…Reveals his quarrel with Mike Bamiloye, other so-called Drama ministers
By Wole BALOGUN
Ore Ore Williams,.aka Awo Jesus, is popular in Nigeria as a film maker, producer, script writer, Director and an evangelist. He has written, directed and produced many films, most of which preach Christian morals and doctrines. He is unique in his presentational style because he features secular actors in his Christian movies. In this chat with livetimes, he explains why he doesn’t like introducing himself as a Drama Minister like the likes of other Christian movie producers, writers and directors such as Evangelist Mike Bamiloye wish to be identified. Williams explains why he would rather prefer to be addressed as a film maker using drama to minister the gospel and preach morals instead of being called a Drama Minister. He also spoke about other his works and other interesting things about himself including how being an orphan at four made him take life more serious, among others. Excerpts:
WB: Let us start with an introduction, I know you as Doctor, Bishop, Professor, Evangelist Oreofe, but let’s have formal a introduction… (smiles)
Ore-Ofe: (Laughs) My name is OreOfe Williams, I come from the Awokoya’s family of Ososa Ijebu. Ososa Ijebu is of course a noted that in Nigeria, being the same town legendary doyen of Nigeria Theatre, Late Chief Hubert Ogunde, hailed from.
WB: In any case, you looks like Ogunde. (Both laugh).
Ore-Ofe: I went to primary school, I went to Grammar school and the University… Then on and on and on like that. I am married, with Children by the grace of God. I am a mentor to thousands of people in the Theatre industry and outside it. And we also run a film village, and of course we have our office. Because this place is a film House at Ring Road in Ibadan. The film village is meant for shooting excetra…we live there. Our major programme here , during the festival once in a year, is the talent hunt anniversary. And then the film house is meant for the office, the studio works and all. That is the summary of what we do.
WB: Now what basically are the programme that you do? It looks like you are into many things, because is like you are not only into a film making, You do evangelism and a whole lot.
Ore-Ofe: I am first of all a christian and I have a philosophy that:” Whatever a man chooses to do, to a large extent, there must be an involvement of a divinity, an involvement of the one who created you, because without Him we are nothing.” And as a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ died for me, he resurrected on the third day and that is why I am saved. I also believe that I have the Holy Spirit within me. And if I believe all these things, I should be able to tell other people. What I know, what I believe, what I enjoy, the impacts that these have made in my life. Number two, is that I am an Theatre Arts please. I studied Theatre Arts from the undergraduate up to Post graduate level. And then I believe that, if am a christian and am a Theatre Arts practitioner, I should use my talents to also teach people, what I believe in. However, it is actually quiet different from what those who say they are into drama ministry do. That is why l involve secular actors on my productions I am not particularly a drama minister, but I engaged those who are called secular actors and those that are not also particularly into drama ministry . Personally, I always say I am not a drama Minister. I am a Theater Arts Practitioner with faith based l, professional practice.
I present my films, I present whatever I write… And of course, I have the capacity to teach, that might not necessarily be faith based. Most of the parables of Jesus Christ have to do with morals, the story of good Samaritan, the story of the Lower etc…. all those Bible words, the one planting seed, the one that falls by the road, the one that falls on the rock and the rest, they are about morals. I have no problem of teaching peoples, the concept of morality, that is gigantic in nature. As for my film, I teach faith and I teach morality…..
_WB: That is why you are a professional?
WB: Okay, so tell us, if you aren’t describing yourself as a Drama Minister and many Christian faith based film makers in Nigeria do, Mount Zion, what are you sir?
Ore-Ofe : Well, that is a fundamental issue. I have problem with those that say that they are drama ministers. I have those whom I respect, that they are drama ministers, but I don’t see myself as one. Look, like academicians, we have those who are doing an intellectual researches. They will want to know why you said so, they will like to question to find out “why.” Minister itself is from ministry. Even in politics. If you are in charge of a ministry, that is why you are called a minister. Now, as far as Christianity is concerned, ministries are in five folds. We have one, the Teacher, who teaches, the Pastor that do pastoral works, we have evangelist who evangelize, we have an an apostle and we have a prophet. These are the five folds ministries. It is Biblical, it is Scriptural. It actually means that, drama did not fall in these five folds ministries. It then follows that If someone involves in drama, it does it mean that person is a Minister? No? Drama is just a talent. It is a profession. It is a weapon that those under or in any of the five fold ministries can use. Drama cannot stands alone. Someone can use it in a Pastoral Ministry… Okay, that every Sunday or this Sunday, I want to use the drama to preach my sermon. So, an Evangelist can also use drama to preach. Drama is only used to propagate the ministry. Those people in the drama are the prophets, they can use it to predict the future. Even, those who called themselves as Music Ministers. Music cannot be a ministry. Anyone doing music is a minstrel. So if we have five folds, and the drama doesn’t fall into any of these folds, then, why should I call myself a drama minister? I can only call myself an apostle or a prophet, not a drama minister. Someone can be a Prophet or an Evangelist as I said earlier on, but we use drama only as a weapon of preaching. It is a talented for interpreting writen scripts. Sometimes, it is something that is traditional and it is part of us. Are you aware that in the first World Country, take American for instance, if you say you are a drama Minister, you have a lot of questions to answer. Because, they don’t understand that. I can only say otherwise, because they will not understand it. Even in China. A film maker is a film maker. If that is the case, The only thing you are doing is that you are teaching your faith with with your film.
WB : I think I get that… What you are saying is that you are using your profession, which is drama to teach morals. So, apart from making films, do you run TV series?
Ore-Ofe: Yes. We run TV series, but self sponsored. We also run a live programme on TV. We produced what producers can produce in that contexts.
On of them is “O takoko series.” What we do is just to have our scripts and then we record.
WB: Do you then have a personal TV dtation?
Ore-Ofe: No no no. The one we have is on YouTube.
WB: How do we asses your works on Youtube?
Ore-Ofe: Just go to, oreofewilliamslifewiretv
WB Now, let’s now talk about some of your works so far, When exactly did you start this business?
Ore-Ofe: Let me just talk about when I started commercializing it, because I began doing drama since when I was a kid. Then, it started as a way of escapism. That is escaping from the harsh reality of life. You know, I did not have a father or a mother, I was four years old when I lost my parents. I did not even know my father then.
WB: What happened to your parents?
Ore-Ofe: Well, I got to know the rest of the story later, through a sister. I knew my Grandmother whom I actually thought was my Mum. I got to know that l was orohaned at four through a sister when we were talking, we were young. She knew my story.. She told me my Mummy is no more….I started crying, that was when we were young. She said: “Grandmother is not your Mum o”, I felt bad. Though, I was being told that, It wasn’t the actual story, by my grand mother said if she told me what happened l would not be able to comprehend it. She just said that to reduce my pains. But I felt bad. Then, what made me ventured into drama is that I wanted to make myself happy. As I grew up, I started reading drama books, Books by Wole Soyinka, books by Chinua Achebe, J. Clark and others. I started expressing myself through writing. To escape from the thorns of the stories I had then, or those torturinh experiences. I wrote dramas, but when I got to the senior class in secondary school, they wanted me to go to Science Class so as to become a Medical Doctor, but I said no, I wanted to be in an Art Class. In those days, people believe, it is olodos, poor service, that go to Arts Class. But I chose to be an Arts student. And I was very smart. When I eventually got to a Commercial class, I asked questions, there is no passion over there. For three years in My Grammar School, When my teacher asked questions, I was just writing stories. There was a time I went to ask question in commercial class, about the courses. You know, I was very smart about it. I was told that I either pick Geography or Literature. I choose Literature, because, many of my friends choose Geography. But, I was a one man battalion. Eventually, I won the best student in Literature. All I had then was confidence and passion. For three years in my secondary school, I was scoring 81,82 and 87 marks in Literature. When they asked simple questions, I was just writing stories. I was getting the mark of the best student in Literature in my school as at that time.
When I got to JSS 3, I asked this question: “Can I study drama?.” And they said yes. And I became happy. And once l got the opportunity to write JAMB, I chose Theatre Arts in University of lbadan. I think our Jamb was tough then
I had 205.The University did not give me that admission in Theatre Arts. The Dean of Arts then gave me a note to give Prof. Feminism Osofisan of Theatre Arts then. , I peeped into that note, it read: “Femi, this is my boy, attend to him.” When I got to the department, the man was teasing me but I didn’t know until later. He asked me: ” Can you do drama? And then looked at me, instead of me to have said: “I will do o.” I did not say anything. You know my background, being brought up to be timid. I did not talk, though I knew what l wanted. but I was just looking at him. He then said anytime you make up your mind about it, you can come back. Can you imagine how stupid I was. I carried my bag and I left. (laughs) Instead of me to have said, yes Sir, I can do it o, I did not say anything, I left and I was not given an admission there. But later on, I realized it, I was into the middle of a semester in another University when I was given an admission by the same professor in U.I, but it was late. But l went back to do my masters in U.I, later on.
WB: It was the same man that admitted me.
Ore-Ofe: Whaow! He was HOD then, 1999 and 2000. I remember very well. I now realized that, F.O was just testing me then. I do same tests for others today… when someone just enters and l woukd say, you can’t act. When you look shy, is not that you cannot act.. Why are you shying, just go. But when you now say, ha yes Sir, I am here to act ooo. Then l k ow you are ready.Theatre is all about expression. I learnt what the professor was trying to do.
I went to the Olabisi Onabanjo University eventually to study drama.. I started my drama carreer with ‘Ore Ofe Theatre Foundation .’ They gave us free hands in OOU and I was running my shows then I was at 100 level, second semester, even as a student.
WB: And the Department was giving you free hand?
Ore-Ofe: Yes, free hand. That was what helped in for life.
WB: .U.I allowed that too when I was there. I recall a senior colleague, Mr. Yemi Akintokun, was running a private Theatre company called Oracles Repertory. He trained many of us undergraduate students then in his productions about Soyinka and Osofisan’s plays.
Ore-Ofe: Okay, okay. When I got there, Baba Simeon was not commercialising stage productions. They just brought the plays and staged them. I started commercial Theatre productions in OOU drama department.
Of course. Not that I have a large audience. I had people like ten coming to watch my play. Whenever I had my stage productions, I was joining the audience to watch the performances. So, we were both actors and the spectators to the play at the same time. We were just encouraging ourselves. But before I left, I had brought the celebrities, people like Yemi Shodimu and Dele Odule, Saheed Balogun to the campus.
_Interviewer : Dr Pana then, now Associate Professor Laide Nasir of TMA, FUOYE, once invited me from Lagos around 2010 or so, as a Reporter to cover an induction programme in OOU.
Ore-Ofe: Okay. I brought the celebrities. The crews did not believe it. I brought Baba T, Funke Odusanya, etc. Our campus stage productions then werefirst training grounds for many if today’s Nollywood stars including Adeoye that is in Lagos State Television (LTV). We staged lots of stage dramas together. Then I left. One day, l just walked up to the Governor, I said, I wanted to invite him to come and watch my drama in OSU; Eventually, and surprisingly, he came.
WB: Who was the Governor then?
WB: Otunba Gbenga Daniel. He came then, to watch the play of a student. It became an issues anyway on campus. Who was this guy? They thought I know him; but I did not know the governor from anywhere. I told him if he wanted more support for a second term, I can help him. The man laughef. How will you help me? I said I will make all the students in OSU to vote for you. He said, how do you want to do that? I said, I will stage a play and they will come and watch it. And I was just talking jargons anyway. He came with Twenty four Local Government Chairmen in Ogun State then!!
WB: Whaow! That is impressive.
Ore-Ofe: The hall was full. Many people came just to watch the celebrities – to watch my play. We had over 1000 audience.
WB: And you did not have any antagonism, from your department?
Ore-Ofe: No! The only time I was smelling rat was when the Governor came. Bringing the Governor and his entourage to watch our stage performance, many guys in the campus thought I have connection with him. Everybody was surprised. I was surprised too. We reached out to millions of people. That was how industriuos we were. I was a hustler , even when I graduated and went for NYSC . I am a Stage Director, Film Maker. I have a lots of things I was doing. When I was doing all that, I was in Niger State, where I served as a youth corps member. I used to be in Lagos every weekends for television programmes in LTV.
WB: You mean you were shuttling Niger to Lagos?
Ore-Ofe:Yes, especially on Saturdays. I will run back, sometimes taking a week break. After graduation. I landed on Yemi’ Sodimu’s lap. He gave his platform to me whenever he was traveling out of the country. That is LTV. He gave me the platform and I will forever be.ain grateful for that opportunity. I have written, directed and produced many film scripts. Adoti, odi omo, Awo Jesus, Sakabula, Organ Olodunmare, etc. Gbenga has been a huge support. He supports the youths who have visions. He is a man of understanding.
Even in Niger State, I became President of the Corp members’ Drama Unit. They did the election and I won. The person that ran against me had only one vote. I carried the rest of the votes. We were two. The election was done in my absence. I was not there. Someone nominated me. In Lagos, the rain was falling, and I was reading my scripts., the book was published, I still have the copy. That was the drama that the Governor t came to watch. It was an Opera of two hours.
WB : AwoJesu seems to be the most popular if your works; Because, it is all over the Town. Some students in FUOYE, had exclaimed:”Oh, that is Awojesu.” When they saw you the other day in our department. What inspired the film?
Ore ofe: AwoJesu is all about Corpers who go on an an evangelistic mission. You need to watch it to get its full imoort. It was inspired by the Holy spirit. But there were many secular actors in it.
This is a unique feature of my movies.
And one thing I also do, is to personally .market the films I was even planning to do something about the cinema. I chosed the marketer. I design covers of my films as a film maker. I use Laptop to dub the CDs. We have a well equipped studio for editing and running and shooting etc.
WB And it is paying off?
Ore ofe: Is still doing well till tomorrow.
As an academician, a lecturer before I resigned, I don’t go to lectures, except if I have practical works to carry out. When I was granting an interview, the VC then took the issue up to the Senate. That why am I granting interviews. Then, I resigned by the direction of God. This year in the same School, they called me to come and shoot the film for their Mass Communication Department. The present VC gave me the platform. I cam also lecture, not for money. I have knowledge, I have passion. I like to advise that departments of drama across our universities should allow robust town and town relationship in the academia so that our products can be better trained.
The University are still calling me to come and teach. I am available yet for full employment but I can teach, I can support.
WB: let us talk about your other outstanding productions…
Ore ofe: I did Pastors on Strike.
WB: What is it about?
Ore-Ofe: t is all about a Pastor who goes into politics. All the elders in his Church warned him not to go. He said he will prefer to leave the church and become a Governor. Then, he won, but was neverin power. That’s just the story.
WB: Probably, that is not God’s plan for him.
WB: Perhaps that is a warning to some prominent cleric s poke-nosing into politics in Nigeria. ( They both laugh)
WB: What other works, apart from the Pastor’s on strike?
Ore-Ofe: I did a lots. I did Cold Fire…
WB: (cuts in) When did you do God of Elijah?
Ore-Ofe: l think it was 2016.
WB: Shakabula is your recent film?
Ore-Ofe: No, that is 2018 that we did it.
WB: What is Shakabula is all about?
Ore-Ofe: It is all about corruption in Government system.
WB: What is the recent one?
Ore-Ofe: The most recent is the: “God Of The Bad Guys.”
WB: What is it all about?
Ore-Ofe: The film is all about a situation where people condemn and criticize people in the Church. They criticize their appearances. They judge. They don’t allow the bad guys to grow; but someone platting hairs, someome putting on earrings, should not be judged, because there are lots of things that many people are doing in the secret than those who are acting in such a way. God used Rehab in the Bible as a reference… He used her despite been a prostitute. Moses killed his opponent. David was an apple of God’s eyes but he killed. God still accepted the bad guys if they repent is the point being made in the film.
WB: What is your philosophy of life?
Ore-Ofe: One, discipline. You must be disciplined if you want to be a leader People hates to be corrected.
Two, loyalty is most important. Look at Mike Bamiloye, they keep loyalty, they keep their friendship and they remain there. Give them your two hands and they will take it. Do whatever that come to your mind. Loyalty is not about taking things from others without returning their gifts. You must pay back. Loyalty is not about money, it is all about capacity. Somebody give me money, and later on. I bought a food stuff for that person late. Be good to others, be loyal in your dealings. But let it be divine, this is what we called: “A divine loyalty.” Let us do it. It must be mutual and symbiotic.
WB: We understand you are also an author of many books, let us into this too.
Ore-Ofe: l write books and read books too. Yes, I compose songs as well. I have red 120 books on my phone this year alone. Many of these books are by great men such as Barrack Obama. I can be avery studious person, even though I am very playful.
The third one is that, what you give to others is what you get. You must have interest in other people. And you must support others. Your vision will not go far, if you did not support others peoples’ visions. Your dreams will not go far if you are not interpreting the dreams of others. I can show you some Bible references on this. Joseph’s dream wouldn’t have come to pass, if he didnt interpret other people’s dreams. Saul was looking for his father’s ass when he met the prophet of God. And he chooses him as a king. They are always in a mission..Moses was helping his father’s in-laws, when he met his mandate. David was helping his father, Jesse, to run the flock, when he was called and anointed. They are always on the run of helping others. Jesus was on a mission to his father, he died on the cross and he resurrected on the third day..So, if you want your mission to go far, help other peoples’ visions. Some men are ‘Me and man horses .’
‘Me and and myself.’ Me, me, me, me….. When you help others, even in academia, running for president as a candidate, you will be successful.
WB: On the last note, this is the last question I will like to ask you, accidentally, why asking that question, you have actually ended up in that junction. You have been a mentor to many young people, even tough you didn’t say it. I know a student that you trained. On the philosophy of life of helping others. How many of them have you helped and are you still helping now?
Ore-ofe: Many sir. Even those that are not even Nigerians. I am always eager to impact people, free. During the lockdown I helped many youths on training for acting, editing etc; Even their parents called and thanked me for impacting them. Because, there is an ASSU strike.
WB: indeed, you have carved a niche for yourself. That of creating faith based films with secular actors. What advise do you have for the stakeholders in the Nigerian film industry?
Ore-Ofe: We are not the same. I told you I began drama from a tender age. I told you from the beginning, I did not just wake up one morning and say I want to go into drama. It was from the beginning. I tell those I am mentoring you, define yourself. You don’t need to talk like me, behave like me. You can only copy me. Just define where you are going or you become a shadow for another man. Like you said; I am original. You may not be recognised at the beginning, but when it becomes persistence, it becomes successful and peoples will associate with you. Make sure it a standard for the general populace. Pray and help yourself. I am doing it with standard and started in the academia. People usually do it from scripts to screen, but I know from scripts to streets. I do many things myself. I can teach and be relevant in teaching line. I mentor people who are not actors. There is a guy here working with me that I trained. He wrote a book, and the book is on editing films. That is the first book of editing on drama in Nigeria.
WB: Thank you. Ore Ofe Williams for granting this interview.
Ore-Ofe: Okay sir thanks.