Though the issue of brain drain has been a recurrent phenomenon in Nigeria for decades, it was not really as pronounced in the entertainment industry as it was in other spheres of human endeavour.
However, the story has since changed and more Nigerian creatives seem to be pitching their tents outside the motherland, with some even leaving at the peak of their careers. TOFARATI IGE takes a look at some celebs that have left the country but are still being missed by their fans
In the early 2000s, actress, Opeyemi Ayeola, was a regular on the silver screen, especially Yoruba movies.
Noted for her smooth delivery of emotional roles, Ayeola was one actress who didn’t find it hard crying in movies. She was well loved by her fans and producers often passed scripts her way, constantly engaging her sevices.
In her heyday, the actress starred in over 50 movies including Apadi, Niniola, Nkan Asiri, Madam Dearest, Iyawo Panda, Owu Alantakun, Ojabo K’ofo and Omo Ole.
However, at a time when her fans were still expecting her to thrill them in more movies, the beautiful actress got married to her United Kingdom-based lover, Olayiwola Owolomonse. Ayeola soon relocated to the UK and started raising her family.
After a prolonged absence of about a decade, the actress returned to the screen, sparingly appearing in movies from her UK base. In an interview she granted in 2018, the mother of twin children stated that shortly after their marriage, her husband ‘made her go on leave’. She also added that she took the decision to create a solid foundation for her family. “Taking a sabbatical from my career was my only way of laying the best foundation and building an unsinkable home,” she once wrote on social media.
She however noted that her husband had given her the nod to return to her acting career and she has since appeared in a number of movies though she is still resident with her family in the UK.
Fair-skinned actress, Doris Simeon, was undoubtedly one of the damsels in the Yoruba movie industry that producers loved to cast to play the role of a young lady. Though from Edo State, she grew up in Lagos State, where she learnt to speak Yoruba.
She started her career acting in the popular television series, Papa Ajasco and Company, and from there she began to grow a steady army of fans. She also acted in English movies but it wasn’t until she started acting in Yoruba movies till more people started paying attention to her.
Simeon later got married to filmmaker, Daniel Adenimokan, and they had a son, David, together. Though she had a bitter split from Adenimokan, she continued to do well in her career and seemed to be unfazed.
However, many were taken by surprise when news filtered in that she had relocated to the United States of America. Sources close to her claimed that she made the move to be closer to her son. Though she has left the country, Simeon has not distanced herself from the world of make-believe. These days, she features in movies and web series with other US-based Nigerian actors. She also regularly interacts with her 261,000 fans on Instagram.
Actor, Bayo Bankole, won the hearts of many fans with his portrayal of the smooth talking and street-smart Boy Alinco in the television series, Papa Ajasco and Company. With his trademark eyeglasses that had double lenses, Bankole thrilled many lovers of the show with the ‘freshness’ he brought to the role.
He also appeared in many movies including Ojo Ketala, Alabata, April Fuulu, Omo Iya Meta Leyi, where he often played the role of a young hustler.
However, it wasn’t long before it became apparent that the actor was disenchanted with Nigeria. He once maintained in an interview with www.nollygists.com, that he regretted being a Nigerian. When asked if he was enjoying his life as an actor, he had responded, “Yes. If I come to the world again, I would love to be an actor but not a Nigerian. I regret being a Nigerian.”
Little wonder that he jetted out of the country for good when he had the chance.
In an interview with Sunday Scoop in 2018, Bankole insisted that moving to the US hadn’t ended his career. He said, “My relocation to the United States has not affected my career in any way. I still act and have featured in some movies shot here (US). I recently acted in a film produced by Lola Alao and it will be released soon. It was shot in Toronto, Canada. I am also involved in promotions of all kinds; working with actors and musicians. I do transportation business as well.”
Many things have been written about actress, Lola Alao, but no one would dismiss the fact that once upon a time she was frequently seen in Yoruba movies. The Kogi State-born actress began her sojourn in the entertainment industry in the nineties when she appeared in the Zeb Ejiro-produced television series, Ripples. She went on to act in several movies, even producing some of her own. Some of the films she appeared in her are 5 and 6, Ewe Koko and Oku tee Sin.
Though her career grew in leaps and bounds, same could not be said of her love life as she was often the subject of gossips in the industry. She was, at different times, married to a car dealer, Dare Ogunlana; and US-based Olawale Ajibola; but both unions didn’t work out. Alao was also involved in a controversy when another actress, Bisi Ibidapo-Obe, claimed that she (Alao) introduced her (Ibidapo-Obe) to former Senator Dino Melaye, who she had a baby for. At a point, Alao also switched from Christianity to Islam. Some people alleged that she changed her religion because of an Alhaji she wanted to get married to but the actress debunked the rumours, asserting that she was born into a Muslim home.
In 2019, it was reported that Alao had won the custody battle for the children of her deceased colleague, Aisha Abimbola. She presently lives in Canada.
A former beauty queen and actress, Regina Askia, was one person that many men loved to see on their television screens.
In 1988, Askia was crowned as the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria and thus began her career in the entertainment industry. She went on to appear in several movies including Most Wanted, Slave Warrior, Suicide Mission, Highway to the Grave and Queen of the Night.
At a time when her fans were still yearning for more from her, Askia relocated to the United States to raise a family. She is now a family nurse practitioner.
Actor, Yomi Gold, had a blossoming career and was regarded as one of the rising actors set to ‘take over’ from older thespians in the industry. With credits in movies such as Wendy, Oro Obinrin, Street Girls and Oko ni Ofe, he was fast positioning himself in the minds of fans.
In 2017, the actor criticised the country’s healthcare sector after he lost a friend who had underwent a medical procedure. Gold lamented that there were many unskilled personnel in the medical field and urged people who had the means to travel out of the country for proper healthcare instead of relying on Nigerian healthcare workers.
A year later, the actor became a US citizen and he described it as one of the most memorable moments of his life. He said, “My best moments as an actor would be right now as I have just received my US citizenship. The love and congratulatory messages I have been receiving are overwhelming. It feels very great to be an American citizen because I am now a citizen of the world.
“Compared to Nigeria’s system, it is different because as an American citizen, I am privileged to enjoy basic amenities such as adequate power supply and a better healthcare system. I am not giving up on Nigeria though; I know it is going to take us time to get there and we will definitely get it right someday with right leaders.”
Blessed with a pretty face, Victoria Inyama was one of the actresses that made waves in the movie industry in the early 2000s.
Her ‘innocent’ face, bright smile and soft voice endeared her to many even as she appeared in some of the most popular home videos of that time. She starred in films such as Silent Night, Danger Zone, Love from Above, Glamour Boys and Iyanga, and fans couldn’t seem to get enough of her.
However, just like others on this list, she ‘suddenly’ left the country at a time when the ovation was loudest. Upon marrying her husband, Godwin Okri, Victoria relocated to the United Kingdom and concentrated on raising her family. For those who are nursing hopes that the actress may one day return to Nigeria, they had better channel their optimism to some other area as she has said that is not going to happen. When asked in an interview if she would consider returning to Nigeria, Inyama said, “I don’t think it is a possibility. Honestly, I really don’t see that happening at all. I may come and go but not come back fully to Nigeria. I don’t see myself relocating to Nigeria.”
That Lara George has a sonorous voice is not in doubt. The talent also seems to run in her family as the singer once stated that she got her ‘beautiful voice’ from her mum.
George first found fame as a member of the defunct Kush group with Emem Ema and TY Bello, and they had hits such as Let’s Live Together and Angels. After the group was dissolved, George went on to have a successful solo career. Her debut solo album, Forever in my Heart, was an instant hit with fans. The lead single on the album, Ijoba Orun, was embraced by many and George was invited to perform at churches and other places all over the world.
However, Lara got married to Gbenga George and she relocated to the United States. They are blessed with two children and the family seems to be waxing stronger in love.
Though Lara has continued to release music, she has not been able to attract as much acclaim as she did in the early days of her career. Many have attributed this to her not being resident in Nigeria but the singer insists that the world is now a global village and where she lives shouldn’t make much of a difference. She said, “No, I didn’t leave the music scene at all. I have only made a physical relocation of my abode. I moved from Nigeria to the United States. Since then, I have performed in the UK, Canada, and across different states in the US. The world is now a global village, thanks to social media and all the amazing tools the Internet provides. Reaching people across the globe and all over the world has become something that is easy to do at just the touch of a button.”
Call him one of the forerunners of the present generation of pop artistes in Nigeria and you wouldn’t be wrong. Lanre Dabiri, aka Eldee, was one of the brains behind the defunct Trybe Records, which had other artistes such as Freestyle, KB, 2Shotz and Sasha. He also had a solo career which saw him release hit songs including Big Boy, Bosi Gbangba, I go Yarn, I’m Leaving and Ota Mi.
Eldee is now based in the United States where he is involved in tech business. On why he turned his back on his music career, the singer said, “The other businesses I was doing outside of music were making more money for me at the time so I didn’t even need a forecast to make that decision. I realised music was taking 80 per cent of my time and the other things I was doing with my remaining 20 per cent were bringing in more money. It would be very foolish of me to dedicate 80 per cent of my time to music.”
Source: Sunday PUNCH