Ace movie marketer and the Chief Executive Officer of Almaroof Standard Investment, Alhaji Maroof Ekundayo Afolayan shot into limelight after bankrolling the production of Opakan with Olaniyi Afonja (better known as Sanyeri) playing the lead role. Despite the wide acceptance of the movie, Maroof, who is the younger brother of Kazeem Afolayan (Epsalum Production) and Wasiu Afolayan (Wastayo Films) informed this medium that Opakan is not financially rewarding as his production on Soka ritualiasts’ den in Ibadan.
The marketer, who hails from Oro in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State in this interview with KAYODE ADEOTI, also spoke on reasons most marketers and producers offer lead roles to their girlfriends in movies and the danger posed by pirates to the industry. Excerpts:
How did your journey into movie marketing start?
Majorly, people from Oro and by extension, Igbomina Land are into business and I would say I was born into it and I learnt it by proxy. After my secondary school, I joined my brother, who is the CEO of Wastayo Films in his movie marketing business. Even when I gained admission into the Kwara State Polytechnic Ilorin, I used to help him during holidays and after my National Diploma, I worked briefly in a bank for my industrial attachment and after that, I established and registered my company in 2005.
Which movie was your debut and most rewarding as a marketer?
I will say God has been good to me. The very first movie marketed by me was Maweku in 2006. But the movie that made my company popular is Opakan produced by Olaniyi Afonja. Opakan was planned big but Maweku took us by surprise though not that the sales was more than that of the latter. However, one production that my company reaped bountifully from is the story on Ibadan ritualists’ den, better known as Soka. I made good fortune from it despite investing little amount of money in the production.
How much is your highest return on a movie?
I’m an Igbomina man and I don’t normally wait for all returns on a movie before investing my money in other things. I empty the account to buy iron rod, cement and other building materials. But seriously I can’t put a figure to how much I have made from any particular movie.
Thespian often accuse movie marketers of feeding fat on their talents, what is your take on this issue?
I will trace the genesis of this issue to what I tag ‘Made-in-Nigeria’ syndrome. When government did not take care of every little thing of its citizens, issues like this will always come up. I’m an investor, I’ve been to many places before coming here, people know my face because I move around openly. There are piracies everywhere. If my brother in Nigeria will go to the market and take original copy I’ve produced and mass dub it and sell to Nigerians who are unaware it is not original. They will later come back to tell the actors or producer involved that they’ve watched the movie. But the issue is that, they did not watch the original copy that could easily account for the worth of the movie. The fact remains that all pirates are Nigerians and government know them. Now what do you expect me to do when the market has been hijacked. I decided to go for the business as an Igbomina man because there was profit in it. It was lucrative during the days of VHS, then, piracy was not thriving because to dub a copy of VHS, it will take like two hours. But now that we are under advanced technology, they can mass dub a million copy of a movie under one minute.
How have you been surviving in the face of piracy?
As I’m talking to you now, I’m not fully into movie marketing again, I’ve moved to real estate business though the fame the industry gave me still takes me round. Formerly, I can’t stay in Ilorin for more than two days, but I’ve been here for a week now and I don’t know when I will be leaving. When the movie industry was booming, major distributors of our products like Olufunmilayo here in Ilorin would have been calling me to come around for money but not anymore.
Giving the constant complaint about activities of pirates, will you suggest showing movies in cinemas alone?
No, entertainment business in Nigeria is so enormous that cinema cannot contain the content on ground. How many standard cinemas and producers do we have in Ilorin. How possible is it for you to have a unit to exhibit hundred contents?
My simple solution to this, let government see entertainment as a big industry where they can make money and they should make laws to close the loopholes. The pirates have an established market in Lagos where Nigerian contents be it movie or music are being mass dubbed and nothing has been done about it. We’ve been to their market before but they seized our vans and descended on policemen that were with us. Largely, there is nothing we can do about it except the government intervenes.
Nigerian artistes are perceived to be living ostentatious life but anytime they have health challenges, they seek for assistance from the public and government. Is there no cordial relationship between marketers and actors to warrant financial support when necessary?
Showbiz business is about performing. They make people believe their roles by acting. They may have opportunity to drive the most luxury cars in a movie and yet they’re not the owner and people will think they own such cars. When we were growing up, we watch India films, those people that play good roles in the movie, we call them actor while those that play the opposite, are called boss. We do believe that the bosses are truly wicked. When I entered the movie industry, there is this sister of mine, Lola Afolayan popularly called Lalo Idije, there was a day I had an argument with her, she went on her kneels begging me. We are distance relation but my thought was that she is very tough so each time I want to have an encounter with her, I use to prepare too. But in any movie, the so-called Lola Idije will never bow to any man. That is what is called make believe. Lola Idije is very soft in actual sense. Talking about illness and serial deaths of actors, even some politicians do fall sick and die, it is natural. Anybody can die of anything. The issue of whether cordial relationship exists between us holds no water. The truth is that they are not rich but they only acting to be rich. My father-in-law use to call them acting big men.
Is it true that you producers and marketers give lead roles to your mistresses?
Thank God we all attended higher institutions. You will agree with me that only those ladies that know their way with the lecturers that get more marks in exams. Once again, all these problems are Made-in-Nigeria. We met it there not that we coined it, it is the system. We grabbed that opportunity, instead of me toasting a beautiful lady on the road or elsewhere, the same lady comes to my office begging for a role, I will rather seize the opportunity. Let me say it clearly, we all do it.
Why do marketers prefer investing in established and not upcoming artistes?
It is business and we go for selling point.
As a journalist, there are some news that will come your way but you will let go and not publish, because of certain interest. Having said that, it is not that I have not produced many stars in the industry but let me tell you that I promoted many stars like Isiaka Arogundade that produced Maweku, Sanyeri, Kamilu Konpo, Aminatu Papapa, Dayo Amusa and many others.
Is there any penalty for those that produce nudity films?
We have a sensor board that monitors movies and it is the government that regulates. Aside from government regulating our contents, some times, you do things because of whom you are, what you take people for and how you want people to perceive you which dictates what you take to the market.
What’s the issue between you and Funky Akindele?
I never had any issue with Funke Akindele. People mistook me for her ex-husband who is also known as Almaroof. To set the record straight, she was never my girlfriend not to talk of girl lover. We know each other in the industry and we do interact. I’m Maroof Ekundayo Afolayan and not Kehinde Almaroof Ayodele, Funke’s ex-husband.
There is an allegation that you crave for women a lot (cuts in)…
I am not a womaniser not that I am totally free from that allegation because when I see what I like, I go for it.
Aside promoting artsistes to stardom, how has Almaroof been impacting on the people of his state?
I have built hostels for students at Kwara State University, Malete and I didn’t just come down to build residence for the students. There was a publication I read while in Dubai that my state needs hostels for students, they were even requesting for foreign investors and I said to myself why can’t I take up that responsibility. Upon my arrival in the county, I came down to Malete and built 43 rooms with four-bed space each.
Is the hostel donated as gift to the school?
Has Nigerian government ever given me anything for free?
Then, what is your social responsibility to the state?
Before you can be socially responsible, you have to take care of yourself first. Because in this part of the world where government is nonchalant to life, you take care of yourself. At this stage of mine, if I am giving back to my society, I will look stupid because I’m not yet satisfied.
What is that item you bought you consider the most expensive in your life?
It is a house. At a time when I wanted to buy an item worth N7.5m in Dubai, I told my wife about it and she vowed to sell it once I bring it home. So, I decided to invest the money on real estate.
You appear a busy man, how do you relax?
Seriously I take beer even though I’m an Alhaji that has not stopped my love for stout.
Some of your colleagues have gone into politics, would you grab the opportunity if you see one?
Everybody is a potential politician, there is no criteria for it, it is just a matter of joining a party and get registered. Everybody in Nigeria are politicians. I don’t see why I won’t want to rule my country if I have the grace. At anytime, I could be called upon.