As fans in Nigeria mourn the death of one of its drama and film most iconic figures, we’re reminded of an interview Baba Sala gave in 2011 where he spoke about his family life, regrets and other things.
Born Moses Olaiya Adejumo in 1936 at Ilesha, present day Osun State; Baba Sala’s career spanned several decades- across theatre, comedy, television and film. He’s responsible for training young Sunday Adegeye and helping him become King Sunny Ade, today’s legendary juju musician. At the height of his career, Baba Sala was a household name in Nigeria, showing on the network service of the NTA on a weekly basis for several years.
In his interview called from PM News, he bared his mind on many subjects. Excerpts:
“Where have you been all this while?
I am alive. Some people think that I am dead, but I am not. I am in Nigeria. I did not go anywhere. I am in Ilesa in Osun State.
How has life been treating you?
God is providing for me. Currently, I manage a Seraphim and Cherubim Church in Idasa, Ilesha. I work for God and what I get, I eat with.
What has old age stopped you from doing?
I was acting, but time and technology have affected me. I cannot cope with new trends because I am old. I no longer act.
Is it only acting that old age has taken from you?
Acting has moved forward compared to when I was acting. You journalists prefer new things and abandon old things.
Why did stage plays die out?
Time and technology. During our time, stage plays were very lucrative. But with the emergence of video in Nigeria, stage plays became outdated. Stage actors also became outdated. With video recorders at home, films can be watched at home.
Is the money you realise from the church enough to take care of you?
I have a small hotel and my children are helping me.
Do actors and actresses come to visit you?
They have abandoned me. They don’t bother about what happens to me. Even those that I trained abandoned me but I thank God that they are all doing well.
Is there anything you wished you had achieved?
I wish I could make a film for people to watch at home; a film that can make people laugh. But I don’t have money for such. It is painful.
Are marketers coming to buy your works?
Yes. They have been paying a pittance, but I collect it so I can feed myself.
I was told you were one of the privileged few, who had a telephone in the house. When did you get your first telephone?
My first telephone was a gift from Awolowo. There was a time I went to Lagos and I saw Awolowo and he asked me if I had a telephone. I told him that I did not have. He then said that it was bad that I did not have a telephone. He then bought a telephone for me and asked the NITEL people to go and install it in my house. That ensured that the two of us spoke any time we wanted.
The last time I was here, you were very sick and that was why you could not grant me an interview. How is your health now?
I am better.
But you look frail?
Well, old age has caught up with me. I am now an old man.
When last did you visit the hospital?
I go regularly for check-ups.
What is the nature of the illness?
The illness is age-related. That is why doctors always advise me to eat very well and rest well. But I am fine.
How old are you now?
I am seventy-five.
What was your happiest moment?
The day Obasanjo gave me a national award, MON. I never thought of it. I never knew that the government was watching my performances.
What about your saddest moment?
When I lost my wife, Folake Mary, who was the matron of our group. She was my fifth wife.
How many wives do you have?
How many children?
Why did you abandon your musical band?
Drama was in my blood. I was a drummer. Sunny Ade likes playing guitar. I taught him how to play guitar and he is very good at it. I am proud of him. Sunny Ade’s ambition was to play drums. He said that it was not in him to act. I felt that I should concentrate on acting and leave Sunny Ade to drumming and playing guitar. That was why I gave him my drum and musical instruments.
Would you advise people to marry more than one wife?
I cannot, but that doesn’t mean that anybody who wants to marry more than one wife should not do so. I married many women because I was into acting and I needed them to help me in acting.