by accident because I already had the ambition since my days in primary school. When I was in primary school, I usually moved around with my mates and those that are younger than me. At a time, we formed a group and started entertaining people at events. This thing am saying can be testified to by some of members then, who are still alive. I became the secretary of a theatre group in my secondary school, Limba comprehensive High School, Ijebu-Ode, but I couldn’t complete my secondary education because nobody was willing to pay my school fees. So, I dropped out in 1974, when I was in form 4. My mates usually called me barrister because I was brilliant.
Q: How did you start acting?
A: I went to meet Baba Sala in Ibadan, he asked me to write application and I did. He later gave me an oppointment to meet him in Lagos. When I got to Glover Hall in Lagos, I met Okondo, Funsho Olayele whose younger brother was our General Manager at that time, Obalende Tajudeen Kaka, who later left there for Ogunde’s group and a host of others. This was the period Baba Sala and Mama Sala were having misunderstanding in 1975/76.
Q: When did you meet Baba Sala?
A: I joined Baba Sala in 1974 as I said earlier but I left not quite long to learn Typing and Shorthand. When I realised I couldn’t comprehend Shorthand, I again left there for akin Ogungbe’s group, where I played with them for about four months and Oga Bello can testify to that. I later left Akin Ogungbe to work with I Show Pepper and Jinadu was with him then. In the late 1976, I went back to Baba Sala where I worked till 1980.
Q: Tell us about some of your works
A: Orunmoru, Are Agbaye, Mosebolatan, Agbarun, all by Baba Sala. The film that brought me into limelight was Arelu by Jimoh Aliu in 1986. After these films, I tried to produce my own movie in which I took about 28 people from my town and we shot in different locations in Ogun State but we couldn’t complete the project due to insufficient capital. I want to add that after leaving Baba Sala in 1980, I established a business but armed robbers burgled the shop and my wife who was few months pregnant then was snatched from me by another man. She left with my pregnancy because she couldn’t endure the hardship. So, after all these difficulties, I decided to go back to perform freelance roles and continued doing side attractions for the likes of Sunny Ade, Obey among others. The money I made from the side attractions wasn’t enough for me to continue the theatre career. I still work with Baba Sala, Jimoh Aliu and others till date.
Q: How did you get the role of Toromagbe?
A: It was when Baba Sala invited me for the shooting of Mosebolatan that Jimoh Aliu saw me and asked if I could act in the movie, Arelu which he was about to produce and would be in series. I agreed and we went to look at the locations in February, 1986 in Ado Ekiti. It was a 13-episode movie and from there I became more popular. After completing the shooting of Arelu, I worked with the Igbos, where I featured in five Igbo films. The Kingdom and others.
Q: The Igbo films you did, you acted the role of a king, chief judge but in Yoruba films, you usually acted as either ghost or herbalist. Why is it so?
A: This is why I don’t always act in all of the scripts that come my way because these people want to limit my potential. I believe in myself and I know am versatile but these people don’t want to give me a worthy role or more decent roles because practice make perfect and this is the main reason you have not been seeing me often on TV.
I have spoken with some of these producers and I made it clear to them that I’m tired of cultural or traditional films. I also spoke with Jimoh Aliu before he went for Hajj in Saudi Arabia and we have plans to review and modernise his Arelu immediately he’s back in the country.
Q: Can you still remember how much you were paid for your service in getting Arelu done?
A: It was a long time ago. I couldn’t remember the actual amount but it was around N800.
A: Looking at your physique or stature, what would you say are the negative or positive things it has brought to you?
A: The negative aspect is that some people see me as an object of laughter which I never give a damn about. The positive one is that am always the centre of attraction anywhere I go to and I like that. With this, I have access to many things those that are making jest of me are not privileged to. If the president is coming here today, I will be one of the first three people to see him because people always give way for my passage as they see me to be a special person.
Q: Have you ever questioned God on why he created you this way?
A: I did in the past when I was in secondary school, but I have realised this is who I am and who I will always be. So, I don’t have a problem with my creator because I am created for a purpose.
Q: Don’t you think it has affected your relationship with women?
A: It is true. Some people don’t want to relate with me because of my size but generally I have not been having problem on the aspect of dating women. I have three wives and my children are taller than I am. Some of the women I will approach and date, some of you able bodied men don’t have the boldness to approach them. Some of this women, when I approach them will pretend as if they are not interested but take my number and when they leave, they would call me to ask where we should meet. Some of the women I dated can’t say it, because may be they are shy. But some brag about it. One of them even told me she talked about me and everything we did together to her friends. I can tell you categorically that I have dated a lot of women and I still play balls.
In 1988, when we went for the shooting of Agbare in Oshogbo, I played ball among three friends and also dated two sisters in the past.
—Additional reports by Kayode Aponmade