Emmanuel Adejumo, one of the sons of the late comedian and humour merchant, Apostle Moses Olaiya Adejumo better known as Baba Sala, in this interview with Oluwole Ige, speaks about the life and time of his father, his unfulfilled dreams, among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
What would you miss most about your father, who was famous for his dramatic exploits in the early 70s?
I would miss his prayers. My father prayed for us a lot. He was popularly known as Baba Adura. He loved praying for us and anytime one calls him, he would pray for you. Also, I would miss him for his love because he always wanted us to progress in life. He was always concerned about our life activities. He would ask how we were doing and if we were facing any challenges. He was ever ready to intervene or offer solutions to any problem. He was ready to help and follow us to anywhere when he was agile. He was always ready to use his connection and contacts to assist his children. I would also miss his advice because I asked him a lot of questions. He would always give me good advice so I will miss him very much for that.
While you were still very young, what did your father do at home when he was not acting or performing and how did he relate with you. Was he always funny as he used to be on stage?
He was virtually the same character he used to be on stage whenever he was around in the house. Sometimes, when we were young, he would play with us and ask us to climb his back. Even though he didn’t have much time because of his job schedule, anytime he was around, we would always be with him. He played a lot by cracking jokes and was very comical in his actions. When we made mistakes, perhaps by falling down, my father would make jest of us. He always brought himself down to our level as small children. He did the same thing with his wives. Sometimes, you would not even know who was who in the house. It was always fun with him at home front. When he was serious, we, as his children would know and we wouldn’t joke with him.
Was he a disciplinarian in reprimanding you during your childhood?
Whenever we did anything bad, my daddy would beat us very well. If you fail in your academics, my father would beat you. Secondly, if you refused to go to church, my daddy would beat you very well. When I was in primary three, he enrolled all of us, including our elder sister, in the church choir. When he was on the altar preaching, he always used dark goggles and you wouldn’t know whether he was looking at you or not. So, most of us seat at the front row, while my sister sat with her age mates at the back. My father would be taking note of all of us if we were present among the choir. There was a day some of our sisters were not in the church and nobody knew that Baba would come home that day. He was in Ibadan and all of us, his children, grew up in Ilesa. So, that Sunday, he came to the church from Ibadan and he counted us and noticed that some of us didn’t come. When he arrived home, he just ordered his driver to use his car to block the gate. He alighted from the car and asked why we didn’t go to the church. He was very furious and used his koboko (twine leather thread) to beat all of us. My father could be very angry with anybody who he discovered didn’t attend church service. If some of us failed at school then, we would be reluctant to come home because he would beat us. Whenever we returned home, we would sneak into our mother’s room and lock the door behind us. But, he would discover our antics when we failed to show up at the dining table with the rest of the children when it was time to eat, because we always ate together as a family.
What was Baba Sala’s favourite food when he was alive?
He liked pounded yam with Okra soup when he was alive and he could eat it in the morning, afternoon and night. He also loved yam and fried eggs but, pounded yam was his favourite delicacy.
How would you describe his social life of your father
My father was a very shy person. He would always tell us that he did not know who was watching and so he needed to be vary careful because of his status and fame in the society. My daddy could talk for a very long time whenever he was at home and played with young children. Outside, my father was a very gentle guy. He comported himself very well outside and he attended social parties if he was invited. Even, despite being a pastor or minister in the church, some of his friends were Muslims and he would attend their social functions. He used to follow them to the Eid praying ground during the Eid-el-Kabir festival and socialise with them after leaving the praying grounds. When ever he met security forces on the highway, he had his way of relating with them and they would shouting ‘Baba Sala’. He loved his fans. When you approach him as a fan to exchange pleasantries, he would always crack a joke that would make you laugh. He was also a philanthropist and if you discuss your personal problem or challenge with him, he was always ready to help by giving you money or solving your problem one way or the other. If he didn’t have enough cash with him, he would direct you to come to his office so that he could arrange cash for you. When we were still young, I knew some people, who were on Baba Sala’s payroll and they were not doing anything for him. but these people were drawing salaries every month as a way of assisting them to cope financially in life. He was a very kind person, who had compassion for the needy.
He would inform his staff in the office that they should give the listed people their salaries at the end of each month.
But, what you have just said about your father paying salary to some categories of people without working for him as staff contradicted some opinions in the public domain that Baba Sala was poor. What is your take?
That was when he had the money and not when he became old and stopped working.
When he was still very agile, there was no doubting the fact that he contributed immensely to the nation’s entertainment industry. Was his contribution appreciated by the relevant authorities and stakeholders in the industry?
My father contributed his own quota to Nigeria’s entertainment industry and he was a kind of person who provided mentorship and encouragement to upcoming thespians. He treated everybody with open arms and was always ready to assist. He was an active member of ANTP and if you come to his house, my father helped so many people by giving them buses to enhance their theatre company free of charge. During the early days of Nollywood, he was among the people at the fore front, though most of his films were on celluloid. Then, there was a problem that nobody should do home videos, with the argument that home videos would bastardise the market of celluloid films. Shooting celluloid films required huge sums of money then. But, my father was among those that supported the campaign for the production of films in home videos. Then, he produced his first home video titled ‘Agba Man’. He told me then that when he traveled to Amsterdam, the film makers there were auctioning the machines used for celluloid films, saying that in the nearest future, celluloid films would be outdated in the film industry. Now, see the cameras we are using now, you will discover that they are classified MM digital recording. So, I can say that my father saw the future and that was what informed his campaign for the encouragement of home video production by local film producers. All his prophesies on the dynamics of modern film production have come true. This is what is happening now. Those people clamouring against home videos are now the major producers of home videos. Every two weeks then, home video producers would come to my father’s residence and he would slaughter rams and entertain them lavishly just to encourage them. He did a lot in improving the quality of production in the film industry. Despite being old and weak before he died, his contributions in the entertainment industry remain indelible.
If you take a retrospective look into the life of Baba Sala as one of his sons, what would you consider to be his happiest moment in life?
My father was always happy through out his lifetime. He lived a fulfilled life. He used to tell us that he had achieved a lot in life. Even, without him telling us, we knew that he was blessed through his achievements in his career. Let us leave the fact that one of his films was pirated and that almost brought him down totally. Even at that, my father was still happy. He had no cause to regret in life. What pained him most was the death of his senior sister, Madam Grace Olabisi Otun. The woman’s death pained him to his bone marrow. Even when they stole/pirated his movie, ‘Orun Moru’, he felt so bitter and that was the first time we would see him angry. As time went on, he got over it and he moved on. But, when his sister, popularly known as Iya Offa, Mrs Grace Olabisi Otun died, my father really broke down. They were only two siblings of their parents. He loved the woman so much. My father had no regrets in life because he had achieved so much; he exported his dramatic talents to the western countries and he loved his work till he died. I was with him two weeks ago. Despite his old age, he was still smiling and cracking jokes. Sometimes, he would just smile.
How many of his children are actors or actively involved in the entertainment industry?
I am a comedian and dancer. My stage name is Boi Sala. I act and also engage in comedy. There is another sibling of mine, Jayeku. His name is Lanre Adejumo and he is also a comedian and he had produced two movies. There is another lady, Jumoke Adejumo. She is in Ikorodu and she calls herself Omoge Sala. She is a comedian too. We also have Smart Adejumo, a comedian in his own right in the English genre and very popular. We have singers, like Mayowa Adejumo, who is an R and B singer. Then, my younger sister, Oyindamola Adejumo, is a gospel singer. We also have Adamu Lamidi, whose real name is Muyiwa Adejumo. He is a comedian and producer. Our big brother, Mr Biodun Adejumo, is a producer and an active player in the entertainment world.
How many wives did Baba Sala have?
I don’t know the number of wives my father had. But, I know that my mother is one of them. I know that my daddy had wives, but I don’t know the number. One thing I know is that there is a strong bond and unity among all his children such that you won’t even know whose siblings are from one mother or the other. If you come to our house, sometimes I don’t even sleep in my mother’s room, I sleep in any of the other wive’s rooms after playing with my brothers and sisters. I will wake up there and eat the food prepared by their mother. That was the greatest joy of Baba Sala before he died. He was always very happy seeing all of us playing together in the house without any form of discrimination.
When Baba Sala was still very active, especially in Ibadan, I know that he had a relaxation joint called Awada Spot around Yemetu area. Is the Awada Spot still functioning?
It is functioning. My father’s brother is managing it now.
What do you want the government to do in immortalising the name and memory of Baba Sala?
Anything government thinks is appropriate to immortalise his name would be appreciated by the family because he contributed greatly to the entertainment industry by putting smiles in the faces of Nigerians to reduce the stress, among other social and economic challenges.
Baba Sala used to appear in funny costumes when he was very active in the movie industry. Do you have any plan to put these costumes in an archive or museum?
Yes, it is part of our plans. We are thinking of setting up a small museum where his costumes, including neck and bow ties, big eyes goggles and funny wrist watches would be kept for the people to see, most especially for the research works of students of theatre arts of higher institutions in the country.
Has the family agreed on the burial plans for your father?
We are working on it and hopefully by next week, we would come out with a burial programme which would be announced to all Nigerians.
What was your father’s unfulfilled dream or desire before he passed on?
He was working on a film project titled ‘Mba Je Adam’, meaning ‘If I were Adam’. He was planning to see the film as his last project, but there was no sponsor until he died on Monday. We would be glad if we can get a sponsor for the film so that his efforts and intellectual inputs in the movie would not be in vain. I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the general public, especially corporate organisations and other relevant agencies to come to our aid in this regard. We would be very happy to get sponsors.
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