On Thursday, June 16, 2016, veteran actor cum film maker, Alhaji Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello) organized the 15th edition of his annual Ramadan lecture in his Ikorodu, Lagos residence which was well attended. The event was officiated by Sheikh Abdulrasaq Woleola, Chief Missioner of Almubins Islamic Organization which Oga Bello also belongs.
Among the movie top shots at the occasion were, Jide Kosoko, Tunde Kelani, Yinka Quadri, Adio Majester, Tajudeen Gbadamosi (Coach), Fathia Balogun, Bose Bello and others.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with Oga Bello on the success of the programme and other issues, including the state of the industry, his children and much more.
You’re an actor cum film maker, what informed your organizing an annual Ramadan lecture?
As a muslim, I think that’s one of the important things I should do during Ramadan. I am not only a Muslim but also born by muslim parents who understood the religion. I also know the religion very well and I am proud of propagating it.
I have been doing this for 15 years when I moved to Ikorodu, Alhamdulillahi.
This is the 15th edition of the programme, how has it been since you started?
It has always been very okay. Alhamdulillahi, I have been getting bountiful rewards from Almighty Allah. In fact, there was no year, I organized this lecture that I didn’t see positive changes in my life. So, it has always been rewarding, Ramadan is a sacred month for those of us Muslims and one of our duties is to feed people with the word of God from the Holy Quran. As we do that, Allah rewards us and also those who attend the programme.
That’s the significance of organizing Ramadan lecture and prayer and it has been an annual programme for 15 years. I give thanks to Allah for being there for me and my entire family.
What are the challenges?
There are no challenges so far. Allah makes it easy for me every year, especially now that I have grown up children who also support me every year.
How would you describe this year’s edition?
Very fantastic. I believe you also witnessed it from the beginning to the end. Everything went well. You heard from Jide Kosoko and Yinka Quadri, I don’t need to talk much about that again. I only need to be grateful to Allah for the success of the programme. Also, my sincere appreciation goes to all the attendees, especially my organization, ALMUBINS and my family as well.
Let’s go into the industry, with the benefit of hindsight, what do you think is missing in the industry?
The first thing that’s missing in our industry is discipline. Another thing is that some of the young producers and actors didn’t learn the trade before venturing into it. Some of them, especially the actors think, so far they have the talent, everything is perfect, forgetting that there is a difference between talent and professionalism.
If you depend on talent alone, you can’t go anywhere. Some of them don’t care to learn the ethnics of the profession. Some just go into it and start off like that. I think these should be addressed properly so that the industry can move forward. But Alhamdulillahi, I will say we’re doing well.
Some stakeholders have been lamenting the level of poverty in theindustry, attributing it to piracy and poor economic situation. What’s your take?
I agree with them that piracy and poor economy are the major factors affecting the industry. Everybody wants cheap things because they don’t have money to buy quality products. So, they go for the pirated ones. The situation is not peculiar to our industry, it’s everywhere. Some that even want to rent the original CDs from the video clubs can’t get because most of the video clubs have closed down because of the poor economic situation in the country. And unlike the music industry, where you can get a CD for N100, movie is not like that, ours is more expensive.
And instead of people to go for the quality copies, they prefer pirated ones. That has been affecting us a lot. It’s annoying when you invest about N20 million or N50 million on a movie, some people now sit somewhere and pirate it. But to fight this to a standstill, we need the support of the government. The law against piracy is very weak.
For instance, if a movie of let’s say N20 million is pirated, there is no way the producer can recoup his or her investment. And the culprit will only pay N10,000 fine. It’s so sad. Government needs to come up with a very stringent punishment for piracy to be eradicated, not only in our industry but everywhere in the country.
Recently, the industry lost one of its best actresses, Henrietta Kosoko. How would you describe her and her exit from the industry?
Henrietta’s death was very shocking and painful. She will surely be missed in the industry. Her death was a big blow to the industry. But God knows best. She was a very good and respectful woman. She respected her husband and all his friends. She was very obedient to call time. She was very hardworking and she assisted her husband very well, as far as the industry is concerned.
A lot of people believe death in the industry is as a result of lack of welfare package for its stakeholders, especially actors because not long ago, Arakangudu also passed on. What’s your reaction to this as one of the most revered elders in the industry?
I disagree with anybody that said that. It’s not due to lack of welfare as being bandied. Everybody has his or her time. And when it’s time, nobody can do anything about it. For instance, Arakangudu died of heart attack, it has nothing do with poverty, so also Henrietta’s death wasn’t due to poverty. So, I don’t believe that.
As a devout Muslim who observes his daily five times prayers, how has that not been affecting your career, especially when you’re on location?
No, that has nothing to do with my career. It has not been affecting it at all. A (Solat) prayer doesn’t take more than five minutes, and if you’re on set, you can take permission from the director that you want to pray. That would not affect the shoot in any way.
What of a situation where we may have a technical problem that may last an hour or even more, won’t the shoot continue? So, it’s even convenient for you as a Muslim unless you don’t want to observe your prayers.
What’s the secret of your success as a theatre practitioner?
Nothing, except Allah. He has been with me since the beginning till date and so shall He continue to be with me forever. He has been very kind to me. I will forever be grateful to Him.
Few months back, your son, Femi Adebayo was appointed Special Adviser on Art, Culture and Tourism to Kwara State governor, Abdufatah Ahmed. How do you feel about that?
I am happy. It’s a thing of joy and part of the good things of life that your children are progressing. Alhamdulillahi, and I will continue to thank Allah for that. Allah loves who thanks Him always. So, I will be eternally grateful to Him. I also thank our amiable Governor Ahmed Abdulfatah for believing in my son. The governor believes in his ability to project the culture of the state, that’s why he appointed Femi Adebayo. I really thank the governor for the opportunity he gave him to serve the state.
What advice do you have for Femi?
I have always been advising him even ever before his appointment and I will continue to advise him. I will continue to play my role as a father. I always advise him to be very close to God and keep observing his daily prayers as a muslim. I pray Allah will continue to guide him.
How old is Oga Bello now?
I am 64. I clocked 64 on Monday, May 9, 2016.
We understand you run a polygamous family, how many wives do you have?
I have wives (laughs).
Do you have plan to marry more?
Nothing like that anymore. My children can marry and be married now. Some have been having babies. So, what more do I want from God other than thanking Him.
How many children are you blessed with?
There is nothing to hide about that any more. I believe everybody knows that Oga Bello has 18 children. And Alhamdulillahi, 16 of them are graduates. And by the grace of Almighty Allah, the rest two will soon become graduates as well.
How did you cope raising all of your children to that level, we mean as a theatre practitioner?
It’s God. I don’t have any other thing or person behind everything in my life except Almighty Allah. And just like our father in the industry, Adebayo Faleti always addresses me, Oga Bello, the man with uncommon favour.
It’s favour from Almighty God Allah. That’s why I will continue to worship Him and be faithful to Him.
How many of your children are stepping into your shoes as a film maker?
I have four of them in the industry, they are Femi, Tope , Sodiq and Rilwan.
Did they join the industry on your advice?
No, I didn’t impose anything on them. It’s out of their passion for it. And I thank God, they’re all doing well.
No doubt, you are marvelously blessed by God, what more do you ask from Him?
I give thanks to Allah for being so kind to me. There is nothing more I need from Him than to bless me the more, give me more strength and long life.