Olu Jacobs is no stranger in the Nigerian movie industry. His charisma and delivery of lines are legendary – drawing him admiration from fans. His infectious baritone and interpretation of roles are a director’s delight. Having been in the industry for more than three decades, he is now a bridge between the old and the new, a motivator to the youth.
And, if there is any controversy anyone thinks he is involved in, it has not been about him per se, but his wife.
He told Saturday Independent that, “There was a time when she was very angry when some papers were saying that we have separated and all that. I think a lot of people misunderstand what is going on. A lot of movies are done outside Lagos and I happen to work quite a lot outside Lagos. One, if we are invited to functions and I can’t go and she can go, she will go and represent us and she was doing that quite well. Two, her name is Joke Silva. Everybody knows her as Joke Silva. She is married; she’s now Mrs. Joke Jacobs but as an artiste, she’s Joke Silva and not Miss Joke Silva. So it is the same thing, when she calls herself but sometimes the public gets confused and wonders what’s cooking. But by the grace of God all is well.”
Inspite of being considered a hugely successful actor, having starred in British productions like The Professionals, Till Death Do Us Part and others, Jacobs said he could only look up to bishops, as a child.
“I didn’t have many, I think bishops, arch bishops because I was very involved in the church. I was a member of the choir. I was an altar boy, not only serving in the altar; I was always there every Saturday morning to clean the entire altar. I was also a member of the Boys’ Scout. I was so involved; I was not the only one. All of us grew up like that. So bishops and arch bishops were our heroes. We looked up to them,” he said.
But, in spite of how his life revolved round the church, the theatre expert and stage legend has a lot of admirfation for late Hubert Ogunde.
“The late Chief Ogunde was a great man who actually triggered me up in the direction that I am in because the day I saw him perform was the day I realised that I had seen what I was going to do. As a little boy, I remember being sent on an errand and I saw this panel van. There was music; dancing and leaflets were being dropped. I picked up one of the leaflets, took it home to my parents and I said to them that I would like to see the show and my mother said, ‘no way!’ My dad said, well, maybe that I should go away, that he would think about it. Then, they came up with all these chores that I must do but there was no problem. I did them with time to spare, went back to my mum and she shoved my head and said, ‘I hope you will be able to do your school work like this, look at all you’ve done!’
“She then asked me to wait for my dad to come back. When my dad came back, he was told and he called me and said ‘all right, we will find out about when they are showing it.’ He found out and on that day we went to the theatre. This theatre was in a hotel. The hotel used to be called Colonial Hotel. When we got there the crowd was enormous, but we made room and got in, I was so excited. At the appointed time the light went off and there was noise. The curtain opened, the lights came on, it was the opening glee, and they danced so gracefully, they sang so melodiously and I was watching, I looked at some people, you saw their eyes telling the story, oh God! And I said this has to be the job that I’m going to do,” Jacobs narrated his story.
And to those who criticise him of being stereotypical, he said, “What has that got to do with it? Is there any part that they have seen me play that I did not act well? That is the question I have to ask them. I have played poor man’s roles. The poor man may not be total abject but is a low-class that I’ve played. It may not readily come to mind though that I’ve played poor man roles and that is simply because I play more of kingly roles but is it my fault that I’m kingly? I am an actor. And a damn good actor, I know that. And when it comes to interpreting roles, I know I’m very good. I’m good at interpreting roles so whoever is going to challenge me, I didn’t say beat me, will have to do a lot of Hail Mary to get anywhere near me.”
He also spoke about the seeming rivalry between him and Pete Edochie, another veteran, who achieved fame when he played the role of Okonwko in the TV adaptation of Things Fall Apart many years ago, while insisting that only the people can judge them.
“Rivalry? There shouldn’t be. He is an actor; I’m an actor. Whatever roles he plays, I’m not the judge of it just like the roles I play. The producer, the public are the judge. But back to your question, there is no problem between us. I think the last time we spoke on the phone was about three months ago,” he said.
On the kidnap of Edochie, Olu Jacobs says “it’s not funny; you know it is something that was never in the forefront of one’s mind, but suddenly it was a rude shock that brought it. It wasn’t a case of whether it could happen. It actually happened. Of course, when one is not made of wood, you must begin to wonder if it’s normal. But thank God. I’m delighted that my colleagues who were kidnapped were released and there was no physical harm done and I hope they have honestly recovered from the shock,” he said.
Of the much-talked about $200 million intervention fund President Goodluck Jonathan granted the entertainment industry, the Ogun State born award-winning actor hailed the package.
He, however, warned practitioners to be cautious, as the promise might not materialise that soon due to bureaucracy in government.
“What I understood the President to mean is that he was going to make that kind of money available. He was promising us that he was going to make that kind of money available, not that he had already approved it, he has approved the understanding of it. We are not children we cannot expect him to say that he has done it when he has not done it. Government does not function that way. It has to go through due process, but he is assuring us that we will get the money because we need support and he realises that and it’s a good thing to do.
We all know that one of the things we’ve been suffering is lack of funds. What could have helped us that we didn’t get was from the banks. I think the banks could have done better than they did. So many of them who have branches all over the country, we had meetings with them. There are some banks we had meetings with, everything signed and sealed, and 24 hours to the commencement of that agreement they pulled out. It was just an arrangement. We couldn’t possibly take them to court, so it set us back. So it is very depressing to hear that there were some illegal money lending and borrowing that was going on between banks and some clients.