Hafiz Oyetoro hit the limelight when he featured in a comedy flick titled ‘HOUSE APART’ where he got the stage name ‘Saka’. Having spent over two decades in theatre business, he revealed to NNAH DOUGLAS how he was discovered by his Black American lecturer in his days in school for doing exceptional things. A lecturer of Theatre Arts also opened up on his personal life, Nigerian movie industry and why he would love to relocate to Abuja etc.
»Your fans are very enthusiastic about the way you interpret your roles on set, some say with the way you act, you have brought a new twist to comedy, do you agree with them?
My brother, it i God Almighty that I thank. Of course, there are other acts that can do much better than I do, but the grace is not yet there for them. It is my prayer that all the potentials and talented actors in Nigeria receive the grace to be noticed. Like I said, it is God.
Doing exceptional things in Nollywood, can you recall how were you discovered?
As a child, I used to participate in our village festivals. When I was in primary school, I was actively involved in the school’s drama unit. I was more active when I proceeded to secondary school, again I‘m a fan of TV where I watch movies, shows and drama a lot. I got inspired, which made me to put in for Dramatic Art at the tertiary level. While in the University, one of my lecturers – Chock Mike, an African American, took special interest in me; he took care of my speech problem and corrected all that needed to be corrected as a potential entertainer. I was also involved in departmental productions here and there. Before I left the University, I had formed a group with some of my friends.Later on I became independent on my own. Since then, the Lord has been faithful and he has been directing and guiding me. As I was doing it, people were noticing me; they got to know more of me better.
»Are you actually a lecturer?
Yes! I am a lecturer. I teach theatre arts at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Oto Ijanikin in Lagos, and I have been there for more than 12 years now. I’m enjoying every bit of my time there.
»Professionally and perhaps still counting, how long have you spent in the entertainment industry?
Professionally, I have been in entertainment for close to 23 years now. All the ones we were doing while in the University cannot be said to be professional acting. Apart from the high school productions, I have invested 23 years in entertainment jobs.
Which of the movies brought you to limelight?
It is very difficult to answer that question because I believe that it is the combination of all the things I have been doing. Like someone trying to build a house, he will first do the foundation, followed by the laying of the blocks, build the house and eventually plaster it, and finishing touches follow suit. You then begin to paint it and people begin to admire it. But I cannot overemphasize the fact that ‘House Apart’, where I played the role of ‘Saka is it.’ It was created and written by me, my friend who incidentally is my head of department at the institution I work Mr. Gbenga Windapo. Also, our good friend Mr. Greg Odutayo and his wife produced it. That was how it became a household name; all the adverts and sponsors just came like that.
But why do you mostly play the role of either security guard or houseboy?
First and foremost, I am a total theatre practitioner; there is hardly any role I can’t play in the theatre. Because of the limited resources and the time, directors and producers don’t really want to waste time. Once they see you on a role, they will know that such a person is an already made actor. Instead of the director trying to work on other people to get that role, they will rather pick a professional to do it in order to save time, cost and the resources will be utilized. Again, I like playing those roles because I am not from a rich home, so to say. I am from a humble background and I see the security guards, houseboys and people who do menial jobs to make ends meet as part of the common people, and that is my own way of associating with the common people because I belong to that class. It takes a little more of expertise to play such roles. It might look simple but in playing such roles you need to be careful, Yes, because there is a slight difference between being comic and being stupid. It takes professionalism to strike the accuracy so that people will watch, enjoy and laugh rather than feeling enunciated. For instance, some viewers will watch your movie and say ‘I don’t like this one’. Some people are naturally comic all round but when you call them to play the role, it becomes very difficult. So, like I said, it takes an expert to do that. I just thank God because there is no role I cannot play.
»As a busy comedian and actor, how do you combine what you do, I mean lecturing?
I practice what I preach, I teach theatre arts and I practice it; it is very simple and I thank Nigerian producers and directors because most of them know I am a lecturer and when they want to fix any recording, they normally take note of my academic schedule, sometimes we do our recordings during the weekend and vacations. In fact, some of the movies we watch are recorded at weekends and holdays.
»How do you manage fame?
For me, I am not famous yet, so I don’t have any problem. I walk about like any other common man. I just told you I am also a common person, an average Nigerian. I am not a millionaire; I am not a superstar; I am an average person who is not hungry; I am not fully ‘belleful’ (laughter). For me there is nothing so special about me, although people see me on the street and hail me by calling me ‘Saka’. May be in the near future, I will be a super star and things will change. For now, I still have a long way to go. I am just an average popular artiste in Nigeria. So its not difficult for
me to manage fame.
»Are you new to Abuja?
I have been to Abuja several times; I usually come to the University of Abuja. I also come to Abuja to do one or two things.
»As a regular visitor to Nigeria’s seat of power, how can you compare with Lagos?
Abuja is all right, though hot in the afternoon, a little cold in the evening, a little more peaceful, not stressful, no hustling as much as Lagos. Abuja is the seat of power and I love it.
»If given the opportunity to live in Abuja, will you oblige?
Yes! I will do. If I have the opportunity I will love to live in Abuja. There is another branch of my college in Abuja, so if they post me there, I will gladly come. I believe God’s plans for everybody. I have never done anything else outside the theatre, but if in the next five minutes it is the plan of God that I will be in Abuja, that’s fine by me.
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