Not many people know that he has been in the movie industry for almost twenty years and that he was trained as a furniture maker. Yoruba actor, Soji Taiwo, otherwise known as Omobanke, is one actor that knows how to capture his audience’s mood any time he appears on the screen. In this interview with Tribune, the Mushin-born actor speaks on his career.
Do you have a different version to this?
Unfortunately, none of the things you have mentioned led me into acting and I can say it anywhere. My late dad, Yomi Taiwo, was a juju musician. I was born into a home of art. I think that helped me a great deal. I used to watch my dad perform a lot of times and I was always thinking about what was the motivation behind his performance. I didn’t know that those moments when I was observing him, I was also getting myself acquitted to the world of art. So, my decision to become an actor was not by mistake, accident or idleness, it was strictly out of passion.
How long have you been in the movie industry?
It will surprise you to know that I have been acting for almost two decades. When I started acting, there was practically nothing that was fascinating about the industry that would make me join other than the passion and zeal to toe the path my dad toed when he was alive. I think my dad was a major motivation and I am grateful for that.
It is hard to believe that you have spent almost twenty years of your life as an actor, how did you pull that?
If I start to describe the picture of my life as an actor in the last twenty years, we won’t conclude this interview. It was not that somebody took me to a location. I’d been seeing theatre practitioners on stage since I was in the secondary school and I fell in love with acting since then. The rest is history today. I can tell you that if there is one thing that has helped my life till date, I will say it is consistency and hard work. Right from my childhood, I had been made to understand that life is not a bed of roses and even when things appear to be rosy, you have to be careful about how you handle certain things about yourself so that you won’t have yourself to blame in the long run. I also believe that when you are truthful and committed to a cause, you will be successful, though it may take a while.
Tell me more about those rough days?
The rough days are not over as far as I am concerned. We are all in this country and we all know what we go through everyday as citizens of this country.
When and how did the big break happen?
What you call the big break today was not that clear to me then. I was just doing my job because I love doing it, not because I knew there would be a break one day or that I had this hope of a better day ahead. Secondly, you can’t be too sure of what the future holds for you because you don’t know if there is any future anywhere. To God be the glory, things have changed and we can boldly say that we are gradually enjoying the proceeds of our sheer hard work over the years. And, like I said, I am a very determined person who does not take a no for an answer. I don’t give up easily even when I am not sure there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Some people say you belong to the ‘big boys gang’ in Lagos, how do you feel about that?
I don’t know about any big boy gang. You know people will always talk when they find it hard to understand what God has done for you. I am an entertainer who is not restricted to any class of people. I relate freely with everybody, but I have my standard. I believe that I am always very resolute about my plans and I follow them to a meaningful end.
Have you had any reason to regret any of your decisions?
As a man, you have to be known for something and you must be seen staying truthful to it. This is my life and I thank God for how far I have come in the industry. I understand I would not have come this far, If I had not taken some drastic decisions about my life. I never knew I could be where I am today but I thank God. You can’t always be right all the time. But then, I am here today because of my decisions.
What drastic decisions could you have taken?
That is personal. You don’t expect me to divulge that secret. What I can tell you is what you are trying to tell me now and that is success. People don’t really care about how you become successful in what you do, but they will surely say one or two things when you are successful. Success brings about a lot of reactions; the good, the bad and the ugly. You just have to stay calm in the midst of everything and don’t lose your mind.
Different reports have been written about your family and your affair with women but you have not been reacting to any of them, why?
I don’t know which version to react to so I decided to keep quiet and allow people to continue to talk about it while I concentrate on what put food on my table.
How is your family taking all these?
I am not going to talk about my family for obvious reasons, but then I will say that I have a family and I am happy about it.
Is it possible for a man to keep having an affair with every woman that comes his way?
That is how much the media have said about me. I like the fact that they write about me. It shows I am still relevant.
Why didn’t they write about vulcanizers or battery chargers on the streets?
My brother, let them continue to write.
But some of your colleagues once told me that you like women?
Yes. I don’t hide it. If people say I like women, I will say they are right. I like women a lot. Why won’t I like them if they are part of what make our job going. Women and our job are two things that can’t be separated. I will be foolish to take advantage of that and start to misbehave. Come to think of it, who doesn’t like women? Who was not born by a woman? I always mention Iya Banke in movies because I like her so much.
Tell me about your crazy experience with women?
I have had nasty moments and I could remember a day when I was walking on a street in Lagos and suddenly, a woman from nowhere approached me, drew me closer to her and kissed me. I was shocked and embarrassed. I asked her why she did that and her response was that I like you and I have always wanted to do this.
How do you react to the report that said you abandoned your wife and kids for your Canadian lover?
There you go again. Actually, it was not a report. There were series of reports. People have written a lot of stories about me. They keep writing what they don’t know how true it is. Right now, I am less bothered about that. You can’t tell me you are a celebrity if you don’t have different versions of your stories in the media, whether good or bad.
For the sake of those who wish to know, can you tell me the correct version?
Those who wish to know already know the real thing. Those who don’t know will also know at the right time. I know what you want to hear, whether I did this or that…Let’s just say I am happily married and I love my kids. My wife appreciates my work because I am progressing. I am really enjoying this interview.
What do you regret most about being famous?
I don’t like how some fans embarrass me when I move around. What makes it more painful is when they see you in company with a public officer, who could throw some money around. I sometimes wonder why they would leave a public officer and come to me, an ordinary actor that is looking for his means of livelihood.
Is it true you were trained as a furniture maker?
Yes. I wonder where you got that from. I did a background check on you before today.
Are you surprised that I know?
I am not totally surprised. It shows that you know your job. I was trained at a technical school at Ijebu Ode when I left Baptish Boys High School. I didn’t bother to practise the furniture business because I knew it was not meant for me.
Your real name is Soji Taiwo but people call you Omobanke, how did you come about the name?
I woke up one day and I felt that I needed a name that would not only make me popular among my fans but something that would stick and command respect, so I came up with Omobanke. The name instantly became a brand that has helped my career and gave my fans something to talk about anywhere I go. Since that day, the name has become a big part of my existence that I can’t do without.
What’s the difference between Soji Taiwo and Omobanke?
Soji Taiwo is a cool headed guy. A father who loves his family and a professional actor. Omobanke is just a name that does not really exist in the real sense of it. When I am on set, I am Omobanke, but if you see me on the streets or anywhere and call me Omobanke, I will not answer you because that is not my name. The Omobanke you are calling exists in movies and not here, so if you want me to be your friend, just call me Soji. I will gladly respond and even play with you.
Tell me about your relationship with NURTW top shots in Lagos?
I don’t have any special relationship with any of them.
So, why are you always using words common to them?
You should rather say they are the ones who use the words that I use in movies. Those who know me will tell you that I don’t deal with them; they are not my friends and I don’t hate them either. But we are not as close as people think.
So who are your friends?
If you talk about Taye Taiwo, Obafemi Martins, Akeem Agbetu, Lukmon Aruna, Ayila and a handful of others are my friends. You drive a Range Rover Sport at the moment and I was told that you actually like driving choice cars, but some of your colleagues complain about poor remuneration in the Yoruba speaking movies.
Where do you make your money from aside acting?
If my colleagues complain, they have the right to do that. You can’t be suffering and be smiling. Some people do it but go and look at their lives, you will feel sorry for them. I thank God for my life and the blessing that I receive everyday. I am not crazy about cars, don’t get it mixed up. I have not got to my destination. I want to be richer than Dangote. May be people don’t know that I also deal in cars, when I travel out of the country, I buy cars and sell them when I return to the country. There is no money in this job but there is blessing in it. You don’t have to earn a million before you are blessed.