By Ognonna Amadi, Entertainment Editor; Ben Njoku, Bridget Amaraegbu,Â and Loloa Sowolu
Not many Nigerians will forget the name, Professor Peller in a hurry. He was that Nigerian born magician who dine and wine Head of States during his life.
His son, Saheed is toeing the path of his father, and no one should be in doubt, if this Italian trained magician has it takes to pull the weight that his late father noted for when he was alive.Â He was in Vanguard corporate office, with his sister and his manager last week to unveil his new plan to make magic a foremost entertainment ingredient in Nigeria.
Welcome to Vanguard, Saheed Abiola Peller. How are you today?
We are okay. You know I am also known asÂ Zeeto Peller. Iâ€™m here with my sister, Nike and my manager,Â Kola Olagbaye to solicit your support for our new magic train rolling out soon. We want to show the people what magic is all about.
Magic has many definitions. David Copperfield,Â whoâ€™s a foremost American magician, defined magic as an act of making the impossible possible. My father defined magic as an act better seen than described, because magic is beyond human comprehension.
So, magic is something I can describe with the words- seeing is believing. I want Nigerians to understand that magic is an aspect of entertainment that is missing in this country. Magic is one of the best forms of entertainment in America and Europe.
There, you talk about David Copperfield, Harry Blackstone, Chris Angels and others. As a magician, I want to be able to come on stage like musicians, actors and comedians,Â mystify and puzzle peopleâ€™s mind.
I want to also say that magic is not diabolical. Iâ€™m not going to come on stage and start chanting. I want to simply mesmerise people with magic. I want to come on stage and make my sister float on air or take her head off, cut her into four pieces and sheâ€™ll be whole again. That is magic.
Do you have to belong to any secret society, occult group to be able to do all these?
No, you donâ€™t need to belong to any of these societies. But Iâ€™ll tell you that my dad was a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians which is like any other organisation. And it is open to anybody whoâ€™s interested in magic.
One does not really need to be a magician to belong to this body because youâ€™ll be trained to become one.
This body has its headquarters in America with branches in many countries. My dad was supposed to establish a branch in Nigeria. The body holds their convention annually where magicians from different parts of the world come and exchange ideas.
Iâ€™ll tell you something that will amaze you, which is every magic convention, whether in America or Europe, starts with a Church service from the first day and ends with a Church service too because most magicians all over the world are Christians.
Are you talking about a normal Sunday service, or aÂ kind of service?
No, a normal Church service because we believe that everything good comes from God. The pastor of the Church we chose to use is not a magician at all. We just chose any Pentecostal Church where we go to do our worship which does not necessarily need to be on a Sunday.
And youÂ gather with other people whoâ€™re not magicians in the same Church?
We the magicians just gather and pray to God. My dad was a Muslim and Iâ€™m also a Muslim but whenever thereâ€™s a convention, we all gather in the Church.
Does that mean thereâ€™s a connection between the Church and magic?
No, itâ€™s all about putting God first. Letâ€™s say the musicians are having their convention and decide to bring God into it.
What does it take to be a magician?
I am a lawyer. I obtained my first and second degrees from the Obafemi Awolowo University. My father actually trained me to be a magician before he sent me to a magic school abroad under the tutelage of Dominical Dantae in Italy.
In England, I was under the tutelage of Bobby Bernard, a foremost British magician and Zicatae in America whoâ€™s also a very prominent magician in California. All ofÂ Â these people are my fatherâ€™s contemporaries. While I was in Ife, I was attending these schools whenever we were on break and did some few weeksâ€™ courses.
I got into magic by assisting my dad at a very young age- 7 years. Not just myself but my mother, brothers and sisters. We were all his assistants. So, my dadâ€™s show was more of a family thing. He used to take us along during some of his tours, especially when we were on holiday. I kept assisting him till I got into the university.
At a point, I became a major act and graduated from being an assistant to a magician in his show. So, my sister and I used to perform the introductory part of his show before my mum and dad came on stage.
Do you remember your first magic on stage?
My first magic was at the National Arts Theatre but I canâ€™t remember the year now.
Did you cut off somebodyâ€™s head?
No, I wasnâ€™t that advanced then. I was just able to make things appear and disappear. But my dad was very hard on us because while I was in school, I got so many invitations for magic shows but he wonâ€™t let me go. He insisted that I must graduate from school first.
And in my final year, my friends insisted that I do a show for them. My manager here was one of those friends who insisted I do the show. I tried hard to convince my dad to allow me to do the show and he said I could go ahead with it since I was in my final year.
And that was my first show without my dad and it lasted for about 30 minutes. After that show, I realised what my dad was saying because everything about me changed. People started seeing me like a star on campus and I couldnâ€™t do anything unnoticed any more on campus.
What exactly did you do on that first show?
I put one of my brothers in a box, pierced same box with about 12 swords and when I later opened the box, he had disappeared from the box. And when I took out the swords, he reappeared in the box. And it became the talk on campus.
How did you convince the students it wasnâ€™t diabolic?
Itâ€™s very difficult to convince people but Iâ€™ll tell you that there are secrets to magic which if let out here on the papers, then it ceases to be magic. It wonâ€™t be exciting anymore.
What does it take to do magic?
Magic can be learnt from people whoâ€™re already magicians but there are certain qualities you need to becomeÂ a magician which are, concentration and meditation.
Can you say thereâ€™s something genetic about magic?
Like I said before, I just saw myself assisting my dad at a tender age and gradually graduated. But there was nothing like initiation or any form of covenant we entered into. Anybody can do magic.
And how has magic act affected your life positively?
I grew up knowing some prominent people through my dadâ€™s show because whenever he was having a show, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, his son Wole Awolowo (whom we also call Daddy) and Fela willÂ be there. Daddy Wole and my father were very close friends.Â Magic is also very adventurous because it took my dad to so many places and I went wit h him.
Sometime in the 70s, my Dad had a show in Liberia and some soldiers were asked to man the gate because the crowd was huge. After the show, my dad left some money with these guards.
Some years after Samuel Doe became the president of Liberia, he sent an emissary to my Dad. So, we went to see him. He told my dad he was one ofÂ the guards he gave some money at the gate. The man hosted us, called all his ministers and told them what had happened. But he said he didnâ€™t really see that show then because he was busy controlling the crowd. So, he wanted to see the show this time.
You can imagine the No. 1 citizen of a country seated right in front, instead of the gate where he used to be, to watch my father perform.
After the show, we had dinner in his house.Â Such experiences werenâ€™t just with Samuel Doe alone. We entertained President Eyadema of Togo and the former President Kerekou of the Republic of Benin.
Can you do magic to transport a woman straight to my house or make her to say yes to me?
No, you cannot affect a being with magical act but you can with meditation.
For instance, I can be meditating and imagining things happen to you and they begin to happen in real life.
What can you not do as a magician?
Being a magicians is like living a normal life so thereâ€™s nothing you cannot do as a normal being. For instance, as a Muslim I cannot go on stage to perform until I say my last prayer for the day thatâ€™s to tell you that the act of magic comes from above.
Have there been cases where the act failed on stage?
Well, there are instances where it can fail if you lose concentration. Magic is all about practice, meditation, concentration and youâ€™re there.
How are you going to convince Nigerians to come watch magic like Ben Bruce has done with the Cinema?
In the past, magic was there with music and up till date, if you go to America and Europe, magic is still there. If you click on David Copperfield on the internet, youâ€™ll see his acts. And thatâ€™s exactly what we want to achieve now because after my dadâ€™s death, we had some memorials shows for him in some states which were successful.Â But we couldnâ€™t continue because most of my siblings were in school.
I still represent my dad in various magic conventions in America and Europe and they keep asking whyÂ they donâ€™t hear anything about magic in Nigeria or even Africa, except for one man who has just joined the brotherhood from
South Africa. And this has been a serious challenge to me.
Right now, we have some preview shows recorded already comparable to the standards in America and other places. Itâ€™s not like what my dad used to have, which was a family show. Iâ€™ve been able to train outsiders. Weâ€™ve got choreographers, musiciansÂ directors, lighting man and hereâ€™s my manager.
Now, we are incorporating other acts like dancing, music and comedy. We want to be able to match all of these things with magic. So, itâ€™s nowÂ like a circus and I bet you, itâ€™s going to be more interesting. We are also going to be having live shows in all the states of this country. We are still talking to some sponsors and the responses have been positive. Weâ€™ll have shows with no hypnotism. What you see is what you see live and direct.
So, what happens to the law degree when you get into this circus?
Iâ€™ve been practising law in England but this challenge of bringing back magic is something I want to get into now. So first, Iâ€™m setting up a chamber here in Nigeria withÂ lawyers and after that I can be everywhere. I want to be all over the world.
I donâ€™t like the idea that my dad died with magic in Nigeria. It has to come back somehow.
Are you married?
Yes, with lovely kids.
Do you sometimes practise magic with them?
Sometimes, after watching some magic shows on MNet, they will request that I do some of those things for them. Maybe, they see a magician walking on water and theyâ€™ll ask if I can do that, Iâ€™ll say, of course, I can.
Did you hypnotise your wife into saying yes to you?
No, she loves me and just fell for me.
Thereâ€™s something youâ€™re not telling us about magic….
See, Iâ€™ve spoken to corporate bodies who said they want my magic to be on TV on daily basis and I said no. Iâ€™ll first send a preview for people to see because magic is so unbelievable. So, itâ€™ll be very easy for people to just say itâ€™s film trick.
Somebody even tried to compare magic to what happened in Harry Porter and I said no, that was modern technology. And I told them that is why Iâ€™ll be having live shows so that people donâ€™t start comparing magic to modern technology.
When are you likely to begin these live shows?
We intend starting on the 13th remembrance anniversary of my dad which comes up in August.
When your father died, there was a lot of fighting about who gets what. What happened? Was it because he had too many wives?
My father had too many wives. Iâ€™m the fourth child.
What caused the fight?
Itâ€™s a long story and what happened then was inevitable because tradition demands that all the children from all the wives got something when their father died. But when my father was alive, he had friendsâ€™ children living with us who became a part of the family. He gave some cars to some of these people who wanted to claim them after his death, though they were still on his name, so that caused a lot of controversy which we resolved.
Did you do some magic to resolve it?
We had a close door meeting amongst ourselves and decided to allow these friendsâ€™ children have whatever Daddy had given them and we still had a lot to share.
The most important thing wasnâ€™t getting materials things. Someone saw my show and said that my dad had really done a lot for me. He trained you to be a lawyer despite the fact that he could have just allowed me to remain a magician. My dad insisted that we all got education before doing magic and right now, most of us are in different fields.