Behind the scene | 12 August 2007 05:42 CET


•Regrets that 'I wasn't paid a kobo for that role'

Does the name, Enebele Elebuwa, ring a bell in your ears? If it doesn't, then cast your mind back to a popular TV promo in the 1980s. An adventurous young man named Andrew was fed up with the Nigerian economy, and decided to leave the country for good. Clutching his bag like Moses in Samuel Selvon's bestselling novel, The Lonely Londoner, and walking with a saunter to the airport, he echoed his frustration: “Men, no light no water;no job…I'm tired of this country …I'm checking out.'

So popular was the promo that it became a mantra in Nigeria, which made the actor to grab instant limelight. It seems hard to believe, but the veteran actor and movie director, Enebele Elebuwa, who played the role of Andrew in that promo didn't reap a fortune, apart from the fame he got from the exposure.

Can you believe that even the suit he wore for the shooting of the promo was supposed to have been taken to a dry cleaner for laundry and ironing, but he couldn't afford the cost? “Even when you do a job for your country, it is expected that you should get some payment in return, but I must confess that I was not paid for my role in Andrew.

Even the suit I wore on that day was not dry-cleaned,” he confessed.
Likely, a Ramson Noah of today may not appear in such a promo just like that. Indeed, times have changed. It would have been a gold mine, if it were today. Elebuwa, who had featured in the movie, “Dinner with the Devil”, disclosed that before he was approached by a producer colleague of his at the NTA, where he was working then, to play the role of Andrew, the issue of money came up, but he told him not to worry. Over two decades now , he is yet to get a kobo for his effort. “Till today, I have not been paid for that promo,” he admitted.

Popularly called “Uncle” in the Nigerian movie industry, the actor said that, unlike what obtains today, passion, and not necessarily the love of money, took him into acting. “If there is one thing that I like, it is to always see people entertained. I might have come a long way in the industry, but I have not really made millions on the job, as like many people would want to believe,” he said.

Though actors and actresses of today are enjoying better fortunes in the industry, he said the industry has yet to produce mega artistes who get paid in six digits. “I do not know who had made millions among the actors in Nigeria today, though, these days, some people get reasonable amount for roles, particularly the young ones. But, when I was young, nobody was paying a kobo,” the actor remarked.
For sure, it is hard to get his kind nowadays. Elebuwa has equally participated in stage plays without financial motives, including a role in “The Man who Died” at the National Theatre, but till today, he has not been paid. “But I enjoyed the role,” he said enthusiastically.

Great thespians are those who remain committed to their dreams, no matter the obstacles on the way. In the case of Elebuwa, his professional acting career began in 1974, though he had been acting before then at amature level. In his first audition in the early 1970s, the legendary Orlando Martins was among the judges that supervised it, but he wasn't lucky. That did not deter him. “I did not get a job because there was no role for me according to them,” he revealed.

Despite not getting a role after his first audition, Elebuwa persevered. He was already a band member with the highlife maestro, Sir Victor Olaiya's band, and so was positively engaged. “I did not bother because I knew my time would come,” he consolled himself then. Unknown to him, his breakthrough was on the way.

It finally came when he was working on the set as the creative director of the movie, “Dinner with the Devil.” The producer-director then and now the current Oba of Owu, Sanyo Odusomu, saw the potentials in him, which wasn't noticed by other people, and auditioned him for a major role in the flick. “Before then, I had done one or two things on TV, so that was how I started,” he said.

His verdict on the movie industry is a positive one, especially the remuneration and better opportunities that abound now. He said: “It is better today compared to the past. Then, we were doing it for the joy of it, but today we have reached the point of putting a price on roles. Sometimes you are given a fitting cast with a better offer, and sometimes they just pay you what they feel like. It is much better than what it used to be then, because it is now employing so many Nigerians and taking them off the streets.”
Is it time for him to quit the stage? Elebuwa leaves it for his fans to decide. But one thing is sure: Andrew isn't planning to check out of the country soon. Not at this age.

Other sites The Nigerian Voice