Comrade Victor Ashaolu is an enigma whose name may not ring a bell to individuals who are not theater arts practitioners. To members of the Association of National Theater Arts Practitioners (ANTP), the umbrella body of Yoruba movie stars, the mention of the name of unionist, activist, administrator and academician sends shivers down their spine.
The reason for this is not far fetched, Comrade Ashaolu became a theater artiste at the age of 17 and since then he has played an important role in the growth of the industry.
Little wonder during his tenure as ANTP National General Secretary, he registered the association and this threw him into prominence as an elder in the industry. Born on October 2 1950, Comrade Ashaolu who recently clocked 60 emerged as the National President of the Association after an initial stiff contest with Dele Odule, but the election held at Ibadan, Oyo State, was cancelled and an interim administration led by Kareem Adepoju aka Baba Wande was put in place by the Board of Trustees headed by Chief Yemi Farounbi.
The Committee was saddled with the primary responsibility of conducting a fresh election and settling crisis in states like Ekiti and Kwara as well as Lagos state where Dele Odule, Comrade Ashaolu's opponent, had a majority of youthful supporters. Interestingly, the court injunction by some disgruntled members of Lagos chapter of ANTP must have been responsible for Dele Odule's loss in the fresh election held on 22nd September, 2010 in Ilorin, Kwara State capital where Comrade Ashaolu won in a slide victory of 64 votes against Dele Odule who got only 3. With this victory, the 1984 graduate of Theater Arts from University of Ibadan was declared the winner of the election and President elect of ANTP after Prince Jide Kosoko's tenure ended sometime early this year.
In this exclusive interview with the Ilesha, Osun State born thespian, who many see as a controversial figure who has held the Association to ransom by holding on to the original copy of the certificate of Incorporation which makes ANTP an authentic body. Comrade Ashaolu speaks on the issue and circumstances that led to his emergence as President of the umbrella body of Yoruba movie actors and
actresses. Enjoy it.
Congratulations on your emergence as the National President of ANTP.
Thank you very much.
A lot of issues arose as a result of your election. Some people were obviously disgruntled what is your comment about this?
ANTP politics is like Nigeria. Every election in the country has its controversies but the fact remains that an election was held and I won it. I had a landslide victory in the 7 states where ANTP is operating from. The election was held on 22nd September, 2010 at Ilorin, Kwara State.
Out of 7 states where ANTP has members in the country viz; Lagos, Ogun,Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Kwara on Lagos state members were not allowed to vote during the election that saw me emerging as the new President.
There is a strong contention that other candidates did not participate in the election?
I would say if a candidate boycotts an election, it does not invalidate the election. Every candidate was informed of the election date, so their boycott does not make my election controversial.
It was believed that your image made a lot of contestants to chicken out of the race because of your stake in the association.
It is part of politics anywhere in the world. In Yoruba land those that contest against any king have become his subjects so it is expected of the king to embrace them.We were four candidates Yemi Sholade, Andy Aboigbe, Dele Odule and I. Two of them stepped down. Yemi Sholade is director of Publicity while Andy Aboigbe is an Ex-Office member. It was only Dele Odule who insisted he wanted to contest against me. The council of elders met and endorsed me as the consensus candidate, I wonder why that should be a headache for Dele Odule.
If it were him that they endorsed would you be complaining like he does now? Would you fight?
Dele Odule is not as popular as I am. He is younger than I am and I am not his mate in all ramifications. He feels because he is an actor he is more popular. Acting is just an aspect of Theater Arts. There are other fields of the industry where people choose to be professionals. Being an actor does not make him a better candidate than I. I am not his mate in the industry and I want to say that though he studied at Ogun State University, academically I am not his mate. Not to talk of the likes of Lere Paimo, Baba Wande, Lanre Hassan and Yemi Faronbi.
Does he want to force himself on them? Has he gone to court to challenge your election?
He has not challenged my election directly, but he claims he has a court injunction against the election.
Do you have plans to take ANTP to another level?
Basically I will work tirelessly to fight piracy because it is killing the industry and piracy is obviously the cancer worm eating the association. Another issue I intend to deal with is the issue of discipline because the Yoruba movie industry lacks discipline. If a young man says he will not respect elders then such a person will find it difficult to live long like the elders. The elders must be respected because they were the front runners of the profession.
How do you intend to run ANTP from Osun State where you are based?
I was formerly the National Secretary General of the Association, I was based in Lagos then. I stay wherever ANTP has its headquarters.
Though Jide Kosoko is yet to hand over, if he hands over to me and there is a comfortable office anywhere, that is where I will be based.
There is also an unconfirmed story that you have custody of the Certificate of Incorporation and that your refusal to release it made the elders of ANTP to endorse you?
That is far from the truth. The Board of Trustees are custodians of the Certificate of Incorporation. I registered the Association in 1996 so that must have been the reason why the stories are all over that I have the Certificate of Incorporation of the Association.
Who has the original copy of the certificate?
The Board of Trustees has the original copy of the certificate with them.
How would you describe your relationship with Dele Odule now?
Dele Odule is my friend and colleague. We are not fighting, after all it is not as if he snatched my wife!