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Veteran actor, comedian and lecturer at Adeniran Ogunsanya University of Education in Lagos, Hafiz Oyetoro, popularly known as Saka, tells EMMANUEL OJO how his acting career has shaped him

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How has the journey of 60 years been for you?

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Yes, I turned 60 this year. It’s God. To be honest, I don’t do anything special in keeping a youthful look. It’s just been God. I can’t explain it. I only sleep, wake up, do my job, and go about my daily business. But physically, let’s say maybe because I am happy doing what I love doing. I found myself in the profession that I wanted and I had the opportunity to practise the profession. On the home front, I have a happy home. I do not have any issues with my wife.

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What spurred your interest in acting?

Well, everybody has a vision or a mission to accomplish while alive. So, I think that is also God because it wasn’t in my plan to become an actor. I wanted to become a pilot, but when I started school, I found myself in a situation where each time my teachers wanted to do anything (relating to acting), they would select me. When I got to secondary school, I became very popular in the drama group and I thought there was nothing wrong with it, especially, when I heard that it was offered (as a course) at the university and that was why I applied for it at the then University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University).

Was it the discovery of your natural talent in drama that aborted your dream of becoming a pilot?

I was not that good in all the science subjects, apart from Physics. I was very good at Physics but I wasn’t good at Mathematics. I was struggling to learn it. At that time, I was in Iseyin (Oyo State), and when I visited my friend in Olivet High School, Oyo, I accidentally entered its laboratory where I did a comparison and saw that we practically didn’t have a laboratory in my school and I thought that if I continued with that, there would be a problem because we didn’t have anything in my school’s laboratory. When I left secondary school, I thought it was better for me to go for the arts. I had to reconfigure my mind to that. I had been having the suggestions in my mind to go the arts way because of the struggles I was having with Mathematics, but the laboratory issue in my school gave me the final conviction.

You have featured more in comedy roles than in other roles in movies. Is that deliberate?

Let me explain something. Every profession has what we call an area of specialisation. I guess comedy is my area of specialisation. I’m rounding off my doctorate in Stand Up Comedy at the moment. By the grace of God, I hope to be a PhD holder by the end of this year. I can do virtually everything in theatre arts, from costuming to make-up, and various roles. I can write and I can direct. However, my strength lies in comedy because I had the opportunity to go through various levels of theatre arts, from undergraduate level to postgraduate level, and in Nigeria. You know when you can do something very well, the directors wouldn’t like to waste their time trying to put the person through another role. They just pick the person

who can interpret the role. As a matter of fact, in theatre arts, we have directing, choreography, music, writing, acting, and all that. So, if within the context of drama, comedy is my area of specialisation, that’s fine, but I can assure you that I can play any role and do anything as far as theatre arts is concerned.

How did you come about the name ‘Saka’?

Saka is a screen name. My name is Hafiz Oyetoro. My dad named me Hafiz, and my mum named me Adebimpe but as I tell people, hustling and struggling to survive in Lagos brought about the name, Saka.

There was a time when we were trying to do a television production here and there, and my friend, Gbenga Windapo, who is also a lecturer with me at the university, was the one

I stayed with when I first came to Lagos. We were together in our undergraduate days and even in our postgraduate days. We became very close. We got a very good idea and we shared it with another friend, Greg Odutayo, and his wife. They had a production company. We told them the idea and they produced it in a film titled, “House Apart”. “House Apart” was reportedly the second most-watched comedy series in the (old) Western region as of that time. I played the role of Saka, while my friend played the role of Setilu and that was the beginning of everything, and at a point, Saka became very popular.

What year was that?

I think it was in 2004.

Was that your first role?

No, I had featured in many other movies before that.

Which movie was your first?

I can’t remember the first movie but one of the earliest movies I acted in was in “Irawo”. It was a Yoruba movie in Ibadan. I cannot remember most of it now.

When lecturing in class, do your students take you seriously or do they always see you in the light of being a comedian?

Well, they are theatre arts students. On a serious note, a lot of people have asked me that question but the fact is that these students are also theatre arts students. So, they 

understand the difference between acting and reality. Although, in the first and second lectures, they are usually excited and call me Saka, but when the lectures begin in earnest, they know that I am Hafiz Oyetoro, not just “Saka”.

We were trained as practitioners in the university to remove our personalities from the role we play. So, if you meet me one-on-one, you will know that I am a very reserved, quiet, and easy-going person unlike Saka who is noisy and all that. Once I leave the stage, I become Hafiz and that’s the ability to manoeuvre, manage roles and be able to identify oneself in the role one is playing and it’s also a big factor that helps me.

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