It’s been difficult to track down Hafiz Oyetoro. The lecturer-actor-comedian at the centre of the MTN-Etisalat portability drama understands the importance of silence while trying not to escalate an already sensitive and precarious brand war between two giants.
But it was time to break the silence when he clocked 50 recently. And he spoke with NET about his life, family, and more…
How do you feel being celebrated at 50?
I feel so cool. I feel grateful to Almighty God for giving me the grace to reach 50. I know that many people have gone even without reaching the age of 20. 50 years marks a new beginning and I thank God that today I can be alive to see 50.
How did acting begin for you?
As an aspiring actor, when I finished secondary school, I started with a local theatre group in my town, Iseyin. From there, I went to University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University to study Dramatic Arts for my first degree. I later went to University of Ibadan for my Masters degree in African Studies. I am presently pursuing a PHD programme in Performance Studies at the University of Ibadan. I’m sure you already know that I also lecture in the Theatre Arts Department of the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education. During all that process, I got myself involved in different productions on TV, film and radio. It’s been very interesting so far and I thank God for giving me the grace to increase in my chosen field.
How has the journey been so far?
I must say it’s been quite a ride with so many years of sacrifices. I thank God that he has given me the grace to go through all of the challenges and to achieve the little that I have through these years. I know there is still a lot to achieve but it’s been great journey so far.
How was growing up for you?
I come from a very humble background. I grew up in a village in Iseyin, that’s Oyo State. My parents were farmers. They taught me to be contented with what I have. I am who I am because of the values that they have impacted in me. I just thank God that I’m a different story today.
What would you say is responsible for your recent success?
It is God. God has been very wonderful to me. God has been there for me and my family. He has given me the grace to be associated with great people. More so, I have had the opportunity to be surrounded by people that have added positive value to me life. My family, friends, colleagues, employers and clients, they have actually contributed in one way or the other to who and what I am today.
What are some of the challenges that you have had to go through to get to where you are today?
When you say challenges, to me, they are necessary ingredients to live a better life. Challenges actually make room for people to move further in life, to seek for more value and to grow. Challenges are just mere distractions. That is why I say I am thanking God for giving me the grace to surmount all the challenges, to resist all the temptations and to solve all the crisis of life.
What motivated your porting from Etisalat to MTN?
All I can say is that both brands, Etisalat and MTN are fantastic brands and they are my friends.
Why do you think these telecoms companies have chosen you?
I really don’t know. I was just busy doing my thing and then they came. I believe everybody aspires for good things. We all desire for an elevation in status, but how it may come, we sometimes don’t know. The only explanation I can give is to say that it has been the grace of God.
How much did you get for the MTN deal?
I would not talk about that. I would only talk about that much later at the appropriate time.
Do you think people now celebrate and recognize more for your MTN endorsement than for your acting?
I think it more of what I have been doing and God’s grace. I think it is more of everything. And I’m lucky to have worked with MTN and Etisalat.
How much of an influence has your wife been to your success?
I have a very beautiful woman for a wife. A woman who has made the house my home. Every time I go out, I want to go back home. I always feel happy to go home. She’s always been there for me. She’s more of my friend, my mother, my sister, everything. I thank God who has given me the grace to have a woman who shares my vision. The greatest mistake anybody can make in this world is to marry a woman who does not share in his vision. God has given me that grace to marry a woman who shares my vision. The things I do, I do them without any problem. My home is stable and my job is going on well.
You have featured in many stage and screen productions, which of them do you enjoy working on the most?
Each has its own peculiarities, but if I was to choose, it definitely has to be the stage. On stage, you come alive as you would need to interact with your audience by your acts and convince them with every word you speak and action you take. For the screen, you are just performing for the camera. There’s a lot of work being put into either of them, but personally speaking, stage is my thing.
As a lecturer, do you ever find yourself in a position where your students do not take you seriously because of your comic roles on TV?
My students understand the difference between acting and real life. They are Theater Arts students of course and so they should know better. They know the difference between Saka and Mr. Oyetoro. Saka is the actor, while Mr. Oyetoro is the lecturer. They have learnt to always draw a line between the two.
Now that you are 50, what should your fans be expecting from you?
They should expect more productive and positive contribution to the industry from me. I really want to go into television production. I know there are challenges in making films in Nigeria, but basically I am more comfortable with television production. Already we have started with a television production and we hope to put it on air before the end of this year.
How would you describe the present state of the entertainment industry?
It’s been encouraging. In those days when our senior colleagues started, they were not well regarded. They were seen as never-do-wells but today, things have changed. People are living off theatre. People are living off entertainment. Considering our productions here and there, for about two years now, Nigeria has ranked second in the world in terms of production. That means we are productive. Of course we cannot be compared to Hollywood because of the lack of facilities and the challenges of the environment that we have found ourselves, but I believe that in the next few years, we are going to be there.
Although in the past, commitment in terms of what we produce was far better. These days, commercial values are more of paramount interest, but I believe that as time goes on, we will go back and start to think about content. Our stories are good. We have stories to tell but the way to tell it is our problem. I’m very sure we are going to find the right way to tell it one day.
NET also chatted with Saka’a wife, Olaide:
How does it feel to see so many people coming out today to celebrate your husband?
I feel excited. I feel great and to God be the glory.
How has the years you have spent together been?
It has been wonderful and God has been with us.
What was the main attraction for your husband?
It is simply love. That was the main attraction and I thank God for everything