- Water-tight security in Kano •7 churches, 8 shops razed - Police
- Terror suspect nabbed with N3m •As army uncovers bomb factory
- 2012, deadliest year for journalists - UN
- Court adjourns on missing N12.4bn oil windfall
- Why we cleared Molete under-bridge - Oyo govt
- Court jails courier over $286,400 cash
- Court rejects fridge repairer’s plea to keep Ibori’s bribe money
- Oyo to involve artisans in N.5bn schools rehabilitation contracts
- All set for LG poll today in Benue
- Mrs Braithwaite buried amid encomiums
- Forget presidency, Jonathan’s aide tells ex-military rulers
- FG sends delegation to Onaiyekan’s consecration, Suntai
How do you see acting, how fulfilling is it to you?
I see acting as an important and fulfilling profession like banking or law. It is a promising job. The only difference about acting is that it takes all your energy; it’s not a lazy man’s job, it’s a job where you have to be dedicated and give your best at all times.
What are the benefits of acting to you?
They have been numerous, it has opened a lot of doors than what I expected, I meet kings and administrators wherever I go and they always commend my acting. I’ve been to places I never believed I could go because of my level of education. I thank God for bringing me fame through this profession. I can’t say much about the financial gains because I’m not poor, but I’m not lacking either. I’m just contented in my little way. I believe there is nothing I cannot afford.
Have you ever regretted being an actor?
Yes, but I think I was naive then and now I realise no one is perfect. There were days that I would always ask myself what I was looking for in this profession. The one I remember vividly was when my wife was about giving birth to our first child. That day, I didn’t have up to N3,000 and the bill was N60,000. I wept because I remembered what my parents used to say when I dropped out of school to act; they felt I wasn’t serious and told me I would regret my action. All the friends I had then were also not okay financially, and there was no one to run to. I felt this happened because of the kind of profession I’m into, I felt I couldn’t have suffered that if I was educated and into a profitable profession. I wept bitterly, but God in His way rescued me through the doctor. He said that he knew me somewhere and I told him I was an actor. Though I wasn’t popular then, he felt he knew me somewhere and agreed to do the surgery for N3,000.
Your line of acting is comedy, before becoming popular, who were those you looked up to?
I have a lot of them that gave me inspiration, people like Baba Suwe, Latin, Ojoge, Otolo and other comedians. But Otolo (Mustafa Bakri). was my biggest inspiration, He was very unique and doesn’t talk too much, and what made it so for me were his tribal marks. I felt I would be exactly like him when I grow up, that was my thinking. I just wanted to be like him. I was amazed that despite his tribal marks he’s still impressing people, and that made me connected me with him.
Do you see your tribal mark as an advantage or a disadvantage?
My prayer is that these tribal marks should not peel off. They brought me the Glo and MTN endorsements as well as others still in the pipeline.
Can you give any of your children a tribal mark?
No, this is the age of civilisation, but I don’t regret having tribal marks.
When you were growing up and discovered the marks, were you happy?
I wasn’t happy because people used to call me different names like Okola, Ojela, Orila; some would even call me Lahila and all sorts of dirty names. I felt sad and wondered why out of all my friends I was the only one being ridiculed in Lagos? I always felt sad because they don’t know that intelligence has nothing to do with appearance.
What were the differences between when you started acting and now?
The industry is getting bigger, but we haven’t been making profits like before. We now work hard and earn little. People put our works on the Internet without paying us any royalty; before you sell 32 copies, a pirate would have sold 200,000. It’s only few of us that are lucky and they make their money through endorsements, pirates have spoilt business for us. In the past, movie practitioners could build houses and cars with a single movie but now the reverse is the case. We don’t reap from our works.
Do you have any regret not having a sound education?
Yes, and, in fairness to my parents, they wanted me to go to school but they felt I wasn’t serious when I started leaving school for acting. They withdrew their support because they also didn’t know that Theatre Arts is studied in higher institutions. They just felt I wasn’t serious, they felt there was no future in acting.
What attracted you to acting?
I used to watch Yoruba movies a lot, and in 1991, when I was in secondary school I used to be very funny in class. So, one of my classmates then, named Sheriff Lawal, just said you are too funny, go and start acting. I asked him if he knew anywhere and he replied that he was into acting. He took me there during the school break-time. The man he was working for then was Prince Oluseyi Adeoye in Oyo town. We went there but we didn’t meet the man, After school hours I went back alone, I met the man and introduced myself to him and I joined his group.
Recently, you travelled to America, what was the experience like?
It was nice; the reception was encouraging and I was happy. In America, they supported us, even the Nigerian embassy in Canada too. I shot a movie in America titled Okola l’America, they allowed me to use their houses, helicopter and the cars in shooting the movie.
There was a recent report where tit was alleged that you always get drunk on set, how true was it
I was also surprised when I got a call that I was being discussed in a programme where they alleged I got drunk on set and fell down. I am a responsible man, a Muslim, I don’t drink at all and all my colleagues can testify to that.
What’s the difference between Olaniyi Afonja and the act, Sanyeri?
There is a big difference between the two. Sanyeri is the comedian, Olaniyi Afonja is a human being like everyone else. Sanyeri is a clown and foolish man on stage, while at home Olaniyi Afonja is a no-nonsense man; I am a very serious man.
Can you tell us about your wife?
Her name is Omolara Afonja, she is a trader and we have two boys. I met her at the National Theatre during my first production in 2004.
What was the attraction?
Everything about her. I felt she was the person I could marry and have peace with and I was proven right. When I met her I wasn’t popular at all and she agreed to date and eventually marry me.
How did you come about the name Sanyeri, what does it mean?
The name wasn’t mine, I started acting similar roles with Fadeyi and Abija. There was a boss that took me for a stage show in Ogbomosho. They already had someone that used to act as Sanyeri, but he didn’t turn up for the show and I was made to stand in for him, and since then I became Sanyeri. I wasn’t the original Sanyeri and till now I don’t know the meaning of the name because it was my boss that named the character Sanyeri.
Didn’t your wife complain about your tribal marks when you asked her out?
She is exposed and didn’t mind the tribal marks. She is an Ajegunle girl. When I met her I was nothing and she stayed with me, I just bought her a car recently to appreciate her support.
Can you marry more than a wife now that you are popular?
Never! If I see a woman that appreciates me I will reciprocate it, but I can’t marry more than a wife. Anybody that marries me after I became popular will never get my trust. I thank God I married before I became popular.
What’s your relationship with Adekola Tijani?
He joined the industry through me; we were short of cast and he came to me and I begged my boss to use him. I was his role model, I brought him into the industry and he is my friend. We left Oyo together in 1996, a day after Atlanta 96. I remembered the day vividly, I and Adekola lapped ourselves from Oyo to Lagos; it was a long story. We lived together in a room apartment in Ijora. Later, Adebayo Tijani joined us in 1997, Ibrahim Shata joined us in that one room too and we lived together for many years, thank God we are all big names in the industry.