Many people don’t know my wife of 25 years is a lawyer –Odule
Dele Odule, a popular Nigerian actor in this interview with GBENRO ADEOYE, speaks about his career and the Nigerian movie industry
You attended a teachers’ training college before you later studied Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan. Why did you abandon teaching?
I actually started as an actor. I started immediately I left Modern School in 1978. When I left Modern school, I started drama with the late Dele Ogunsanya. He used to come to the school to perform. I discovered that I was gifted and believed I could make an impact in theatre arts, so I joined him. When it was not challenging enough, I left and joined Abaruoloko Theatre group, led by the late Mukaila Oloko. My uncle was then the Oba of Oro; he asked if I was interested in furthering my studies. I told him I was interested. So he took me to the college and then left me there. While there, I met people who were members of a dramatic society and they teamed up with me to start a drama group so that I could finance the course. But I thank God today that my going to the teachers’ training college is a blessing because it has been the ladder to my academic pursuit. What I have achieved so far academically has been based on that. One couldn’t use a modern three certificate to get into a higher institution. Today, apart from having a diploma in theatre arts, I’m proud to tell you that I’m also a graduate of Mass Communication.
How long have you been in the movie industry now?
So how old were you then?
I don’t want to tell you that but I was a very young man when I started. I was younger than 20 years at that time.
Yoruba movies have a large followership but a lot of the fans have issues with the bad grammar they see in their subtitles to English. Doesn’t it embarrass you when you see the movie you featured in with such horrible grammar?
We do feel embarrassed because we’re supposed to be the mirror of the society. But it’s not peculiar to the industry alone; it’s a general phenomenon. Even in another industry that has absolutely nothing to do with theatre, you will find laxities and flaws. We have a Standards Organisation of Nigeria, but it’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing. It’s the bitter truth. Some people can just cut corners, the body overlooks them. We have a censors board; any production coming out in this country passes through the board. They should be saying, ‘this is not grammatically correct, you are not influencing the children positively with this kind of grammar.’ But there is nothing like that and theatre is all about entertainment, information and education. Now that they have decided to close their eyes, who is to be blamed? That is what they are supposed to do. I cannot condemn your production, it will amount to something else. I’m not an authority, so I don’t have the right to say that your production is not good. People don’t know that standard has to do with quality and we don’t have that because we have allowed mediocrity in the practice of theatre arts and film production.
A lot of people also complain that many Yoruba movies in the market lack creativity and are always about ‘juju’, can’t we have better movies?
I have just said it all that the organisations in charge of maintaining standard are not doing their job. Even politics, are we doing it rightly? It’s about business. People now believe that when you have huge amount of money in your account, you can go into politics because you will make more. But it’s not supposed to be so. So it’s not peculiar to the movie industry. My conclusion is that nothing works effectively in Nigeria.
But why are you a controversial person?
I don’t know your definition of controversy. If you enlighten me more and tell me what you think is controversial about my life, maybe I would be able to explain.
A veteran actor, Chief Lere Paimo, once accused you of not having enough respect for elders, it is said that you also have issues with Yinka Quadri and had an altercation with the late Bisi Komolafe on set.
For Chief Paimo, I’ve known Baba for over 20 years. I think he started saying that Odule wasn’t respectful to elders after I decided to contest for the post of the President of Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners in 2009. If you calculate 2009 till date, it’s around five years. If you remove five from 20, that should be 15 years. That means I had been good enough for him in 15 years. If for 15 years, I was respectful and for five years, I was not respectful, then something is wrong. I don’t want to say more than that.
What about the issue involving Qadri and the late Komolafe?
I actually don’t have problem with the two of them. Yoruba people will say it’s not good to talk ill about the dead. That lady was a much younger colleague to me; in fact, I’m old enough to be her father, so I don’t want to talk about it. The fact remains that I never fought her for one day. All those things on the social media, I don’t know how they came about them. But there is no rumour without an iota of truth. What happened was purely politics. I’m an elder in the association and these young ones are not doing those things that they should be doing. For instance, you are a journalist and there is the Nigerian Union of Journalists, which should protect the ethics and constitution of the profession. If you are not doing it rightly, I want to believe that an elderly person there can tell you that. So if what I did by telling the late Komolafe that she had not done something rightly metamorphosed into a controversy, then it’s too bad. I don’t have any quarrel with Quadri, but I don’t know whether he and the lady had anything together. If that was why the issue transferred to him, I don’t know. But I know that I’ve never had any quarrel with Yinka Quadri.
We heard that Chief Paimo’s grudge was that Jide Kosoko was trying to impose you as the association’s president. Is that the case?
Let us get this right, even if Kosoko is interested in Dele Odule, is it a sin? Have you ever heard Jide Kosoko said there must be no election? If the man working for me believes that I can steer the ship of the association, it is not a sin. But I’ve never heard anyone say that Kosoko said Odule should not contest an election, and that is where people are getting it wrong. But he has every right to support me. If truly he is interested in Odule because he believes that Odule can do it and now said, ‘Ok I want you people to follow Odule,’ does that mean that he has said that there must not be an election? That’s why we are fighting. So it’s not about Kosoko wanting to impose or not. That’s just sentiment.
So what is the latest on the issue?
After the declaration of (Victor) Ashaolu on January 30, 2014 that the election was actually held, it was a kangaroo one but the judge said there was an election and that Ashaolu should continue as the president. The people who felt there was no election opted out and formed another association. That association is named Theatre Arts and Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria. If you feel you are uncomfortable with a particular church, you can opt out and go to another one. There is freedom of association, religion and so on.
What is your relationship with Chief Paimo and Quadri now?
I’m very cordial with everybody. Let me tell you, I’m a very practical person. If you call me, I will call you. If you don’t call me, I don’t call you. That’s just me. I don’t hold any grudge against anybody and I don’t think they have against me. But if they have, may God forgive them. Baba Lere Paimo has been my father. If I choose today that I don’t want him to be my father, it’s personal. If I expect my father to act in a certain way and he doesn’t, I can go on my own now. But I don’t have any grudge against anyone. I’m a Christian, I may not be religious but I’m godly. I don’t keep malice or hate people. If you like me, I like you. If you don’t like me, I go on my own.
How do you cope with your female fans?
I cope with them; they are the salt of life. They support us a lot. Even if you go to church, you find that women make up the large number of the congregation. So if the pastor cannot cope, the church will go into oblivion. Same thing applies to the industry. If the pastor fails to identify with the women, I can bet you that the church will not get to the level he wants. So there is no way an actor can run away from the same philosophy. So you can’t just rubbish women. But when it comes to how I cope, I cope effectively. I’m mature. When I was younger, youthful exuberance would have been there but now I’m getting old, so I cope. It’s all about stages. Now I’m above 50 so definitely, it’s different from the way I’ve been behaving. I know how to handle both sexes.
We hear that your female fans are so much in love with you that some of them just want to have children for you. Is that true?
That is not true. They are in love with others, so it’s not me alone. I have over 1000 female fans and admirers and I don’t have up to 1000 children. How come people are now saying that my female fans want to bear me children? I don’t even have 100 children, so one-tenth of them don’t even have children for me. But because we are public figures, there are a lot of things that we pay for. They are prices we pay for stardom. You have just met my wife. She’s a lawyer with about 15 years experience and we have been together for 25 years but not too many people actually know that. Not many people also know that I’m a graduate of mass communication. I got it recently. I also have a diploma in Theatre Arts from UI. It’s just purely a result of my passion for education and that has enhanced my academic pursuit. When I started relationship with my wife, she was just a school certificate holder, but today, she is the Chief Public Defender with the Department of Citizens’ Rights, Ogun State Ministry of Justice. My passion for education has earned me that and I had my fifth child in the university. Anytime I have the opportunity, I go back to school to update my knowledge. I’m running my Master’s degree programme already.
You may not have 100 children but we hear you have about 10 children from different women.
That is not peculiar to an actor alone. Muslims do have a lot of children. Former Head of State, late (Sani) Abacha, had many children and he was not an actor. MKO Abiola also had (many children). Sunny Ade (musician) also. The Bible says ‘stone that person to death, provided you have not also sinned.’ That is to say we all have one skeleton or the other in our cupboards. It’s just because I’m a public figure that people are privileged to know about my life and my privacy.
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