Victor Olaotan: More than a ‘penny’ for the beloved ailing actor
Fans have started paying into the gofundme account, which the actor, Gbenro Ajibade, had set up last weekend to raise funds for the ailing veteran actor, Victor Olaotan.
By last Tuesday evening, over 301 persons had raised about $11,000 out of the $50, 000 Ajibade said was required to treat the actor in a medical facility abroad.
In a terse message accompanying the request for donation, Ajibade had pleaded: “Victor Toye Olaotan has brought joy to teeming viewers on stage, television and the big screen through his solid work as a professional actor.
“For the last two years, he has been incapacitated following an accident. Victor is still fighting and he has been advised to seek medical attention outside Nigeria. We implore your help in raising the funds.”
In no time, the post had gone viral, as colleagues and fans shared the link to the gofundme page on their social media handles and some of them, including actor, Richard Mofe Damijo, or RMD, for short reached out to well-meaning Nigerians who could help raise a little over $50,000 to get the bearded Victor back on his feet again.
Heavens smiled on Wednesday on Victor when RMD, his sparring partner on his very last project on screen, The 3 Wise Men, took to his social media handle to announce that the billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola, whom he had approached to assist, had undertaken to pick the entire bills, including medical and post-recovery bills.
This was how RMD broke the good news: “So, a few days ago, I reached out to Femi Otedola, asking for help for my friend and brother, Olaotan, and just this morning, Femi calls to tell me that he would take care of ALL of Victor’s bills.
“He told me that he is already on it and that his people are already talking with Victor’s wife. Is God not awesome? I can’t even contain my joy and gratitude.
“Thank you Femi Otedola. You are a man and a half, and thank you to my young friend, Gbenro Ajibade, for championing this cause.”
An actor’s actor of vast credit, Olaotan was involved in a ghastly motor accident two years ago along the Apapa-Oshodi expressway.
The Police reportedly found him wreathing in pain at the scene of the accident early that Monday morning.
An eyewitness account had it that the Police patrol team had no difficulty identifying him, as one of the policemen told the head of the team, “he is a well known actor on television.”
The actor was reportedly taken to a medical facility, while efforts were made to reach his family. “He was taken to hospital in a coma.
He wasn’t moving or shaking,” said an eyewitness, who claimed on his Facebook wall that he was first to share the news of the incident involving the actor on social media.
In minutes, the news that the long-standing actor was involved in an auto crash had gone viral. Bloggers had a field day providing updates on the development.
Some said he was in a ‘deep coma,’ while others said his condition was ‘critical and required prayers.’
His colleagues and fans expressed shock at the development and solicited prayers for the beloved actor, who for seven years breathed real life into the character of Fred Ade Williams on the Mnet flagship soap, Tinsel.
There was great relief when a family source was quoted as saying he had come out of coma and was stable and fine. But recent pictures of the actor shared by Ajibade indicate that all was not well with the actor who lights up the screen with his endearing and believable performance.
Born in Lagos in the early 1950s, Olaotan studied Drama at the University of Ibadan, at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and Rockets University, United States (US).
A well-groomed stage and screen actor, Uncle Victor, as younger colleagues call him, began his career as an actor at a very young age.
An accomplished actor, who cut his teeth on stage featuring in Ola Rotimi’s epic play, God’s Are Not to Blame, Olaotan, who learnt under the feet of theatre greats, such as Professors Adedeji, Wole Soyinka and Dapo Adelugba, had a stint as a footballer and indeed played for the Oyo State Water Corporation football team.
But as he was at that, the urge to act crept up. A chance meeting with ace television producer, Laolu Ogunniyi, and Olaotan was on the television screen in Ibadan.
He recalled: “I used to go to Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Ibadan, from where I encountered Ogunniyi. He was in charge of soap on television, titled Candle in the Wind.
“He later produced Wind Against My Soul and gave me a role to play in it. I was at that until I left the country for the US soon as I lost my dad.”
Olaotan lived abroad for over 20 years and returned in 2002. While there, he got married, had children, worked and got educated.
He also had opportunities to take part in a couple of stage productions, including touring with the epic play, Sizwe Bansi is Dead and playing Othello in Shakespeare’s play of same title at the Shakespeare Festival.
A trained swimmer, who though swims now “just to keep fit,” Olaotan plays the tennis, reads and watches movies whenever he is not on any set.
He also finds time to watch over Clean Ace, a laundry business he founded out of his love for caring for garments.
Asked if he has found acting rewarding, Olaotan said he has found it professionally fulfilling, but it has “not been financially rewarding,” adding: “Oh, well, you get recognised wherever you go. People want to assist you. But that is where it all ends. There is sometimes nothing to show for this popularity.
“I have said it repeatedly that compared to our counterparts abroad, we earn peanuts in this industry. I know the industry is relatively young, but even then, what some folks offer us to feature in their works is ridiculous.
“I keep hearing that it will get better. I hope it does. I mean you should be able to pay your bills from the work that you do.”
Olaotan warmed his way into the consciousness of television viewers, playing the leading role in Tinsel. Only few episodes of the soap that started airing in August 2008 and Olaotan has become a household name.
Clearly, he brought his training and experience to bear on the soap and most observers agree that he contributed immensely in giving it its acting credits.
However, fans were shocked when the devout Christian quit his role on Tinsel. Olaotan told a popular blog that he left because the producers compromised on the welfare of the cast and crew.
ow that help has come for the actor, the whole industry eagerly awaits his return to that turf where he is well regarded.