Veteran actor, Tunde Alabi was recently discharged from the hospital after an illness that kept him off the screen for over two years. In this interview, he speaks about Nigerians’ goodwill when he was hospitalized, challenges actors face when they don’t plan and how fellow actors shortchange colleagues.
WHAT led to the amputation of your leg and what are your plans when you leave the hospitals?
Let me first and foremost thank those who rally round me, when the issue of this illness that led to the amputation of my leg came up. The way and manner Nigerians responded to the call to help me at short notice, showed Nigerians are caring and generous people.
The issue went viral on the internet, even those I did not expect responded. There was this little boy, who sent N100. 25 Kobo into my account, the 25 kobo was just to show that it came from a little boy. I was really touched by the little boy’s response. And shall remain very grateful for the kindness they showed. I did not expect this amount of love and kindness by the people. These are people that I may never meet, even when I live for another 200 years. They started paying the money from the October 21, 2016. I went into the theatre with very minimal hope of raising money need to see me through. But, when the amputation was done and as I regain consciousness the story took a new dimension. When I switched on my phone after the operation, alert to notify me of Nigerians good will started coming in like rain. I did not believe this gesture could really happen and I was filled with tears. It was tears of joy that Nigerian could be moved to come to my rescue. It was really God at work. I want to say that by the time I was taken to the theatre for the operation, I was half dead. I only had N60,000 in my account before I was moved to the hospital. I was told that it was after the operation that I would need money the most. I have to buy blood, injection and the money to cover the long period I will be in bed. I took an injection that cost N2,700 per day. I will forever be grateful to Nigerians.
Even some of my own people, who could not make financial contribution, but their prayer, did a lot to seeing me through. I need to thank people at the Artistes Village who are too many to be mentioned. Members of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) equally played very significant role to ensure that I receive good treatment. I need to thank Mr. Emeka Ike who came on personal visit to me. The exco of Lagos AGN, I would say more grease to your elbow. I thank the management and medical team of the General Hospital, Lagos.
What doctors report before the amputation of your leg?
They said I had diabetics, which I believe could not have been responsible for it. It was more of a spiritual attack. This was carried out by an irascible fellow actor in his 80s. He goes about collecting money in the name that he has no roof over his head. This man hates anything progressive and I have seen him criticizing those who have made their marks both in the arts and elsewhere. But, I pray that he changes his way from this evil path to avoid the wrath of God. When he contacted a Togolese woman to carry out the voodoo, unknown to me, when she came looking for the man, it was from me, she inquired the man’s where about. They even made the sacrifice of a ram, so that their plans could work. The attack came like an explosion around my legs. I had to struggle to save myself because I was in severe pain.
But was there no medical report by the doctor?
Well, no doctor will ever say that it was spiritual or so. They do not agree that it was spiritual. I told some of these doctors that they should go to their villages and say there is nothing like spiritual attack whether they will come back alive. They agreed with me, but said they cannot admit that because of their training. However, they said it was diabetics.
Given your experience as an old actor right from the Village Headmaster’s days, available statistics showed a good number of actors hardly plan for the future…
My advice to actors is that they should not eat with all their ten fingers. They must learn to save ahead of the rainy days. They should not continue to live in the illusion that another job is on the way for them, so whatever they had earn from the previous performance could be squandered. Actors need to very careful, how they live their lives. There was a time some actors were ban for unruly behavior. The only actor I could vouch for among those put on ban was Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD). He is a highly discipline person. If you give a script to RMD and you expect him to be at the place of shooting, I can tell you that RMD will be there one hour before the commencement. So, it was a mistake or miscalculation to have included him among the actors ban then. What I am driving at is that some of these actors are not disciplined. Actor need to be discipline and plan ahead. Those of them struggling should stop living larger than life and face reality. They cannot eat their cakes and have it.
Some of the issues raised when the campaign to help you were that you were homeless and would have a home after living the hospital, was it that critical?
Of course, it was very critical. This caused me lots of money. I thanked Nigerians for their responses and people from different shades of life responded to the call to help Tunde Alabi. As it is, some of the problems have not been solved. The accommodation problem is there because my rent matter became an issue that I could not easily manage.
Most of the actors in your category have not really been well endowed. You seem to be at the mercy of society, how can things be better?
Like I said artistes must reflect to help their situation. We need to attain certain degree of discipline. Whatever you do in excess becomes vices. There is great difference between vices and virtues. Some of our members are responsible for the level of poverty they found themselves. Some of our members had been shortchanged only for us to discover that what we were paid by those who came in as intermediary on the job we collected was far less. There was a case when an actor paid us far less what we were supposed to get. He pretended as if he was the owner of the job, but incidentally, I met the original owner of the job. He told me the amount meant for the job. But to my dismay, we were under paid. I called the man to clear the matter which he tried to make a way for the fraud done. Some actors have gotten some help to solve some health problem but, they diverted it to other purposes.
During the period you were on admission, how did you address boredom?
I read newspapers. I normally buy Saturday and Sunday editions of The Nation and Punch. These newspapers keep me abreast of the industry and what I needed to keep me on top of what is happening in the country. These papers parade some of the best writers in the country. So, they are major papers that I read at the weekend in the hospital to keep myself free from boredom.