Olawale Obadeyi is technically insightful. He writes with a ‘violent’ and ‘wicked’ imagination. The ‘savagery’ with which he wields a hatchet has earned him unlikely fans outside the literary circuit. His language, laced with simple and complex cadences is an exquisite delight. He tells Adedayo Adejobi how he juggles being an advertiser, a writer and compere, and also talks about how he lost his mother as a teen and the car crash that almost took his life
Considering your expertise in public relations, advertising and broadcasting, what is your assessment of these key industries?
The landscape is, today, mercifully endowed with the gift of technology which should aid creativity. Lamentably, however, the same technology, have lulled the average practitioner to laziness at best and at worst, inactivity.
Looking at the quality of creativity of major advertising campaigns, would you say the industry is fully developed?
My verdict is that there is a very big room for improvement.
Some have claimed that media practitioners, especially men, are promiscuous. Is that correct?
No. You call people whose minds are very open promiscuous? Please, we are naturally friendly; which speaks to the demands of the territory.
You are considered a purveyor of language, how did you cut and sharpen your ‘language teeth’?
From childhood, I had set my sight on what I wanted to do. So, I grew very fond of words and their usage by reading a lot of books and watching such eloquent newscasters as Mike Enahoro, reading the network news. Little wonder that today I earn a living by deploying the best in the written and spoken word in English Language.
You are referred to as Wally Jay. What’s the story behind the name?
I once worked at the National Arts Theatre. In my department, there were two of us named Wale. One was tall and hunky. The other was little me. So, to differentiate us, I was called Wale Junior, which was later adapted to Wally Jay. The nickname has since stuck with me like white on rice.
What was growing up for you like?
Growing up was very interesting, even if tough. My mother was a disciplinarian, while my father was not too harsh. Somehow, the balance worked well in moulding me.
What is your best childhood memory?
When I got a gift from my English teacher, in primary five, for translating the Yoruba word ‘ajodun’ into English – anniversary. He had the whole class give me a standing ovation.
What key lessons defined your perspective to life?
My parents instilled respect for others and the fear of God in us.
If you had a chance for a ‘do-over’ in life, what would you do differently?
It is all in God’s hands. I do not regret anything or feel that there should be a ‘do over’.
How did you meet your wife?
I was an undergraduate back then at the University of Ife. I met this innocent-looking girl from Akwa Ibom, during one of my habitual evening walks in Surulere. Today, to the glory of God, we are blessed with three children, having been married for 20 years.
Can you share your high and low moments?
My highs will be those years when my children started coming. My low, when I lost my mother at age 15.
What do you feel most proud of?
The fact that God answers prayers.
Tell us about your love for music.
Music, for me, is a mood-setter. I grew up under a father whose love for Obey’s music was legendary. So, naturally, he passed that love to me. Apart from that, I am very eclectic in terms of my musical choices. I am also in love with those masterpieces of the 1980s from the likes of the Whispers, Shalamar, Dynasty, Skyy, etc.
What is your favourite music?
My favourite kind of music ranges from Obey’s Juju music and latter-day jollof music.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
Finland. I hear it is organised and life there is as easy as Sunday morning.
If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?
The Bible, a good inspirational book, a radio set, my laptop and a TV set.
What do you want written on your tombstone?
That is when I grow old enough to meet my Maker: ‘Here lies a man who lived and let God’.
Which teacher in school made the most impact on you and why?
That would be my Economics teacher in secondary school. We used to call him ‘Baba Econs’. He was eloquent and knowledgeable about virtually everything under the sun. He used to teach us how to pronounce English words. He was so amazing.
What was one of your most defining moments in life?
September 21, 2014. Seven days to my birthday, when I had an accident .My car somersaulted thrice. I could have been history. I saw God’s goodness in a different light. It was a defining moment.
How do you spend your free time?
I spend it with very positive people or I simply pick up a good book to read in the comfort of my room.
Who do you most admire in life?
Which are your top five favourite books and why?
They are: Death And The King’s Horseman (A play by Wole Soyinka); for the sheer poetry and elegance in every line; Exposure: Inside the Olympus Scandal by Woodford, a British-born MD of a Japanese company who discovers an endemic malfeasance of financial mismanagement in the company after his watch as he took office. His attempt to speak about the rot he discovers merely puts him on a collision course with his employers. He loses his job in the process. The third book is: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which I must have read too many times more than I can count (for the author’s mastery of the prose genre and his uncanny ability to use proverbs effectively). Next is, A Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela; the story of his life and struggles is gripping and inspiring. Lastly, The Audacity Of Hope by Barack Obama. The way he enunciates his vision and strategy towards being the first black occupant of the White House is seminal.
What are you most afraid of?
Dying a sinful man; without surrendering to God.
If you are president, what is the first thing you will do?
Turn the economy around for the better.
If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be?
I was not around when it happened but, I would have loved to witness Nigeria’s Independence.
What is a skill you’d like to learn and why?
Playing the piano; I see those who play it as rarely gifted and adorable.
What are your favourite 1980s and 1990s songs?
For the 1980s, I pick Cheryl Lynn’s ‘Shake it up tonite’ and for the 1990s, all the tracks of Craig David, particularly ‘I’m walking away’.
If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?
Animal? Have I really given it a thought? Well, certainly, not a prey; maybe, a lion.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
I went to see the film ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ at the Leisure Mall, in Surulere. A guy sitting next to me saw me in one of the scenes. After the film show, he asked to take a selfie with me.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
My greatest strengths are my communication skills (writing and speaking). My weakness is my impatience with mediocrity.
What project are you working on now?
This project has taken all of four years to achieve. It is my book, a collection of 520 Yoruba proverbs, aphorisms and witticisms. I am committed to publishing and launching the book before the end of the first quarter. I owe this cultural reclamation duty to my children (and that of other children) whose understanding of Yoruba is not wholesome and other children. It is quite a resourceful tome.
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