Abiodun Ayoyinka, popularly known as Papa Ajasco, is a major player in the comedy genre. In this interview with Tosin Clegg, he talks about how his character and lifestyle
Getting to know Papa Ajasco
My name is Abiodun Ayoyinka, popularly known as Papa Ajasco. I play the lead role in Papa Ajasco and Company and I work with Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture. I’m a dancer and I studied Theatre Arts. I sing, drum and I’m into technical construction too- setting up stages. Apart from that, I do other things like joint productions and collaborate with a lot of people in the Yoruba movie industry. After my secondary school education, I left for Ife to obtain a certificate in dramatic arts and later joined the Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture in 1985.
Getting the role of Papa Ajasco
I acted in one comedy TV series then, by a Wole Amele, and played the role of policeman, and that was what the producer, Mr. Wale Adenuga, saw and he looked for me and asked if I could play the role of Papa Ajasco and I said ‘yes, let me try.’ I, too, have been reading Ikebe Super since my childhood. So I got the role and he asked what we were going to do about the bald head. So I said ‘let me be natural and cut my hair and let’s see how it looked.’ And he saw me after I did that and was like, ‘wow, this is Papa Ajasco’ and ever since, I have been shaving my head in order to play the role.
I have been acting Papa Ajasco for almost 20 years
I have been acting Papa Ajasco for almost 20 years and yes, so much has changed about me so far; it has made me comfortable. I have my own car and have my own house. So, in the long run, I will say no regrets at all playing Papa Ajasco.
Challenges so far
Majorly, I should have been involved in other things outside Lagos, but I can’t because of what I do with the Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture, a job I had before Papa Ajasco came in and doing the government job ain’t easy. I have travelled wide, to US, Mexico and other places.
Cast and crew of Papa Ajasco
Playing the role of Papa Ajasco, the first Mama Ajasco died and another one came up and that one travelled out and another came in. I think we have had three of them on board so far. And Boy Alinco travelled to the US and we have a second one. Papa James and I have been together for so long and that hasn’t changed. Then the little Ajasco was changing frequently because as he keeps growing the role may not fit in again, as he is supposed to be a short boy character. The producer changes him and it’s been quite nice working with them. They have been cool-headed, as we have some characters who just want to give the producer problem. Call time is call time. Also, we have someone new playing Miss Pepeye now.
The New Series, Papa Ajasco reloaded…
It’s all about WAP Mr. and Mrs. Talented show. It teaches us that when God has provided us something, we shouldn’t use crooked ways to get it, if not it leaves us. And that’s Papa Ajasco himself trying to play coni coni way, and a lot of things happened thereafter. You will be seeing jugging, dance and you will be seeing a lot of stars on board. Let my fans out there go and watch it as it would be very interesting.
I’m used to the fame already
Some people will walk up to me and say ‘let me touch your head sir’ and I will say ‘touch it.’ They will ask a lot of questions like is it original, is your tummy real and at times they see hair on my head and I tell them I always shave it off because of the role of Papa Ajasco. In fact, any time my fans greet me outside, I’m always cheerful, I don’t show it even when I’m sick, or something is happening to me. I will always be there for them. I always answer them and even up till now the little boy crawling still knows Papa Ajasco.
I have given back to a lot of people
Watching Papa Ajasco alone brings families together. Because I had one experience; there was this woman who was on a wheel chair with partial stroke, to be precise, and she was watching Papa Ajasco with her family and, all of a sudden, while she was laughing and all that, she gradually stood up from the wheel chair. We have had a lot of experiences like that. We have touched a lot of families like that in Nigeria. Our comedy is not only for laughter but for education too. So you have something to learn in our drama.
Starting out I had a few mentors
It was the likes of Ojo Ladipo, Baba Sala, and that was years back when I started. I have been acting since my secondary school days when I was in a drama society in school. I was trained by Ben Tomoloju and we were together with Antar Laniyan and a few others. Baba Hurbert Ogunde, Ojo Ladipo and Baba Sala were my mentors then and Baba Wande also.
I have done other productions aside Papa Ajasco and that was on NTA. It was called Sandra, and it was long ago. I featured in some Yoruba movies with a lot of big Yoruba movie stars. But majorly, it’s been Papa Ajasco and Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture.
What made me exceptional
The role that I play as Papa Ajasco, I never go off it. I stick to it like my life, and the name is what I cherish a lot, as I don’t want to tarnish the image. The producers will be like please don’t tarnish the image outside, saying anything I want to do should be clean and clear.
In the next couple of years, I would retire and start my production outfit. I have been planning to do so and I pray to God that everything should come out well. I will always like to associate myself with Wale Adenuga, first of all, and then work with Tunde Kelani. But I have worked a lot with Tunde Kelani and these two I will always work with.