VETERAN actor, producer, broadcaster and one-time ambassador, Segun Olusola is a man of many parts. On Friday, June 2, 2010, ENCOMIUM Weekly had an exclusive interview with him on life at 75, his African Refugees Foundation, the wonderful Ajibulu Moniya Gallery located in Surulere, Lagos and other issues.
How does it feel to be 75?
It feels great, it gives me joy seeing friends around me, particularly friends who are like relations. It helps a lot to feel good and I would like stay around for as long as I enjoy the food I eat, the company I keep and if the problems in Nigeria can be reduced so that Nigerians can feel that they are indigenes in any part of Nigeria where they find themselves.
What is the greatest lesson life has taught you at 75?
One of the lessons and probably the greatest was what I picked up while growing up in my father’s wood work centre. My father was a wood worker, a carpenter and he had in his workshop, learners from all over Nigeria; and growing up in his workshop, the contact I had with wood workers from different parts of Nigeria opened up for me the conviction that I should go and do the same. If it is possible for me to go ahead and marry many wives as there are from different states and nationalities in Nigeria, then my home would have been filled with different women, but I can only take one wife at a time. My first wife, Sisi Clara of Village Headmaster came from both Itshekiri and Efik background. When she passed on, leaving three children behind, another lady came to live with me as my wife. She is also from Remo, Ogun State, my state of origin. But truly, the way I want to live the rest of my life is to be able to go to Calabar, go to Sokoto and feel at home in those places. That has always been my wish. But above all, the greatest lesson life has taught me is to do unto others what you would love them to do unto you and help those in need if you are in a position to do so.
You look vibrant at 75, what is the secret?
You are only seeing the surface. If a doctor were to examine me, he will find many inadequacies in me. I don’t feel as healthy and comfortable as I look. I am also an actor. Don’t forget that, and as an actor, for as long as you are alive and you are playing a role, you must not go down. This is to dispute what you said that I look vibrant and healthy. I may look so but it’s part of the act. I am acting, but deep down, I could be a lot better.
Life expectancy in Nigeria is under 50, what made you believe you would make 75?
I thank the Lord for making me live this long. I never believed I could live this long, I did not know I would make 75. Maybe you’ve been reading about me somewhere, that is the reason you asked that question. I have been recorded on radio, television and on print to have said, in the years when I was 25 years old, that I did not expect to live beyond 30 years old. For that reason, I worked very hard in the 20s, I was very active then, I thought it was not given to me to live beyond 30 and in March, I was told that I am 75 years old. Since then, its overtime I have been living. It will be good for me to live and still be able to do what I am doing now, but the Lord has been very, very kind to me to have allowed me to live this long. If today is my last day on earth, I will say to the Almighty, ‘Father, the giver of life, thank you Lord, I am ready to come home.’
What is your greatest achievement at 75?
I am still looking forward to the greatest achievement. Really, I do not know the judgement of the world will be of what an achievement means. But this is a beautiful country. My greatest achievement is yet to come. It is a very rewarding existence to see people come to me freely. I love to see people around me.
Tell us about your humanitarian engagements, the African Refugee Foundation.
My profession is broadcasting. I am a television producer, I have been a television producer and a broadcaster since 1959 when television was established in this country. In addition to that, I have practiced what we now designate as humanitarian to establish an organization in life called African Refugees Foundation, with a view to ensuring that no Nigerian is declared a refugee in his father’s land. That any non-Nigerian who comes into this country to seek for refuge or help because of any danger occurring in his or her own country is admitted and looked after in this country. This is a very difficult thing to do because even some of the wealthy countries of the world, like America, Britain and so on don’t do it, but we are promoting the interest of persons, individuals who have reasons to flee their places of origin. If people find it difficult to live in their places of origin for one reason or the other, Nigeria should be ready to accept them, care for them and protect them. That is what African Refugees Foundation is meant for. I profess that activity which seeks to offer comfort, succour, safety to everyone who is in danger. In between, I had performed as a diplomat. I was appointed an ambassador of this country to Ethiopia and to the African Union in 1987 and I served till 1993. It is part of the experience I gained living in Addis Ababa, travelling around the whole African countries in the quest to settle problems amongst people and to help bring about the independence of some of the counties which were not independent then that led me to the study of refugees and their problems. As a broadcaster and a television producer, the Lord has enabled me to use the skills, the techniques, the knowledge of that profession to promote peace, reconciliation, facilitate the opening of doors to strangers and indigenes in any particular location or place. Although it is quite challenging, I wouldn’t know what else I would be doing if not to touch people’s lives, bring about peace, to the hopeful and the hopeless and to protect them.
Let’s talk about your career as an actor. Can you compare the Nollywood of your time to what it is today?
There was no Nollywood in my time. What we had then was film production. Nollywood grew out of the experiences of veteran actors in my time, actors of film productions. It grew from television. To sit down and talk about Nollywood would take another section.
You are the brain behind Village Headmaster and up till date a lot of people still remember it. How does this make you feel?
A lot of work went into Village Headmaster and I thank God for everything. It feels great.
Your gallery, Ajibulu Moniya is a beautiful place to be, how did you come about that name?
Ajibulu means someone who wakes up to the sound of a drum. It was coined from my mother’s family name while Moniya is the ancient family name of my father. So, when I set up the gallery, I thought of what name to give it, then I decided to coin a name from both my father and mother’s lineage and that was how I came about Ajibulu Moniya.
What is your advice to the young ones coming behind?
Youth should learn to be optimistic and be focused in whatever they do in order to succeed. But it’s a pity that youths of nowadays want their dreams accomplished easily, they don’t want to work at all before making it. They want to make it in just a day, forgetting that life is not a bed of roses.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, June 6, 2010