BY TIMILEHIN AJAGUNNA (NET)
It is difficult to mention any actor that is as popular as Odunlade Adekola in Nollywood let alone a more prominent name in the Yoruba section of the movie industry in Nigeria.
So adored by lovers of Yoruba movies in Nigeria and beyond is the tall actor and producer that the risk of exaggeration is remote if one begins to pour the water of superlatives on him.
To put it as it is, Odunlade Adekola is the biggest Yoruba actor at the moment and indeed the most prominent brand that section of Nollywood has had for a while. He is easily in the frontline when any compilation of the list of those dictating the pace of the Yoruba movie industry is compiled.
Born on December 31, 1978 in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, Odunlade attended St John’s Primary School for his primary education and St. Peter’s College also in Abeokuta where he obtained the West African School Certificate Examination. He proceeded to Moshood Abiola Polytechnic where he reportedly received a diploma certificate and began acting in 1996.
That same year, he joined the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners and was under the tutelage of late actor and producer, Isola Durojaiye better known as Alasari.
Known as a jack-of-all-trades as far as movie production is concerned, Odunlade seemingly excels in all; scripting, producing, directing and starring in several films over the years.
Like everyone who has achieved a measure of greatness, he did not achieve the feat on a platter of gold. He earned it by being humble enough and ready to learn, paying utmost attention to details and riding the waves of determination all the way. For him, it was a long road to stardom but not many are aware of the several years he spent as an understudy of more prominent figures before exploding onto the scene in due time.
He joined the movie industry and registered as a member of ANTP, the body most Yoruba actors including Odunlade Adekola recently dumped for Theatre Arts and Motion Pictures Practioners Association of Nigeria (TAMPPAN), in 1996 when he was only 18.
When he played the lead role in Asiri Gomina Wa, a movie produced by late Alasari, the actor under whom he learnt the rudiments of acting, Odunlade’s impressive acting and carriage put producers and directors on notice. And like a grateful protégé, he has praised the unequalled contributions of late Alasari, who unfortunately died in a fatal auto crash a few years back, for showing him the ropes at every turn.
In an interview with City People some years, he said: Ishola Durojaye (Alasari) in the production of one of his films then, Asiri Gomina Wa, there were lots of criticisms that Odun(lade) cannot act the role that was given to him properly as the governor in the movie, but he (Alasari) called me to one side and said ‘no matter what they say, Odun, you are going to do it. This is your script, go through it and master it.’ And I was thrown into confusion and felt challenged as to how I would not disappoint someone that has placed such enormous confidence in me. But I thank God today.
‘Although I had been acting before but it was Asiri Gomina Wa that brought me to the spotlight.’
Passing him off far and wide as a deep and thorough role-interpreter, it can be said without a doubt that upon fetching him more movie roles, the production set him off for greater things to come.
However, his self-produced movie, with a prophetic title of sorts, Emi Ni Ire Kan (I am next in line for God’s favour) being Odunlade Adekola’s second movie acted as the perfect launch pad for his taking over. Produced in 2009, the movie came after Farapamo and he played the lead role alongside Ronke Odusanya aka Flaky Ididowo.
His role is that of a stammering local rapper and the comic effort sold like hot cakes, opening a floodgate of encomiums and recognitions. He went on to win his first major award as City People Entertainment’s Best Yoruba Actor of the Year in 2009 and has not looked back as he continues to churn out one block-buster after another.
For the records, movies including Baba Super, Ila Owo, Eje Fun Eje, Sunday Dagboru, Mufu Oloosa Oko, Alani Pamolekun and Adebayo Aremu Abere rank among the best movies produced in the Yoruba section of Nollywood, with Odunlade Adekola behind them all.
His proactive approach towards producing his own movies in which he regularly plays lead rather than wait for other producers to call him for lead roles, is one of the secrets of his rise. Added to his is his attention to details, which ensures he is not just prolific but never compromises on quality.
It is no secret that lack of standards is one of the factors holding Nollywood back, this is even more apparent in the Yoruba section where names, rather than ability, is the biggest consideration when choosing who to play what, this actor has managed to keep his head far above water.
Among his peers are notable actors including Adekola Tijani (Kamilu Kompo), Olaniyi Afonja (Sanyeri) Babatunde Bernard (Baba Tee), Soji Taiwo (Omo Banke), Femi Adebayo, Murphy Afolabi, Segun Ogungbe.
Among those he met on ground, equally talented and skilled in production and directing are Muyiwa Ademola, Saheed Balogun, Funso Adeolu, Yemi Solade and many others but in terms of clout and interest presently, he towers above them all.
In an industry riddled with controversy, Odunlade has stayed out of the spotlight for the negative reasons due to his discipline. He is married to Ruth, a woman currently studying for her higher National Diploma at Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ogun State and with whom he has 3 children; two boys and a girl. And remaining relevant has yielded multiple benefits for the Abeokuta-based actor.
His image looms so large that he earned an ambassadorial deal from Glo in 2011, an achievement he admitted took him to cloud nine.
‘I must tell you, Glo endorsement is one of the happiest things in my life. It makes me happy anytime I remember that I am a Glo ambassador, because when you are working, you don’t know the type of people watching you. There are a lot of people in the entertainment industry. So, for a big company like that to say ‘let us call on this man to be an ambassador’ is a great thing for me. So, I am so happy. Like I used to say, I never thought of it at all or that any organisation would call on me to be its brand ambassador, he said in an interview with ThisDay.
It came as a shocker to observers of happenings in the entertainment industry when the actor was dropped in 2013 alongside several other entertainers. Although no official reason was given by the telco firm then, like a phoenix from the ashes, Odunlade Adekola recently returned as one of the ambassadors Glo signed on in June, 2015.
And while it is not easy for entertainers to make a return a few years after being dropped, Odunlade’s return cannot be unconnected with the fact that his profile has not diminished in any way two years after.
‘I feel so honoured. There’s no one that will be offered a good thing that won’t be happy. I am very very happy to be honest with you. I had been a Glo ambassador before now. The first time I got an endorsement deal with Glo was in 2011. I was given a two-year deal and after seeing out my contract, I was expecting a renewal but it didn’t happen until they recently called me to return,’ he said when NET contacted him.
Speaking further, the Ogun State-based actor said: ‘That I am back as Glo ambassador shows that my contributions to the growth of entertainment industry in (the) Yoruba section and in Nigeria are being appreciated. I am very very happy to represent the brand once again.’
Based on the foundation of a strong work ethic, dedication to his passion and keeping his eyes on the prize all the time, the actor, filmmaker, director, producer and composer of sound-tracks has been able to build himself into the biggest Yoruba actor around.
So much so that even those who may not like his face cannot afford not to identify with him. Some of his awards… 2014 Best Actor in a Leading Role – Yoruba Movie Academy Awards 2014 Nollywood Movies Award – Popular Choice Male 2009 Best Actor – City People Award 2011 Best Actor – City People Award 2014 Best Actor – City People Award.