Arts & Entertainments

I was quite adventurous as a young boy – Gbenga Adeyinka

Celebrated comedian, actor, compere, radio and TV presenter, Gbenga Adeyinka D 1st, speaks about his upbringing, family and the future of the comedy industry among others, in this interview with EDWIN USOBOH

Tell us your childhood experience and how it has shaped you?

I grew up partly with my grandmother and later my aunts and uncle. At a very young age I was taught to be responsible, accountable and respectful. I was brought up on the music of Chief Ebenezer Obey and his contemporaries, so that was like an elementary education for me. I was quite adventurous as a young boy (or some might say rascally) but all I learnt being always on the streets playing football all over Surulere (despite serious beating from my parents) moulded me into the man I’ve become.

You have spent over 50 years on earth. How do you view life?

I have come to realise that life is a continuum, waits for no one just like nobody clears the road for yesterday’s champion. You must keep striving for excellence. Build platforms and build men so you can be remembered for something when you are gone.

You have enjoyed the fabulous grace, which reflects in your poise and style, were you born into an aristocratic family?

I was born into a middle class family; I grew up in Surulere, then referred to as New Lagos. I was fortunate to have moved from my Aunt and Uncle who just came back from studying in the US, so I was brought up to be Aristocratic but na lie, the Ajepako spirit in me diluted all the upper-class training I got but thank God because that’s what makes me extremely versatile and gives me the ability to blend in every situation I meet my self.

And you are obviously stylish in a unique sense of the word, how did you imbibe the art of looking dapper and clean always?

What are your favourite fashion accessories? I learnt very early that you have to dress (like my colleague Julius Agwu says) the way you want to be addressed. Looking good is an integral part of show business. I’ve also learnt that you don’t have to break the banks. A clean decent look is a winner anytime. I love wristwatches with a passion and I also like good shoes.

What does family mean to you? Can you remember your first date with your wife and the dramas of those good old days?

Family means the world to me. Like I tell them, all I do I do for them. I am extremely protective of them and they know I will give my life for them. My first date with the Mrs was a lunch date at work. It was a small restaurant in front of Debasco motors on Ikorodu Road in Lagos. I remember from day one I told her she was my wife and she kept saying “no o!” In those days I could not enter her house for close to a year even though I was seeing her daily at work. I would hang around the fence praying she comes out or I find a lady to go and help me go in and get her. It’s was very frustrating but she was worth the drama.

What books have you read that affected your life most positively? Growing up, did you have to pattern your life after some models?

I was very lucky or should I say blessed. I was a dreamer as a kid and luckily my Uncle, Engr Adeyinka came back from the US with a very large library so whenever I was not out playing football I was submerged in his library. I read a lot of books in primary and early secondary school. Roots by Alex Hadley, biographies of all the American presidents, civil rights leaders, Nigerian leaders, Awolowo, Zik, Ahmadu Bello etc. It opened my mind. One of the best books I’ve read though is ‘The 48 Laws of Power’. Really love it but I don’t allow it control me. I have a lot of role models from the books I read but Martin Luther King Jnr and MKO Abiola made me believe in the freedom of others and the self-belief that no matter where you come from or the colour of your skin you can aspire for greatness in life and actually succeed.

Did you play pranks? Can you recall any childhood pranks that landed you in trouble?

Chai! Chai!! Chai!!! I was the king of pranks. I remember being sent to grind pepper at Ilegogoro in Lagos. Leaving the pepper by the goal post to play football, I finished playing set and didn’t see the bowl of pepper again. I cooked up a story about how a car was about to run into me, so I dodged and the pepper and bowl fell into the canal that was too big for me to enter. Guess what? My aunt had waited endlessly, came to look for me, saw me playing football. Carried the pepper. When she presented the bowl, I nearly had heart attack. The beating had no part two.

You have been in the industry for over two decades, what do you see differently now, is there still room for improvement?

There is still massive room for improvement. Even those of us that they call veterans still have a lot to learn from the young ones. You are only as good as your last show or event. We have to keep looking for new ways to better our crafts and the industry. I love the way we have embraced social media. We need to do more to make the industry much more professional and profitable. It shouldn’t be just a few people making it big once in a while. It should be all of us getting a piece of the pie if possible.

You recently ventured into bread making (D1st Bread). What brought about the idea?

Well, I’ve always loved the idea of multiple streams of income because I know at the back of my mind that I can’t be in hot demand forever. The Covid- 19 Pandemic created a need to explore further and I realised that there was space to occupy in the food sector, thus I jumped in after doing a lot of research and due diligence.

Won’t the day to day running of your bakery keep you away from entertainment?

I doubt it because I prepared for that from the onset. What I basically do now is supervise. I have overtime been able to get capable staff that are holding forte. Its not been easy but we are surviving.

You are regarded as one of the most successful masters of ceremonies in Nigeria today, what do you do differently from others?

I guess grace of God is very key in all this. The other is being prepared for the opportunity when it comes. I do a lot of research, I do a lot of ground work and preparation and I take my job very very serious. Timing is key for me. Customer relations is also of paramount concern to me. I do my best to go the extra length and I most times don’t lay too much emphasis on Money (my handlers always tell me that’s a vice though). For me, the art deserves my all at all times.

Do you think the Nigeria government has done enough to support the creative industry?

Honestly I believe this industry has thrived on its own and I don’t believe in government handouts to grow things because you will be at the beck and call of government who can even ask for the industry to streamline their contents but that said and done, creating a conducive environment will help. Low digit loans to do shows, to build concert centers and generally making the country better will help.

Would you at any point consider going into partisan politics?

Honestly it is something that has always been on my mind. Sometimes you see how the country is being run and you feel you can do a much better job but then am I able to play it as it is now? Do I have the financial resources to run a successful campaign? Am I ready for the game? The future will decide though because I know things won’t always be like this.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I hope this won’t sound pedestrian but I want to be remembered as that guy who came, saw an opportunity, took it, created platforms that touched lives and ultimately DID HIS BEST.

What is your life philosophy?

A candle loses nothing by lighting other candles and the sky is big enough for all to fly.

 

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