Nollywood Will Soon Rule Africa – Yinka Aiyelokun Lagos AGN Chairman
In an interview with Yinka Aiyelokun, he opens up on his effort to bring together the two factions of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) in Lagos State.
He said that he was hindered by the power that installed the parties, but be that the AGN being led by him is the authentic one in Lagos State.
He also took Wale Adegbuyi through his sojourn in the film making business and some of the experiences he has garnered in his over two decades of active participation in the industry.
Can we meet you?
My name is Yinka Aiyelokun. I am a filmmaker and I’ve been in the industry for a while. I’m a pioneer member of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners and I was the National Chief Whip during the second tenure of Greg Odutayo as the President. Presently I’m the Interim chairman of Lagos State chapter of Actors Guild of Nigeria.
What motivated you into film making?
I was actually discovered when I was in Secondary School. I had a friend then, whose name was Rotimi Fajuke in Ibadan, Oyo State, who happened to be a nephew or so to a theatre and a television guru then, Laolu Ogunniyi. I think he was living with his uncle at Felele Layout in Ibadan. He was learning draughtmanship as an apprentice in a place close to me at Mokola. So, on this day, Rotimi came to visit me in his uncle’s car as usual and said I would follow him to the University of Ibadan to see his uncle. I followed him and on getting to the rehearsal hall, his uncle, Laolu Ogunniyi spotted me and he asked if I could act and I said I didn’t know. He then asked if I could read and I said yes. He gave me a script to read and he was impressed. He then asked Uncle Sam Loco to follow me to see my parents for permission to allow me act. Uncle Sam followed me home and talked to my mum. That’s how I became an actor since then. I met some superstars during the rehearsal such as the likes of the late Toun Oni (Mama T), the late Joe Emordi, the late Ayo Oluwasanmi, Ayo Akinwale, now a Professor in the Department of Arts, University of Ilorin. So I ventured into film making by chance.
With your sojourn in the industry for two decades or more, what improvement would you say has happened to the film making business in Nigeria?
Artistically, we have never been short of good and fantastic actors alongside with quacks. Technically, we have left the days of analogue to digital and suffice to say that a lot has gone down in terms of training and what have you. We are not there yet, but we can boast of amazing films that have won international awards at the film festivals. Gone are the days of shooting by the side of the wall as a location to the high-tech studios and awesome locations. We are still growing and we shall get there.
“You can see the zeal and passion with which the Boss of National Films and Videos Censors Board, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas is combating piracy. If we have a person like that at the NCC, it will be a blessing for the film industry”.
As a leader of one of the associations in the film industry, do you think the politics that has become part of the industry has helped the growth in any form and is it possible to have a united association that will manage the industry with every department having a guild under one umbrella association?
Well politics is not having any positive effect on the industry. People are just looking for an island, where to have power and as Fela Kuti put it, “everybody get im power, everywhere”. All these pocket of associations and guilds here and there is not helping the industry and I see no reason we cannot function under one umbrella. It’s not as if it’s not possible to speak with one voice, we have tried so many times to see that this is realized, but those who feed fat from the status quo are always in the wing to thwart and truncate our efforts. So we are where we are because of greed and power play.
As the interim Chairman of Lagos State chapter of Actors Guild of Nigeria, what do you think will happen with a parallel chapter of the guild in the state?
I don’t know of any parallel chapter of AGN in Lagos, apart from the one led by my humble self. Lagos chapter of AGN is one, which you must have noticed, when you came to our meeting. We have over 2,000 authentic members as you can see. So, you either belong here or you are nowhere.
“People are just looking for an island, where to have power and as Fela Kuti put it, “everybody get im power, everywhere”.
The one managed by Don Agabi, is it part of the guild you head?
Well, it is unfortunate that I and Don Pedro Agabi have met severally to see how we can merge and make Lagos chapter of AGN become one, but the powers and authority that brought us into power would not allow that for a reason I can’t explain here. But I can tell you for free that my faction and Don Pedro’s faction have nothing sinister against each other. It’s just the power from the top that is making it difficult for us to come together, but I know sooner or later, everything will be resolved, whether legally or otherwise.
What are your plans to ensure that the rights and privileges of members are protected as enshrined in the AGN constitution?
We are meeting with relevant producers to fine tune our businesses, especially in the area of engaging the actors and the actors’ rights. Actors too are becoming aware of their rights and welfare. Using actors till 12am and leaving them without camping or lodging them is being frowned at and sincerely producers are fast adjusting. We are also looking into area of contract form and Lagos State tax. We want to make sure that they issue us receipt for tax payment after the tax is deducted from source. We don’t want to be AGN of New Yam Festival Award that is not our business. We don’t want to be a beauty pageant AGN just because we want to be relevant.
So, what is your plan for your members on health insurance because whenever any artiste has health challenge he or she would have to raise money through fund raising?
It’s unfortunate that actors turn beggars and go cap in hands each time the unforeseen occurs. That’s due to the fact that we care less about keeping our umbrella ready for the raining days. Many Artistes love social life to the detriment of their tomorrow and their health. Like a Yoruba saying that, “a kii fi owo mewewa jeun”, which simply means that you should save for the rainy days when you are bouyant today. The lifestyle we adopt is unbecoming and it’s not helpful in anyway. Having said that, I remember vividly that Yemi Solade and Kate Adepegba raised this issue of health insurance in one of our monthly meetings and the issue was thoroughly discussed. Fortunately, Yemi Solade was an ambassador for one of the health insurance schemes. He took time to lecture us on what the scheme is all about and how actors can benefit from it, but unfortunately, because many actors don’t get jobs, how do you expect them to pay for the scheme? This is a question that is begging for an answer. At any rate, we are not resting on our oars in making sure that a proper enlightenment is carried out for our people to tap into the program.
“Acting is a profession for highly intelligent and creative souls, so intending actors should not see acting as a mere occupation, I mean they shouldn’t see it as a pastime thing”.
Is there any plan by your leadership to liaise with the pension fund planner to design a pension fund for artistes to prepare them for old age?
Oh yes, we are in talk with some pension scheme operators and many of them are ready to activate the scheme for whoever is ready.
Briefly advise intending actors and the upcoming ones
Acting is a profession for highly intelligent and creative souls, so intending actors should not see acting as a mere occupation, I mean they shouldn’t see it as a pastime thing. With your education, with your determination to excel, with your discipline and dedication the sky will be your limit.
With the development of DSTV and other online television that are broadcasting our films; do you consider this as a value adding to the development of the industry and does it enhance better life for producers and actors alike?
Yes and No. Just like in football game, gone are the days when the stadium will be filled to the brim and people will be scampering for spaces to sit to watch Abiola Babes, Leventis United, Stationery Stores, I ICC Shooting Stars, and Enugu Rangers and so on. But DSTV has replaced those fun by transmitting live foreign matches and has relegated our local teams. Same thing the DSTV and other cable TV havebdone to our industry. The rate at which people rush to the cinemas to watch films has diminished considerably because very soon, that film you are going to watch at the cinema will be transmitted by DSTV and other cable TVs. On the other hand, it saves the producers from the claws of film marketers who find it a pleasurable to cheat producers, especially those who don’t have negotiating skills. So it’s a mixed blessing, so to say.
Can we also assume that the cable TVs, online TVs and DSTV has combated piracy and reduced it?
No. People still hack into the net and download films for free, but to a large extent, it puts some money in the pockets of the producers and by extension, into the pockets of actors. The quietness of government in fighting piracy is only a sign that the National Copyright Council is not responsive to their duty and that means they are not responsible. You can see the zeal and passion with which the Boss of National Films and Videos Censors Board, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas is combating piracy. If we have a person like that at the NCC, it will be a blessing for the film industry.
How would you rate our industry at present and where do you see it in the next decade?
Well, like I stated earlier, the industry can be better but we are improving. I still see it coming behind Hollywood, Bollywood and the Chinese film industry in terms of using technology to tell our stories. But I believe Nollywood will dictate the pace in Africa.
“The quietness of government in fighting piracy is only a sign that the National Copyright Council is not responsive to their duty and that means they are not responsible”.
What is your opinion about Movietainment Magazine and what advice would you give to the team?
I’ve been a fan of Movietainment Magazine for quite some time and that’s because the magazine is the only authentic one we can boast of and rely on as it is representing the interest of the industry. For anyone to really have a first-hand information concerning Nollywood, then Movietainment Magazine will be that person’s companion and looking at your website, all you see is aesthetic. Kudos to Movietainment.
Before you finally say bye, where do we expect to see you as an actor and leader of note in the industry in the next decade?
Sincerely speaking, I’m already an international actor to the Glory of Jehovah. I believe that very soon, just very soon, I will be one of the biggest actors to come from Africa and Nigeria.