Sunday Ayodele Chukwukamadu Okundalaiye, aka SACO, also interpreted as Senior Advocate of Comedy is a Nigerian of mixed heritage –Ondo and Delta States–as his name infers. A comedian of repute with an ethical slant to his style, SACO remains a shining example of belief in self, tenacity, dedication, integrity and hard work; virtues on the back of which he rode from penury as a waiter to prosperity.
Today, he is not just a comedian but a distinguished event host and founder of ‘The SACO Initiative’ — a platform where young people are mentored and encouraged to pursue their dreams, sharing his own story as proof that they can excel if they work at it.
In this interview, the top comedian was his vintage forthright and amusing self in a no-holds-barred parley on his journey to making it in life, his family, the entertainment industry and other sundry issues.
Please give a brief introduction of yourself
I am SACO, which is an acronym for my name. My name is Sunday Ayodele Chuwkukamadu Okundalaiye. I am a master of creremony.
I started as a comedian 13 years ago. I have evolved from being a comedian to an event host. I also mentor young people and others older thn I am. I had the privilege to launch the SACO initiative – a platform to mentor young people- when I celebrated my 10 years on stage in 2015.
How did the journey to becoming a comedian begin?
The journey began while i was in secondary school. I went to Ikosi gramma school, Ketu and basically in SS1 when I discovered i could make people laugh. I’ve always had a sense of humor; but it didn’t come out until my SS1 when I joined a group called Action Incorporated where we had the opportunity every week to meet and build on our self esteem, abstaining from illicit sex, express ourselves in songs and comedy, learning to be aware of ourselves etc. We had a competition in school where I took a lead role in a stage play and that was the first time on stage to act before so many people. and we won. I had a friend in secondary school whose name also was Sunday and together we used to make people laugh during break and basically that is how the journey began. As a church boy I also used to make people laugh and soon began to anchor programmes in the choir where I belonged as well as in other occasions.
How would you describe the personality of SACO as distinct from Sunday Ayodele?
Because I studied accounting I know what it means differentiating entities; as in a business different from its owner. Sunday is a quiet guy; I enjoy my private times watching movies and playing with my kids, I have 3 kids and a beautiful wife, so I enjoy spending time with them.
But SACO is the businessman; when I’m on stage I am a different person. I’m proactive and need to be smart enough because that is the brand that brings the money. When I’m onstage I’m rendering service; giving value and so it means when I’m being contracted to do a job, I need to do the job well and get feedback to be sure it went well.
Offstage people most times expect me to be loud when they see me; like ‘ O this is a funny guy’ and get surprised when I don’t act it or respond as expected. It is so not because I’m proud but because it’s not SACO they met at that time but Sunday.When I’m not onstage I need to be calm and observant which helps the job. I am more of the observer type. My wife is the proactive one at home, she’s the one who makes us laugh.
Does your wife enjoy and support what you do?
My wife loves what I do, knowing it’s what pays our bills and takes us abroad for holidays. In fact she’s even interested in the business side of it. When I’m being called for events, she usually negotiates on my behalf because oftentimes I tend to be too lenient or too considerate but she instilled that sense of business in me, letting me know the worth of the services I render. However, I am also mindful of the relationship part of the job. I have built relationships over the years that are handsomely paying off today. Yes it can be frustrating when you render a service and the pay is not commensurate with the service but I have also learnt that one good turn rendered usually opens bigger doors. I did a wedding for someone which pay did not compare to the service rendered in 2011 and years after he called me to anchor his brother’s wedding which I did and from there he began working with the government in Oyo State. Today he is a member of the House of Representatives and recently I anchored his father’s birthday. And I began to imagine how it would have been if in 2011 I didn’t treat him well and was bent on just getting the money. Everybody grows. I am not the same as in 2011; I have grown and have mounted platforms I could never have imagined. At the same time you must be assertive in the business and know what to charge in rendering what service. So I try to balance the the two aspects profitably.
How did you meet your wife and how is your marriage?
We met in the choir back in Ketu as teenagers and became friends. We’re still friends even though married. We’ve become more bonded from our own challenges in our six years of marriage. My wife is also hyperactive. She’s the extrovert. Sometimes she exhibits the traits of a phlegm and the melamine. In all we’ve however been able to manage it.
What was the one thing you saw about your wife that gave you the conviction she was the one to spend the rest of your life with?
The natural likeness for her. I always wanted to see her and to be with her, and even felt jealous when I saw any other guy talk to her. She had also gone through some things I did; not having a father figure in her life, in spite of which she stayed strong and she has come out better as a music star, a wife and mother of three amazing children. She has goals and the ability to learn. She knew where she was coming from and knew she had a reason to make it in life.
What’s your long-term vision for both of you?
One of the things I am doing right now is building my wife’s ministry and I share her vision of ministerining in several countries of the world.
What is her ministry?
Singing. She sells fabric also and she loves helping people. She has as her mentor Tope Alabi and her husband. I remember as teenagers when we attended a certain musical concert and I blurted out that someday we were going to sing and entertain people like that. As at then I had nothing but it was a vision I was able to see from messages about visualising the kind of future you want to have.
My wife has supported my ministry for the past six years and so I told her this year I want to also support her ministry and thank God she has recorded her music. She’s a testimony and we’re trusting God for her music to be appreciated by the listening public. As I am growing I also need to be sure my family is growing. It has to be balanced. I want her to be successful because she also bears my name. Her birthday was January and apart from the birthday cake, my birthday present for her was taking her to the studio where we booked sessions for her recording and I am happy about it.
For me personally it is the SACO initiative; a strategic mentoring programme for youths; training them and also bringing people to speak to them; basically letting them know that if I can make it, then they too can. I worked as a waiter for several years where I earned N500 a day and today I earn half a milliuon at least on a day’s job. I didn’t get there by mistake but it was a process. So I am also taking this to the youths, other communities where I can share my story and let people know that they can make it in life without being shady.
I show my pictures to prove my story because when people see you making money, they most times don’t know you started somewhere. I started from waiting for people to eat before I ate; I started from remnants. So this and the SACO Initiative are things I am focussing on at the moment. I believe in process and its biblical. Check out the life of anyone who’s made it and you’ll discover they wernt through process. God could have just made us all adults but we had to be children first; so God is a God of process. I dont believe in overnight success. Everyone with such success has a shady side to it. The millennium we are now is one where the youths want to make it in a hurry so this is where the SACO Initiative comes in. So I am building more on Posterity than prosperity.
You have an ethical slant to your style. Does this not potentially shut you out of some lucrative platforms that border more on mundane issues?
For me being a gospel comedian is all about creating value because gospel simply means good news. I have seen my mentors (Holy Mallam, Teju Babayface) evolve. It simply means being clean. Being ethical, just means I do clean jokes, not going beyond my limits. I just believe if you pay me to do a job I should bring you joy and not make you think. Even if I’m going to make you think, It should be things to motivate you and not things to make you feel bad. I would not make jest of your size or your children etc, I’d rather make a jest of myself if I must make a jest. That way you can never go wrong. I tell people there’s nothing as good as clean water, whether iced or hot. So I might not get certain platforms others may be getting but it’s all about consistency at what you do and I believe those who appreciate what you do will certainly reach out. I might not be everywhere but truth is I’m adding value to myself, my family and the society.
13 years down the line, what have been some of your achievements and challenges?
One of the things I didn’t learn on time was to put a structure to the business but all that was done recently as you need to have that structure to facilitate for instance your travelling abroad and others. The fee thing was also an issue where someone pleads that you do a job for him for a certain amount which he won’t reveal to no other person, only for someone else to call and say you did it for this amount for the other person, so please do the same for me. But you know sometimes I just had to stand my ground at a particular fee as the best I could do. Overtime I have learnt from challenges; helping people only to have them stab you at the back and so on. By the grace of God I have toured some countries and I believe there’s more to achieve.
What gives you inspiration and drive?
First is the word of God. I don’t joke with listening to the word of God daily and observe to do what is there daily. I listen to great men of God; their exploits, challenges and success stories. Sometimes I just take a walk for inspiration and also associate with people. I have grown from being a small Ketu boy to an international figure but I still remember where I am coming from. I remember there was a time I didn’t have foo to eat, I don’t forget those times. Sometimes I also go to comedy shows just to listen in the audience and enjoy myself and also get inspired. My children also inspire me; I have made thousands of naira cracking jokes with my children. My travelling experiences have also helped me compare and contrast the kind of jokes I do with others I have seen, and virtually every other thing experienced have one way or another added to that inspiration.
Most Nigerian comedians do their stuff with the colloquial English; would that be for lack of education?
It just could be the best way to send the message they want to pass across. Why I do my jokes in English is because I am comfortable doing my jokes in English but sometimes when I need to drive home a point I could switch to yoruba or pigeon English, depending on the circumstance. When I go to certain areas where I know pigeon will be better appreciated or easy to pass my message across with then I do pigeon. There are other time I have to speak Igbo because that is what the people understand so you have to be sensitive to know what is best for any occasion at any particular time.
How has your dual heritage of Igbo and Yoruba been subservient to your career?
I tell you the truth, it has opened doors for me. I am a member of the Ibuzo youths in Delta State and also in Lagos State. I don’t belong to any youth forum in Ondo State. I have also thought of doing something in Ondo state with the artistes from there. As a matter of fact I just got to know my hometown not too long ago when I went to anchor an event at Owo, so for me its an open door. It just gives you a leverage. I was in Asaba not too long ago and I can still see the joy on people’s faces when I began to speak Urhobo; so I think it creates opportunities for me. I have done so many shows in Igbo which could not have been if I didnt know how to speak the language.
How impacting has the SACO Initiative been?
The SACO Initiative has had tremendously impact. It rolled off in 2015 but we didn’t start fully until 2017. I have had the privilege to speak on several places where I have shared my story. It’s amazing how God allows you to go through things you thought were stuff only to come out a whole lot better. So this encourages people and let them believe that If SACO can do it, then they too can.
Many youths today are captured in various get -rich-quick schemes. Is it because they have not discovered their talents or is it that the environment is not supportive?
The truth is families have failed. Some fathers have failed just as some mothers have. I made a decision early enough not to hold my parents responsible for any failure in my life. If anything I owe them thanks for not aborting me or throwing me away as some have done.
Every youth should be concerned about what they’d like to become in life and that’s why they need mentor-ship in order to move in the right direction. As it were, many of them are influenced by the wrong people, from whom they copy bad habits. I am who I am today by virtue of the people and things that influenced me. Three things that would influence one’s life are , the friends you keep, the things you listen to and the things you see. Anything one consistently does for 21 days becomes a habit. I got involved with betting earlier in my teen age because one of our neighbors then was a gambler. So its all about what influences them. Success comes with a price and one needs to excel to be able to add value to other lives. Different people from different countries have walked up to me to commend my shows or interviews. Last week someone I met told me he watched my interview and was blessed by it. And I thought to myself, What if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now? So many other people are tied to our lives. Sometime ago I bursted out crying onstage and when people asked why, I told them that God connected me to so many lives and seeing how amazing they were doing just makes me broke down with tears of joy and gratitude.
I tell my children what I do and when money comes they know it’s from the work I do. They understand that you have to exchange value to have money.No quick cuts; No fast games.
Sometime in 2003 while I was still a waiter, a woman came in to eat; She came from the UK. After I served her she asked me some questions and it seemed like she took a liking to me. Sometime again she asked me to help buy her some books. So I went and bought the books; I made sure I wrote down all I bought with its prices. When I got back I handed her the books and the change. She didn’t know how much the books cost, so I could have kept the change but I felt it was my responsibility to tell the truth and that incident changed many things for me. She was only putting me to test as I got to understand later. Today I have access to her and her family. From 2009 to 2013 when I got married, she was my mentor. I had the privilege to see her when I went to the UK. It became evident that if I had messed up, I’d surely have missed the goodwill. She has given me many jobs, and last month she recommended me to her sister-in-law for another job. So you see, for a change that was less than N500, I could have eaten my destiny if I’d decided to keep it.
Temptations will always come but integrity matters a lot if one will go far in life. I have made mistakes myself, but have also learnt from them. There were situations where I collected money for a job, only for another to come with better offer, difficult to resisit. I have done so in the past, but that is the past now.
How would you rate the Nigerian Entertainment Industry?
I think it’s the oil of our time, but I think it can get a lot better if we have a good structure. For the comedy sub-sector, I think if we have an association, like in Nollywood or as in the music sector, it will streamline many things and give a good perspective to it. I know with the opportunities are latent, it is only a matter of a short time and things will be a lot better.
Are there investment opportunities?
Yes of course ther exist good investment opportunities in the Nigerian entertainment industry and already we have that happening in the music and film sub-sectors and hopefully when the momentum gets high, it will totally change the industry’s fortunes. It is quite prospective for any investor.
Do you have any regrets in life?
Well, I am now thanking God that some things did not work out. It was frustrating when I could not pass JAMB after several attempts. My younger sister got university admission before me. My dad said a lot of things about me and people just thought I was a loafer. Quite often I just break down crying when I think of how I got to where I am today. 13 years look like yesterday when I had nothing in my account; just one big -headed, clown-looking guy. So I’d say no regrets really. The school I’d wanted to go to, I couldn’t but years later I attended a better school where I even paid millions to achieve that dream. God made that happen, and I had the opportunity of meeting so many diverse people which are beneficial to me today, so all things actually worked together for my good. People even pay me now for sharing my story. It’s amazing and I thank God for it all.
Can you tell one unforgettable moment in your life?
When I had my first daughter. It was life-changing for me. I had the opportunity of experiencing the labor room, saw my wife go though birth pangs and eventually saw my daughter come into the world. It gave me a strong sense of responsibility, knowing I just became a father. Today she is five years old with two younger brothers.
Do you consider yourself fulfilled?
I’d say to you that I am fulfilled, but I have also learnt that Excellence is a journey. So when one gets to a milestone, there are other milestones to cover. Yes, with the help of God I was able to achieve set goals but it got to a point where I had to remind myself that I could achieve more so I am ready to take on another challenge; maybe in acting as you asked earlier on or some other.
Who are some of the people who have influenced your career?
God and the Holy Spirit, Holy Mallam and Mr Mac who was my first boss when I began my comedy journey in 2004. Mac is a comedian with the United Nations and based in the UK. Holy Mallam taught me the professionalism in the art. When I first saw him, I knew that was whom I could learn from to become who I wanted to be. He taught me many things so I didn’t have to make the mistakes he did. He gives me lots of advice.
Pastor Sam Adeyemi, of the Daystar Christian Center has inspired me greatly . Listening to him everytime and reading his books have made me understand so many things about life. There’s actually no good achievement that was not given by God. At the level he is, he doesn’t go around with bodyguards. He is the first person to have called me SACO ‘International’ and I took the name immediately and today it is wonderfully manifesting.
I also met a simple man, Mr Teju Oyelakin aka Teju Babyface who has invested in my life to no small measure.
As a teenager, Pastor Tunde Rotimi was a good influence in my life and that of my wife. Coach Niyi mentored me on public speaking, and I did a course on it as well as another on presentation.
What kind of legacy do you want to bequeath?
One that speaks for posterity. Helping people I have no blood relations with. There are people we have not met in life but know their stories. I did not have the opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela but I know him and his string of achievements, influence and impact on humanity. It’s the kind of legacy I wish to bequeath.
If you were privileged to be Nigeria’s president for a week, where would your focus be and why?
Electricity and roads. Light must be in place for business to thrive and for a healthy economy. The roads must be fixed and a good road network put in place for that same end. Most times produce from the rural areas cannot get to the cities due to lack of good roads and ultimately get spoilt and wasted.
What’s your favorite pastime?
Watching movies, playing with my family and taking them out.
Red and white.
Vegetable soup and eba or foofoo, rice and stew.
Your favorite world leader
Fela Durotoye. He is a potential world leader. I have listened to him on vision 2025, In have seen him build people’s lives. He has inspired me greatly.
Former US president Barak Obama is also a world leader I love. He went through due process and became the first black president of the United States which was quite a feat, considering the odds, and that changed the political narrative of the nation.
Is any of your kids showing signs of towing your line of work?
My daughter has started doing that. We go on stage together frequently. I call her Ireoluwa SACO. We have a way of conversing on stage that people love and there are videos of herself and me doing shows. Yes I’d like one of them to continue with the trade even as they face their academic responsibility.
There must be upcoming comedians who look up to you for inspiration, and some others who believe the grass is greener outside our shores, what word of encouragement have you for these?
For the upcoming musicians, there are opportunities in the sector, but first, determine who your target audience is, then define what you stand for and finally make integrity your watchword and deliver, no matter the challenge. Many times you will feel cheated, but take it as a training process.
For the others, the country is rife with opportunities to be exploited. with your talents, you can achieve your dreams if you get to working at it. Yes it will be tough and discouraging sometimes but at the end, with consistency, focus, dedication and hard work, you will certainly make it.
Thank You for talking with us