INTERVIEW: Why Ailing Veterans Don’t Get Necessary Medical Attention — Dele Odule

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Former President of the Theatre Arts and Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN), and a Veteran actor, Chief Dele Odule, a household name in the Nigerian movie industry. Dele Odule is an Ogun State-born movie producer who has been gracing the screens for decades, in this interview by Nigerian Tribune, he talks about some burning issues as they affect the Nigerian movie industry, as well as his plans for 2021. Read the interview below:

How was 2020 for you?

Let us just give glory to God that we are still alive because 2020 was the kind of year I have never experienced in my life. It was a year I believe a lot of people have never witnessed in their lives, but we thank God. As I said, some have gone because of all that happened last year and I want to use this medium to say, may the souls of those that have departed find a place in the bosom heart of the Lord. To those who are still very much around, for those who are still living, I congratulate them. 2020 was a year that cannot be forgotten very easily, because of all that happened. Is it the COVID-19 pandemic or the EndSARS protests and all sorts of things that ruin the economy? So, it was not a year that one would love to remember at all, but we cannot forget.

It is a New Year, what are your New Year resolutions?

Well, I don’t have resolutions; I take things the way they come, I have never said these are my New Year resolutions, but I have a very good plan for 2021. That I survived 2020, I think it is not by my own making, but to God be the Glory. So, anyone who also has that privilege needs to be closer to God. That is number one, so this year, I think I need to be closer to God who has been doing it, who has been doing wonderfully well in my life. If not for God, I don’t know where I would be now. So, moving closer to God is a priority for me this year. I also want to improve on my acting career; I plan to produce at least a movie this year because it has been long since I last produced one. Apart from that, I also want to go into television series.

We lost a lot of movie veterans last year, even this year, we have lost more than two, the recent being actress, Orisabunmi. Many of them died after battling with one ailment or the other.

As a major stakeholder in TAMPAN and in the movie industry too, what do you think can be done by the government or the association to assist veterans who cannot or would not be able to get medical attention when the need arises?

Let me take it from the issue of association that you have just mentioned. I don’t think the association can really do much, let me be sincere with you. When you are talking about what you just mentioned, when it comes to the issue of welfare, the only thing the association can do is to create awareness, protect the profession; I think those are jobs of an association. It is not their duty to start looking for money for anybody, it is just because we are magnanimous, and that is why we do that sometimes. That is just the bitter truth.

It is just because we love each other, we see the theatre industry as one big family and that is why we are doing what we are doing. It is not for the association to start rushing you to the hospital or start contributing money for you when you are sick. Even the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) which is in the mainstream of the health sector, will not do that for any of its members. So, why are we now talking about the association neglecting their members when they need help? The problem we have is that we are not doing things right. I have said this many times, we should do things the right way. Now, anybody just comes into the movie industry. There is no standard.

We have forgotten that we should regulate it and know those who are supposed to be actors; those who are not supposed to do what. When we have a standard, we will be able to know the nitty-gritty of the job, we will know the ethics. People are just coming in. And because people are just coming in, everywhere is saturated. The thing is, if you know the rudiment of a profession, you will do it right. But because they don’t know it, the majority of those in the industry today don’t know what theatre is all about. They just believe they have talents and they just have to come in and it is not enough. It is one thing to be gifted; it is another thing to know what the profession is all about.

So, this prevents some of us to be taking what we should be taking ordinarily because we are just coming in just because we have the passion and we are making it tough for those who are professionals. At the end of the day, if you cannot beat them, you join them. Some people are just coming in for the sake of just wanting to do it. There are some people who do it because they see it as a profession. So, when those people just come in because they just have passion for it and because they just want to project themselves, because of unnecessary popularity, they will even tell the producer ‘I don’t need your money’. Now that you can get someone for free, then you will pay someone who wants to take money lesser. So, if I cannot do it for a lesser amount, then the producer will go for someone who even wants to do it for free. So, that too is also affecting the profession. When you are not getting enough, how do you now survive?

When the little thing you get from the producer or whoever hires you is not even enough to feed you if you now fall sick, how do you get yourself the necessary medical attention? So, not until the profession is standardised, whoever is coming into the industry must be tutored and be told all the rudiments of the profession. So when you come into the industry, you will know that, if I work for you, there is a need for me to be paid my fees.  I laugh at times when some people say, “just cast me, I don’t need your money”. That means you are making it so difficult for those who actually need the money. So, why are we now blaming the government? There is no standard! I have said it many times that looking for who will take care of you is annoying. When we fall sick and we have to find solace in the public before we can be taken care of, before we can get medical attention, it is somehow ridiculous.

We are in the second wave of COVID-19, what would be your advice to actors who still go to movie locations to shoot movies?

This is where the problem lies, theatre is so broad that during this COVID period, there are other areas of theatre one can explore and still go ahead with what one is doing. But because all they know is movie-making, going to the location in large numbers and start shooting film, because they don’t have the training, they think that is the only way they can do it. When we have found ourselves in this situation now, we need to find a way forward, because if you think because you want to make ends meet, you have to dare this period, then you are jeopardising your life. The dilemma is just that, if you stay at home, there is no provision for anybody in this country. Even when there was lockdown, there was no provision, and then you have to think of the way forward. That is why I will advise my people to just sit down and if they don’t know what to do; they should seek knowledge from those that know. That, at this period, what do you think we can do? How do we do it? They should blend with the new normal.

What is your advice to Nigerians in this very challenging period?

We got it wrong a long time ago. What we are supposed to have done, we have left it undone. Now, the boomerang is what we are experiencing because we never planned for tomorrow. What we have faced in the past few months is an eye-opener that Nigerians should try to plan ahead. So, my advice to Nigerians generally is that we should plan ahead so that if unforeseen circumstances reappear, we would be able to manage it and get along with the system.

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