Olisa Adibua, one of Nigeria’s most influential personalities on radio and television has more than one reason to be involved in the production of Jude Idada’s sexually provocative stage play, 3some. As a co-producer with Joseph Edgar on this theatre project, his career trajectory couldn’t have been more defining than it is now, representing over 30 years in the entertainment business. For those who knew him up-close, his interest in contemporary theatre is not a flitting crush but a long-standing love affair. Bred in the United Kingdom, he had been enthralled by the theatre spirit long before relocating to Nigeria to find a barren theatre culture. He had since been impregnated by the burning passion to explore stage productions.
He fell in love with the screen- stealing young minds during his youthful days as the presenter of the show, Soul with Sprite on Nigeria’s first private television, Clapperboard Television. Little did he know that he’d cultivated a generation of followership who saw him embrace other interests in reality show hosting such as in the first season of Big Brother Naija and the talent hunt show, “Naija Sings.” While at Cool FM, he was the force behind MTN Top Ten Countdown, relishing the assortment of music dropping on the airwaves and clubs too.
A busy man, compere-in-chief, presumably born with a strong pact with nightlife, he wasn’t difficult to spot as he made his way to a VIP lounge in a hotel in Lekki Phase I during a private birthday party for Marvelous Dominion, a member of cast in 3Some play, which is a much anticipated show in June.
Tearing him away from the heart-pounding sounds from the DJ, and the strippers on the prowl, it was an opportunity to learn about his recent commitment to contemporary theatre.
“I have a passion for what I do,” he gushed. “It wasn’t about money. I always knew that money was going to come. It wasn’t about that at all. It was about trying to elevate our own industry to the international level. When it came to music for instance, I wanted to show that there were other layers; that Nigeria has many strings to it. Reggae was the prominent music of the period. I love reggae but I wanted to show that there were other dimensions to our music.”
The story of the evolution of hip-hop in Nigeria is incomplete without the mention of Adibua’s contribution to the street acceptance of the music genre.
“With the release of the first pidgin rap album by Junior and Pretty, I was there and I also know that I didn’t want to be in music alone,” he disclosed. “I wanted to be in other spaces. So, I was in television making different programmes, producing all kinds of programme. I was doing events. I got involved in sports and other things. My own desire is to be an all-round person, in terms of media and entertainment.”
In the reality food show, Bukas and Joints, Adibua gave a good account of his gift of selling snow to the Eskimos as he recounted, with the aid of visuals, the allure of indigenous Nigerian food and drinks.
“I’m involved with media and entertainment, theatre, film and radio,” he said. “Theatre was one of my first passions. I did a lot of stage plays in England where I went to school. I did some plays when I came back as well. I just kept seeing it die and though there were a few custodians who kept it alive, it was as if the younger generation weren’t into it because TV was taking over; Nollywood was coming through. It’s good to see that not just Joseph Edgar and I but other people are trying to make sure that it gets bigger. Theatre for me is the ‘realest’ and ‘rawest’ form of entertainment. And it is a platform for people who want to do things in the entertainment scene. You want to be a great actor or comedian, that live experience to be on stage with the audience, interacting which is instant karma. It is the most important way to grow and get the grounding. To become an executive producer of musicals is just a natural thing to do.”
With roots in Edo State, Adibua’s dynamic career has made him a cultural staple. For those years of persistent hard work, he has good reasons to smile to the bank. Now, it is about making others do the same.
“I’m lucky enough to be comfortable enough to invest in things like these and to do it, not just for money but for people who can benefit from it to create a whole eco-system and we are getting support from the corporate world right now.
“There is nothing like the energy you get from watching a play live; knowing that the dancers and musicians are there in front of you. You might have the CD or your phone, but you still want to see it live.”
3some, written by Jude Idada, is quite controversial for its adult content. Rated 18, the stage play takes the mask off the subject of sex and sexual preferences using powerful dialogues and scenes of sexual simulation. Adibua who had co-produced Isale Eko and Oba Esugbayi with Edgar is indeed eager to move away from the historic play tradition to a more contemporary theatre form.
“It’s a very controversial. We did it on purpose and it’s different. It’s not the usual kind of stuff. It’s edgy and we want to expand; to do something different from the traditional plays with song and dance. It’s good for the industry to get such a play and see how people react to it. It’s going to be a little hard to get the corporate bodies to support it. They might think the content is too racy. They are very cautious and guarded about their image. They don’t take chances. They want to see some other brand do it first before they jump in. It will be a great talking point when people see it. There is so much content that we have to keep it raw.”
3some is a psycho-erotic play production which tells the story of a young couple in a troubled marriage. The intervention of the wife’s mother and her deep insights into a male’s sexual preference and a female libido constitute the conflict of the drama.
“In our society, we have hypocrites. We have high moral standards yet we don’t maintain them. We have people who say A in public and practice B in private. We need to discuss issues that affect us instead of pretending to be hypocritical and puritanical. The world has changed and things have moved on. We can’t be living in the wrong century. We have to bring people to this century and to say this is what is going on right now,” he explained.
The sexual simulation scene in the play might be seen by conservatives as an attempt to objectify women. However, Adibua argued that it is not the men who dictated this trend in sexuality.
“Whether we do it or not, women will objectify themselves anyway. That is the power they have over men. It’s the way the world had been. It’s the way our human nature is built. For me, men are the weaker sex not the women. Men spent their entire lives to please women. That to me is weakness.
“Every man out there is trying to make money get a big house, trying to impress some lady out there. A man would do what a woman wants him to do if he loves that woman,” he said.
Adibua promised that the June production of 3some at MUSON Centre, Onikan will have a few twists; be edgy and loaded with allegory.