“Why I almost Po!soned myself, And I didn’t eat anything for 7days”— Eniola Ajao Spill it all

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Eniola Ajao has been  the name on the lips of lovers of Nollywood for some weeks now, owing to the hype and success of her ‘Beast of two worlds’ movie, doing huge numbers across cinemas in Nigeria. In a recent interview, she talked about the concept of the movie, her next project and experiences in Nollywood.

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How did you get the idea for ‘Beast of two worlds’?

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I got the inspiration from Femi Adebayo’s ‘Ageshinkole’. He took such a huge risk to make the movie. In the Yoruba branch of Nollywood, we usually don’t take big risks, but Femi took that risk and I was motivated that if he could do it, I could as well. I contacted Mr Bayo Tijani that I needed something creative, something that would befit me. We started to source for stories. We finally decided to make ‘Beast of two worlds’.

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How long did it take to create the concept?

We were on it for about six months before we were able to go with ‘Beast of two worlds’ because there were a lot of scripts. I picked this because it is an unusual story. It was nothing like what I had seen before.

How were you able to raise funding for this movie?

It wasn’t easy. I had to sell a lot of things. I sold my cars, lands around Ajah and then some gold that I had at the time. I sold them to make the movie. It was a decision I had to take without telling anybody because a lot of people would have said ‘Don’t do this, you don’t even know what would come out of this, you cannot sell all your life investments just because you want to make a movie.’ This was why I decided not to tell anybody, I sold everything and decided to go on with it.

What was the thing pushing you to take such a risk?

Success. I feel like life itself is a risk and we are here to take risks. You can’t just be in a spot and say you want to be successful. If I do this and it’s not successful, then I will try again. I don’t know if God was just speaking to me or God just wanted me to do this, but out of nowhere, that strong determination just came.

There was this story that went around just before the shoot that you were almost poisoned.

I almost poisoned myself because there was something about me that was put online. The news about me was far from being true. I didn’t eat for like seven days, and people that were around me can testify to this. I couldn’t go anywhere. This was around the same time when I was planning my movie. My sister, my son, everyone was calling me because the story came from nowhere and I felt terrible.

Do you think that the stunt using Idris Okuneye (Bobrisky) at the premiere contributed to the success of the movie?

Yes and no. Now, the movie is selling itself, but in the beginning, I had that fear. When I saw the story, I knew it was going to do well but I did not want to depend on that belief, I needed to do more and push more. I was the originator of the publicity stunt, it was my idea. I sent Bob a message, and he responded immediately. I explained to him my idea about the premiere and that I wanted to create some buzz. He agreed without question even though I wasn’t going to pay. He told me that he had done something similar to a buzz for Mercy too. All of those were stunts too. So, I came up with my own buzz, it was all to just create noise around the film.

How do you feel personally about what he had to go through with EFCC?

Terrible is the word, honestly. I don’t want to go into all that at all. It’s terrible.

How do you feel about the fact that the buzz generated caused a major quarrel between Femi Adebayo and Dayo Amusa who has also helped push the movie?

I felt so terrible because I just wanted to create a story, I didn’t even know such was going to come up. When I saw the issues it generated, I started making calls to placate all parties because it was never my plan to create issues. I just wanted to create a buzz.

Were there other campaign strategies you wanted to use asides the whole Bobrisky debacle that you put to a stop when the issue with Bob generated?

Yes, I had some other influencers that I wanted to use but some of them felt reluctant after Bob’s issue and I had to step back and focus on social media, paying blogs, and doing a lot of adverts online just to keep the movie buzz going.

Do you think it has hurt the movie in anyway?

In the beginning, it did. Many didn’t want to understand that it was a stunt or a joke; we planned to generate conversations. But some Nigerians, don’t like positive things, it’s just negativity that they will pay attention to.

What do you think is the number that your film is going to gross in the cinema?

At this point, the movie has done well in the cinemas and I am so grateful to God. Whatever comes out of this is okay by me.

A lot of people believe that you were insensitive to have taken music artiste, Portable to the cinema after the issue with Bobrisky.

As I said earlier, we had a lot of people listed already. People like Very Dark Man, Dj Chicken, Portable, Yhemolee, Enioluwa, a lot of them that I know we had in mind to use to do a lot of things online, but we couldn’t go further after Bob’s issue.

Social media has become like a curse and a gift. With everything that has happened, which is it for you?

I’ll say it’s been both. I’m an actor so it is a gift. At the same time, most of our people like drama and they want to be in the news all the time. I don’t have that mind, to be in the midst of negativity all the time. So, when those things were happening, it was affecting me emotionally. I know the times I have cried alone.

You have become known now as a filmmaker, is Eniola going to start increasing her fees?

I love my people, I love my Yoruba industry people because we’ve always been supporting one another. No one can take that away from us. So I’ll always be there for my people, I will just reduce the number of jobs I take. I am going more into production.

Funding a cinema film is not cheap in Nigeria. Do you think you have what it takes to consistently raise the amount of money that you will need for every cinema film you want to make?

You can’t go to the cinema with every production. Cinema is like once a year. You can do your normal YouTube movies, and other productions constantly instead.

Many do not know you are a mother. How were you able to keep it a secret that you had a son?

It was a decision that I took long before I even entered the industry. He will be 22 in May. I was going to be 21 when I had him, so I thought no man would want to marry me with a kid, I had that mindset, so I had to keep it from the public. When people started undermining me in my industry, I made the revelation. You know sometimes people use that as a yardstick to measure your age, and I detest it a lot.

Before you revealed your son, many thought you just another single lady that is ready to mingle. How did you handle attention from men?

I’ve been handling them well. To the glory of God, I have not put myself in any scandalous affair and you can’t see me everywhere. You cannot shy away from things like that. it comes with the job. When people see you in movies and on screen, it is the job that entices them.

Promoting your film has been quite a journey. What kind of toll has that taken on your personal life?

I stopped accepting jobs from December 2023 because I thought; if I didn’t do this, who would do it?

It is just like when your car breaks down somewhere and you sit in the car without looking for people to push the car. If you’re not out of the car pushing it, nobody will help you. But immediately you come out and start pushing the car, people will come out and help you. After I started pushing, I got help everywhere, people started coming. The whole of my industry rallied around to help me push the job.

How did you feel knowing you had all the support of people who had gone before you?

There were butterflies in my tummy. I felt blessed.

There have always been speculations that you and Odunlade Adekola were romantically involved. What do you say to that?

Wherever you are, always make your impact known. Show people that you are there to support. I have always made myself available for Odunlade Adekola Films Production even before I became who I am. I have been in the industry since 2003 and I didn’t blow till 2010/2011 when God used this man to push me out there. So whenever he has something to do, I just pick up my bag and I go. I don’t care what anybody wants to say. He has always been in support of my career and I have always been in support of whatever he is doing, even with his family, I will be there. Those things are not online, and the fact that they don’t come on social media doesn’t mean they are not happening. People will always speculate but it doesn’t mean it is true. I am not the only one under Odunlade Adekola, but I am a family person; if you give me one naira, I will make sure I repay you with N10, that is my spirit. So when Odunlade is doing stuff, I am always there. So, to people, it looks like these people are dating.

For example, when I was shooting a movie and he wasn’t able to help me to do a lot of things, I heard a lot of things like: are they fighting, why is he not helping her? This is someone who called me almost every day to encourage me. He was on location for about 30 days in Abeokuta. When he finished from the location eventually, he called me to ask where I wanted him. We went to Ikeja City Mall together, we went to Ilorin together. I would do the same if it were his own film. There was never a time he asked me out.

Do you still maintain the view that celebrities should keep their personal life private?

The thing is, you cannot put everything on social media. These viewers don’t need to see everything about us. One thing that is affecting us in the industry is social media because before now, people respected us more, and appreciated us more. Right now we don’t even amount to anything in the faces of these people because we put a lot of drama in their faces. They no longer want to use one Naira to watch us because we’ve given them all the drama. So I am an advocate of not putting everything out there. You’re a celebrity; people should constantly seek for you, not you giving them what they have to talk about all the time.

People don’t appreciate us like before and I keep saying it. They have seen everything that they want to offer us. They have seen it all and it shouldn’t be like that.

What should we be looking up next from you in terms of another big movie?

I am having another production soon by September and we should be out by next year Easter again.

If you had not been an actress, what would you have become?

An accountant. I am still going back to do my MSC. I studied at University of Lagos.