Popular Yoruba film actor and producer, Yomi Fabiyi, owes his career to a food vendor. Almost 20 years ago, when he was a young school leaver, unemployed and lived in the Shomolu area of Lagos, his favourite food vendor had opened his eyes to film acting.
Fabiyi, recounting his encounter with the vendor in an interview with our correspondent, said, “This woman was what I would call my foremost fan. I used to patronise her small bukateria in those days. One day, she told me that each time I came to eat in her shop other people would like to come, too, just to listen to me talk. Then she advised me to find any of the outfits that produce films and join them.
“When I told her that it would be difficult for me to become an actor, she promised to sponsor me. Before then, a lot of people had tried to encourage me to join the movie people, but I didn’t listen to them until this woman spoke to me. I had to make up my mind.
“A relative of mine told me how I could find and hook up with a film production company around Ebute-Metta. I already had it in mind to approach two popular actors that were my favourites. So I searched for them. Fortunately, one of them, who happened to be Baba Suwe, accepted me. That was how my journey into the world of movies started.”
The actor said that initially, he doubted if he really possessed the qualities that could shape him into a movie star. In his eyes, movie stars were not ordinary people and they had special qualities that made them stand out in a crowd. Eventually, with close supervision and guidance from Baba Suwe, he learned the ropes in no time.
But the going was not as smooth as he had expected. Soon he found out that being apprenticed to a popular Yoruba movie actor had its fair share of challenges. “In my position, it was not enough to be humble, committed, trustworthy and a hundred per cent loyal to my boss; I realised that I had to make a lot of sacrifice, too. In order to earn the approval of my boss and to move forward, I had to have these qualities. In addition, there must be proof that I had talent,” he said.
For an aspiring actor in those days, Fabiyi noted, the path to success was often littered with obstacles and there was nothing anyone could do about it. “I just had to endure. Some days I had very little food or nothing to eat. Sometimes, I had to depend on the kindness of a Hausa shopkeeper who allowed me to buy things on credit. And there were days when I slept outside because there was so much work to do. I didn’t dare to complain to my boss about my suffering. I didn’t have to bother him about food. He wasn’t my father, after all. He was doing me a favour because I came to learn about film acting and production from him,” he said.
The actor, who is also a director cum producer, counted himself lucky that his parents did not object to his choice of career. Instead, they chose to support him with prayers. “My father was not always around. But my mum was quite worried when she observed that I was coming home late some nights. One day, when she asked me where I had been, I told her that I went in search of my destiny,” he said.
Making a comparison between the older generation of actors and the younger generation, Fabiyi said the former had better training and more exposure than the latter. “To be honest, many of us lack adequate training and exposure. This has significantly affected the quality of many films produced in this country.”
The producer, who was caught up in a controversy over his marriage to a British lady last year, is still worried about the distance that exists between both of them.
“We are still living apart. She insists that she will not settle in Nigeria,” he said.
Contrary to general opinion, he denied that they were divorced. “I have only initiated the idea of suing for a divorce. I am still considering that option, though. The only problem is that my wife has to be physically present in Nigeria to be served the divorce papers. But she has refused to come,” he said.