Sometimes in the year 2003, I waltzed into a house in Gbasemo street, Ikorodu. The two-storey building stood tall opposite Harmony Castle, a haven for movie-makers back then. In the topmost flat of this property lived two Nollywood’s greats, Faithia and Saidi Balogun. I had been directed by Mr. Kayode Shogbesan, popularly called Baba Mi Kay to see Saidi Balogun. That afternoon, I saw the African James Bond for the first time and from the very first minute, I started knowing the true colours of Saidi ‘Walata’ Balogun.
Many have characterized him based on his personalities across the screen and film sets but I am here to talk about the person, the passion and the prodigy called Saidi Balogun! I won’t talk about all those things you already know about him, I want to talk about things you (probably) don’t know about him. I summarized everything in seven points,
1. HE IS RELIGIOUS
Josephine was the name of the beautiful lady who opened the door for me that day. She was a younger version of Faithia Balogun so no one needed to tell me I was in the right place or that Josephine was Faithia’s sister. I was offered a seat and in a matter of seconds I saw two real people, living a real life; a real role model life. While Faithia was busy breast-feeding the two months old baby Aliyah, Saidi was busy bowing and prostrating before his Almighty Creator; praying the Islamic way. I was moved as I whispered a silent prayer for the couple. Saying, this is the way to go! Many people could have believed a Saidi who played naughty, crooked and bad-boy character conveniently wouldn’t give a damn about piety but I dare say here that I have that firsthand knowledge about him being religious and God-fearing
2. HE IS HUMBLE
It shocks me when I hear people say Saidi Balogun is proud or arrogant! I think people, more often than not, tend to judge or characterize artistes based on the characters/roles they interpret on the screen. Even colleagues who have not had opportunity to be close to Saidi feels he has an aura of naughtiness, arrogance etc… but I have lived, dined, worked, travelled, argued, discussed, interacted with Saidi Balogun and I am telling you first hand that he is a humble man, he just has his ways. When Saidi has an argument or issue with someone, he may rant and say all sorts of things but the moment he leaves that spot, he would ask me “Abey, what did you see to what just happened?” If my reply was something like “Bros, you were at fault” he would go “Really?” and if I was like “Yes” he either makes a u-turn, go back to the person or places a phone call immediately and he would be like “Hello? Yeah my brother said I was wrong ooo, ok ma binu, I am sorry”.
3. HE IS A LOVE-BIRD
I am yet to see a Nollywood star who loves like Saidi. He is emotional, caring and loving. I think most times he tried to play hard, acting like he didn’t care but I can’t be fooled. He loves like Romeo. Little wonder he still talks about his wife (with people like us) affectionately
4. A PACE-SETTER
Saidi Balogun was the first actor/producer/director to come up with a highly-engaging two cast movie in Nigeria. This movie (MO DUPE TEMI), directed by Daniel Ademinokan which co-starred Doris Simeon, was not a short film but a feature-length movie, yet there was no boring moment from the first scene to the last. It was a hit movie. Saidi Balogun was the first producer to produce a movie whereby all the cast are clad in Ankara fabrics, a creative infusion in the movie ETI KETA. There are so many ‘firsts’ with Saidi Balogun and he just remains special and relevant till date. It is worthy of mention to know that Saidi is still the only actor in Nigeria who rocked the A-list position simultaneously with his wife, Faithia Balogun, for so many years. A feat that has been attempted by many in the past but failed. It’s either the wife or the husband hits the A gong but not the two at the same time but Saidi and Faithia broke this jinx.
5. HE IS METICULOUS
When I was his manager, sometimes, I would pass the night in his house and anytime there would be a new release of his movie, Saidi and a few guys would set out from midnight (12noon) and return around 5am. One day, out of curiosity, I decided to join them and I realized that in that five hours trip, Saidi Balogun and these boys had covered the most parts of the South-West, pasting posters around brigde poles, starting from the Shagamu-Abeokuta interchange to Ibadan, Oyo, Ogbomosho, Osogbo. This happens in the wee hours and when it is daybreak, people wake up to see new posters in strategic places. Beyond this distribution strategy, I also learnt from Saidi that the best errand is the one you sent yourself, when D.I.Y you just can’t go wrong. Saidi Balogun is indefatigable, he monitored a lot of successful things we saw back then himself, from start to finish. I saw him produced a movie ‘GBEWIRI’ for three years, putting all his weight behind that movie. It takes a special grace to be that fine and also be hard-working.
6. A NOLLYWOOD FACE FOR ALL GEO-POLITICAL ZONES
Only a few actors are well-known and accepted in all the geo-political zones of Nigeria. Saidi Balogun is one of those few
7. FINALLY, HIS WHO-DOES-THAT-FACTOR?
When the news broke that marriage between Star actress Faithia Balogun and Saidi Balogun is dissolved, the duo lived apart, yes you know that, but what you may not know is that while Josephine and Esther (Faithia’s sisters) moved in with Faithia, Kenneth Williams (Faithia’s brother) moved in with Saidi Balogun. Kenneth remained a manager and best friend of Saidi Balogun. Kenneth continued to live with Saidi until he got married, an occasion where Saidi stood as the father of the day! Who does that?
Saidi Balogun had a fatal accident, he had a broken skull, broken spine, broken arm, broken neck and miraculously he survived, that is not the wow factor here. The wow-factor is, the first time Saidi opened his eyes and saw me beside him, he said “Abey, get a pen and paper” I was like “for what?” he said “I have an idea of a story” I was like “Are you crazy?” he replied no, but the story is (crazy) GAMBARI PA FULANI! I wanted to laugh but the ambience was not funny, here is a lucky man who managed to survive because Obasanjo just equipped UCH with state of arts equipment, opening his eyes for the first time and talking about a story for a movie… who does that? Saidi Balogun is full of the who-does-that attributes, that is what stands him out. That is why he is special.
For these few reasons and a lot more, I think the entire Nollywood stakeholders should come out to celebrate this enigma, this special breed called Saidi Balogun as he celebrates his 50th birthday starting from July 4th. Happy Birthday Boss! I learnt a lot from you. Remain blessed.
CEO, PRODIGY AND PENS COMMUNICATION
Writes from Oregun, Lagos.