Cover Stories, Interviews

Veteran broadcaster cum actor,  Sadiq Daba recaps his role in Cock Crow at Dawn with nostalgia

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VETERAN broadcaster, producer, director and seasoned actor, Sadiq Daba is not a new face in entertainment, having worked with National Television Authority [NTA] for 35 years.  He was regularly on television screens as a presenter.  He later starred in NTA’s most popular and exciting programmes (films) like Cock Crow at Dawn, Behind the Clouds, Ripples, Masquerade, Samanja and Village Headmaster.

He starred in Kunle Afolayan’s award winning October 1 as Inspector Waziri.  His role in the movie has gotten him several awards, including Best Male Actor (leading role) at the African International Film Festival and the Best Male Actor at the African Movie Academy Awards.

ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with him at his Alausa, Lagos residence and he told us about his family, his journey into broadcasting, acting and so much more.

 

 

You started as a broadcaster, how did the journey begin?

I’ve always been in love with broadcasting right from when I was growing up.  I grew up in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  I listened to radio because television came late to Sierra Leone.  By the time television came to Sierra Leone, I had left Sierra Leone.  I was back here in Nigeria.  It was actually listening to radio that gave me that inspiration to be heard and it is all courtesy of the most popular guy on radio in Freetown at that time, William Robert.  I listened to him all the time, and I was like one of these days I would be on radio and during that process, I listened to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) most of the time, and if not all the time.  And one beautiful Christmas Day my father bought me a tape recorder to ginger me to my dreams because I now started recording myself and listening to myself pretending I’m on radio.  That’s how the journey started.

Can you please tell us about your fond memories from your early days of broadcasting?

How did it all start?  I got my break when I came to Nigeria.  That was way back in 1968 and I was in Lagos for a while and then left for the North.  I went to Kaduna where my cousins were, Brigadier Genreal Ahmed Abdullahi (retd), and Major Mohammed Daba (retd).  It was them I went visiting.  While on the visit, I was at Hamdalla Hotel, just having a drink, not knowing that on the table that I was, there was this gentleman, he’s late now.  Alifa Baba Hammed and he heard me talking.  He got interested and asked whether I’ve been on radio before.  I said, no, he asked if I would love to be on radio.  Deep inside me, I said this man does not know that’s my dream but seriously I thought it was a huge joke because he asked me to come over to the broadcasting house, Radio Television, Kaduna to see him and I was auditioned.  I left thinking that was all. I went back to my state, Kano and stayed there.

About a month or two later, my cousins came looking for me in Kano.  I was not at home, I was busy gallivanting all over the place.  He finally saw me and practically bundled me into a Land Rover back to Kaduna, put the letter in my hand and that was the beginning of my journey.  I started as a Continuity Announcer, what you people call On-air personality nowadays.  It was a radio and television station, so I was a continuity announcer on radio and doing presentation stuff on television and the story has never been the same.  There I am 37 years after.

You’ve been in the movie scene on and off for years, are you selective in the script you take up?

Absolutely, a script dictates my appearance on television.  I don’t particularly go out of my way to be on Nollywood.  If I want to do films, I do serious films and if the scripts are good and serious of course, I will act.  Acting comes as an aside.  I’m first, a broadcaster.  I started as a continuity announcer, a presenter and then a reporter, newscaster/news reader.  That was basically what I was doing before I forayed into acting.  So, when I started acting in NTA, there was nothing like Nollywood.  You wanted to act because you have a passion and you are trying to pass a message, the scripts were good, people were serious, you loved what you were doing and then suddenly years after, it became an all comers thing, plumbers, market women, fish sellers, carpenters are all stars so to speak.

What do you put into consideration before you accept a script?

It must have substance.  It shouldn’t be pedestrian.  I’m sorry but I wouldn’t do anything like Osuofia in London, Osuofia in South Africa, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and at the end of the day you say to God be the glory.  I call those ones Halleluya productions. I wouldn’t be caught dead doing those.  First, I want to know who is directing, who is producing.  I want to know what the script is like, are the people involved serious minded, what is the story like, what are they trying to sell?  That is what I look for.  After 35 years working, I won’t take a minute to destroy what I’ve built in years.

Can you compare acting back then to right now?

I can’t compare Cock Crow at Dawn with what I see now.  Checkmate is far too good, Moment of Truth, Behind the Clouds, these are vintage productions.  Right now, people don’t know what they are doing, all they want is to appear on TV.  What it takes to appear on TV nobody knows.

Your role in October 1 got you about two awards so far this year.  How did that make you feel?

images (2)(Laughs) The first award, African International Film Festival (AFRIFF), in Calabar, I was not even there.  I didn’t expect it and I think I was in Abuja or so.  Somebody called me up, ‘Oga Sadiq.  I said yes, he said where are you?  I said I’m here, then he said are you aware you’ve been nominated?  I said nominated for what?  Then, he goes, in fact, as I speak you’ve just been announced as the Best Leading Actor Male Category, you just won this award.’  Of course, it came with some dollars, but I won’t tell you how much (laughs).  It make me feel good because there is nothing like being appreciated after all these years you did Cock Crow at Dawn, Behind the Clouds, Moment of Truth and several other films and suddenly someone sees you and says that man has tried.  I think it’s high time we gave him something.  It is not the usual awards and it made me feel great.

The most recent is the AMAA, did you see yourself as the winner before the awards?

Again, no. I was on the set of Hotel Majestic, an MNET Production.  So, Segun who is the GM of the October 1 Production outfit called and said, ‘Oga Sadiq, I have a letter here for you.’  I said Segun, what is it, and he said, ‘Oga Sadiq, congratulations.’  Then, I asked, is Kunle doing another film?  He said, ‘Oga Sadiq, I am not joking.  Congratulations first. You’ve been nominated for AMAA.  They want your passport and other things.  You’re supposed to go to South Africa.’

I was like, me, nominated for AMAA.  Apparently, it must have been the icing on the cake because everybody believes AMAA is huge.  Another letter came that I should go for photo shoot, then I met Nollywood big names.  I said, see me, see trouble o.  With these big time Nollywood actors, I didn’t know there were more where I was going.  I went for the photo shoot, lo and behold, about three weeks later, I saw my face on the front page of Vanguard Newspaper.  I said to myself, Sadiq, this is getting serious, and I saw my face again on Guardian Newspaper.  Then in South Africa, on the day of the award, I sat with big names from all over Africa, the diaspora and little me, they went on and on, and then somewhere out of the blues, I thought I heard Sadiq Daba.  But I didn’t believe myself.

Somebody sitting by my side gave me a kick, ‘Oga Sadiq, it’s you they are calling now.’  I said calling me for what?  Right on the front row seated was Senator Ita Giwa and all of them and beside me was Paul Obazele and others and suddenly they started to clap, urging me to stand up and then they announced again.  I had goose pimples.  I now walked on stage and I received the award and in the course of making a speech, I shed a little tear because first, the whole hall stood up in unison to recognize me which I never expected to happen.

Usually, a few people will clap, some others will be nonchalant but here I am, Nigerians, South Africans and everyone present there stood, not one single soul was sitting down.  I saw them acknowledging me. I cried and there I am.  AMAA winner, radio stations, TV stations who sent representatives to South Africa were jostling to talk to me.  Me Sadiq that one minute ago was not a Nollywood star, suddenly I am a Nollywood big star.

Sodiq DabaWhat was it like on the set of October 1?

It was challenging, the producer/director, Kunle Afolayan is a workaholic. He’s a slave driver, but then any man who wants the best does not go for half measures.  He is particularly finicky about details and we worked day and night, in Akure, Ilaramoko.  But at the end of the day, the end justified the means. It was hard work and I had the last laugh because I was the one who was hailed.

A lot of people grew up watching you on Cock Crow at Dawn and the others.  How do you feel now when people tell you they used to enjoy watching you back then?

Every Friday, 6 p.m, everybody is rushing to watch Cock Crow at Dawn and I had the honour of playing the role of the mischievous boy, Bitrus.  Everyone fell in love with the role.  As old as I am, everywhere I go people still call me Bitrus, but again it is God’s making.

I don’t have a private life.  I am just coming back from the hospital and somebody walked up to me there and said, ‘Don’t I know you?’  And I had a straight face and said, I don’t know.  Then, someone else was passing and he said, October 1, and the first one said, ‘Ehen, I know you, that one self does not know you, I’ve known you since you were Bitrus.’  That is the way it goes, and you are forced to have this smile, you are part of people’s lives, they expect you to be happy all the time.

I have developed this plastic smile on my face.  So, when I hear Bitrus or Inspector Waziri, I smile.  Whatever they call me, as far as television is concerned, I smile because if you don’t, the impression you create is different.  You invade their homes why not make them happy?  It has its rewards.  I go to the bank and I don’t queue up, I’m at the airport, I want to travel, somebody sees me and gives me a very good seat and sometimes the pilot or crew ask me to come to business class.

Since it has its perks, what are the downs?

I can be cheated most of the time.  Where you can fight, I can’t fight.  Where you can shout, I can’t shout.  Sometimes, you just roll with the bunch because next thing people will say, ‘Ahan, are you not a star?’  There was one time I entered a bus, I waited for a taxi but couldn’t get one and I was in a hurry.  As I entered the bus, the next thing I heard was, ‘Haba, Oga you too dey enter bus?’  Am I not human?  So, many other things like this, but outside that, I have never ever regretted what I’ve done in broadcasting.  If I come again, I’ll still do it.

What was growing up like?

I grew up in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  I went to school there, and it was fantastic.  I never could tell the difference between an Igbo man, Hausa man and a Yoruba man till I got to Nigeria.  We were all one, everybody went into everybody’s house, it was lovely because Sierra Leone was a small country.  I grew up when there was no Ebola, and we were all so close to each other.  So, growing up was lovely.  So, was going to school.  No regrets growing up in Sierra Leone.

Can you please tell us about your family?

My wife is Yoruba.  I met her in Jos while she was a student there.  Her first degree is in Sociology and she has a Diploma and Masters in Mass Communication.  She is a staff of the Lagos State Government.  Her name is Bolaji Daba.  I have six children and six grandchildren.  It is a lot of fun during the holidays with my grand children, in the house and I enjoy it.  At 65, what do I have to lose?  There are other people my age who are not this lucky.

Would you be starring in any movie soon?

If you write one, why not? (laughs)  I’m doing a series entitled, Duplicity.  There are also offers for films all over the place.   The script you write determines if I’ll work for you.  I have a lot of scripts here to go through and I’ll decide.

What else do you do aside acting, at the moment?

I retired about four years ago, from NTA and since then, I’ve been involved in producing and directing documentaries and I have my own show, I call it Sadiq Daba Presents on DTN Television Network, Abuja.  I partnered my long time friend and confidant, Isiaka Aliyu, who is the CEO of DTN TV Network.

You’ve been in entertainment for decades, what lessons have you learnt?

It is not learning, it is what I have gained.  I have gained the confidence of people. I have gained the ability to be able to interact with people, because in the course of my work, I have met all sorts of people with different characteristics.  You learn how to manage them.

What advice do you have for young people in entertainment?

I hate it when people believe it is the last course in your life’s journey, when everything else fails.  The industry is serious and bigger than that.  It is very serious if you want to make a career out of it.  It is not for drop outs, so please, go to school, make up your mind that it is what you want, and once you get in, with all seriousness, put your nose to the grinding stone and be what you want to be, and once you’re in, the name of the game is research, research and research so that when you go on air people will take you serious.  That is what it takes.

 

–  TINUOLA JOSEPH

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