Celebrating 50 Years of Movie Magic: An Illuminating Interview with Baba Wanda
Nollywood actor Kareem Adepoju Baba Wande reveals why most actors have multiple wives
In an exclusive interview with Alhaji Kareem Adepoju, popularly known asbaby walking, talks about his life and illustrious career in the Nigerian film industry. In conversation with ADEOLU ADEYEM, Baba Wande shares information about his films, experiences in the industry and his views on various topics.
You recently celebrated being on site for 50 years. Can you tell us how many films you have produced during your career?
The number of films I've produced is so great that I honestly can't keep track of them all.
Do you have a favorite among all your movies?
I don't want to pick a favorite from my movies. I think it's up to the viewers to decide what's better for them. I'm not in a position to say, "This is my best movie." I leave that judgment to the public. All the films I have produced meet a high standard. Viewers have the power to decide who they connect with the most. Each movie is special to me because it has its own unique story. Whenever I come across ideas that I think people can learn something from, I pick up a pen and start writing.
Can you share the story behind your first film with us?
My first movie was called 'Obuko Dudu'. It revolves around a guard who has a prophetic dream while on duty. In a dream, he witnesses thieves plotting to attack the house he guards. Concerned for his employer's safety, he decides to inform them of the imminent danger and suggests hiring more guards. But the teacher's kind son assures them that the watchman failed in his duties, claiming that a night watchman who dreams must be dreaming. Finally, the father listens to his son's advice and sends the guard away. Feeling hurt by the decision, the guardian resorts to mystical means to cast a spell on his son, leading to a scandalous affair with his stepmother. When the truth is revealed, the guardian's grandmother uses a black goat in a sacrificial ritual to break the spell. While the grandson returns to normal, the guardian goes berserk. That was my debut film.
Have any of your films brought you significant financial success?
I want to make it clear that filmmakers and actors do not make money in the same way that salesmen and pirates do. Vendors and hackers often earn more than we do. We often get cheated in the industry because the merchants don't pay us well. The issue of movie piracy makes the situation even worse. I can't say we make a lot of profit from our movies; it is the sellers who profit financially. I have not seen a single artist who can confidently say that he has made a fortune from his films alone.
Given the challenges you faced in the industry, why didn't you give up?
Acting is a calling. We must not give up, because there must always be individuals who are responsible for transmitting morals, values and culture to society. Money should not be the only goal. Preserving our culture for future generations is the most important thing. We have no other profession; we have to keep making movies so that people don't forget about us. We cannot stop our creative work just because we are not receiving significant financial rewards. We don't have alternative careers.
How did you start your acting journey?
My journey started in primary school when I started following Baba Oyin Adejobi. He was the one who taught us acting at Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School in Osogbo. Although I later went to Agbor Modern School, Baba Adejobi remained my acting mentor. The income from our performances was used for the salaries of Islam professors. I started following Baba Adejobi during my school days and he became my teacher. He came to our school to teach us plays.
What inspired you to make the critically acclaimed film 'Ti Oluwa Ni Ile'?
I wrote the film myself after being inspired during a visit to Lagos. I witnessed a construction site where workers were hard at work in the middle of the night, surrounded by bright lights. I was impressed. Why would construction work be carried out in such a strange time? I asked about it and the locals explained to me that the owner of the land had forcibly taken someone else's land and decided to build quickly so that no one could claim it because of the building already built. I also learned that people would sell the same lot to multiple buyers. This revelation made me think about how those who engage in such acts would have no doubt whatsoever about the sale of the ancestral sacred land. That was the inspiration for 'Ti Oluwa Ni Ile'.
Can you give some details about the financial success of 'Ti Oluwa Ni Ile'?
I cannot give specific figures. Tunde Kelani was the film's main backer. I have to be careful here because I don't want my words to be misinterpreted. Several controversies have arisen over this issue. Some journalists approached me claiming that I had become a millionaire through the success of 'Ti Oluwa Ni Ile'. I clarified that this was not true, but unfortunately I was misquoted. It was never my intention to tarnish Tunda Kelani's reputation. Statements attributed to me are incorrect. I don't want to get involved in any controversy.
Does one of your children want to act?
Yes and no. If I have a play, they're in, but they all have careers outside of acting. They occasionally perform, but it is not their regular activity. I have a son who works in telecommunications, another in banking and one as a teacher. They act part time. They come and go.
It is often noted that actors tend to marry more than one woman. Why do you think this is so?
Yes, the same applies to me. I am polygamous and have several wives. Dramas played an important role in this. We acted in lots of movies that revolved around husbands and wives. Our movies require female characters, which often results in us marrying multiple women. This dynamic is part of our profession.
How many wives do you have?
I have several wives and I can't say the exact number because I haven't stopped getting married. I can still marry another woman.
Do you think you have the energy to fulfill the responsibilities of several women?
Only God gives us the energy to fulfill our marital duties. He is the one who sustains us. We often make the mistake of wondering how to support our wives, forgetting that we cannot do it alone. God is the one who takes care of all of us.
What are your experiences in polygamous relationships and why do you support polygamy?
I will not condemn monogamy or polygamy as each has its advantages. Let me share a story. I got sick once and one of my wives wasn't there. Because I had more than one wife, my other wives took care of me and I got better. If I had only one wife, I would have faced more difficulties. Another advantage is that instead of a man engaging in promiscuity, he can marry more than one woman to find all the qualities he is looking for in a woman. Polygamy allows for different beauties, paths, behaviors and more. You don't have to look outside; all the qualities he is looking for can be found in his women. Polygamy promotes fidelity. You hear stories of men getting their maids pregnant even though they are married to women. Not that they want to marry them; only that as African men one woman is not enough to satisfy their desires.
What do you think, which film of yours faithfully portrays the current state of society?
Almost all my films depict what is happening in society at a certain point in time. However, my next film, titled 'Iwa Eda', fits our current situation particularly well. The film revolves around the theme of the great-grandfather. Diamond deposits are discovered in the land and the owner's family appoints a literate member to deal with the white miners. Unfortunately, the family representative is a con artist who embezzles money intended for the family. He faces dire consequences when Nemesis overtakes him. The film emphasizes the importance of honesty, selflessness and contentment in our interactions. Selfishness gets us nowhere. We must be transparent and remember that God will judge us by our works.
There are concerns about the clothing and language used in Nollywood films today. What are industry leaders doing to address this?
We've addressed this issue, but the challenge is that that dress and that language is what a lot of viewers want. People who watch these movies are interested in those aspects. Am I the one telling people not to watch movies in revealing clothes? It's not just about the actors; it is also about our society. While we condemn the actors who expose everything that should be covered, we must also blame society for encouraging such behavior. It was different when we started, but nowadays people enjoy movies full of nudity and filth. Many viewers only enjoy romantic scenes and revealing costumes.
How did your parents react when you decided to take up acting?
They strongly opposed the idea as they considered acting a humble profession. I had to break through their objections and today I do not regret entering the acting world.
In addition to acting, you also have a talent for singing. Have you released music albums?
Yes, I sing occasionally, but I haven't released a music album. I record vocals in the films we produce.
Known as a city of culture, Osogbo has produced legends such as Duro Ladipo, Oyin Adejobi, Kola Ogunmola and King Sunny Ade. What sets Osogbo apart?
Aside from the people you mention, there are others like Orlando Owoh. Osogbo is a city full of culture. We are a cultural center that attracts people from all over the world. The rich culture of Osogbo is a gift from God. Many people have succeeded here.
How did you come up with the stage name 'Baba Wanda'?
I didn't give myself that name. A teacher in Ilorin wrote a book of stories entitled 'Ile Ti A Fi Tomo'. He gave us a book to act out and my stage name in the play was 'Otokiti', the father of 'Wanda'. It became a popular piece used in schools and so people started calling me 'Baba Wande'.
Is one of your children named Wanda?
No, none of my children have that name. If I have another child, I might consider naming him "Wande." If it's a girl, Yewande and if it's a boy, Akinwande.
Among the great Yoruba cinematographers such as Oyin Adejobi, Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo and Kola Ogunmola, who is your favorite biography?
I enjoyed working with all of them. They were my teachers. But if I had to choose, I would choose Oyin Adejobi, from whom I learned for 25 years. He offered me acting opportunities and gave me the privilege of leading the theater group on their other assignments. Thanks to him, today I can lead people with confidence.
What advice do you have for Nigerians and the new government?
The new government needs our prayers. Muhammadu Buhari's successor demands our support. A state needs divine intervention to survive and stabilize itself. We must call on God. We all pray for the success of the future president and ensure that those who mislead leaders do not mislead him. By God's grace he will succeed, and we must do our part through prayer.