No shame seeking car gifts from fans – Alapinni Oosa

Veteran Yoruba actor, Abdulganiu Olayeni, popularly known as Alapinni Oosa, tells EMMANUEL OJO about his experiences in taking the role of a herbalist in movies and his life journey so far

You’ve been acting for a while now. What motivated you to take up a career in acting?

It is passion; the passion for the job got me there because when I watched our fathers on television back then, the likes of Duro Ladipo, Kola Ogunmola and others, I started developing an interest in it. I didn’t know how I got into acting; I just saw myself doing it but I suffered because I started from scratch. I learnt from my predecessors. I worked very hard, from one village to another before I returned to Lagos.

For how long have you been acting now?

Looking back at where I started, I must have spent about 48 years in this industry.

What was the first movie you featured in?

(Laughs)… I can’t remember the first movie I acted in; even from when they started recording on VHS (Video Home System), I can’t count or estimate the number of movies I have featured in. It’s like trying to count the number of days an Aboki (Hausa man) has spent in Sabongeri (a place where they gather in a non-indigenous state). The one I can remember very well is the one I was cast as Alapinni, and it was a TV programme, not a movie because I remember when I left my boss and we went on a tour and I came back to Lagos; that was early 1984 or 85 or so.

At some point, I had challenges. I was sick for about a year. It happened when I went to a town to anchor a programme as a Master of Ceremony but the programme was that of the elders (in traditional practice). So, I said many things, I was loose with some words and when I left the stage, my body changed.

What caused it?

Well, we didn’t know what caused it; we only knew when I regained my health because when I left the event that day, the kind of sleep that I had was one that I had not experienced before. It was in an Ijebu town and I was there for three months for treatment. I wouldn’t like to mention the name of the town. My wife later traced me to the place with one of the boys under my tutelage. He and my wife came there looking for me and that was when I asked them to go and look for a vehicle to take me out of the place because I could die if I stayed there for one more night.

The day after that, my child who was four years old and living with my mum in Agege died. By the time I got home, it was the picture of that child that I picked up and was staring at and at that time, they had not even told me that my child was dead. The wife that gave birth to that child left me on the sick bed. It was my second wife that stayed with me. The other wife left with everything such that I had to beg for a mat from my landlady. It was close to a year before I could get back on my feet and many things were lost in that period. Later, I lost my first child in the house. He died in the house and we never knew till the next day that he was buried. In everything, I give thanks to God.

What’s the meaning of Alapinni that became your nickname?

As I said earlier, Alapinni is a big title in Oyo kingdom, that’s in the palace of Alaafin of Oyo. Also, among the masquerades, it’s a big position and it’s a big traditional name.

In most of your movies, you played the role of a herbalist. Why do you always take up that role?

Well, it’s not my fault. If someone tries something and people see that he is doing well, they will have no option but to keep up with that person. If one plays a role and does it well, when others need someone to play a similar role, they will have no option but to come looking for that same person. I like that traditional aspect. My paternal grandmother is a practitioner of traditional medicine and my dad is also a traditionalist. Though I didn’t make a career out of it, I like the traditional aspects of my movies. So, I tried improving on it and it made it attractive to other people who wanted me to take up such roles.

Did you learn the chants and traditional proverbs you make in movies from your father and grandmother?


How did you learn all of the chants that you make like a herbalist in your movies?

I didn’t learn them. It’s God’s gift. I learnt the work (traditional practice) but all the things you are talking about are God’s gift. Even though I said I had a background in traditional practice, I didn’t stay with the practice of herbs and roots and whatever I say, it’s left to how the elders (in the spirit world) receive it and if I make mistake with anyone, they should forgive me.

But are the words you say or the chants you make mere statements or do they have spiritual potency?

They are mere words but in those mere words, there are times when God can help one to make such words materialise while we are not acting.

Was there any time you made a chant originating from the traditional practice and you were challenged by a herbalist or spiritual powers for making such a statement?

They usually don’t challenge physically. In all the things we do, some people are happy with them and there are people that are unhappy with them. Some will hear what I say and say, ‘Let them even test this person. There is no way a person will be saying all such things if he is not powerful.’

Have you had any experience where you were tried or tested spiritually?

I just told you of a story where I went to a village and in the presence of the elders (in the traditional or spiritual world), where I went to anchor a ceremony as an MC. The night of that same day, after I left the podium of the hall where that programme took place, I took ill and it lasted for one year. Some will let go of the star and there are others that will not. The prayer is that God should see us through. A lot has happened but our prayer is for God to continue to protect us.

Have those experiences discouraged you in the role you act in movies?

I never thought about it for once. It even gave me the drive to do more because, at the end of every such test, I eventually got mercy from those challenging me.

Did you beg them or what did you do to obtain mercy from them?

For me to keep progressing, it means I obtained mercy from them. God will send mercy to me through them again.

Did it make you consider fortifying yourself spiritually so that you can withstand trials and go on with your career seamlessly?

I never thought of that too. The only thing I did was to pray to my God. I pray to God and also talk to the owners of this world because there are people that God gave the authority to rule this world, to do as they wish with it and they will only report to Him at the end of time. He (God) won’t check whether their deeds are bad or good; they will all receive their judgment at the end time. One shouldn’t leave his God and every means he knows with which he can protect himself.

What religion do you practice?

I am a confirmed Muslim. My name is Abdulganiu Nofiu Olayeni, aka Alapinni Oosa. I kill ram during Ileya (Muslim festival), my dad and mum are Muslims even though he (my dad) was a traditional medicine practitioner.

What state are you from?

I’m from Lagos State. I was born in Agege, a street close to where the Agege Stadium is and that was where I started from. Then, we put clothes under our shirts as costumes and we made use of chalk to make our beards white so that we would look comical and we usually went to locations where they had parties to entertain them. That was how I was able to form a group then, which I named Adeitan but later, when I saw that I needed to improve, I went to join people like Akin Ogungbe in Abeokuta.

After some years, I left there because I believed I hadn’t enough of what I wanted. Then I went to join Baba Eyiwunmi. That was my last training location before I came back to Lagos to continue the business of cinematography and that was before VHS came into play.

What schools did you attend and to what level?

I didn’t attend school in Agege. I schooled in the North and I got to Primary 7. Their primary school in the North in those days was from Primary 1 to 7. The school I attended is called Dala Primary School in Kano. After I left primary school, I didn’t think about school again. When I finished, I moved back to Lagos and was advised to get a vocational skill in tailoring but I didn’t stay with that. My dad even took me to his friend who sewed suits very well. I only spent two months there and ran away because I didn’t have an interest in it. I left the house and ran away. I went into the acting.

How old were you then?

I can’t remember. I was a stubborn child then. I didn’t stay at home and I wasn’t going home. I stayed where I used to practise then because I had a passion for acting.

What will you ascribe as your greatest challenge since you started acting?

The only challenge I had was the one-year-long sickness and my two sons that died; my firstborn and the four-year-old. Apart from that, there’s nothing else I can describe as a challenge. There are times when things will be in surplus and there are times when things won’t be surplus and such is life. That’s how God wanted it to be. So, I don’t regret anything. When it’s sweet, I’m happy and when it’s bitter too, I’m also happy.

Are movie practitioners well paid or do you think what they earn is well deserving?

It can’t be enough. For those producing, they can’t get the profit they expect because of the way the country is. Piracy is a major problem with those in the theatre industry and the government couldn’t do anything about it. So, if the person that is producing does not have a good profit, how can the actors be well paid?

How do you and your colleagues survive and afford a good life as actors?

It’s all in the hands of God Almighty. Feeding and survival are God’s handiwork on man. It’s not like we are fully satisfied but God didn’t allow us to go hungry.

There are many actors, especially females that are quite rich. Are there things they did differently that helped them gather such fortunes?

Well, they are the ones that can answer the question. The one that possesses wealth is the one that can answer how the wealth came to meet him or her. Our journeys are different despite the fact that the same profession brought us together. We can’t have the same journey.

It has become a trend lately that actors are seen making requests from their fans, urging them to buy them cars or the like. What will you say to that?

There is nothing much I can say to that than the fact that they have seen that they have worked a great deal and they have not been able to get the benefits of that work they have done. So, they want to use that profession to request their needs from their fans and those who really love them out there. A son had called me to say that they needed to talk about how to get me a car. This was after they bought a car for my friend – Lalude. I responded to him and there are people rising up to that need. I have told him that what I’m asking for is not sickness, I need the appreciation now, physically, not in a negative form and I am grateful to those that have been responding to that request.

Have you been gifted the car?

The fund is not complete yet but I know that helpers will arise. People have been contributing for me and my son (not my biological son) had been helping me to gather the funds. There are even people that contributed N200. It’s all about the love they have for me. They are only showing appreciation.

As a movie star, don’t you find the request for car gifts shameful?

No, there is no shame in it (seeking car gifts). It’s not a crime. There is nothing wrong with one making use of what he has to get what he wants or he doesn’t have. Some people said that they thought movie stars were very rich but there is nothing wrong with helping such people if they entertain you or make you happy. If the government does not do it, everyone has a pathway with which he or she will get help. There’s no one that cries out that God won’t help. If anyone feels that these people are beggars, maybe he/she should also pray to be in their shoes.

You said that you are a Muslim and your first wife left you during your trying times, how many wives do you have?

I have just one wife.

Being a Muslim that has the privilege of having up to four wives, according to the religion, are you considering marrying more wives?

When Islam said that one can have four wives, did it say that it was by force? God didn’t make it compulsory and didn’t say that I should go beyond my boundaries. It is about what I can handle. It is not by force.

How did you meet your present wife?

I met her in Ikorodu where I went to act in a movie. She was quite young then and when she came out, I requested if she could make tea for me because I loved taking tea or pap in the morning. So, she did and she did that all the while we were there and that was how people started calling her my wife and that was how God made it happen.

Some have claimed that you are about 80 years old or close to that. How true is this?

Ahh!!! Do they want to kill me? I didn’t make any request that they should help me fast-forward it. I clocked 64 on February 16, this year. They do all of that to gain traction on their site and for business purposes.

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Author: Maxwell Dudu

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