Vanguard (Lagos)

15 December 2012

Nigeria: The Baba Suwe Story and NDLEA N25 Million Compensation Saga

Photo: Vanguard
Baba Suwe.

interview

Babatunde Omidina, alias Baba Suwe was in the news for the wrong reason last year following his arrest and detention by officers of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) on the assumption that he was in possession of hard drugs believed to be cocaine. For more than one month he was subjected to public humiliation and at the end of it all, the court vindicated him, and ordered that he be paid the sum of N25 million for his unlawful detention.

However, since the court handed down the verdict, the actor has never known peace in the hands of street beggars and Area boys popularly known as Agberos who would never stop trailing him and asking for alms. He shares his ordeal with Showtime Celebrity. He also dismissed insinuation that he is currently shooting a film to document his NDLEA ordeal. Excerpt:

You must be a very busy man?

Yes that's true. I just released a movie which I titled Gboju Mbe (part 2). It was released last month and we are still working very hard to release my other movies into the market.

What's the movie all about?

It's a morally-induced movie with a lot of lessons. It's about a man who got married and the wife gave birth to many children. The man then met another woman who didn't have any child and they started dating. Fortunately for the woman, she got pregnant and had a child and they continued their relationship. However, one thing led to another. In fact, it has a lot of moral lessons.

Your character is a comic one. Why did you choose comedy?

Comedy is my calling . I was born with it .I'm a comedian and I don't do any other role. It's not because I can't act any other role but I discovered that I'm better in comedy.

Did you decide to act comedy on your own or people urged you on ?

What happened was that I've been into comedy right from school. When I left school, one day on my way back from work...

Where were you working then?

I worked at Victoria Island as a Clerical Assistant. So, one day while I was returning from work, something struck my mind to set up my own group. There were times we would stage plays and we recorded impressive turn-out of theatrical audience. So on that fateful day when that thing struck my mind to start my own group, I stopped at the market place where I bought my first set of drums and other instrument for the drama group. That was how I started.

So nobody introduced you into acting?

Nobody introduced me into acting. All I knew was that they always had their practices and that was how I also started practising with some other people. But after we started, some people came to us and asked to know where I learnt how to act. I told them I didn't learn it from anywhere. They told me that I had to register. So since I didn't have any boss, I went to the Osumare theatre group and spent six months with them. After then, I was allowed to register.

So which was your first movie?

I didn't start acting in other people's movies. I started with producing my own movies but back then, we still used the stage because there was no film as at then.

Most people's parents don't support them initially. Did you also face such?

Yes I did. My parents, especially my father didn't want me to go into acting. His reasons was because he saw acting as a beggar's profession, and that was because we used to act on stage and people would give us money. So he went traditional- to the herbalist to find out what was good for me. So he was told to let me do whatever I wanted. That was how I started.

So what were the challenges back then?

It wasn't easy. We had financial challenges. There were times we would go on stage and wouldn't make more than N100- N200. But the first one we did was in Amuto playing ground at Epetedo, Lagos Island. The title of the stage play was Baba Omugo and we got support from arear guys who gave us money. So because of the financial challenges, it was very hard to pay my house rent. Even buying good clothes, shoes and being able to compete with my mates was very difficult.

So how much was your first salary when you just started?

The first money we collected was when we started acting on TV. When we first started on NTA,, we collected N650. When we went to LTV 8, we were paid N150. Channel 7 gave us N200 per episode.

Why did you choose to wear that black make-up in your movies?

What happned was that when comedy just started in Nigeria, it started from the likes of Baba Sala, Baba Mero, John Bull and others, and each had his dress code. That was how I picked up my black makeup and big robe costume.

So what response did you get from people as a result of your costume?

People liked it. I even wish to go back to that same costume in my next movie.

That's true. One noticed you don't wear such heavy makeup nowadays. Why?

I still wear make up but it's not as heavy as I used to wear it in those days. The reason is because I noticed that the modern day people don't fansy such heavy makeup anymore. So my colleagues advised me to stop the heavy makeup.

And what did your fans say after you stopped wearing the heavy make-up?

People liked the heavy makeup character. And they usually get amazed whenever they see me without my heavy makeup. In my movies, I usually act like an illiterate old man. So I had to really look like an illiterate- that's what brought about that dressing.

Is it true that NDLEA hasn't paid your N25m compensation?

Yes, it's true. They haven't paid me.

Why?

The reason is because they went to the Appeal Court. So we are still in court.

They didn't specify when they are going to pay?

I don't know when they are going to pay me.

But are they saying that they won't pay you?

They haven't said so.

But is there any reason they haven't paid you?

I can't really say for now. But the Nigerian factor is not predictable. They may decide to pay or not. I don't know what to say about that.

People are of the opinion that you like to insult your employers in the movies you act in. Why?

What happens is that, whichever house I'd have to insult or talk to my employers the way I like was always the house of either my younger brother or sister or the house of the person I had authority over in terms of age in such movie. So, it's not possible for me to insult my employer in my movies. It's just that comedy is about turning things upside down. Comedians are mad people. So inorder to make things funny, people don't expect you to say things the normal way.

Do Area boys bother you a lot?

Right now, I'm bothered by beggars and touts. They disturb me anywhere they see me because they expect me to always give them money, and things are not as easy as it used to be. The money isn't forthcoming again. Sometimes, I give out some money to them and they would hail me. But when I don't give them anything, they resort to insulting me.

I thought your job brings in more money than it used to?

Not like before. Pirates don't allow us cash in on our money. In the past, after producing our movies, we used the profit to buy car, land, house but now, we can't plan on the money again.

Why did you decide to live in Ikorodu instead of VGC, Abuja etc?

Most Yoruba artistes live here because it's peaceful.

What's your next project?

I'm working on my next movie titled From City To Village.

Is it true that producers don't give scripts to actors/actresses who don't belong to their caucus?

That's not true. As long as you are good, you'll get invited. So also is the issue of sexual harrasment- they don't force any lady to have sex with anybody. When a lady likes a man, she is free to date him. But if she doesn't like him, there's nothing anybody can do about it.

So how do you cope with ladies. Do ladies run after you?

No they don't run after me because I'm ugly.

Who has been taking care of you after your wife's death?

I've been lonely after my wife's death but I have to be careful before going into another marriage. Before she died, we were best friends and we were used to each other. So I can't marry a lady whom my children and family don't support. If God says I'll get married then, I will.

So who takes care of your children?

My sisters and mother do that for me.

What about your meals. Who cooks for you?

My younger brother's wife does that.

Can you be a polygamist?

No I can't be a polygamist, I don't like it. I have just four children and I don't intend to have more children

What if you re-marry and the woman wants children?

I don't intend to have more children.

Learnt that you are shooting a film to document your NDLEA ordeal ?

I'm not shooting any movie in that respect. It's not yet time because we are still in court. If I'll shoot any movie, it depends on the outcome of the case.

How do you relax?

Whenever I'm not on set, I like to play Ludo.

Do you drink?

No I don't drink, I don't smoke and I don't like women.

Why don't you like women?

One has to be careful because I'm no longer young. I've had my fun when I was younger. So this is the time that I have to be careful.

What do you like in a lady?

I like a lady with good character, someone with same purpose, whom my children and family like. She must also be a fervent Muslim. I don't really have preference when it comes to physical quality.

As a Muslim, how many times do you pray in a day?

I pray five times a day.

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