By Eric Elezuo
She is arguably the best thing that has happened to traditional marriage compere, and through professionalism, dint of hardwork and injection of wholesome fun and heartfelt prayers, Oluremi Samuel-Akintola, better known in the industry as OluremiSAN, has made the Alaga job a second nature. In this brief, she went deep to explain why she is the industry’s most sought after alaga.
Can we please meet you?
My name is Oluremi Akintola-Samuel, popularly known as OluremiSAN, which stands for Senior Alaga of Nigeria. And of course an Alaga is a traditional wedding compere. I got married to Mr. Samuel Akintola, and my parents are Mr and Mrs Adesanya. I am the third child out of the seven children of my parents. My family is a retired accountant of the Civil Service Commission, and my mother is also a retired teacher. As a result of the career background of my parents as civil servants, they were very strict and applied real discipline while they were bringing us up. I must also mention that my mum is an alaga, and that is the place where I developed the passion. She was really very inspiring. She really taught me the alaga job.
I have a Diploma and a first degree in Mass communication, and you know that also helped to propel me in this field. This is because I like communication and I love learning. I am also an alumni of the of the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) OF Pan African University and Thriving Enterprise Development Centre (TEDC). I was always with my mum while growing up. Her person influenced me lot. It would not be out of place if I say I started this Alaga thing from the womb. In fact, my whole family are in tune with this profession because we were always going with my mum from one event to another. And that really influenced my choice for this path.
Why prompted your choice of the profession of Alaga
I choose to become an alaga because I like the industry. As at the time I made up my mind to become an Alaga, I realised that most people do not like the industry. some people were already sidelining the industry. And you know that most people did not look forward to their traditional marriage; their interests were mainly on their reception. So I decided to do a background check, more like a research to know why people were not interested in the traditional weddings, and I found that a lot of younger people didn’t connect with traditional weddings because they thought traditional weddings were all about parents. Actually, all they do there are for parents, they don’t carry the younger generation along. On discovery of that, and because of my passion in engagement in engagement compering, I decided to do something different in the industry. In the first place, the alaga industry is dominated by older people and it was really a bit difficult. I can conveniently say I was the first young person to do it professionally. I have chosen to be a professional alaga since 2001, I don’t have any regrets so far. I chose the industry because I love to do something different as well as the fact the I love to convince a whole lot of younger generation to fall in love again with traditional weddings.
Can you recall the number of weddings you have officiated
Ahhh! That is really a hard one. Honestly, I have lost count…since 2003. I can’t even recollect the weddings I have officiated in 2019/2020, to tell you how plenty they are. Sometimes in a week, I have multiple jobs making it difficult to remember them all that I can even remember. But without exaggerating, I have officiated over a thousand weddings. It is so much I can’t count.
Does becoming an Alaga require special education or skills
Of course it does. It takes a whole lot to become an Alaga. In those days, Alagas were just spokespersons of the family, but today, the narratives have changed. It requires a whole lot. In the first place, one must be sound academically because most of the people you deal with are not even Nigerians. There are times we may have multi-cultural weddings and international weddings. We are talking about non Nigerians getting married to Nigerians. One must the know basic skills of what he is doing. Before now, there was no need for emotional intelligence or major skills as it were, but now, one must be endowed with the major skills to become an Alaga. You must understand your audience for you to analyse them. Ability to analyse your audience will clearly do the job for you. You will know when to talk, round off, drop the mic or do whatever necessary. Apart from the communication skills, the job requires you to understand body language, family values and many more. It is not just about being talented or knowing how to talk or being eloquent. No it doesn’t work like that. It actually requires special skills, and not forgetting trainings.
There are most events you attend, and you notice there are issues in the family. Your special skills will give you the edge to cover, and no one will know there are issues. Honestly, it requires a whole lot to be an Alaga beyond knowing how to talk.
How long have you been an Alaga for the records
I humorously tell people I have been an Alaga not from birth, but from my mother’s womb. However, professionally, I started in 2003. I got my first paid job in 2003, and I will say that I have not looked back. I must tell you that it has been an amazing journey. So far, God has really helped me.
Between Alaga Iduro and Ijoko; which is more challenging
Both are challenging though, but I will say that Alaga Ijoko is more challenging. Alaga Iduro looks a little bit easier if I consider how I started. I remember at a time when my mum had an event. On getting there, the Alaga for the groom was absent, and we had waited for like three hours when the groom family asked if there is just anyone who can bring in the family. My mum answered in the affirmative. I was chosen, much as I was so tiny and small. To cut a long story short, I brought in the family and everyone liked it. Afterwards, I did the proposal and brought in the groom, and it was with pomp. We had finished the ceremony before the much awaited Alaga arrived. Thereafter, a lot of people took my contact even as my mum protested as it was my first time. I actually came to limelight with performing Alaga Ijoko, so that could be my preference. It is very tasking and you will have more say and attention. And if you are not well trained, the event flow might be disrupted.
Does this job in its outlook help you to bring happiness to your home
Of course, but in reality, it is from home you take happiness out. A popular saying has it that charity begins at home, so what you do outside is as a result of what you have from home and inside of you. I am a fan of practice what you preach and replicating what you do. It is what I do outside that I do at home. At home, everybody around me is happy. Even my husband, who is not very much into the traditional thing knows all our songs. As a mother, I will advise that we encourage our children to know all those songs. Those songs formed my opinion about traditional weddings, and made me look forward to getting married and my own traditional wedding.
If you had not been a professional Alaga, what would you have been
Waoo, in all honesty, I would still have been a professional Alaga (laughs). Well, I have a background in movie production and acting. So, if I was not an alaga, I would have been directing a movie, or on set as an actress or as a presenter. Communications generally and theatre arts have been my thing from the onset. On the other hand, if I had not been an alaga, I would have been a lawyer or an artist, actress or movie director. The bottom line is that I would still be in the arts; that is what I have passion for.
What do you promise your clients and anyone who may wish to contract you
Without mincing words, I promise my clients topnotch service as always, professionalism at its peak, punctuality and unleashing the best of their events. I try as much as possible to reduce the mounted tension in the celebrants occasioned by anticipation, and make them have maximum enjoyment of their day. I give my clients a lasting memory, and when they watch their video afterwards, they are wowed by what they see. I create a timeless content for my clients. Their children much later in life are overwhelmed at it. Fun and professionalism are what we promise our clients. Note that it is not for the couple alone, their parents also have a taste of my timeless professionalism, and not forgetting the audience. In fact, any traditional wedding which has OluremiSAN as Alaga is sure topnotch and something to remember for a long time. My performance is not one sided; everybody is involved. We don’t just promise; we deliver.
Who are your major clients
Well, my major clients are people who appreciate traditional weddings. However, there are people who have been encouraging me over the years, people who will tell their family members to patronise our services. I have for governors, deputy governors, commissioners of police from Oyo and Osun, several naval personnel, clergies and interestingly, my father in the Lord, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya and family, Bishop Olaleye family and some top Muslim families in Lagos, whose names if mentioned will look like I am name dropping. I have done for the Biobaku family, The Alakijas, The Fasholas, yes the family of the former governor of Lagos State. Otunba Odutun family and a couple of notable people in the society who appreciate the services we render.
And not only in Lagos, I have also a whole lot outside of Lagos. I think professionalism has been our watchword, and has been able to bring me to certain clients who I didn’t even believe I will meet and be in their circle. They believe in what I do and how I present traditional weddings. The list is endless. There is really no need for name dropping of my clients; they are really many, and everyone should join for best of professional services.
What makes you different or stand you out from every other Alaga
Well, while some people see the profession as mere side hustle and income generating venture, I see my work as a calling. Prayer is a critical part of laying the foundation of every home, and for me, that is what stands me out. I always pray for my clients; the bride and the groom alike and their unborn children. I have a kind of prayer for the bride, and that borders on no other woman would take her place in her husband’s house. I make prophetic declarations on how they would not bury their children or cast their young. I make prayers that go ahead to the future. Those stand me out apart from the usual razzmatazz of entertaining and creating wholesome fun. I believe in building a home, one is building a nation, so prayer is very important. This cuts across all faiths. My alaga job is beyond business and making money; it is spriritual and that is why I don’t leave out prayer. I understand that a marriage I officiated cannot break, lack children or have issues, so I take time to commit the bride, groom, their parents and all in prayers.
What is the role of the alaga in the socio-economic development of the nation
Socially, we remind people of our culture and keep our alive. Most people place emphasis on white wedding and relegate the traditional stuff to the background. That is not right. It is not our culture. The Alagas function to keep the culture alive and bring most people who know nothing about their culture and family history update to date. There are couples who did not grow up here, or ever lived here. So when they come, they have to be educated on certain values and cultures of our people, and it becomes part of them and they take it back to wherever they reside. In doing this, we have even invented digitalisation in traditional wedding compere to keep the memory of what might have happened. Once a guy came from Switzerland, and he confessed that he was intrigued by the videos of the traditional weddings he saw I did. And we made this very interesting as well, just like we would do yours.
Economically, they contribute a lot. Personally, I have a full staff and they are all connected to the job and get paid. These are people who provide for their families and pay their children’s and young ones school fees from the proceeds. In fact, the Alaga job is a complete industry, and like all industries, its economic values to the nation cannot be over-emphasized.
Do you consider yourself as a comedian based on the job of an Alaga
Well, you don’t need to be a comedian to be an alaga. However, an alaga cannot allow the atmosphere to be dull and tense. Ordinarily, people expect that as an alaga you have to make the atmosphere humorous and fun for them to enjoy. You don’t expect people to sit at a place for long and the only thing available is seriousness. Everybody needs a place of relaxation and recreation. So I make people laugh and catch fun. The alaga must be fun to be with, and also a funny person. You may not be a comedian, but you must have a sense of humour as an alaga.
Is there any policy regulating the practice of an alaga
There is no policy, and it is really very sad. Sometimes, you get to an event and someone just crop up from nowhere, saying he or she is compering for a particular family. At the end of the day, they mess up the whole thing. This is because there is no regulatory body. So for now, there is none. There are associations, but no regulatory body.
How do you relax when you are not at work
I like to be with my family. I am a private person outside my working environment. I relax mostly by watching movies from the comfort of my home. I also go on vacations. I listen to good music and messages to unwind. And again, I eat good food.
What is your favourite food
Amala! Especially when it is combined with gbegiri and ewedu. I like it a lot, and that must have been the reason I married an Ibadan man.
What is your favourite colour
White because all colours originated from while
Your Favourite sport
None…I am not a sports person
Describe your fashion sense
I wear what is comfortable for me; what suits my brand and personality
Where do you see your brand in the next five years
As a person of faith, I believe my path will shine brighter and brighter to the perfect day. In the nearest future, I see my brand doing more and more, moving over the regular experience. So help me God.
What is your charge per event
Well, charges differ. Most times I hear what my clients can afford and treat them as they come. Sometimes again, I give out alagas to people doing events, and even as I am not on ground, I still get my finder’s fee. There is specific charge; everything comes with budgets and packaging.
What was it like when you made your first million
(Long laughter) Well, that is yet come, but I am looking forward to it. It will surely enter the Guinness Book of Records (laughs)
Can you say the job of alaga is putting bread on your table
Yes, it is though it is not well paying but I believe I will get there very soon.