Veteran Actor, Ogogo Opens Up On His HIV/AIDS Scandal, Reveals The Real Cause of The Ailment That Almost Claimed His Life Years Ago
Taiwo Babatunde Hassan better known as Ogogo, needs no introduction. He is one actor that commands respect as far as the Yoruba movie genre is concerned, and he remains one of the most sought after icons in the sector. Some years back, the Ogun State-born thespian was attacked by a strange illness which almost claimed his life. Then, the information has it that he was suffering from HIV/AIDS, while some were of the opinion that he was on hard drug. Shortly after he recovered, GBOLAHAN ADETAYO and his crew paid a visit to him a few years ago at a hotel in Ebute Metta area of Lagos, where he exclusively revealed to us the real cause of the ailment among others. Excerpts:
What really caused the illness that almost claimed your life years ago?
I have said this several times but for a reminder, I take alcohol occasionally. When the news about my ailment broke, people started passing fallacious news around, claiming I was pushing hard drug, while some said it was HIV/AIDS. I was just laughing on my sick bed. A friend of mine in the media actually wrote the story and I believe that he will be thanking God for my life if he set his eyes on me today. That day, I was on my way to the hospital and he placed a call to me to confirm the story. I told him it was ulcer, he was trying to convince me with what people were saying concerning the state of my health, he said it was HIV or cocaine and I told him that I don’t want to talk much about it because I was the one driving myself to the hospital, so go and write whatever that comes to your mind and the result of that was the report of HIV and Cocaine. There are some journalists in Nigeria who are image makers while some are image breakers, your brand made many images and that is why they have edge above others. I pray that God will continue to strengthen you. After the bunkum he wrote, there was a particular day in 2004, it was during Ramadan, I was driving to a movie location before the attack came. I will attribute that sickness to my slip-up because I don’t know how to wake up early in the morning to eat the so called “Sari”. I only eat once in a day during the season because I am too lazy to wake up early. I was going with a friend of mine and this man doesn’t know how to drive, something hooked me in my belly. I was forced to park for relaxation, this was at Ikeja, the man told me to break my fast but I felt reluctant. I was heading to late Arakongudu’s location. I pray to God to forgive him his sins because he was an ingrate. I came to your location, I felt sick and I was on bed for almost 5 good years, this guy didn’t call me for once to ask after my health, let alone of coming to the hospital to check on me. He owed me N50.000, yet he was saying tosh about me which I wouldn’t like to put on the pages of newspaper. I was surprised when I saw a report with a headline saying Ogogo Falls, Arakongudu Rises. There is something called Muibat in Arabic language which means “LOVE” and it is only those who God wish to give that will have it. Despite the tough time I had, many still love me, then why do I still need to disturb myself fighting for what doesn’t make sense? I don’t think there is a special award from anybody that is bigger than the love of God. The day the sickness started, I felt it was a play, it started around 9am but later in the evening, Remi Surutu now said with the way I was acting that it was ulcer and she has several ulcer drugs in her bag because she is also one of us. She advised me to break the fasting, the boy we were going together hastily bought milk, he poured it in a bowl and mixed it with water, I prayed and I drank it. Shortly after that, I was feeling better. But for the fact that it has damaged a lot of things in my system, if I eat a tea spoon of rice and I haven’t vomited it, I won’t get myself. I did this for good 7 months. My prayers were done on seat, I was very lean. Before that time, I scaled 94 and I reduced to 69 when the sickness started. When I walk, I will be feeling it. One day, I decided to take a walk to my barbing saloon, I didn’t know that I was lean like that but when I opened the door, I saw myself in the mirror, I was so sad that day, doubting if I was the one but above all, it’s being written that I must face that challenge. Iit is called “Amiwo” which I don’t pray to see again. I have never set my eyes on cocaine before let alone of taking it or carried it like they alleged.
How was your reaction to all these dramas in the media and people’s opinion about you then?
There was no reaction. It got to a stage that I stopped picking my calls because people were calling to pray for me. The one that surprised me most was a day somebody called from overseas, he told me to be saying amen because they held a 3 days revival for me over there. The day he called was the final day. He spent 1 hour 52 minutes. After 3 years, I went to UK, unknowing to me; the same road that seated the church was the same with the Chinese restaurant called 805. I was there to eat and a man on suit walked up to me to ask if I am the one they call Ogogo and I said yes, he now identified that he was the one who called me on a particular day. He continued and he said somebody brought my name to his church for prayer, I now mentioned the date for him, I am a Muslim and he is a Christian and I want to believe that Witches and Wizards also appealed to God almighty to spare my life. What else do I still want than to keep thanking God? The day I met the writer of the news at Afrihollywood awards in the UK, he was trying to dodge me without knowing that I have seen him. When I mounted the stage to talk, I mentioned his name and I asked him to stand up, I begged people to thank him on my behalf because if he didn’t write the story as at then, people will not know that something was happening to Taiwo Hassan. If not for his negative report, the people who helped me wouldn’t have come. He was running away from me because people told him that actors will kill him for offending one of them, he is my friend and we will still continue our friendship. After that, we met again at LTV8, he saw my outfit and he was shaking his head, he told his colleagues to be taking my photos. My dear brother, negative was also said about Jesus Christ, so who the hell am I to say that people shouldn’t gossip about me? Let them say but the most important thing is to remain focus.
A year or two after stardom, many stars fizzles out but your own case is totally different, what is the secret behind it?
This is a question that I don’t even know the answer; it is only God who can proffer solutions to this because this is love of God. Some will go and within a year people will not remember him or her again. God loves us so much; it is now left to us to do the will of God. We should always try our best in any endeavor we found ourselves. My fame is natural, if it was ritual or from a secret society, I am sure that by now, it would have faded out. I came to stardom in 1991, in 1992 I could no longer take public bus and I was still working under Water Corporation. A cab will come and pick me at home in the morning and bring me back at night. So if God can still do it from then till now, common I am blessed with love.
How did you get the name Ogogo?
It is my family appraise. Ogogo Omo Kulodo (Self Appraise for 10 minutes).
How many of your children are also acting?
I have just one, her younger sister is called Halimat, I didn’t let them face acting squarely but after their education they can decide. When she was age 4, we did Idajo Olohun together. When she was 14 again, we did another one but she is now in Higher Institution. After that, she must proceed on her masters before she can now decide if she will go into acting or doing something else. She was in Mofe produced by Yomi Fabiyi, she was in Orogun Oko. Her name is Shakirat Taiwo, if you see my children you don’t need to be told because I vomited them.
Why are you so particular about them going to school first?
That is because I am not educated. I lost my father when I was 11 years and my mum wasn’t fortunate to do that for me. I tried to do that for myself but I ended up in technical school where I learnt automobile mechanic and I worked under the Lagos State Water Corporation for almost 14 years before I retired. I pray not to die young so as to sponsor their education to any level because I didn’t have the opportunity. I love my children and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.
Can you talk about the state of the Yoruba movie industry?
It is obvious that piracy is killing us in the industry; I don’t fear anyone in this world apart from God. Marketers are the cause of piracy, everyone knows this is Igbawura’s production which means he is the rightful owner of the job but because they are cheating us, they become the owner because of the token amount loyalty that has been given to you. Marketers don’t know law, they should check the copyright law very well, no matter how much you spend, producers are the owner of their jobs. Now, they will sell the job to the television houses without the knowledge of the producer. They are the one killing the industry. My marketer, Corporate Pictures don’t do that. After 7 months of showing your movie at the cinema, it won’t go on sales; people will be requesting for it, but when it got to a stage, he joined them. They now take our jobs to TV stations without paying the producer from what they got from there, it is affecting us seriously. People watched a movie on Sunday with N500, following day it was released to market, now tell me, would I disturb myself from going to the cinema to watch any movie again when I know that they will release it the following day? That was how the issue of exhibition died. After that, after you released and it hasn’t gotten to 5 months, it will be given to Africa Magic to show it, why can’t they advise Africa Magic to liaise with producers directly to produce for them? Why are they taking our ready-made job to them? Above all, they collect the right and keep it to themselves alone. No matter the peanut we get from them, we feed over 300 people from it. We created job opportunity for so many people; do you know the numbers of hotels in Lagos alone let alone of Ogun state and other states? Piracy will be disturbing as well. Even the marketers know the people working under them who they pay monthly. Can you now see the numbers of people feeding from our sweat? That is why I said marketers must amend their ways and do the right thing. They need to dialogue with us before taking our jobs to TV stations.