Veteran actor Chief Lere Paimo (MFR) is one of the country’s theatre practitioners. Eda onile Ola, as he’s fondly called, has been acting for 55 years. Chief Lere Paimo, clocked 75 on Thursday, September 18, 2014. In an interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, he recounts how God helped him to attain 75 and what he feels about the present generation of actors.
I feel great and I must thank my Creator, for the gift of life, good health and the modest achievements that have come my way. I feel happy, I give Him the glory for preserving me till today.
What has clocking 75 changed in your life?
It has changed so many things for better. I have learnt from other elders how to live, behave, and relate with people. Life has encouraged me to be closer to my Creator, the Great Almighty.
What are the things you can no longer do at 75?
I can no longer do so many things because age has really caught up with me. I’m a professional dancer, I can no longer dance very well like I used to 20 years ago. In my younger days, I used to run to my school and now I can no longer do that. I like going out either on a visit to friends, or to functions but now I can no longer do such. Instead, I would be at home with my family.
What do you think has been working for you all these while?
It has been God. I’m grateful to God for everything, it’s not by my power nor might but by the mercy and grace of Almighty Father, the author and the finisher of my faith. He has been my pillar all the years. I give Him the glory.
Just of recent you celebrated 55 on stage and you are still very relevant in the industry what is the secret?
The secret is dedication and handwork. I’m so committed to doing things right as an actor and very passionate about the industry. I believe in the best and so always go for the best. I read scripts given to me very well and if not satisfactory by me, I drop it.
Some people think it is arrogance but it is all about principle and professionalism. I was fascinated and inspired by the outstanding performance of stage and screen legends like Oyin Adejobi, Duro Ladipo. May their souls continue to rest in the bossom of the Lord.
My happiest moment was when I travelled overseas with my boss and when I was given a national award, Member Federal Republic of Nigeria by former president, Chief Aremu Okikiola Obasanjo in 2005. We were three selected from Oyo State – a Professor, a Doctor and I.
What about your saddest moment?
My saddest moment was when my manager died in a motor accident. His death really pained me because I loved him so much.
Can you tell us some of your experiences as an actor?
Yes, I have been in this industry for over 55 years and I don’t have any regret whatsoever. God has blessed me richly beyond my imagination as an actor and I’m never ashamed to count my blessings and name them one by one. I was given an honorary award during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime. People love me because I’m an actor who doesn’t take things or people for granted.
No matter how man lives, death must beckon one day. What would you like to be remembered for?
I want people to remember me for my good works. By the grace of God, I want to build a place where I will be teaching people this work.I will employ professionals who will be teaching interested candidates along with me, because I want to impact people with acting skills. We may not be able to do much in acting, we may not have that, but this is related to my job.
Of all the movies you have featured in, which ones are particularly challenging?
First, I cherish my own film, Ogbori Elemoso. It’s a story of how Ogbomosho was founded and it is the only film that has won the evergreen award. It was shot in 1990 as an epic film. I have done so many films but I can say that the Ogbori Elemoso is the most challenging, may be because it belongs to me and being an epic film, a lot of efforts and task were put into it.
A lot of people are of the opinion that you are deeply rooted in traditional religion, some say you must belong to a cult. What can you say about this?
I don’t belong to any cult, I am not a herbalist. A lot of times people think I am a babalawo but honestly, I am neither a herbalist nor fetish in any way. I am a Christian, my church is CAC Agbala Itura. There is a difference between one’s profession and religion. I can play the role of a king, a thief, a babalawo or any role.
The role of babalawo that I play regularly is just one of them. Like I said, we are doing all films particularly to teach people lessons. I am not herbalist.
Can you take a look back when you started acting and reminisce on the journey so far?
We should give all glory to God Almighty, “Ojo pe tia ti bere ise yi” (We’ve been in this profession for a long time). I started acting in 1960. I was with late Pa Oyin Adejobi before I moved to the late Duro Ladipo Theatre Group at the instance of a late professor. At that time, they wanted to begin a drama series while I was asked to play the character called Eda.
Since that time, the sobriquet ‘Eda’ has stuck and many even know me as ‘Eda’ instead of my real name, Lere Paimo. “In 1973, I formed my own theatre group. Yoruba say, ”Ti omode ba to loko, a loko’ (There is time for everything).
I could recollect, we would move from one town to the other, from one school to the other dancing around and soliciting patronage. The acting business took us as far as Maiduguri and several other towns across the country and so on.
Sir, when you were growing up, did you imagine that you would end up being an artiste one day?
I would not say, I actually thought I would end up doing this but I have been playing lead roles from school. I played roles in school drama. I remember each time I was going to perform in the school drama, I would announce in my compound that I was going to be made king today and all the wives in the compound would come out eyeing me.
I would put on my costume and move around the compound proudly. So, that had always been in me. One day when I was in Osogbo at the architectural department, I became interested in becoming an architect but soon had to jettison the idea when I found out Duro Ladipo organized one show in 1962.
I immediately jumped at that and thus commenced my acting career. I was given an oba role to which I did well and that was how it all started.
Sir, may I know if any of your children is taking after you?
You know children of these days, they will want to do what really comes from their mind and what they love to do. They don’t like being forced to do something or forced to take up a particular profession or calling. My twins are, however, into music. They have even made some sound tracks for films while I have another boy (Dele) who is into gospel music. But what I do is whatever career the children opt for, I support them with prayers to succeed.
At 75, what are your wishes for the entertainment industry?
I wish the industry more strength, people should keep doing greater things, they should come out with good stories like the people before them, it shouldn’t just be about money. They should put up plays that are beneficial to the people, do things that people will be glad about, good storylines that people will benefit from.
I don’t want to talk on that because all of them are our children and I don’t want issues. I love all of them dearly, people who have gone and the ones who are still there, they are human so it is God we should beg to intervene, to come in their heart so they can do the right thing.
I don’t want to mention names, I just hope they do the right thing. Am sure they will read this, they know what to do, the corrections to make, so it will be good.
Would you tell us a little about yourself, your background and everything we need to know about you?
My name is Lere Paimo (a.k.a Eda Onileola). I am from Ogbomosho in Oyo State. I’m a teacher, an actor, singer, a comedian as well as a seasoned dramatist. I have two wives and blessed with children.
What is your advice to upcoming artistes?
I will advice them to be careful with the kind of stories they write. Apart from the entertaining stories they write, they should write stories that will teach morals and impact values into people. They should have the fear of God, respect their elders and themselves because most of what they indulge in now scare us; the way they dress, some of them dress and you see their buttocks, under wears, they wear waist chains and I keep wondering, our mothers too wore it in their time but we didn’t see them exposing anything. This is not good at all.
For the males, they dress and call it sagging. The only people I know with this sagging of a thing are prisoners. Some people believe if they don’t bleach they can’t act and this is not true. Whatever your shape, you can act.