Alagba ADEBAYO FALETI, a seasoned broadcaster, writer, poet and actor who has made his mark in theatre. He was, at a point, the Chairman of the Oyo State Council for Arts and Culture. In this interview he narrates the story of his life and career
Sir, how did you come about the unique way you wear your cap?
The wearing of my cap which came by accident is traceable to the time I was a news broadcaster at Western Nigeria Television (WNTV). News broadcaster must be properly dressed when coming on air. Once it is time for me to read news, l just put on my cap and drag it to the right and ready to read news. Since then, it has become my style because it is easy to manipulate.
Pasting a picture of a serious person at work, how do you perceive the attitude of this generation to their jobs?
Today’s youths are nonchalant to everything they do because of lack of discipline. In those days, there was discipline. There was time for everything. Time to wake up, clean, cook and all these must be done before you go to school. In the village, you must wake up 4am to do morning exercise before you set for farm by 5am. In the farm, you will work till 12pm before you eat the first meal. Discipline created responsibility in the mind of young people then but today, it is a different thing. They take life too easy believing things to come readily. It makes them lazy. Rich people indulge their children in laziness by making housemaid to do all the domestic work, making their children not to be able to do anything. We should train our children properly and not pamper them. Improper training affects Umar Farouk Abdulmutalib whose parents made him to live larger than he should. Some children cannot walk a mile because their parents have spoilt them with cars.
As a seasoned broadcaster, could you compare the broadcast of then with that of now?
Wide gap. I give kudos to NTA Network for maintaining discipline. Their dictions, good, dressing excellent but states and private stations are a mess. They have bastardised broadcasting. Their pronunciation is terrible, they don’t speak loud, they make-up and dress excessively thereby attracting listeners to their appearances rather than listening to the news being read. This is annoying and against the ethics of broadcasting. Their programmes are nauseating. They play foreign music when running local programme. That is crazy. This is indoctrination through media. NBC should begin to sanction stations that over-use foreign music and programmes. Broadcasting needs complete overhaul. Again, phoning programme has been bastardised. They do it indiscriminately. They encourage lottery by asking people to buy lottery ticket to win big cars. Rather they should package intelligent quiz programme where participants will win good prizes. Religious programme is also is bastardised. How can a station allow different religious denominations to be on air for hours? As one finishes, another one takes over. It is poor planning. Monitoring is lacking and no one is correcting those that make mistakes while on air. During our time, once you are off the air, your mistakes are pointed out to you by your bosses.
What is your assessment of print media?
Do I look at investigative journalism alone and where they are failing or their unpatriotism to Nigeria? It is bad to wash our dirty linen in the public which Nigeria journalists are doing. They should protect the nation’s interest even if we are doing terrible things. I feel bad to read wrong information in our newspapers and this happens because they don’t verify their facts. That is why I support press censorship. Anything that affects the security of the state should not be quickly reported. Sometimes, press creates more chaos than necessary. Their headlines could be crazy at times. Failure is not a desire of anybody. You don’t need to blow up the failure of other person. Coach Shuaib Amodu has failed, what happen when he has been winning? When somebody wins, they will mildly talk about it but when he fails, they blow it up.
Are you canvassing that journalists circumvent fact even when the fact needs to be told?
No, I am canvassing that they should be responsible.
You have created impression of hard working person. What has hard work earned you?
Hard work pays but it does not pay immediately. For example, as a young worker in broadcasting, I didn’t waste time that there was no official job to do. I kept on writing plays, novels and anything whether I will get them published or not. I’ve discovered that work written over ten years can fetch huge money. That is the essence of hardworking. When others are sleeping, you are up, when others are drinking, you are not, when people are at bar, you are not, when people are enjoying with their girl friends, you are not. When I was younger, I detest men taking their wives and children who are teachers and students respectively to school in the morning and in the afternoon go back and take them home. It is done at the detriment of their jobs because of hours they were supposed to stay at work were spent for personal things. I don’t do it.
How much was your salary at WNTV?
I earned 34 pounds per month making 400 pounds per year and as a school certificate holder, I earned 10 pounds per month making 120 pounds per year. That was when pound was at par with Nigeria currency.
How many books have you written?
Several but what you should have asked is how many of my books have been published. I published very little but I write quite a lot and that is where Professor Akinwunmi Ishola is greater than I. He dumps his manuscripts with publishers not minding when they will be published. Our publishers are a menace. My first book was published 15 years after I wrote and submitted to the publisher and so was the next. This discourages ones from writing. But Ishola will not mind, he will continue to submit but in my own case, as I am writing, I put them on my desk. If it were drama, it will be acted on the television or stage. Ishola is encouraging me to dump them with publishers and I’ll start to do it. Among the drama I had written are: “Won Rope Were Ni”, published ten years after its submission to the publisher. “Padi Mukailu”, “Basorun Gaa”, “Aya Atoka”, “Akande Oloogun”, “Orire Baraba”. There was a time I was writing a series of detective stories titled “Adegboye” broadcasting every week for three years. I have some half hour stories too, “Oba Awon Jew”. Novels include “Ogun Awitele” and “Omo Olokun Esin” which is about the longest novel written in Yoruba.
Why did you leave broadcasting and lecturing at the University of Ibadan?
First, I must use this opportunity to tell people that I am not a professor as some people erroneously believe. I had never taken up lecturing as my career. I lectured as a part-time in addition to my regular broadcasting job. I was in University of Ibadan for three consecutive years teaching Yoruba to Greek students. I also taught graduate students Yoruba in Ife. The time I was a regular staff at the University of Ife was when I retired and was employed as a senior research fellow in Africa studies. Before that and prior to when I entered university, I was among the three main lecturers in charge of extra mural classes put in place by Professor Ayo Ogunseye. At the time attempts were being made to pioneer cultural studies in Yoruba. I was a member of the team that drafted the syllabus of Advanced Level Yoruba for GCE (WAEC). Eventually, I studied English at the degree level but studied Yoruba in my village from my father and siblings.
Why didn’t you study Yoruba?
I really don’t know. I guess my early contact with English people was largely responsible for my reading English. Besides, I thought that my chance will be limited if I read Yoruba.
Do you have higher Degree?
No. I don’t.
Why didn’t you aspire for it?
It is a question of opportunity and time. I could not leave my broadcasting job to pursue a higher degree but I try to work hard to ensure that I am not found wanting in whatever responsibility given to me.
What informed your career?
We don’t have the opportunity to choose career of ours at that time. We fell into careers that we feel is good. If I had wanted to choose a career, it would have been an adult education because I had a friend who was an adult education officer and he had a big motorcycle which fascinated me a lot. Chance has put me in various careers that I go into. As a young man, I was a tax Clark which involved travelling to villages to collect tax. I later developed interest in drama because I used to watch Herbert Ogunde drama. I had a career in sign writing. After I finished my standard six, I came to Ibadan. I was a pioneer teacher in Ife-Odan Baptist Day School but I crossed to Catholic Mission because I didn’t like the former. I absconded to Ibadan to look for a job without the knowledge of my father. In the process, I met a man who was a member of amateur drama group who taught me sing writing. In those days, there were no professional drama groups. Ogunde drama group wasn’t professional. These amateur groups went to their villages during Christmas and Easter to entertain people. I joined one of them in Ibadan. Of a sudden, my father came to Ibadan and took me back home in Oyo instructing me that I should not go out of Oyo again. This propelled me to found my own group- Oyo Youth Operatic Society in 1951 and I began to teach them drama until I ran into trouble.
What will you like to be remembered for?
People can remember me for various things depending on what they want to remember me for. My interest is to make people happy.
What are the things if giving the opportunity you would have loved to do differently?
There are ladies you have met and you felt you could have married and you did not marry.
Are you still acting?
With your age?
What age? There is no age limit for acting except one dies. I acted in “Saworode” at my old age. Last November, I acted a film and I am about to act in another film. I just finished a film titled, “Ferebiekun” which is yet to be shown to Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos State who financially assisted.
Why don’t you wear English dresses?
I dressed in English attire when I was working in the Ministry of Information. I had quite a lot of suits as a General Manager, Radio Oyo. But as a news broadcaster, I was dressing in Yoruba attire. An incident happened when I vied for the post of General Manager, Radio Oyo. Sunday Afolabi, the deputy governor to Ige insulted me by saying, “Se eyi alagbada giegie yen la ma fi je general manager” (is this man who wears picturesque gown that you want to make General Manager)? I felt insulted and I changed all over again and began to wear English dresses. Now that my job has to do with culture and public, I changed again and started wearing Yoruba attire.
What is your view as regards Yoruba language and culture going into extinction?
Yoruba language is not going to extinction and can never go to extinction because people speak it with their family and those that don’t speak it will regret it in future. If a language is going to extinction, there will be a limit to it being written down or read and spoken but this has not happened to the Yoruba language just like Latin that is dead because it can only be found in old manuscripts. But thesis at Master and PhD are now being written in Yoruba. Lots of people in Diaspora (Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, America, and South West Africa like Ghana, Republic of Benin) speak it. Yoruba scholars have worked so hard on it. It can only come to extinction if the world is destroyed. All the universities in the South West have it as a course up to PhD.
Are you a fulfilled man?
Who is a fulfilled man? Tell me what you mean by that?
For instance, late Chief MKO Abiola could not be said to be a fulfilled man because he did not achieve his political ambition?
Abiola was too ambitious. Why must he become a Nigerian president? Is it because he was rich? Why is it that Rockefeller did not struggle to become a president of America with all his wealth? You can’t be fulfilled when you are over ambitious. He was fulfilled as a wealthy man but refused to limit himself to that. Why did Adedibu not want to become governor of Oyo State? He was contended being a kingmaker. That was what MKO should have done. I am a fulfilled man. I am married, God gave me children, and they are doing well. I am still relevant at my age as you can see, I still act, I am still a public servant. I have a house. I don’t want to build a skyscraper. That is being over ambitious. Why must I aspire to have ten houses when I can’t sleep in more than a room in a house? An over ambitious person will perish. You can’t aspire to be greater than what God wants you to be. God has over given me more than what I need.
What was your best and ugliest moment on earth?
A man should have many ugliest moments in life not just one if you live long. I was detained for a crime I didn’t commit. I am happy today that Olusegun Obasanjo also went to prison he created to know what it is to be detained. I was removed from Radio Oyo but later returned when they found out that I was not guilty of what I was accused of. The detention period was a trial moment of unhappiness because I didn’t commit any offence.
What is your best food?
I eat almost anything except stones but I like yam and meat.
Are you a polygamist?
I am not a polygamist. We are all pretenders. I want you to know today that a Yoruba man except by circumstances, nature or origin is not a polygamist. I married more than one wife but not at a time.
How was your background?
My father was a farmer, commoner, traveller, storyteller and ‘babalawo’ but not into divination. He was a ‘talaka’. A ‘talaka’ in Oyo town is not a poor person but somebody who does not come from a royal family. My mother belonged to a royal family from ‘Atiba’. She was a daughter of Atiba and that is why I have this royal marks. The Oyo tradition says that if you marry from a royal lineage, the first child belongs to the Oba and not to the father of the child and to show that they will give him royal marks. These are the royal marks of Alaafin. I lived the way a commones lived because my father didn’t have money. So I had learnt basic things at home before I started school and my hands touched my ears before starting school. I also worked in the farm. I was only lucky to go to school.
What is your advice for the youths?
Endurance, endurance. My father left me in various hands to be trained. There was a time he came to see me in Ogbomosho and he wept bitterly when he saw me because my condition was bad. I had plenty lice which had invaded my hair and my dresses. He had to boil the dresses so the lice could die. You should close your eyes to train your children so they can be better in future.
How do you spend your day?
I work all day and night with little time to rest and play with my family but my wife tolerates me. I have stopped hunting in the bush.
This interview was conducted and published by TheNEWS in 2010.