Hafiz Oyetoro's controversial move from Etisalat to MTN as a brand face seems to have changed his fortune for good
South Africa-based scholar, Prof. Kole Omotosho, and lecturer at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Hafiz Oyetoro, do not belong to the same generation. The distance between Nigeria and SA also implies that they cannot be meeting each other constantly. Yet, they both have something in common.
They have the enviable record of successfully combining their work as lecturers with advertising. Apart from the fact that Omotosho is a writer, best known for his controversial novel about Nigeria – Just Before Dawn –he has made a name for himself in SA where his face has graced several advert bill boards. The latest is the one in which he is advertising for Fidelity Bank Plc.
Also, both men are household names in SA and Nigeria. While Omotosho is almost worshipped as a cult hero called Yebo Gogo, Oyetoro is popularly known as Saka among TV viewers in Nigeria.
Incidentally, at a time when Omotosho's 70th birthday is still the talk of the literary community, Oyetoro, who has also established himself as an actor and a popular face on TV, also recently stirred the scene. This is courtesy of his 'shocking' appearance in the MTN's I don port advert, a commercial that many have described as an excellent one – not minding the fact that some believe it is a below-the-belt jab for Etisalat, the telecoms company for which he worked as an advertising model for some time.
Ever since Oyetoro's crossover, in which he is required to lead a major advertising campaign to drive the network portability initiative by Nigerian Communication Commission, Nigerians have not stopped talking about him and his amazing rise to fame and riches.
The deal is believed to be worth about N20m, which is enough to give the hardworking and self-effacing actor a clean break from poverty. But while the man himself has declined to comment on the positive twist in his fortune, he was recently quoted in THE NEWS as saying that he had finally conquered poverty.
"To the glory of God, level don change. Let me put it like that. I believe that in the nearest future, level will finally change. But now, level don dey change. I have murdered poverty and God has finally murdered it for me. I am no longer poor, but very comfortable," he said.
In a telephone interview with our correspondent on Tuesday, he said he was not ready to talk about his new contract with the telecommunications company.
"For now, I don't want to say anything. I promise you that I will talk at the appropriate time," he said.
But when asked if his new responsibilities as a brand ambassador for MTN would not clash with his job at the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, he replied, "I am a responsible civil servant. My duty is to teach other people's children well, just as I would expect others to teach mine. So I cannot abandon my job. I assure you, everything has been taken care of."
A few years ago, little was known about Oyetoro.
Although he studied Theatre Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ago Iwoye worked as a part-time lecturer at the Olabisi Onabanjo University before moving to Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education in Ijanikin, Oyetoro remained relatively obscure for a long while.
In those days, he managed to appear in a few insignificant theatre productions, in which he played mostly comic roles. It took a while before the qualities that would raise him a notch higher than most of his peers began to manifest.
First, Nollywood came calling with an opportunity to establish himself as a regular face on the lighted screen. Oyetoro, who was burning up with a desire to prove himself, had to grab it. Still, a few years later and with appearances in hundreds of Nollywood films to his credit, he was far from hitting the limelight.
Then another opportunity presented itself. This time, it came from Centrespread, an advertising agency. The agency wanted him to be their model for its advertising campaigns with Etisalat. The deal clicked and Oyetoro's transformation began in earnest. That was when, for the purpose of the campaigns, he assumed a new identity: he became known 'Saka', a character that he helped create along with other Thespians in 2004 for a TV comedy series titled 'House A-part'.
Eventually, Oyetoro became the face of Etisalat campaigns. Within a short time, Saka had become a household name and Oyetoro could look forward to a brighter future free of the clutches of poverty.
In an interview published on the Internet, the actor cum lecturer admitted that he was involved in a bitter struggle against poverty for a long time.
"Poverty was my friend and family for a long time. As you sit with me here side by side, that was how I was sitting with poverty in the past," he said.
The struggle against poverty had also cost him the opportunity to settle down early enough in life. "There was a lady who disqualified me because I didn't have a car. But, thank God, I eventually got a wife who genuinely loves me and who I genuinely love," he said.