Toyin Adegbola a.k.a Ajoke Asewo to re Mecca is one of the actresses who have seen it all in the industry. She became known worldwide through a film Asewo to re Mecca, where she played the role of a prostitute. She is the current deputy governor of the Association of the Nigerian Theatre Practitioners (ANTP). This amazon has passed through a lot in the course of her career, but she now takes everything in her own stride. In this interview with GBENGA OLUMIDE she speaks about her career, marital life and other sundry issues. Excerpts:

Despite your attempts at dropping the name, Ajoke Asewo, it seems to have stuck to your personality. How do you feel about this?
To start with, I believe nobody can change destiny. It’s like it has been destined or written that the name Ajoke Asewo to re Mecca would give me fame. I’d been acting before the film – Asewo to re Mecca, it is only that Asewo to re Mecca happened to be one of the first home videos in the country then, and I’ve tried to change the name on several occasions in other movies but it is like my fans are not ready to change, in which case, I believe that that is what I’m destined to be called. If anybody calls me ‘Asewo,’ it doesn’t mean anything to me. Even, when I went to Jerusalem, people still shouted at me, saying, “Asewo! Now that you are in Jerusalem, are you going to do Asewo to re Jerusalem for us when we get back to Nigeria?” I just answered them in the affirmative. The name has no meaning to me, since I know that I am not a prostitute, and people that are very close to me know that I’m not a prostitute. At times, if they wanted to introduce me at any occasion, they will say, the one and only Asewo, the intentional Asewo and so on and so forth and when I show myself, people will just give me an ovation. I’m the one and only registered Asewo, no other person.

How have you been able to guide your career to this stage?
The most important thing is that you have to be humble. Once you are humble the sky will be your limit. If you are humble and know where you are going, you will be able to manage and guide it. Also you should not allow fame to get into your head. Remember, that you were not born star; even before you there have been other stars and after you there will be stars.

You were once a member of the technical crew of BCOS. How did you get into acting?
My brother, I’ve been acting all my life, even before I joined the television service. During my school days I used to represent my school. It is only God that knows the job that will make you somebody in life. I studied electronics, but because it has been written that I won’t make impact in that line, that was why I was lucky to have been discovered by Alagba Tunbosun Odunsi. That was how I started as a professional actress.

What is your inspiration?
My God! My God!! My God and my family.

How do you deal with negative stories about you which, seems to be the case?
It is not exactly as you said. There was a time when a reporter from one newspaper, which I will not like to mention, wrote something negative about me, despite the fact that I told him the truth of the matter then. I was so furious because that newspaper is not a junk newspaper or one of the soft sell magazines, where they just write whatever they like without proper investigation. If a journalist calls you to confirm any story and you are able to tell him your own side or for one reason or the other, you say you are not ready to talk to the press, it is expected of such a reporter to leave the story out or report according to that person’s words. A reporter should balance his story when reporting. So, aside this newspaper, others are my friends. Their reports about me have been fantastic. They come from Lagos, Abuja and other big cities to interview me.

A lot has been said about your complexion. What do you have to say?
I no longer feel concerned about what people say about my skin. I don’t care. All I know is that I’m as natural as anybody could be. I don’t use bleaching creams; I don’t bathe with medicated soap. I didn’t create myself. If you know my family, you will know that I can never touch any complexion-enhancing substance. I inherited this fair complexion from my family, especially my great-grandmother. She was exactly like this. But people just say whatever pleases them. I’m not fazed.

Many things have been said about your relationship with opposite sex. What do you have to say about this?
Yes, it is the paper I’m talking about that spread the rumour about three years ago that Toyin Adegbola is now the number 16th wife of Governor Rasheed Ladoja. It baffled me and I started asking myself questions, that am I the only woman or actress in Nigeria? Or am I that pretty? Because I see no reason why somebody would just wake up and say Toyin Adegbola is going out with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and two months later, Toyin Adegbola is ready to marry Governor Ladoja. In fact, if I’m dating all these people I would have gone farther than where I am today. Look at me, thank God that I’m comfortable but I don’t have money. I don’t know why some journalists would sit in their office and start writing rubbish about the other person’s integrity.

I’ve never met Ladoja more than three times in my life. The first time was when he invited us (ANTP) when he was about to contest and we met him at K. S. Cinema, Ibadan; the second time was when the ANTP went to give him a letter of invitation to its programme and the third time was when he came for the programme. I don’t have his number. I met Obasanjo once when our association (ANTP) went to Abuja. I don’t know where all these stories come from.

What have been your challenges on the job?
There is no money for artistes to produce. The banks are not ready to give out loans and the rich in the society also run away from us. The government should come to our aid.

It is the main thing today that actors delve into music. Are you intending to do same?
I don’t see anything bad in that because some musicians are also acting. People like KSA, Shina Peters, Pasuma, Obesere and a host of others have acted in one film or the other. So, it’s like we are working together. But if I want to delve into music I will prefer gospel because I love gospel music a lot. And to be honest, I’m working on one album which will come out very soon.

How fulfilled are you?
I thank God for what He has done for me so far. I’m fulfilled because I have God.

Let’s have a peep into your background –academic, where you grew up and what was growing up like?
I was a troublesome girl when I was young. They called me Lamulakun meaning Oluwaremilekun.

Actually, I was born in Offa, Kwara State and started my elementary school there. I happen to be one of the last set of primary seven then. I attended secondary school, after my modern school. After this, I proceeded to a technical school. I wanted to go for Nursing after my secondary school but I was not given the chance. I studied Electronics at the Technical School and I also passed the Open Grade Test and other external examinations.

My father is from Ilesa in Osun State, while mother came from Ogbagi Akoko, Ondo State. I’m nee Babatope, a younger sister to Chief Ebenezer Babatope.

Tell us about your most embarrassing moment?
My brother said I should not talk about it at all with anybody because we are working seriously on that to make it into a movie. When the time comes, I will let people know about it.

You lost your husband about a decade ago, yet you’ve not re-married; why and how then are you coping as a widow?
The issue of re-marrying I don’t see it as something so special because everybody has his or her own life to live. Once I’m fulfilled with what God has done for me, it’s like giving myself problem if I go for another husband. After all, my children are grown up. Staying alone is okay for me. A lot of women are widows. They did not re-marry and heaven did not fall. And coping as a widow, it is the grace of God and for the people that surround me.

Who are your role models?
They are many but Alagba Tunbosun Odunsi is number one, because he was the one that discovered me when I was still working with BCOS. Oga Bello and Eda Onile Ola happen to be my mentors. I also have people like Mama Osogbo, Mama Grace Adejobi, Mama Duro Ladipo and Iya Awero. I love these people so dearly.

You were alleged sometime ago by some people of being involved in a murder case and this was spread all over then that you were incarcerated. What really went wrong?
There is nothing special in what I passed through then. We are in a free world, and as a star I believe it’s part of the price I have to pay. If you are not a public figure and something happens to you nobody will take you seriously. But if you are well -known in the society, even if you sneeze, it becomes news. Then, a lot of things were said about me. Some said they found a dead body inside my car, while some said they found guns. They were just saying what they liked.

After the police investigations, they found out that all what they heard about me was not true. They found out that it was all politics and as I’ve said earlier, I don’t like thinking about it.