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Bola Amusan: An actor as administrator, philanthropist

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It was the Executive Director of the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) Adedayo Thomas who opened the floodgate of commendations for the busy actor and President of the Theatre and Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN) Bolaji Amusan at the maiden TAMPAN Academic Conference held on Tuesday in Ibadan, Oyo state.

Impressed by his visit to what he described as the ‘massive secretariat’ of the association and also impressed by how TAMPAN is ‘professionally structured and run’ Adedayo who was Chairman at the well-attended conference requested for a standing ovation for the comic actor who is popular called Mr. Latin.

“You will all agree with me that TAMPAN under Mr. Latin has recorded a number of milestones. It is the only association that I know of in Nollywood, apart from the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) that has a well peopled Board of Trustees that regularly meet to chart the way forward for the association. At least, I witnessed a full session of the Board’s meeting Chaired by Chief Adebayo Salami aka Oga Bello at TAMPAN’s massive secretariat yesterday. That is impressive and we must salute Mr. Latin for his effort at running a true professional association’’ remarked.

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Former President of the Association of Core Nollywood Producers (ANCOP) Alex Eyengho shared same sentiments as the NFVCB boss. Eyengho commended Mr. Latin for doing so much to stabilize and bring sanity to the association since he assumed headship of the association two years ago.

“I think Mr. Latin deserves more than just verbal commendation; we should give him a title. I hereby give him the title of Iginla (Big Tree) of Nollywood,” Eyengho enthused.

An actor who is unarguably of more artistic heft than most comic actors of the Yoruba home video production divide, this will not be the first time that Mr. Latin’s leadership abilities will be publicly acknowledged. Early this year, the Ibadan Film Circle (IFC) a group of filmmakers, film critics and scholars that have in the past five years earned a reputation as promoters and police of ethics, quality and professionalism in the Nigerian film industry inducted Mr. Latin as a Honourary Member of the IFC in recognition of his leadership abilities.

At the induction ceremony, which held at the University of Ibadan, IFC’s Administrator Ropo Ewenla emphasised that IFC decided to honour Mr. Latin because IFC was drawn to Amusan’s style of leadership as TAMPPAN President.

Ropo, a culture activist and veteran actor had said, “he has demonstrated uncommon zeal, genuine determination in helping to tackle some of the unsavory and unprofessional tendencies of his own colleagues in the Yoruba film industry. On quite a few occasions, he has lent his personal voice and used the resources of his office as President to support IFC’s many ‘battles’ with errant and recalcitrant individual Yoruba filmmakers. He is a progressive ideologue whose professional outlook tallies in many respects with IFC’s ideals.”

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A self-professed devoted disciple of the theatre, Latin has steadily and steeply climbed to become a recognizable acting spirit. Those who have followed his steady rise say that the actor who is married with children has somewhat introduced a phase of comedy, which many agree may never flat out.

Born in Gbogan in Osun State, Mr. Latin hit the national limelight when he took the decision following the prodding of his electrical engineer friend Rajah to join the Ariyo Traveling theatre company then based in Abeokuta, Ogun state. Though he had a strong passion for sports and wanted to become a professional footballer, it was Rajah who somewhat ‘turned the man who saw tomorrow’ for Amusan who at a time worked with Rajah as an electrical intern. Amusan was regarded as a witty fellow. He could force a good laugh out even from a hardened soul. This was why Rajah felt that his place was on the acting runway and not on the football pitch.

A gifted spirit with the talent of infusing comedy into mundane storylines, Latin who has over a hundred movies in his creative pouch, hopped on the movie runway soon after apprenticeship and he unrestrictedly put everything he could in an unprecedented burst of creative energy and competitive spirit. Just one outing and he became producer’s choice for an actor that will give a convincing comic performance.

But how did he come by the alias Mr. Latin? Amusan star of critically acclaimed productions such as Oba Jo la bo, Wedding Gift, Mr. President, Kini Scores, Oti Poju and Nkan Ajani explained: “when I was in school, I like foreign languages a lot; I was good in French. So, when I came into acting, I wanted to do something different from what my elders like Baba Suwe and Baba Sala were known for. So, once I’m given a line to say, I would end with a phrase that sounds like Latin. So, one day, someone asked what was that I said and I jokingly said that it was Latin and that was how they started calling me ‘Mr. Latin’ and the name have stuck.”

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As robust as his creative pouch seem, Latin has only featured in a few home videos produced in English. He stressed that he should not be blamed for not having done much in that divide. Rather he thinks it’s the fault of the ‘English producers’ who have often underrated the actors in the Yoruba language divide. “Some of them think that we cannot act in English. They have always been assuming and it is not good to assume. Only those who know our potentials have extended the olive branch. So the English producers have to reach out to us too,’’ he said.

A recipient of over 30 industry awards presented by various award institutions both at home and abroad, Amusan’s biggest wish is to leave a legacy in Nollywood. “I want to leave an unforgettable mark and touch as many lives as possible. That is the reason we established the Mr. Latin foundation in 2011 with King Wasiu Ayinde as grand patron. We have been carrying out various projects from creating awareness about drug abuse to awareness on domestic violence and other vices. We also established a skill acquisition centre where we have trained and will continue to train so many people.”

As for his plans for TAMPAN, he said, “I want TAMPAN to become a global association,” adding, “also want to improve the welfare of members as well as strengthen existing collaboration with stakeholders. I want to organise more capacity building projects that would achieve desired impacts. I see my headship of TAMPAN as a privilege and honour. I am determined by the grace of God to lead a team that will sustain what my predecessors started, improve on what they have also done and move the TAMPAN to a higher pedestal.”

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