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Paul Obazele was already a prominent artiste before the art industry in Nigeria grew big. He became popular with the then soaps, Ripples and Checkmate. It didn’t come as a surprise, therefore, that he naturally became a part of the movie industry in Nigeria. But Obazele seems to have abandoned the business, unlike most of his contemporaries whose f...
Paul Obazele was already a prominent artiste before the art industry in Nigeria grew big. He became popular with the then soaps, Ripples and Checkmate. It didn’t come as a surprise, therefore, that he naturally became a part of the movie industry in Nigeria. But Obazele seems to have abandoned the business, unlike most of his contemporaries whose faces still adorn virtually all the movies. Obazele disclosed to Spectacles his reasons, in a recent chat in Lagos.
“I turn down scripts, most especially if the director is not able to get his act together. By this I mean if I am coming for a reading or rehearsals, I notice that he does not correct my mistakes and pronunciations, I just believe that he is either not capable or does not know what he is doing. I would not want a situation where we would finish the movie, and then we would find out that the movie wasn’t good enough.”
Again, there are certain things Obazele claimed he could not do on set, especially if the stories were not convincing.
“The scripts and roles I take must be challenging when it comes to the message we are passing to the people, and when it comes to what English and tenses are used. Sometimes you look at some movies and you wonder if there was a director for those movies. These are things that sometimes put me off.”
To top it all, Obazele says he must get clearance from his church before he goes ahead with any movie.
He explained, “If I don’t get a go-ahead from my church, I don’t do that movie. I need to seek God’s face before I do any movie.”
The way he goes about it, one could conclude that Obazele is filled with pride and arrogance. But he says he is not.
“I don’t own myself, people own me. So, I must live up to their expectations. We have people in this country that we are responsible to. We have people who insist on values for whatever they pay for. It is not because I have made a name, it is not because I am a fine man, it is because I know the job.
“I tell people to go for training. Understudy somebody. I did that. I am not saying it with pride or arrogance.”
Obazele is not only an actor, but a director and producer as well. While some will choose to call him Jack of all trades, Paul will call it growth.
“I have grown in the industry. I couldn’t remain just an actor. I was able to reach this height because people trained me.”
Obazele studied Business Administration in school; but rather than get into a finance house or build his own business empire, he chose to be in the movie world.
“I never knew in my life that I would get into television. Talent does not centre on only what you read in school. If you don’t have a passion for something, you cannot excel at it. It is what I studied in school that is putting my talent together for me. At every given point in time, for every one hour I spend somewhere, there must be a figure tied to it.”
He attributes his success to some people who, one way or the other, refined him and made him what he is today.
“The biggest critic I had was my father. I needed to prove a point to him. He told me I couldn’t be in the industry. He felt I would not be able to spend quality time with my family if I joined the industry. His biggest fear was that I was going to be roaming around. I have been able to prove him wrong. I have been able to make him see that no matter how tough the job is, we still carve out a little time for our families. I have been justified and vindicated.”
Obazele could not forget what he went through at the hands of his mentors, Sadiq Daba and Olu Jacobs.
“These people would hit and punch me in the middle of production without telling me what I did wrong. Olu Jacobs slapped me several times for wrong pronunciations. He was just very strict.”
But while undergoing the rigorous training, Obazele was toughened; his drive was: he was going to get back at them one day.
“The more they did it, the more I stood my ground. I was always saying in my mind that they would one day beg me. I remember a day Olu Jacobs dealt with me; He gave me food to eat and told me to leave the food as if I was still in secondary school. I stood up and walked away. I muttered something to myself. I promised myself that one day, I would direct Olu Jacobs in a movie. And thank God, I have done that. I have directed both he and Sadiq Daba in movies. They made me very hungry. I saw them as people God placed for me when I was coming up.
“In all, I don’t regret any moment of it. It was tough, it was hectic, it was crazy, but it was well worth it.”
It is no longer news that some directors ask for sex from green-horn wannabe actresses before giving them roles.
But Obazele not only denied doing that, he exonerated his colleagues as well.
“When a man fails, he looks for the next person to blame. If a girl fails an audition, she blames the director. Why would a director who knows he wants to climb in his career, allow sex to stop his growth? Why would a director leave somebody who is good to pick somebody who is bad in exchange for five minutes of sexual pleasure?
“Come to think of it, who is harassing who? Is it the young girl who is wearing body hug without panties, exposing herself to a man who is minding his business?
“I as a director do not take advantage of girls for roles; other directors don’t either. In fact, I throw a challenge: let any girl who claims she has been sexually harassed write a petition against the director and submit it. Let us know if justice will not be done!”
He is one of the few actors who have not really faced any scandal, but in case the scandal comes up tomorrow, Obazele says he won’t care.
“I do not stop people from saying whatever they feel like saying. You and I know that the highest scandal is sex. I have a wife at home, so I don’t get involved in any sex scandal. The Bible tells me that my wife’s breast is sufficient for me. I see no reason why I should get involved in extra-marital affairs.”
Obazele categorically told Spectacles that he does not sleep around, even when the carrot is dangled in his face.
“My mother told me that a woman who chases after you seeks your doom. It is the place of a man to chase the woman and not the other way round. That has been the biggest advantage I have. So when they come, I say to myself, Paul, see the devil, you have got to run.”
Though he is not living such a lifestyle now, Obazele disclosed that as a young man, he really ‘massacred’ ladies.
“I was crazy and very erratic especially amongst ladies. I took what I wanted. If you were a beautiful girl and I saw you, I took you and when I was ready to dump you, I would not tell you. It was very stupid of me, but it was just the in-thing amongst guys then.”
He conquered ladies, but he was not able to conquer one of them – that is, his wife.
“My wife was the only woman I wanted to conquer and who gave me a tough time.”
He went further to narrate how he met his heartthrob.
“It all started when Chico Ejiro gave me a post-dated cheque to a bank, I didn’t know the cheque was post-dated and I was very broke. I got to the bank and this lady refused to pay me.”
Obazele deployed all the charm he had, but the lady was undaunted. At the end of the day, he collected her card and he said to himself that he was going to get her.
“My aim was just to sleep with her and dump her. But this lady really gave me a tough time. Twice I asked her out and twice she stood me up. I was able to find her house, I went there one early morning before she left for work, and I told her that if she did not give me a real date, I would not allow her out.
“Eventually, she gave me a date and she kept to it. It became interesting and we became friends. The evil thing I thought I was going to do turned to good. When my elder sister saw her, she quickly told me that the lady is a wife material and not a party girl. After one year, we got married.”
As for embarrassments, Obazele has got loads of them.
“People accuse me of being evil and mean. I remember after I did Sisters on the Run, I saw some sisters at Surulere, Lagos. I greeted them and they started shouting and calling me an evil man, telling me I was so wicked. They felt I was like that in reality.
“There was another incident. I wouldn’t call it an embarrassment because my life was even on the line. I ran into night marauders. They wanted to kill me. One of them was shouting that I was a cop. I had to scream and tell them that I was only acting on TV. It was a close shave with death”.
But he says the industry has its merits as well. “If there were a long queue in a bank, you would see someone coming to attend to you. Then again, during fuel scarcity, you don’t always have to stay long in a queue before you see an attendant coming to fill your tank.”
He concluded by saying, “One bad thing is that when you are broke, nobody believes you. They all feel you always have money.”
Filmography: Fateful love, Ashanti, Dangerous Babe, Flash Back, God of Justice, Juliet Must Die, Last Weekend, Life In New York, London Blue, Love Medicine, Maniac, Night Out, No Respect, Obligation, Paradise In America, Runaway Lover, Set Up, Sisters On the Run, Spy, The Champ, Walls Have Ears