Veteran actor, Babatunde Omidina, aka Baba Suwe, has been off the radar for a while. He speaks with TOFARATI IGE and JOY MARCUS on his career, the NDLEA saga, his late wife and other issues.
Read the interview below:
An actor, Yomi Fabiyi, raised an alarm that you were critically ill last year but you denied it. Why would he say you were sick if you were not?
He is my son and I don’t know why he did that. People told me about all what he said. There is nobody that cannot fall ill; we just pray that God shouldn’t visit us with a problem that is bigger than us. Truly, I was sick, but it wasn’t as bad as he painted it. As you can see, I am very well now. There was never a time when I was carried around.
What was the nature of your illness?
I am diabetic. As a result of that, my blood sugar level usually fluctuates but things are normal now. There was a time when I could not even talk. Very soon though, everybody will see me in another dimension in a movie.
Did your detention by the NDLEA contribute to your illness?
Yes, it did. I believe I was framed up in that particular case. That wasn’t my first time of travelling out of the country and I had never been arrested for something like that. They took me to a lot of big hospitals and laboratories but nothing was found in me. The judge who handled the case later told the NDLEA that if they did not retrieve any illegal substance from me, they should let me go.
On the day I was arraigned in court, the crowd that came to witness it was so massive; you would have thought they came to see a movie. At a point, I couldn’t bear it anymore and I shed tears. I was made to sleep on a bench in an office at the airport throughout the time I was in NDLEA’s custody. I usually ate three times in a day and I excreted more than 30 times while I was there; yet they couldn’t find anything. I was even taken to a place where they flushed my insides with water and they still came up with nothing.
But it was reported that you refused to eat regularly while you were in NDLEA’s custody.
That’s not true; I always ate three times every day.
A Lagos High Court ordered the NDLEA to pay you the sum of N25m as compensation. Have you received the payment?
I have never gotten a kobo from them. The case has practically been forgotten after my lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, died.
Aturu was determined to see the case to a conclusion. When he first took on the case, he called me aside and asked me to confess to him if I really committed the crime. But I affirmed my innocence to him and he believed me. The people close to me knew that I was innocent. I had never seen cocaine until I got to NDLEA office. My job as an actor was enough to take care of all my needs, and I didn’t need anything else. Through my job as an actor, I have been blessed by God and I am well loved and respected.
But the NDLEA insists that its scanners detected the illegal substance in you. Some people even said a juju priest must have assisted you, which is why you did not excrete the drug. Is that what happened?
If there was a juju priest that could do that, I’m sure the person would be a millionaire by now. What could I have used that made them not to find anything in me; after all, they apprehend people every time. I have always stuck to what I know how to do best.
Did the NDLEA apologise to you in any way after your ordeal?
I never saw them after I left their custody.
Did your colleagues in the movie industry support you during that time?
We better leave all that to God because He is the only one that can judge. There are people who you think cannot speak ill of you but they are the ones that would be at the forefront of spreading false stories about you.
When you are successful at what you do, some people would think that you have added something else to it. It is people like that who weren’t happy that you were progressing that would capitalise on such an incident to dent your image.
In what specific ways did the incident affect your career?
It really affected my career and that is to be expected. Till this day, a lot of people still believe I ‘trafficked’ cocaine. Meanwhile, I am totally innocent of the allegations.
Did people, who used to work with you, stop associating with you after the incident?
No, that never happened.
Have you considered making a movie of your NDLEA experience?
Yes, it will be out soon. The title will be, Oya’gbe ti.
What are some of the important lessons you have learnt in the course of your career?
It is very important to have a good attitude. There is no where I go that I don’t relate well with people; irrespective of whether the person is an entertainer or not. That has helped me over the years.