ASIDE playing roles in movies, Babatunde Bernard, a.k.a Baba T, now features more as event anchor and comedian. According to him, “I actually started out as a stand-up comedian.” In February 2012, his name grabbed the headline when he secretly married a much older lover, Yetunde Oduwole in London, a development which has kept tongues wagging. Shuttling Nigeria and London, the bulky entertainer maintained there is nothing wrong in marrying an older lover. Though he wouldn’t want to talk too much about his marriage with Yetunde, he only insisted his step is the right one. At that time, Baba T was 33 while Yetunde was just 42. Baba T, who has won many awards for his roles in movies, spoke with ENCOMIUM Weekly at Hotel Iglesias, Surulere, Lagos, where he had come to perform.
How did the romance with movie actually started?
I started out from school. I was opportune to act in the school theatre workshop from there I developed the interest. I later joined the Actors Guild of Nigeria. Most of my roles then in 2007 were minor. But I have to concentrate on my education which I did. I graduated from Olabisi Onabanjo University. I studied Mass Communication. When I came out of school, I started with stand-up comedy. I did Laffmatazz with Gbenga Adeyinka, Laughter Café with Nicolas Anukanti of blessed memory, myself, Seyi Law, Elenu, Sheddi Baba, Emeka Smith are contemporaries. I have done a lot of comedy shows alongside some Yoruba artistes. The one that gave me the break was the K1 at 50 party. I wasn’t invited anyway, I just went there and Alariwo saw me and wanted me to perform. After the party, the celebrant, K1 the Ultimate called me and dashed me N50,000. That encouraged me a lot to do more. Later, I met a couple of Yoruba artistes like Funke Akindele, Sadiq Adebayo, Lukmon Raji, who all gave me movie roles.
In all, how many films have you starred in?
Since 2007, I have featured in over 50 films.
Lately, you seem to feature more as party compere, does that fetch you more money than acting?
I will say both fetch me money. I still go to locations for movies and on Saturdays I get invited as compere at parties. My roles in movies made a way for me, people call me to anchor their wedding receptions, birthdays and any other social gatherings. My roles in movies made me more popular and relevant and most times I do more of comic roles.
You do more of comic in movies, is that where your strength lies?
I can play any role. I am versatile. Whatever role they call me for, I do my best. I have played comic roles before, I have acted as a lover boy, I have starred in an epic film before Awodi by Murphy Afolabi, Okunkun Birimu by Iyabo Ojo. There is no role I can’t play.
What will you say has helped you to this level since you started in 2007?
God and the help of fans not forgetting hard work. I am a raw talent. I try to do what has not been done before. I don’t watch comedy films because by the time I do so, I borrow some ideas from there and it makes me lazy. I try to create my own. God and hard work have really helped my career.
The target you set for yourself when coming into the entertainment scene, have you met them?
Not at all, I am still working to meet my target, I have not even started. The only thing I have achieved so far is the name that is on the lips of my fans both at home and abroad. With my background as an orphan, I love the commoners, I believe in the less privileged. I believe in the masses. I can only be fulfilled in life when I have a home for the less privileged because I know how it feels to struggle without one’s parents.
At what age did you become an orphan?
I lost my dad 15 years ago. My mother was not there. It was only when I lost my dad that my mother wanted to come back because they were separated and shortly, I lost her as well. I have never had the opportunity of staying under the same roof with my parents all my life. The first day I saw them together my father was in the casket while my mother stood there watching.
Didn’t that affect your childhood?
Yes, it did. Growing up without one’s parents is a great challenge. My late father was the Force Camp Commandant in Dodan Barracks, Lagos. He was a Major before he died. He served selflessly. His legacy lives on and that is what is paying the children now, living on the street is not easy. School was difficult, I sponsored myself all through university.
How many siblings do you have?
I am from a family of 21, 19 boys, two girls. The situation was so tough that I had to fend for myself right from Primary 4. I fought through life but I have it in mind that the future is bright. I lived with my grandmother in the village and after the death of my parents, I was opportuned to live in a mission house where my education was refined.
Have you produced your own movie?
Yes and it’s called Ijewuru. That was my first and it was widely accepted.
Let us talk about the homefront, you are already married, how is it going?
That area I don’t want to talk about it. When it comes to love life, I don’t know what to say.
But your wife, Yetunde has said nice things about you?
Really? No comment.
What is your impression about age difference in marriage?
With my experience, there is nothing bad about marrying an older or younger lover. Adam was created before Eve but we do not know the hour, whether they were 10 years apart, it was never stated. If Eve was created before Adam, I believe every woman would accept the fact that they can marry a younger lover. I believe wherever you derive joy and peace, stay there. I believe age is not a barrier to marriage. Even if your parents oppose it, they can’t be there forever. It’s your life, live it the way you find pleasure. They tell you to do this and after a short time they will go and the young girl they think can give you joy will turn out to be your problem. According to Muslims, Prophet Mohammed married a much older lover.
So, how do you cope, you are in Nigeria and your wife is in London?
No problem. I have been in Nigeria since January 2013, I have not gone back to see her, we communicate.
THIS INTERVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, JULY 2, 2013