Dr. Sola Fosudo of Music and Theatre Arts Department, Lagos State University (LASU), does not need much introduction. He’s a movie star and an academic. He has achieved feats both at the educational and theatre art sectors. To crown it, he holds the prestigious title, Otunba.
Fosudo spoke on his background, careers and other things.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I studied Drama and Theatre Art at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife and University of Ibadan (UI). Apart from my diploma certificate, which I got from OAU, all my degrees, first, second and PhD, were from UI. As a teacher, I have to pursue my education up to doctorate level. I am a teacher at Lagos State University (LASU) and I am also a performing artiste.
How has the journey been?
The journey has been progressive. It has been providential and it has been interesting because if I should look back to about 30 years ago, when I came into the profession, I think I should thank God. Apart from the fact that I have an opportunity to be well trained, academically, I have also been privileged to be professionally blessed, to the extent that I could say that I am one of the leading artistes in my generation and in Nigeria today.
How would you compare the industry, when you started and now?
My comparison will be two fold: qualitative and quantitative. Talking in terms of quality, there has been a phenomenal growth and development in the level and volume of what we are doing now compared to what we are doing then. For instance, on television, at that time, we only have two or three soap operas and one or two television dramas, but today on television we have several soap operas jostling for attention. We have trained many more people just as we received training. In terms of quantity, we have a lot of activities going on now. The films, which quality is okay, are making some impacts. In the world stage, our video films are being watched all over. There are some good films and some bad ones as well. People take solace in the few good ones, but the bad ones are really giving Nigeria bad image, both within and outside the country.
In terms of quality of artistes, they are much better before now than the quality of today’s. Those who are not formally trained, at that time, submitted themselves to tutelage either through some masters or a group. The question is: how will somebody who has not been trained, who doesn’t have any experience and who suddenly becomes a mega star sustain that kind of stardom? How is the person going to grow? The growth will be stunted, but somebody who starts humbly, acquires training and skills needed for the job to grow steadily. The person will be there for many years, that is why you find that most of the artistes of old are still relevant up till now, but some of these new stars come up and within two, three or five years you wouldn’t hear of them again.
As one of the leading artistes in the country, what is your view on the current semi pornographic movies produced in Nollywood?
It is a cultural problem. Nigeria is faced with very grievous cultural mix up and because we have chosen to remain colonized, mentally, culturally and socially, we seem to be following the trends of the West; we have been seriously making efforts to ape what is happening in the West and some of our colleagues. Those who are not properly grounded in the issue of culture are just following that trend blindly, partly because, for them, it is all about commerce. Those of us who have received some training know that there should be a blend between art and business, commerce and culture.
We believe that there must be a conscientious projection of cultural values that will speak well of our country and also promote the image of not only the country but also the individuals involved in the creative exercise. Some of these other colleagues of ours are basically machineries and they are also not trained. They believe that the art should only be commercialised.
Those obscenities that you see are commercial tendencies. They are borne out of crave to make money and perhaps, cheap fame and popularity. These are some of the motivations of this category of people, who do such things. For some of us, who are well grounded and who understand what culture, values and virtues mean to our creative undertaking, we will never be involve in such movies.
What are artistes who do not like the trend doing to address it?
I am neither a lawyer nor a regulatory authority. What I can only do is what I am doing now, telling them that it’s wrong. There are too many things that are wrong; the people who are doing them are quacks; they are not educated in the act; they just lobby to go into acting because it is liberal art. Even strictly regulated professions have quacks. You can find them in medical profession, legal profession and so on. I think it is the duty of the association to unleash sanctions on these roadside people and also regulatory agencies within the government. It is there mandate to arrest the trend.
Tell us about the movies you have starred in?
I can only speak about some of the movies that viewers are excited about and they still talk about till today. They are films like, Glamour Girls, True Confession, Rituals, Playing Games and then in the Yoruba area: Amin Orun, Oko Iyawo, Iyawo Alhaji and some others that I couldn’t remember. These are very classical ones that people refer to, even though they are films that I did about 15 years ago
You introduced theatre arts as a course of study in LASU. Tell us about it?
Of course, it is correct. I read theatre arts up to Ph.D. level and some people established the department I graduated from. So, when I came to LASU, I joined through the English department. We started doing some productions under the department, like convocation plays and I discovered that there are potentials within the university to introduce theatre arts education. I found out the university have capacity to accommodate that kind of department. I wrote a proposal through the department and it went through all the committee up to the school Senate and it was eventually approved.
How long have you been lecturing here?
I have been in this institution for almost 17 years.
How have you been coping with lecturing and acting?
I have been coping well, because I have not had anything really to distract me from my teaching job. For acting, I tell my contacts that I can only be available either weekends or during holidays. That is when I go on location to do some of the very few works that you might have been seeing recently.
Is that why you feature more in soap operas than Nollywood movies?
I am not in support of Nollywood movies. What is Nollywood? You want me to be appearing in the same movie you are talking about nudity and the nonsense they are doing? All those commercial works? I am an example of a serious artiste and I believe that art should be functional and contribute to the development of our society. What we do should create awareness in the society; we should touch on ills of the society; we should develop characters and build image for the country and ourselves. If you are going to see me in any work, that work must have the qualities that I just mentioned. I can’t involve myself in a work where people wear pants and bra.
There is no way I can be part of this present Nollywood. I am not even happy with the name. I got the shock of my life recently when I heard that Ghana film industry are calling their own Ghallywood and Sierra Leone calling theirs Sollywood. We are slaves forever in Africa and we don’t know that we are enslaving ourselves. I wonder why we can’t develop a creative name for our film industry even if we are going to have a name we should create an African, a Nigerian or unique name, I don’t know what the name maybe but we can create something that will be shocking to the rest of the world.
How do you spend your leisure time?
The best time you can actually relax in this country is when you are away, where people will not come and be knocking on your door or else you are talking about leisure, as in going to cinema of not less than an hour and thirty minutes and you come back into the same pressure of no light, no good road and nothing. The time one has to actually relax is when you travel out of the country to spend about two or three weeks; you will sleep, eat and entertain yourself well, where light will not go off for one minute.
What is your take on the current crisis ravaging the nation, from the post-election violence to the recent bombing?
One will describe it as a result of the evil that has taken over the reigns of government and governance in Nigeria. To be sincere with you, most of our leaders are cult members and fetish. They drink blood and took oath; so, when you are being ruled by such, evil people being controlled by Lucifer himself, what do you think will be happening in such a society? That same Lucifer, in the attempt to entrench himself, will now make disciples of many other people and then they go out to unleash horror and terror on innocent people. Until we begin to have leaders who are God-fearing, who have conscience, who are innocent, who are not guilty of shedding blood, then maybe the nation will be saved from the current bondage we have found ourselves.
What advice do you have for upcoming artistes?
Anybody who wants to come into the creative profession should seek an opportunity to receive training and be educated; that way, you will find yourself in the mainstream of the practice of the arts; that way, you will have the right motivation for being in any production; your motivation will not be based on financial gain; it will not be base on social gain. Some of us went in to it because we want to contribute to society. I advice those coming to have at the back of their minds the intention to make contributions to national development; to entertain and educate the people, not because you want to be rich or famous.