Veteran Actor, Alhaji Abdulsalam Sanyaolu a.k.a. Charles Olumo or Agbako is a well-known actor in the Yoruba movie genre of Nollywood. He got into acting about 62 years ago when he formed a movie group called Charles Olumo Theater Group which he floated alongside some indigenes of Abeokuta, Ogun State. Before then, he developed the interest from The Apostolic Church, Mushin Assembly when he paid a visit to a friend in the church during a drama rehearsal and he showed interest. The man of substance who was on Friday 7th August, 2015 involved in an auto crash in his house at Onibuku area of Ado-Odo/Ota local government of Ogun State clocked 90, and 62 years in acting which will be celebrated in November. In this interview, he spoke about his life at 90, acting career and the truth behind his relationship with Alabi Pasuma’s mum. Excerpts:
How did your journey into acting start?
I actually started acting from school immediately after my school; I was already engaged in auto mechanical. A day came that I visited a friend of mine in Mushin Area of Lagos and he told me that he was going to his church rehearsal because they were preparing for their end of the year drama, so I followed and I asked him if I can join them because I already had interest in it. That was how I joined them and 3 weeks after that, the man who was to play the lead role was messing up with them, he said he wanted to travel and everyone was begging him not to go so that he can help them out in playing the role because he was very good at it, he was reluctant, I then told my friend that I can play the role more perfect than him, I was given a trial and that was all. After sometimes, the whole congregation said I should join them fully and I said I needed to go back to my base but I will be coming back to check on them. I was already popular in Mushin. The church is named The Apostolic Church, Mushin. Many people thought I was the leader of the group after the drama. This is because of the way I interpreted the character. After that, many churches were inviting me to train their drama groups and that was how the journey commenced.
How did it start professionally?
When I joined the industry professionally, the Association of Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) hasn’t been founded; everyone was just forming his own group now known as caucus. But for the fact that I have acted and nurtured drama groups of virtually all the churches in Mushin, I got addicted to it and people who are from Abeokuta called my attention to form a group because they believed that what Ade Love, Ogunde and the rest of them were doing were not superb than what I was doing, so I had a meeting with them to deliberate on the name to be given to the group before we finally chose Olumo Theater Group because Olumo plays a vital role in Abeokuta by saving the people from Egba going by the history, and that was all.
You mean Charles Olumo isn’t your real name?
At all! That is a name given to my theatre group. I got the name Charles from the church after which I was told to be baptized and I did, that was where the name came from and I added Olumo to it to become Charles Olumo.
Who are the people who floated the group with?
I can’t really recollect because it has been very long, more so, virtually all of them are late now.
How did you get your nickname “Agbako”?
I have several names I have used in so many films. Such as Ori Eye, Awo Oko and lots more but when we wanted to shoot a flick called Anikura, the director asked me to choose a name that will stick in people’s mind. Then we were at a village around Osogbo to shoot and I was thinking about it before I personally choose Agbako because it is a bad thing in Yoruba language. The name was to just teach our fans lesson. Anybody bearing the name cannot be normal; he will be doing abnormal like hoodlum, cutting off people’s head, kidnapping and the rest.
Despite the good names we have, why did you choose Agbako?
I did that just to teach people. We should understand the fact that there is evil and also good. Whosoever involves in evil or good, he or she will reap it and that is it.
What later happened to your Mechanical job?
I had to abandon it because I understand that there is no money in acting but you will be famous which I was contented with. Immediately after I delved into it, I could no longer go on the street comfortably, people will be hailing me here and there and that was why I opted out of the profession. I joined acting not because money but fame.
Were you married with kids then?
I wasn’t but my family especially my parents were against it but they had no option than to let me be.
How did you do it that you were permitted to go into it?
They didn’t later allow me; I was so stubborn and adamant. There was a time they came to Lagos to inform me that my father died and they want to see me in the village, on getting there I saw my father outside and when I moved closer to him, he took me inside and I felt he spoke to me with charms so that I can lose interest in acting. I was quietly with him for 4 days before I ran away again.
Then when he was talking to you with charms, did you eventually lose interest?
For where? The charms couldn’t work because acting is what I developed special interest in. it was already in my blood and vein, I have become addicted to it, now tell me how their charms will be effective on me. I didn’t have interest in the money but I so much love the fame getting from it.
Since you adamantly dumped your real job for acting which wasn’t lucrative, how did you feed yourself and pay your house rent?
It shall be well with you. I didn’t mind my standard of living then. I sometime slept in the house of my group members or church eating whatever I see.
Were you not getting insults from the said group member you were squatting with?
Insults? Not at all because even this people could see that I am talented and I devoted my time in what gives me joy. We all lived as brothers and they didn’t say because of that they should insult me or go beyond their boundary.
What are the unforgettable things that have ever happened to you in acting?
Yoruba says whatever a child love eating can’t affect his/her stomach. There is no level of insult I can get from acting that will move me because it what is in my blood. I overlooked all the insults. Acting has done so many things for me in several ways. In this south west hardly you see someone who does not know me especially in the government. Most of them were watching us when they were toddlers but they are now big men and big madams.
Who were your role models before you came in?
Late Hubert Ogunde is number one because I can’t afford to miss his performances. Then I will take late Ogungbe. He wasn’t the one who taught me but I have worked under him when my group scattered. I don’t have any boss in the industry apart from the man who coordinated us from the church where I started from.
Has anyone confronted or challenged you among your contemporaries?
No one dare do that to me because I was and still humble before the people whom we are acting together. My kindness made me a star. I know that I am older than late Ade Love but I was using sir for him anytime we were at locations and whenever we want to film, he gave nice roles to play as a bad man.
Looking at you, many will think that you are a powerful and wicked man; can you tell us who Agbako is?
Agbako is that bad man you see on your TV screen, I Alhaji Abdusalam is a humble, truthful, trust worthy man.
Does your role as a warrior in movies portray your life style?
I am not an herbalist and I don’t have charms neither have I ever visited an herbalist before. None of them can say I have come to him before for power or something else because I don’t believe in it. Most of my incantations in movie are not real. I hardly do incantations. Mine is to shoot, slap, beat or stab people in movies.
You haven’t been featuring in movies lately, why?
This is due to my old age but I am still very much into acting. I go to location if I am needed. I can no longer jump from one place to another especially from a tree. I don’t have the strength again. Presently, I have a job that is coming out soon. I may launch on my 90th birthday.
Tell us things people don’t know about you?
Many don’t know that I am a Muslim, I am an Alhaji. I was born in village at Egba Owode in Ogun State. My parents were very poor but I never let that weigh me down.
Life at 90, can you tell us the different between now and your youthful age apart from acting?
There are lots of differences. When I was young, I can do and undo, no matter how tall the tree may be, I will jump down from it and I won’t have single injury. I used to carry mortar with my mouth and I will place it on brooms. I used to chew fire and I walked on broken bottles without injury. I will put lighted cigarette in my mouth for 30 minutes and nothing happened. It is all about your brain not African charms. It is just like magic, there is not charm in magic, and it is all about brain and smartness.
You were once rumoured to be down with stroke, can you tell us the real story?
It was real. I was indeed down with stroke that I couldn’t race my legs both my hands and saliva drew from my mouth, it was only God that revive me. I was on it for 6 months. It got to a stage that couldn’t defecate or urinate, I was operated and I didn’t die in the process even with my old age. I don’t believe that anyone can still kill me again. I had a terrible accident in my compound after I had announce a date for my 90th. I was blind for a few seconds and hit a shop in my compound, the vehicle is there right now as we speak and that is why I am left without any car. I now move around with taxes.
You are still driving at 90, why?
It is because I have the strength and my brain is working 24 hours and I can see clearly. I see the accident as plan of devil for my life. God rescued me, the people who in the car with me got injured and I was hospitalized for days before I could speak.
How did you come out of the stroke then?
It was the work of God. He redeemed my life and brought me back to my fit. Many people suffered similar case and they find it difficult to come out of it. In my area, they know my kind of person. I don’t fight neither beef anyone. Any actor who talks about me badly may say that out of senses because I am for everybody. I relate with everyone. Including the media, they haven’t reported bad thing about me.
People say you are the biological father of music star, Pasuma, how factual is that?
All Fuji musicians are my children. Osupa, Obesere and others are my sons and I relate with all of them goodly.
That brings me to the very important question, I know you don’t like to talk about it but because you called me your son, you must honour me by answering it, are you Wasiu Alabi Pasuma’s father?
I have stopped answering that question a long time ago but I will indulge you. See I am not Alabi Pasuma’s father. I dated his mother when she was with Baba Sala. Then she used to bring Alabi to locations, he was a toddler then. So if I was dating the mom, then I think I am qualified to say I am a father to him.