Samuel Ajibola is a Nigerian film actor cum producer. He is best known for his role as a child-actor in the Opa Williams directed movie ‘Tears for Love’, and famous for being the first Nigerian child actor to win the award for Best Kid Actor for three years in a row.
He’s also popular for his role as ‘Spiff’ in the Africa Magic TV series ‘The Johnsons’ which earned him the AMVCA (Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award) for best Actor in an M-net comedy series. In this interview with Sunday Obembe he speaks about his career amongst other sundry issues.
How does it feel winning the AMVCA Best Actor in the Mnet comedy series?
The reason why it seems really special to me is not because the African Magic Viewers Choice Awards has been up to 5 years but because our categories was quite different, a special recognition award. It made me feel like it’s kind of a big deal this small boy with a big God you know that’s how it makes me feel.
I was quite excited when they mentioned my name. There was lot of palpitation that day, I was happy that people appreciate my work, they appreciate my talent, you know it’s a privilege to make millions of people feel happy every day, I am blessed, if I don’t get anything else, that is enough for me.
What would you say is the contributing factor to you achieving this feat?
First of all God, I am no one without God, people that believed in me and have been supportive. Then again I would like to credit focus and tenacity, if you have focus on something you want to do, an idea can be the beginning of focus, this whole thing started as an idea I sat down and created after I had done with acting school. I am really happy that I have the focus and the tenacity to continue to push on that idea that I didn’t stop and I did not give up, I kept on pushing, it’s been 5 years that the show started so it’s been long, I am really happy that now it’s paying off.
How would you describe your journey into to acting?
It’s been a long one, it has its ups and downs but what matters to people is not whether “you get am before before, but you get am now?” It’s been a long time, I have been acting over 15 years now, I started acting when I was about 6 or 7 years and then I was a young boy who was just adventurous, I didn’t even know I had a talent until one of my aunties discovered it in a church when I acted in a drama and from then she encouraged me by taking me for auditions and that was how I got picked, but at some point it began to disturb school and at that point in my life, education was more important than anything I can pursue at 8 so I had to face school, I stopped for a while from 2003-2009 six years I was in hiatus, so I left secondary school went into university and then at that point I thanked God for the support I got from my parents, they let me continue.
I was in ‘Fake Prophet’ by Teco Benson, I was in ‘Shuga’ in episode 6 or 7, I was in ‘Last Flight to Abuja’, I have done quite a number of jobs but ‘The Johnsons’ is just the most predominant one.
At what point did you decide to take acting as a profession?
I think I didn’t even start up with the idea of it becoming a profession for me, as a young boy I had no idea of what profession I want to go into, I was at a point where I was confused with what I wanted to do, at a point I wanted to be a Chemical Engineer, at a point I wanted to be a Veterinary Doctor; but because I found myself consistently doing the same thing for years I got used to it, I found out that I could work on it, I could be that person I want to be, I had more experience in it and it wasn’t a bad idea to take it up as a career. I actually studied Political Science in University of Lagos; I wanted to study Business Administration. I didn’t plan it as a profession, but because I have been doing it for years, it has automatically become a profession for me. I am seeking to get to the top of it.
What point exactly did you finally conclude that it’s acting or nothing?
When I got into the university at that point I returned back from hiatus to acting again, I think it was at that point that I said okay, this could actually be a source of income while I am in school, I could take it up as a profession but I still needed a degree. Thank God for it, it’s been working out fine.
When you took a break from acting, what was the feeling like for you?
It wasn’t one of the best moments of my life, it was a very critical decision for me but I was happy my parents took it for me, I was still very young, didn’t know how to resolve life challenges and how things were going in life you know? But that passion kept me on, I was always watching Nigerian movies, I was always noticing actors that were reigning then and I will be like hey! At this point Aki and Pawpaw were the biggest actors, another time it’s Jim Iyke, at some point Genevieve and at all that. I kept telling myself ‘mehn you are suppose to be here’, and I had people telling me ‘guy why are you no more acting?’ You are supposed to go back to acting. But God did it.
After schooling when you returned to acting, what was the reception like?
Ah! that’s one thing I like to talk about a lot of times because that is one of the things that encouraged me, the reception wasn’t even like anything compared to the ovation I was getting before as a young actor. A lot of things had changed and so a lot of people did not know me anymore so I had to start the journey all over again. I had to start attending auditions like any other person, if a person is lucky to remember me, if they do they be like what’s your name, Samuel Ajibola, have you acted before, “oh nah you be that small boy that time? And sometimes I don’t get the roles. But then again I kept on with persistence, focus and tenacity I didn’t stop, I saw the talent I got and I know I wasn’t going to let it get to waste, I knew someday somewhere I was going to get that big break.
What kept you going despite the challenges and rejections?
I will like to say that it is the passion have for the job, it was something I was doing as a young boy, I love it, so I didn’t care if I was getting enough money to sort my bills, at that point I didn’t care and I have supportive parents that understood. I just kept on because I saw a bigger picture and that’s why we are here now.
So what were your days in the University like?
It was work and school together; I was shuttling between school and locations. Again the passion kept me on, like I mentioned, the money wasn’t even anything because I just wanted to do it, I just like to be in front of the camera you know showing how much I can be a different character, stuffs like that, it wasn’t easy sometimes I missed tests, at a point I told myself I am not even looking for a first class or anything I just want to go for any good grade and just leave. That mindset was what kept me going.
What were your major challenges shuttling between school and acting?
There were times that I loss roles because I was in school and it’s exam period I couldn’t attend, I have lost tests because I was on set and a lecturer came and gave impromptu test and I was not there because I was busy pursuing my passion. I made sure I had a balance, there were times I say any job that comes now I am not going to do it, I will just focus in school, because it’s exams period. During holidays I go all out looking for auditions.
What was your social life like?
I have always been a friendly person, I haven’t attained the kind of popularity I have now when I was in school, ‘The Johnsons’ is not as big as it is, few people recognised me, so I just go through school smoothly.
Do you have any most memorable experience while at school?
Yes! One of them is when I fell sick and could not write an exam and that was the only course I carried over, I was sick and I was usually shaking, I could not hold my pen and I had to re-do that course and I felt bad because I was going to do it with younger students. When I did it again I passed it.
Secondly, I think I won an award in school, yeah (laughs...). I can’t even remember the category it’s been years now, I was happy that the class appreciated me.
Your role as Spiff in ‘The Johnsons’ how challenging is it?
It’s not challenging anymore now, but initially it was with a lot of challenges when a baby starts to walk it’s not easy, until he becomes an adult, it wasn’t easy initially, thank God I got the platform on a TV series that have a long running term. First of all in season 1, I wasn’t even there. I had to infuse my training from acting school to my career, and it paid off.
I think I started in season 2, then season 3, it grew big and I sustained it, then season 4 and season 5 that we just finished, I was ready, and was already used to it, one minute I will be myself and the next I am in the character.
What will you describe as the peak of acting for you?
I am not really seeing myself stopping any time soon, you know even though I might take other genres of film making, I may become a director, a producer; I have started producing my comedy skit. So ultimately I have always had flair for Oscars, maybe because it is the biggest film awards in the whole world or because I want to be associated with the greats basically I see which ever point I am in my life as just an obstacle or a hurdle in the journey in the millions of places I can reach with the depth of places I can attain so I see where I am as another point I see myself bigger, I see myself at the Oscars. I see myself acting a Bollywood film, I see myself producing an Indian film it is about getting bigger than where I am now.
As a producer, you are already working on your comedy skit ‘Dele Issues’ what is it all about?
Dele Issues is an idea, a concept I sat down and I thought about, I wanted to explore my talent especially for people that might not have a certain reach; I wanted people to see my talent all over the world. I considered that people face different challenges in the various professions. You don’t know the challenges that guy is going through in the line of duty and you don’t know the challenges I am going through or the one you are going through so I decided to put my talent in characters in different professions and see how they can manoeuvre, how they come out of those situations, obviously in a very comical way so Dele Issues is about the life of Dele in his day to day experiences in life, and it is very comical so that is what it’s all about. It’s on YouTube. People should go to my YouTube and subscribe to the YouTube channel Samuel Ajibola TV or just go to YouTube and search for Dele Issues. Episode 1 is out, episode 2 is coming out two weeks from now, we’ll drop each episode on 2nd & 4th Fridays of every month by 12pm, we are getting a lot of positive feedback from episode 1, you would love it, I can’t wait for you to see episode 2.
Who are your role models?
Honestly, I have never had any comical role model, because I didn’t even consciously walk into the comical realm, I have always been a drama person so I have always looked up to the best actors in Nollywood and American actors that are doing fantastically well, these are the ones that inspires me I am happy when I see them win awards. Daniel Delewis winning three Oscars for best leading role, I get inspired and say I can do this as well, I can reach there, and these are the people that inspire me. I like listening to music.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I can listen to everything but not country music, I just can’t stand it. I love Hip Hop, I love R&B.
Do you have favourite artistes across board?
Yeah I like Drake, I like Olamide, I like Wizkid, I like a whole lot of them, and I listen to their music so I like them.
How would you describe your type of person?
That’s the challenge I have, a lot of people met Spiff before Samuel Ajibola, I am quite different I am clever, not foolish, I am just a very different guy, a guy that has passion and devotion for what he does, I like to explore, I like to be the best, I want to succeed, I have a passion and drive for excellence and I love God.
How would you describe your family?
I have one of the best families in the world, if not for anything, imagine if my parents were not supportive in anywhere, I have a lot of people that appreciate my talent, I am very grateful to God that I have the best of parents that supported me, to know when to take a break and when to move on and also I have the best siblings, they are also very supportive, they are all my younger ones I am the first born and so I love all of them.