Oga Bello: In my time, entertainers were treated as beggars, dropouts
Adebayo Salami a.k.a Oga Bello is one of the pioneer actors in the Nigerian movie industry today, having started his acting career in 1964, with a group called Young Concert Party which was led by Ojo Ladipo a.k.a Baba Mero. In this interview, Adebayo who has evolved with three of his sons- Femi Adebayo, Sodiq Adebayo and Tope Adebayo- doing very well in the industry shares the story of his foray into the world of acting, and what it means to be an actor back in time.
Why I went into acting From the outset, acting has been part of me. I had to embrace acting because of the passion I have for it. Moreover, I have the talent. Along the line, I acquired the needful skills and this helped me to break into the industry. The other side of me, which my fans are not aware of, is the fact that I write scripts, direct and produce movies. I have directed a couple of good which I also produced.
Who Discovered Me
I discovered myself. While I was growing up, I used to watch one popular Yoruba actor, Ayinla Olumegbon on stage. I must confess that he really inspired me to go into acting. I was so much in love with his acting prowess that I try to recreate his image each time I’m in my bathroom . But unfortunately, I was living in a public yard. So, there was usually a long queue mat our bath room. despite this challenge, I still managed to re-enact Ayinla’s roles in movies, while taking my bath. And each time, I was in the bathroom, my neighbours would scream and knock ceaselessly on the door until I open it.
My first five years sojourn in the movie industry
That is talking of the period between 1964 and 969. I can remember vividly that in the beginning, the industry was not rewarding financially, but I was not disturbed. To me, I was just acting for the fun of it. It was more of a hobby than anything else. During that period, I was spending my personal money to actualize my dream. I was passionate about the world of acting. And I didn’t consider spending my personal money to mean anything to me.
Battle to actualize my dream
The most disheartening one was that of my parents refusal to encourage me to go into acting. Back in time, those in show business were treated as beggars, drop-outs and never-do-well in the society. So my parents saw my going into acting as something that would drag the family’s name in the mud. They did all they could do to frustrate my efforts.
Fortunately, while my parents were against my decision to go into acting, my grandmother supported me. She did not stop there. The old woman did everything to convince my parents to allow me follow my dreams. However, at last , my parents gave me the go-ahead. My uncle too, supported me. I thank God that before my father passed on, he realized his mistake because I made the family proud as an actor of great repute.
Movie that gave me the breakthrough as an actor
I remember in 1970, there was a competition organized by the Lagos State government. It was known as Lagos State festival of the Arts. I took part in the drama competition and came tops. From that moment, I became a star. The play which launched me into the industry was titled “Ogbogbenuga”meaning “Wisdom uplifted Me”. I was actually overwhelmed by this great feast. For the first time, Nigeria leading newspaper then, Daily Times did a story on me. It was incredible! I consolidated this with my appearance on the television show; “Bar Beach Show” produced by Oladele Bank Olemoh and presented by Art Alade, the father of Dare Art Alade.
This programme really helped to boost my profile as an up and coming actor. From the “Bar Beach show, I delved into stage performances. Then, we shot on celluloid under the leadership of Ojo Ladipo who was popularly known as Baba Mero. I took over from him after his in October, 1978. There are four factors; hard work, discipline, honesty, and tolerance . These factors combined to make the brand, Oga Bello.
The first payment I got as an actor
To start with, I did not go into the show business with the aim of making money. So, I have never expected any form of payment. The first payment I got as an actor shocked and left me speechless.