ON Sunday, April 27, 2014, veteran actor cum film maker, Alhaji Abdul-ganiyu Olayinka Quadri, simply addressed as Yinka Quadri will clock 36 in the industry. The successful thespian is planning to celebrate the milestone in a big way. Not only that, he is also launching a book, Scent of a Legend.
ENCOMIUM Weekly was at his Odunfa, Ebute Meta, Lagos office on Friday, January 24, 2014, where he spoke to us on the forthcoming event and much more including the alleged ban on Yetunde Akilapa.
We learnt you’re planning to celebrate your 35 years in the industry, how does it feel to have come this far?
It feels good and it’s a wonderful achievement for one to have remained relevant till date. But what I am celebrating is no longer 35, it’s going to be 36 because to be precise my acting career can be dated back to April 27, 1978. That was the time I started acting and come April 27, 2014, I will be 36 years in the industry. Our theatre group was formed that same day. Some of the founders are not in the industry again, not that they have died, they are still much alive. But those of us who are still in the profession include myself, Apostle Biodun Majekodunmi a.k.a Baba Kekere, Fatai Alabi, popularly called Adekanbi, he is in the UK now, still practicing. Our group was called Afopina Theatre. We gave it that name the same day we started. Then, we didn’t have anybody training or mentoring us. It was later we were introduced to one man, late Taiwo Olayinka, popularly known as Agbodorogun. He was the one leading us then. He now changed the outfit to Isale Oro Theatre Group. He trained us well, taught us a lot of things including how theatre can be commercialized. May God be pleased with his soul. None of us knew that we could raise money and rent a hall for performance. He was the one who enlightened us on things like that. It was when he took charge of the group that we all learnt about radio and television programmes. It was then we had a very popular TV serial in 1979, Agbodorogun on LTV 8, Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos. That was why my Olayinka was nicknamed Agbodorogun. But in April 1980, he decided to move on and left out group for us. Meanwhile, before he came to lead our group, Agbodorogun had been a member of Sir James Theatre Group. Sir James was a floor manager at NTA 10. At the same time, he had worked at LTV 8 for a while. However, when Agbodorogun spent about two years with us, he left with the name, Isale Oro. Later, we reorganized our group and it was renamed, Adetutu Theatre Group in 1980. Since then, we started rotating the leadership of the organization among ourselves. The first person to lead us was Fatai Alabi. He defeated me in the election. I eventually became his deputy. After his tenure in 1983, we conducted another election which I won. That was how I became the leader of the group till 1986 until theatre was transformed.
Odunfa as a caucus came into being in 1986. It wasn’t formed deliberately. Let me say coincidentally or fortunately, I had some of my group members at Lagos State Council of Arts and Culture which Mr. Gbenga Shonuga happened to be its director. The council wanted to take its performing group to San Francisco, United States of America for a show. Coincidentally, about 80 per cent of my group members were among the dancers for the council. And they were among those billed to travel to the US. At the same time, I also had a programme on LTV 8, which they were supposed to be part of. But I had no power to stop them from travelling to America for the performance. I was confused. It was at this period I met Rasaq Ajao a.k.a Araosan. That’s in 1986. I met him in his father’s shop in Idumagbo, Lagos, very close to my father’s shop as well. I didn’t know him but he said he knew me. Maybe because I had been fortunate to have been on the screen for quite a while before I met him. He now introduced himself to me as a theatre practitioner. He said he was under the leadership of one late Leke Ajao (Konkosari), who was also based in Ebute Metta, Lagos. That was how we met, and I discussed my challenges with him. I told him all my group members who were supposed to feature in my TV serial had travelled to the US, and the programme must be aired. So, I asked if there was any way he could assist me. That was how he introduced me to his friends and they were Taiwo Hassan (Ogogo), Abbey Lanre, Fatai Odua and others.
They were all from Ebute Meta under the leadership of one Mr. Awo Fabunmi. And as God would have it, my wife was also living in Ebute Metta. I saw Ogogo, Abbey Lanre as my age mates, and I approached them on what I actually wanted them for. I couldn’t talk to their bosses because I didn’t know how to present the matter before them. When I discussed with Ogogo, Abbey Lanre and others, they all agreed with me. That’s how I invited them for my TV programme. They took part in about four TV serials including Araba, Ka ron wi, Olaniyonu. However, they also had their own group called Odua Theatre. And we started working together as colleagues and friends since then. So, that was how we became very close friends till date. Then, I was coming to meet them from Lagos Island at Ebute Metta. We used to assemble at Rasaq Ajao’s house on Odunfa Street here, and because of that people now gave us the name, Odunfa Caucus. Not that we sat down and planned it. It was formed naturally, it was the people coming from outside this place that gave us the name by saying, ‘We’re going to Odunfa Caucus.’ That was how the identity became permanent.
And the issue of chairmanship of the caucus wasn’t by any election nor that I imposed myself on the group as chairman. But I think they all came together and agreed that I should lead them. Maybe because they all knew I was a leader of my group before we met. That was the reason everybody is addressing me as the chairman of the caucus till date.
When exactly was it formed?
It was formed in 1987.
What’s the secret keeping the group on till date, without any quarrel among you, Ogogo and Abbey Lanre?
No other secret than God who formed the caucus for us. And we will continue to thank Him for that and some other things He had done for us.
36 years in acting is not a joke, can you tell us a little about your experience so far?
A lot. How many will I start mentioning? What you should know is that when the going is good and smooth, many people will definitely be your friends but when it becomes rough and tough, many of them will run away. Just like one popular musician said in his song years back. I can’t tell you much now, let’s leave the rest till the book is launched.
What would you say you have enjoyed the most as a famous actor?
That’s the honour people accord me always. Atimes, when I meet those I think are on top, that I should be looking up to, they will still be rating me as if I am more important than them. The kind of respect they give me is always overwhelming. In this kind of a situation, one must be very happy and elated. It’s a thing of joy.
Fine, as a famous person, I can’t move freely, express my mind freely. If for instance, you want to express your anger over an issue, if you over react, people will misinterpret the situation. They will call you all sorts of names. It’s then they will remind you that you’re a celebrity. So, I am always very careful. And God has been helping me with that.
When was your saddest moment?
That was when my dad passed on.
Tell us a little of your achievements since you started out.
To God be the glory, they are many. Even before I became a professional actor, I bought my first car. I bought the car while working with my father, that was 1981. Almost everybody knew then that I was born with a silver spoon. Money wasn’t my problem then. I acquired lands before becoming an actor. But because of my interest in acting, I sold my cars and the lands and invested the money in acting. Now, God has compensated me by blessing my career beyond imagination. I have acquired more than the number of cars and lands I sold. I have also built my personal house. I have trained my children up to university level, home and abroad. I have graduates among my children, and they are all doing fine. Alhamdulillahi.
Let’s talk about what informed celebrating 36 years on stage and the launching of the book, The Scent of A Legend?
Everything is about life experience from the beginning till date. The book, especially will contain a lot about my experience. Is it about the polygamous home that I came from or the problems encountered by my parents before getting to this level? Or after I have become a man of my own? Shall we also talk of the experience as a star actor and what happens to those struggling to make a name in the industry? And lots more. All these and much more informed the book, The Scent of a Legend.
Some people are referring to you as the bridge between the old and the young in the industry, can you tell us why?
Don’t let me reveal that now, until the book is out.
With the benefit of hindsight, what do you think could be done to save the industry from collapsing?
If government can amend anti-piracy law by making the penalty for pirating other people’s intellectual property stiffer, I believe the industry will regain its glory. But in a situation a culprit will pay just N50,000 as fine, I don’t think that’s enough penalty for such a person to stop the illegal business. Pirates are more or less killers. They kill us indirectly and gradually. They reap where they didn’t sow. Anybody caught pirating other people’s intellectual property should be made to pay N250m or N500m or be jailed for about 30 years. If that’s implemented and the government is serious about it, I am sure anybody who wants to pirate another person’s job will think twice before doing it.
Lest we forget, there is a story flying about a budding actress from your caucus who was alleged of being a kleptomaniac, and that she has been banned from acting by your group, how true is it?
We can’t rule it out that she is not a member of Odunfa Caucus. She was once here with us. She also joined the caucus just like every other person. And if I may tell you the truth, those that have graduated from Odunfa are more than 400. And among them, we have a lot of popular actors and actresses. Also, we still have about 200 under our tutelage. Everybody knows that Odunfa is a school of theatre on its own. Yetunde joined us through all the normal procedures all other people passed through. She came here with guarantors and parents, they all signed for her and we gave her the opportunity.
And throughout her stay with you as an apprentice, did you notice anything like that about her?
There was nothing like that all the time she was with us. And after she left, she started doing movies, she has even shot a movie of her own. We didn’t hear anything like stealing about her. So, when we heard the incident, we were shocked. But to us, we don’t need to believe everything and as well doubt it. But the only thing about the people is that if Odunfa is not a popular caucus, they won’t remember that Yetunde Akilapa is from there. They don’t even want to talk about those that are successful and doing the caucus proud but everybody keeps talking about her. We just decided that pending the time her matter will be resolved, she shouldn’t come to Odunfa again. We still maintain that we didn’t ban her. We don’t even have the power to do that. After all, she is now on her own. People are only misinterpreting the situation. We are not judges. We can’t say whether she did it or not. We only asked her to stay off Odunfa until her case is settled and our own investigation concluded. She wasn’t banned from acting. But at the end of it, if she is guilty, we will know what to do.
– TADE ASIFAT