Segun Arinze Aina Padonu: Nollywood’s timeless star
Tagging Segun Aina Padonu is by no means an easy task for the method actor, show host, singer, voice-over star, former president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), husband and father represents so many things to so many people.
He was first known nationally for his portrayal of the role of ‘Black Arrow’ in that action movie of the nineties by Chico Ejiro, titled Silent Night, Segun, who is simply referred to as Segun Arinze, became noted as a singer with an irresistible voice, whose hit track from his debut album as a singer, Nwanyi Ganga, was on repeat on radio.
A later generation saw him as one of Nigeria’s most gifted show hosts and voice-over artiste who makes jingles and commercials a delight to listen to.
However, with the emergence of the Nollywood, ‘Presido,’ as he is also called, became its undisputedly ‘bad boy’ and the producer’s first choice for an actor who can add zest to a picture. And since he joined Nollywood, Segun’s rating has not dropped.
The Lagos-born actor is one of the not too many in the Nigerian screen acting space whose popularity is so overwhelming and whose simple precepts are roundly admired.
Immensely talented and resourceful, Segun, son of the late Bamidele Padonu of Badagry, is ranked amongst the best acting hands in Nollywood and is undoubtedly one of its most beloved acting personalities.
Currently host of a jackpot programme showing on national television, his incursion into the entertainment space is not a story that is difficult to tell. A compelling actor, who is increasingly regarded as an imaginative performer, it didn’t take long for Segun, the eldest of the seven children born to a fashion designer mother, Lydia Padonu, to make his mark after he took the decision to step on the entertainment runway nearly 30 years ago.
Although he started out professionally as a singer and an actor, it was singing that first shot him into prominence, and that was after the release of his debut album, Dreams, which was not particularly a commercial success.
Unable to realise his dreams through that debut effort, largely because of some human error, Segun recoiled, recalled his training in acting and hung on to that divide of entertainment full time.
Again, it didn’t take long for Segun, who speaks his native language Yoruba, as well as Hausa and Igbo fluently, to shoot into prominence, as he became increasingly regarded as a fiery actor that possessed something rare among top tiers- this ability to convey ideas with clarity, flair and wit.
No wonder he has remained on the top rung and it is believed that the actor of Eye for Eye and Not My Will fame is likely to hang on there as long as he exhibits his kind of art that comes from the guts.
A multi-award winning actor, but for Segun’s resilience, he would have probably bowed to daddy’s wish that he becomes a lawyer. Pa Bamidele wanted him to be a lawyer, but the old boy of Victory College of Commerce, Edidi, Kwara State, knew what he wanted as a career. He demonstrated courage, tenacity and tact amidst daddy’s insistence that he become a lawyer.
“Daddy was always stressing the fact that he wanted me to study Law, but I said I wanted to be an actor.
“I knew I was going to be an actor and a singer from childhood. I loved entertainment. I remember I used to read up anything that had to do with entertainment, whether local or international, and I also performed some skits on television and on stage while in school. So, when I came out of school, I went straight into it.
“But to prepare myself, I had to get trained and so I went to the University of Ife to study Dramatic Arts under the likes of Chuck Mike.
“That sort of put me on a kind of pedestal. That provided the drive for me to explode and forge ahead and today, I have no regrets about being in entertainment,” he said.
Even with the training in dramatic arts, his father still thought that the multi-talented artiste and singer, whose involvement in the movie has earned him many aliases, such as ‘Movie Bad Man,’ was in a wrong calling. Pa Bamidele only had a change of heart when, after a showing on television, Segun became the ‘champion of the area,’ where they lived.
Segun recalled: “I think what changed it was one day when I featured on a television programme in Ilorin. I had done this song by Lewis Sawyer and one evening on NTA Ilorin, it was running.
“I was sleeping when my father work me up to come and see the programme. And the next day, wherever he went to his friends who knew us in Ilorin, they hailed him, and that sort of gave a bit of leverage, and I capitalised on that to go.”
And go he did. But Segun recalled that it was Ayo Arowole who takes the credit for launching him into the acting vocation when he got him to join the ‘Palm Players,’ which Ayo had formed in the late 80’s to hone and prepare talents.
“I got introduced into the home movie industry by a friend, Ayo Arowole, a broadcaster. Since he did, I have not looked back, except for when I branched out to record my debut album,” he recounted.
Rightly respected by many for his charm and geniality, Segun would have at least assumed a status of an uncle to a lot of today’s afro pop singing artistes if his desire to play a long game as a singer was not truncated by his record label, which he said frustrated him out of the music industry.
He explained: “My record label, Premier Music, didn’t keep to their side of the agreement. So, I moved on and continued with what I trained in while in school, which is acting.
“I decided to go into acting full time and that was where I had my break and now I am just in the mood to sing and I am ready to go again.”
Asked the gains of being a major player in the entertainment industry, Segun offered a two liner: “I would say that I am very comfortable. At least, I can take care of my needs and myself.”
On his likes and his first day ever on stage, Segun replied: “My first day on stage was on the set of Transistor Radio. We had about 11 people in the hall to watch the play. It was funny.
“When I was getting ready to go professional, I took part in Femi Osofisan’s Once Upon Four Robbers.
“As for likes, I like traveling a lot. I can hit the road or jet out of the country at the slightest opportunity.
“I like to also rest when I can afford one and listen to music a lot. Lately, I have been listening to all sorts. I used to only enjoy slows.
“And as for food, I love to eat amala, gbegiri and ewedu.
And how did the Igbo name, Arinze, come about? He chuckled and explained: “It was Dean Disi of Premier Music that suggested the name at the point where Premiere Music was going to sign me on in 1991.
“He felt that if I were signed on as Segun Aina Padonu, a lot of people would assume that I am a Fuji artiste. But I was not; I play Pop. So, he asked me my full names and I told him Segun Aina Padonu, but I added Arinze Chukwu because that was the name my mummy, who is Igbo, called me.
“And in about a week, news had gone round that Premiere Music had signed on one Segun Arinze. I wasn’t sure it was my own Segun Arinze, so I raced to Premiere Music to find out and when Disi saw me, he started laughing and told me that I was the same person they were referring to.
“The good thing was that he explained to me why he had to do that, and I said, ‘fine, lets keep it.’ And since then, the name has stuck, just as the screen name Black Arrow.
So, I am Segun Aina Padonu from Badagry in Lagos State.”