When discussing serious matters with him, one is bound to laugh because of the way he talks, which he says is inborn and inherited. an old man on set, but a young man in real life, Baba Ijesha is an actor, a comedian and a dancer whose presence cannot be overlooked most especially in the Yoruba movie industry. Cornered at the LTV8, Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos last weekend, he spoke to Mutiat Alli on numerous issues.
Q=What fascinated you to into the movie industry?
A-I joined the movie industry naturally as nobody introduced me to it. It was just a natural thing I felt. I could remember when I was in primary school, we started by entertaining our friends and classmates. It was in-built and I inherited it from my dad. My father used to be a local champion comedian. anywhere he went, people laughed over and over. My dad was a joke cracker. Specifically, I started in the early 80s. You see usually when I got to Lagos I said to myself that I could take this thing up professionally. Though initially when I was a local champion in my town, I never saw what I was doing as something that could enable me get three square meals on my table, one thing led to the other and here I am today. I had a group called Total Child of Africa. We were seven and that was how we started with Ambrose Somide. That was the time comedy started flowing in me professionally.
Q=Can you let us your background?
A-Well, I always tell people that I'm an Ijefe; my parents are both Ijesha and Ife. I just combine the two to say I'm an Ijefe. We are seven in my family, I'm the fourth and I schooled in Ile-Ife and Lagos respectively. at present, I'm pursuing a professional course in Theater Arts abroad as I want people to also say that I have a degree in the course. But despite this, I still want to be able to tell people that I am a graduate of Theater Arts.
Q=Apart from the ones you did in primary school, who actually introduced you into acting?
A-Nobody, I said initially It's only God. I said I started early, from my primary school days. And I've never stopped for a day. I was doing it gradually from primary to secondary school. but in 1985, I moved from my town to Lagos where the professionals were living, and I joined them. Since then, I've not looked back. I think things have been work well for me so far since I moved to Lagos.
Q=Do you mean your relocating to Lagos actually grant you the fame you are now in the movie industry?
A-Let me say yes in the sense that Lagos has been known as a city of professionalism. So I just have to move down so that my dream of being an actor will come to true. It was here in Lagos that I got to realised that what we call acting in my state of origin cannot be compared with what we have in Lagos in the sense that the production level is at its highest.
Q=Who are those you cherish in the movie industry?
A-Every actor has been born unique in his own way. But definitely I have those I emulate their performances. for me, God has used people like Prince Jide Kosoko, Yinka Quadri, Ogogo, Dele Odule, Latin and Dejo. These people are my mentors and they have in one way or the other contributed immensely to my success in this profession.
Q=How many films have you produced?
A-My people for now, I have lost count. They are Arokan, Baba Masoko, Baba Mario, Gelede, Opolo, Sagba di were and the latest, Baba Kondison, that is still under production and will be due for release very soon.
Q=How do you cope with your fans and friends mostly women the fact that you are still single?
I don't see it as a big deal because whenever I remember them as my fans, they just keep me going. Many of my fans call me on the phone and I just reply politely and thank them for calling. I play with my fans if time permits; I wave and respond to their greetings at every point in time.
Long ago, you said you were going into music. Do you still nurture that dream?
Yes, it is true I said so. I'm on it and by God's grace it will keep moving. I packaged it along with my comedy. I'm currently working in the studio of Eko FM and by God's grace, He will see me through. The title of the one I'm working on is American returnee.
As a producer, actor and script writer, which will you say is more profitable?
I wouldn't say one is better than the other, but be rest assured that they all have their uniqueness. As far as I am concerned, everybody knows that as a producer, you are likely to get more money. But I must say this, I am grateful and glad to be able to cope with them all, but at times when I notice that they are many for me to handle alone, then I seek helping hands from my colleagues. Sincerely speaking, it's not easy combining these things. Body no bi machine.
You are Baba Ijesha on stage. How did you get the name?
Actually, my fans gave me the name after I featured in a film where I played the role of an Ijesha man and it was very interesting. It was later I noticed that people around me, most especially my family members, don't even call me by my name anymore. Rather they call me by the name Baba Ijesha. Since then that name has given me another identity entirely. My fans actually added the prefix- Baba to it.
Which film brought you to the limelight?
It's not film per se; I started with soap opera on TV. There was a time I was working with AIT. Then, we had a segment on a program called Minijojo, aired on Sundays. In this segment, we used to have a comedy of about 10 to 15 minutes. I held the comedy aspect of it. We were about seven people anchoring the programme at that time. In spite of what people said at that time about the programme, I knew that I would become somebody in life, and today, I thank God that I'm one of the recognised comedians in the Yoruba movie industry. To answer your question, I can remember vividly that a film titled Omo Orita written and produced by Saheed Balogun brought me to the limelight.
Are you married?
No, I'm not married. I'm planning to get married this year and by the grace of God, things will work out well. For me marriage is the next thing I want to think of because there are certain lifestyles I want to put an end to, but I believe when I am married, it will take them away from me.
Some actors say dating women is their hobby. What about you?
You see, everybody has his or her own lifestyle. I don't follow women around as people think. Though I love them, the love I have for them is casual. Before, I used to have girlfriends, but then, it was not as if I could not live without them. But now, my job is paramount to me.
You have been seen to act more often the role of a gate man or old man. Does this imply that you cannot do well acting other roles?
This issue cannot be taken away in the allocation of roles in the movie industry, be it in the Yoruba or English genre because you don't expect a role that is sure to be carried out well by Mr. Adisa to be given to Mr. Kamilu. Although in most of the roles I've played, I have acted either as an elderly person or worked as a gate man, I have also acted in films where I played the role of a young charming man all through the production.
So far in your movie career, how many awards have you received?
Precisely, I have got close to 10 awards both national and international, but the last one which I got from Dublin was actually stolen from me. I just can't explain how it got missing.
Could you recall the most remarkable day you wouldn't forget?
Definitely, that was the day I got my first car, which I consider to be miraculous. Miraculous in the sense that I had a permanent person I used to call to take me out with his okada whose service I normally paid for. That very day I sent for this okada rider, but to my surprise, the guy was no where to be found. I looked stupid because I had told him a day before that we were going out the following day. So I had no option than to wait for a taxi to take me to my destination. I was standing somewhere around Maryland in Lagos State and these people just parked and started arguing that “this is our superstar, Ijesha, no, he is not” and so on. So they parked and asked me where I was going? I told them and they said I should enter. They begged me to first follow them to their party and that later they would go and drop me. After much persuasion, I followed them. At the party I met some other people who admired me and said they could not believe that I was that young considering the kind of roles I played most times.
After the party, one of them asked for my address and where I parked my car. I politely told him that I had none and he said how did I move around with the kind of profession I belong to. So he said if I wouldn't mind, there was a car he could give me. That was how I left my house in the morning without a car, but came back with a car. Can you believe that I could not even drive then? It was somebody that helped by driving me home. That was how I got my first car, a Peugeot 406.