From bread and beans to BlackBerry studio - Celebrated comedian, Afeez Oyetoro

Celebrated comedian, Afeez Oyetoro, who has been at the forefront of an ongoing Etisalat campaign, counts his blessings and challenges on the job, writes AKEEM LASISI.

Like the proverbial rain, Lagos thieves are no respecter of anyone. They can even steal caps from their fathers’ heads. Despite the fact that a comedian like Afeez Oyetoro is the toast of every folk, one of such goons played a fast one on him recently. He – or she- picked his phone where he left it when he was performing ablution in preparation for a prayer.

The fact that the actor and lecturer at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin, Lagos had to lose many of his contacts makes the loss naturally a painful one. But the enlargement that his career is currently witnessing far overwhelms such a negative tragic spell. Although he has, for years, enjoyed wide acceptance as an actor, the Etisalat advert campaign in which he now stars has definitely caused an enviable ripple in his profile. In the advert series, he is the fast-paced, fortune bearing megaphone spreading the good tidings the advertisers are building around their telecom products.

His appearance, language, actions are so unique that the viewer is usually compelled to listen to him. But what his performance also shows is that it is possible to come out funny and yet clearly pass the message to the audience. Oyetoro is very excited at the progress he has made on the campaign, and he confesses that it has been more than mutually rewarding.

He says, “I thank God for everything as far as my participation in the Etisalat adverts is concerned. I am really enjoying myself on the project. There are other actors that might have done better if given the opportunity. So, I consider my being there as a privilege and God-given favour.

The Adegbola, Iseyin Local Government, Oyo State-born artiste, who holds a degree in Dramatic Arts from the Obafemi Awolowo University and also earned a masters degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan, is happy that the agency handling the account – Centrespread – and the creative director have structured the shooting of the adverts in a way that does not affect his lecturing job.

“The campaign is still running, but it is not an everyday affair,’ he notes. “We record once a month – usually on Sundays. So, it does not affect my job.”

Another thing that works for him is that the handlers do not obstruct his attempts to interpret the script to the best of his understanding and creativity. Besides, he notes, they give room for discussion and suggestions.

Oyetoro will not be categorical in terms of how juicy the ride has been; yet, he says it has been very good for a rising artiste that he is. Here is an artiste who hails from a poor background and found it very tough at the beginning of his career. As he once noted in an interview, poverty was his bosom friend, with bread and beans as well as guguru and epa being his anointed food. Now, apart from the fact that the Etisalat campaign is blessing his pockets, it has also boosted his profile to the point that he believes that real stardom will soon come. But the job is also bringing challenges for him – from people who want to grab their shares from him.

Oyetoro, who is so fair-complexioned that one can say he almost came to the world as an albino, explains, “Anywhere I go, people ask me for a BlackBerry. They ask me for money. They think that I have become a millionaire. Some even pass embarrassing comments in the process. It can be so embarrassing that at times I decide to take some alternative routes to safely get to where I am going. People need to know that Afeez Oyetoro is still Afeez Oyetoro. It is true that God has been kind to me, but I am just me: I don’t pretend that I am a superstar when I am not one. I am comfortable as an average artiste but I am not a millionaire.”

Saka, as the actor is popularly known, hopes that a Sit Com he is producing with his friend and stage mate, Gbenga Windapo, will hit the screen by the middle of the year. They have shot part of the story in London and will soon shoot the Nigerian part. He is also part of Abelejayan, another TV drama, 26 episodes of which were recently shot.

And back at AOCOED, his students are also benefitting from his romance with the stage and screen. According to him, the fact that they see him act is like seeing him practising what he preaches, which makes them believe what he teaches them.

He notes, “Acting has strengthened my integrity before my students. It makes me more credible as a lecturer. The practical aspect of me has enriched my teaching methodology.”
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