I grew up on a farm in Oyo state- Saka
Recently, he made headlines after dumping Etisalat, which he had fronted for many years, and then in a primetime TV ad campaign surprisingly sang ‘I don port’ to MTN, another telecoms company.
However, with the multi-million-naira move regarded as a brand coup of the year, Hafiz Oyetoro popularly known as Saka, boasted that he has finally slaughtered poverty! Indeed, poverty was like a second skin to the popular comedian, who grew up on a farm where his parents laboured day and night to give him and his siblings the best life had to offer.
This much the comic revealed to TS Weekend in an exclusive chat during the launch of MeetOrbit.com, a social networking platform, in Victoria Island, Lagos last weekend.
“I was not born with a silver spoon and I am not from a rich family,” Saka confesses while recounting his early years, “I am from a very poor background. My parents are farmers and I grew up on a farm at Adegbola, a settlement in Iseyin, Oyo State. Though, they were poor in financial terms, they were rich in terms of values and they impacted these values in me. They were hard working and did all they could to build me up.”
He says further: “I am very happy and grateful to God that they are still alive though very old. I see them often. I feel fulfilled that in their lifetime, they have lived to see what I am today. They are happy that they have a child who is trying to take care of them.”
Recounting his childhood on the farm settlement in Iseyin, Saka states: “It was rough. I was born in Adegbola, a farm settlement. My father was
hard working and had a very large farm. Those days, school fees were not that high. We were brought up to be satisfied with the little God gave our parents so the little they gave us satisfied us. We did not get monthly allowances like kids do these days. They were farmers so we had a lot of food at home. God was wonderful.”
Unknown to many, Saka is not only a graduate; he is also a lecturer and is currently studying for his doctorate degree in Performance Studies at University of Ibadan. But with his popularity and all the money he has made, why does he need to go back to school? The comedian laughs loudly as he responds: “I am currently studying for my PhD at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. I am in my second year. The programme will take four years so I am not a doctor yet. Knowledge is power. The day you stop acquiring knowledge is the beginning of your destruction.”
“Oh sorry, not your destruction,” he says, laughing mischievously in that characteristic Saka style, which has endeared him to millions of fans on TV. “Let me rephrase, ‘the day a man stops acquiring knowledge is the day he signs his death warrant!’ I am a trained thespian. Even my PhD programme is on Performance Studies. I keep reading and retraining myself.”
According to Saka, he is not surprised that a few people know that he is a lecturer. According to the comedian, he began lecturing at Ogun State University in the early 1990s as a part time lecturer. Around 2001, he started lecturing at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education as a full time lecturer.
Recounting those years, he says: “As a part time lecturer in the early 1990s, I worked at Ogun State University. Around 2001, I became a full time lecturer at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education. What I teach is entertainment. Not many people know that I lecture because no television will broadcast you when you’re teaching in the class.”
How are the students coping with his dual personality of a lecturer and comic?
“They are theatre students and they know the difference between the person and the role he plays. Saka does not teach; Saka only acts and make people laugh. Hafiz Oyetoro is the teacher; Hafiz lectures and there lies the difference between the two,” he says with emphasis.
While being a lecturer, did he ever occur to him that one day he would become so big that telecom giants would be scrambling for him? “Everybody thinks and prays to be big,” he says, a look of sincerity in his eyes. “For me, I am not yet big. I am still struggling. I know I still have a long way to go that is why I won’t stop trying to be much better than I am now.
“I never thought about it. For me, I was doing what I enjoyed doing. Just like a businessman who wants to start a small scale business, you can never know whether it is going to be big or small but everybody believes and prays to start something small and see it grow big in future.”
The comedian disclosed that the Saka brand, which has become a household name, was born when he was a lecturer at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education in 2004. According to him, Gbenga Oyedapo, Head of Theatre Arts Department in the school and himself, developed the stage name. He added that they both kept working on the character until it received wide acceptance from television audiences.
“When you want to build a house, you must start from the foundation. The house does not just spring up out of nothing. It is a combination of what God has given me strength to do over a period of time that actually built the brand, Saka. It all started with Area C and then House Apart. The Saka character is from House Apart, a comedy film. It was well packaged by Royal Roots Communications and it became very popular,” he quips.
Everything about Saka is comedy. Even when he smiles people laugh. How would he describe himself? He smiles and then declares: “The truth is that Saka is just a TV character. I am an easy-going young person. That I don’t have to talk to make people laugh is probably God’s doing. Sometimes, I feel surprised when people laugh at what I do because it happens effortlessly. That does not mean I can’t play any other role. When in school, I did other roles. Even after I finished from school, my first 10 years were spent playing other roles especially stage performances including one-man shows. It’s just that I do more of comedy now.”
Was there a point in time when he felt like giving up on the Saka brand due to challenges of trying to nurture it? His response: “It was tough I must tell you; there were really rough moments but I never lost focus. My father always advised me to be determined, resolute and to work hard in whatever I do. I give glory to God for my parents. They always told me that nothing good comes easy. Life is a struggle and you must persevere to achieve your dream. It’s like someone building a house, you take your time to lay your blocks one by one and then one day, before you know it, the house is ready.”
Word of advice
Saka has a word of advice for young people who want to walk in his footsteps. Hear him: “It’s not easy. I want to use this opportunity to let youngsters know that life is not a bed of roses; it is not easy. I want to tell them that the first thing you must identify is your potential. Once you have done that you then work towards developing and packaging it well. Along the line, you will see distraction but don’t lose focus. If it is your potential it means God has a purpose for you and that’s why He gave it to you; He wants you to fulfill a purpose so you must endure and pray to God and jealously work towards it then success will come; it’s a natural formulae.”
So, how much did MTN pay him for ‘porting’ to its platform? Saka’s expression suddenly changes as a more serious look descends on his visage. “No! Don’t go there. Don’t mention anything about branding. That is how you will use style style and start asking irrelevant questions! When the time is ripe I will talk to the press,” he says with finality you dare not contest (By TONY OGAGA ERHARIEFE for THE SUN)
We do say…congratulations to the ‘Saka-cious’ fellow!